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Spring 2021 Venture Forum: Capstone Presentations

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On May 4, 2021, and May 5, 2021, more than 90 students split among 23 teams made scientifically-based pitches for products that could help make advancements in fields ranging from agriculture to veterinary care to cosmetics to textile recycling and, of course, to human healthcare and medicine.

The students were part of MBS’s signature Science and Technology Management Capstone, "a project-based course covering the fundamentals of entrepreneurship, intrapreneurship, innovation, commercialization, and intellectual property.” 

A core course for all MBS students, “the Capstone emphasizes the methods by which we commercialize new, technologically sound innovations,” says Tom Bryant, Ph.D., who established and has led the course since its 2011 inception. The Capstone culminates with comprehensive and competitive end-of-semester presentations made to an audience of MBS students, faculty, alumni, and staff as well as a rotating panel of judges comprised of industry leaders who also serve as "angel investors," with $100,000 ("Monopoly money") to divide among teams they feel have viable ideas.

The presentations followed nine weeks of rigorous prep: paired into multidisciplinary teams, students researched patented technology, identified ideal product use for commercialization, and then developed detailed business plans to take products from concept to market. While the judges' funds have no cash value, the potential applications of the technologies identified in the Capstone plans are not hypothetical. "The [uncommercialized ideas] we are working with generally have either been patented recently, or patents have been applied for," says Bryant.

Images of the day include (from top left) Capstone founder, creator, and Professor Tom Bryant, Ph.D., and MBS executive director Deborah Silver, Ph.D.

Each team had ten minutes for their presentations followed by five minutes of Q&A by the judges—an impressive panel of industry experts, experienced investors, and entrepreneurs that included MBS Industrial Advisory Board members Barbara Green, Jay Yogeshwar, Ph.D., (who also teaches MBS’s Applied Artificial Intelligence course), and Narayan Escolin MBS’15, whose own time as an MBS student isn’t too far in the past.

The judges’ diverse backgrounds lent extra dimension to the valuable feedback they provided to students, with many judges stating that they were blown away by the high level of quality presentations and business potential from each of the teams, and how thoroughly and articulately students answered questions. Equally impressive, said judge Joe DeBonis, “was the way students anticipated the questions that we asked.”

This is a photo collage of audience members including judges, faculty, and students including soon-to-be gradates
“Raise your hand if you’ll be graduating this semester!” – many student presenters will be walking down the virtual aisle in just a few days.

In addition to product viability, judges evaluated each group's sales strategy, proposed financials, operations strategy, exit strategy, and more. In structuring their pitches, students also gained hands-on experience in pairing visual and verbal elements to create impactful presentations, and learned best practices for communicating clearly—a skill that’s become even more important in the COVID-19 digital era.

The glowing advantage of this course is the ability for teams to continue developing their ideas beyond the classroom. Even after the course is finished, students have the opportunity to build on their proposed business plans and pitch their propositions to the larger world.

Based on some of the judges’ feedback, these ideas may become a reality for some of this year’s teams. Stay tuned!

Kruttika Raman
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