CMU's accelerator program preps student-led startups - Center for Technology Transfer and Enterprise Creation - Carnegie Mellon University

Friday, August 6, 2010

CMU's accelerator program preps student-led startups

A pilot program at Carnegie Mellon University aims to spin out companies faster by linking academics to the marketplace.

CMU's Donald H. Jones Center for Entrepreneurship debuted The Accelerator in June with five companies led by students who finished their first year at Tepper Graduate School of Business and expect to graduate in 2011. CMU also has a financial stake in the companies: It is paying the students a small stipend, which will convert to equity.

Will this three-month boot camp give them a leg up to launch? The Business Times aims to find out in a monthly series by following the five companies until their student-led entrepreneurs graduate in 2011.

To learn about how the program is designed and what CMU hopes to accomplish with it, click here for an interview with Jones Center's executive director Art Boni.

Rodrigo Carvalho, founder of Black Locus, one of the startups, said the summer program “was definitely worth it.” He came to Tepper with the goal of starting a business, so he didn’t spend time looking for a job.

“The Accelerator gave us the resources that we needed to develop the core blocks of our e-commerce optimization platform,” Carvalho said. “We are currently in beta testing, and things are starting to pick up.”

Here's an introduction to each of the companies and their student entrepreneurs (for more details on the entrepreneurs, click on the slideshow to the right). Check back each month to follow their progress.

  • Black Locus — Founders Rodrigo Carvalho and Lukas Bouvrie are working to develop a cloud-based platform to help small and medium online retailers in real time. The platform uses proprietary algorithms to optimize retailers’ efforts in the three major areas of e-commerce: Pricing, inventory management and SEM marketing. For each of these areas, Black Locus provides actionable recommendations, allows users to implement the recommendations with one click, and tracks the effects of the implemented recommendations over time.
  • LearnBop — Founders Bharanidharan Rajakumar and Arthur Tu are developing education technology from the bottom up by leveraging social networks, subject matter experts and optimization models. This technology will allow educators to create content online that adapts to what students don’t understand about a particular subject so that they can target student needs faster.
  • REBIScan - Founder Justin Shaka is developing a hand-held vision scanner that will work toward erasing amblyopia and strabismus, the leading causes of preventable blindness in children. REBIScan scans the health of the eye through fixation and binocular alignment. Custom software controls the device, interprets the data and instantaneously reports the results.
  • CommunityVibe Inc: Founders Kariithi Kilemi, Tajinder Gadh, Chong Xie, Yogesh Chhabra and Jarrett Dwight Adam are developing an affordable, centralized online tenant management portal. With a combination of administrative and marketing functionality, in addition to enhanced communication with social networking, CommunityVibe’s Web portal aims to be every property manager’s dream. Property managers will be able to provide features such as online rental applications, online rent payments, trackable maintenance requests, apartment listings, local community retail and restaurant recommendations, and private building social networks.
  • RhoMania: Founders Kevin McEachern and Darren Olson are developing a Web-based application that predicts how much consumers will enjoy a bottle of wine prior to purchase based on an individualized taste profile. This will allow consumers to make more informed decisions to improve the value efficiency of their purchases. RhoMania uses an individualized taste profile based on individual consumer’s specific likes and dislikes to build a predictive multivariate algorithm. This algorithm will produce a list of wine recommendations suited to the consumers’ preferences.

Article Courtesy of Pittsburgh Business Times