Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Concepts in the Classroom

It all started just over a year ago with an application to a course which I thought I’d never be accepted. UBC runs a program called New Venture Design which combines commerce students with engineering students in their final year with the hope of forming a company. With only 12 students accepted annually from the business faculty out of 500 I didn’t think my chances were that great. In order to paint the picture I will tell you my mantra towards school. I never really cared about my grades and was told upon moving into residence on my first day of University ‘D’s get degrees’. (Unfortunately this motto came into effect a few times while at UBC) I was far more interested in reading about Somalian pirates in the Economist or the Top 50 hikes in Canada than reading about transportation and logistics. Keeping busy outside the classroom while achieving mostly high 60s low 70s was much more interesting and kept me interested while in the classroom (which was most of the time, since I decided attending class was like studying). Now this doesn’t mean I slacked throughout University it just meant that school often came in on the list after social activities and sports. So it was to my surprise that I received an interview for one of Sauder’s unique programs. In the interview I stated that I wanted start a company and I felt it would be a great learning experience, but I made it very apparent that I wanted to win awards for UBC throughout the academic year as the course had a travel budget. Somehow I managed to crack the starting line up and I was excited to take on a course which involved active learning rather than academic theories.

On the first day of class I enthusiastically met with the 23 other students and the professors had arranged a fully catered BBQ. One hour later after everyone was well feed and brief 3 sentence intros were complete the professors left the room. At this point the students talked about whatever they thought was cool; I realized I was really going to like this course. Recently I had taken an interest in third world business practices and sustainable business which managed to find there way into the discussions. A week later after another mingle session our team was formed.

Then came the idea part, the downside to product development classes is that students are not informed regarding real world problems.

Example: After working for years a mechanic might look at his screwdriver and say ‘hey what if I did this’. Suddenly he has created a new product that fits a market niche and he knows other mechanics who will buy his product.

Whereas we (students) were trying to come up with a technology that filled a need, for all aspiring entrepreneurs find your need first. It will make you life much easier down the road. You will also become far more observant as you test the entrepreneurial waters.

So how did we come up with our product? Brainstorming session after brainstorming session, several were either preceded or followed by a round of beers at the Gallery to improve our creative juices. (Unfortunately one of the finer ideas “The Tingler” didn’t make the cut, feel free to guess its use) Initially everyone was assigned to show up at our group meeting with 10 cool ideas, and then we put them all up on a whiteboard to find the most interesting ones. Unfortunately this little thing called a patent seemed to get in the way of many of our ideas so we kept trying.

One day we decided to put up bubbles for every industry and try to find either hybridizations of different product or areas where each industry needed work. This developed many unique ideas but we still hadn’t come up with our perfect product. As noble university students we tried to think along the lines of Green Tech, sustainable products and Bio Fuels as these technologies would have a great social impact not to mention governments are literally throwing money into these industries. In the end a random ‘don’t you hate it when’ comment sealed the deal.

So we now had a product, an adaptor which prevents tripping over electrical cords saving both the individual and the appliance from damage. Weeks later we developed our name EasyPlug; which we are still using 9 months later.

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