University initiative aims to support alumni entrepreneurs -Open Field Entrepreneurs Fund - Carnegie Mellon University

Monday, March 4, 2013

University initiative aims to support alumni entrepreneurs

Carnegie Mellon has been offering students and alumni an opportunity to start their own businesses since June 2012 with support from the Open Field Entrepreneur’s Fund (OFEF).

This fund awards money and resources to Carnegie Mellon alumni who graduated within the past five years.

David Mawhinney, an assistant teaching professor of entrepreneurship at the Tepper School of Business, serves as managing director of the fund.

“The fund was made possible by a gift from a gentleman, Jonathan Kaplan,” Mawhinney said, “who created the Flip Video camera and later sold it to Cisco Systems.

His wife, Marci Glazer, also helped found the fund. It’s a fund for young alumni from zero to five years of graduation to make their own jobs and follow their dreams.”

The OFEF is part of the “Greenlighting Startups” initiative at Carnegie Mellon, which aims to promote and translate ideas and creations from labs to the market. Last year, the fund awarded a total of $300,000 to six different startup companies, each receiving $50,000.

There is a comprehensive application process to select companies. “If you meet your eligibility requirements, you are asked to make a pitch. But you have to be serious to convince another investor to commit $50,000,” Mawhinney said.

One company that received funding from the OFEF is PECA Labs, which focuses on rare cardiovascular and pediatric conditions. Doug Bernstein (CIT ’12), a Carnegie Mellon alumnus who double majored in mechanical engineering and biomedical engineering, is the founder and CEO of PECA Labs. Bernstein feels that children with certain heart conditions often have insufficient products used in their heart procedures.

“Intra-operative conduits had to be developed from scratch by the doctor in the operating room for 30 minutes,” Bernstein said. In response to this issue, the company created the Masa Valve, described on PECA’s website as “a synthetic valve conduit for pediatric RVOT (right ventricle outflow tract) reconstruction.” The product would be a quicker, simpler solution that doctors could use on patients during heart surgeries.

The company is still in the process of getting regulatory approval for selling its product, but according to Bernstein, it will be an excellent option for parents and their children. Only a small market of individuals are affected by this issue, so no other companies have come up with more affordable options because of the $70-million fee attached to bringing the device to market. Bernstein hopes to bring this fee down to less than $750,000...Read more»

By: Alvin Mathew