Jason Heikenfeld, founder of Gamma Dynamics
How did you come to be an entrepreneur?
As a grad student in engineering I was always very applied in my research. My research was successful enough that my Ph.D. advisor at the time (Andrew Steckl) and I started a company right after my graduation. Now I am a professor at UC, where I am involved in novel device technologies, with focus on industry-partnered research and new entrepreneurial ventures.
Why did you start your business?
There are many reasons to start a business. For me it is about the potential for local job growth and the chance to introduce disruptive technologies that beat out the new technologies in development by the electronics giants like the Samsung's of the world. I guess I am a big fan of the 'underdog' startup that takes on the world (foolishly, or not).
How did you come up with the idea?
Through partnership with industry (Sun Chemical, here in Cincinnati) and PolymerVision (The Netherlands). We did NOT start out with the invention, rather, we started by all parties defining the problem and the opportunity. About one year of discussion with industry experts led to my invention of the electrofluidic display.
Where did you find your first employee?
People at UC were after me to get involved with a second startup for some time, but I would not do it until I felt I had a good jockey (team) to run the horse (the company), since I love my day job as a professor. I was lucky to be in constant communication with two display industry experts/veterans, John Rudolph (Corning/3M) and Ken Dean (Motorola), and then in 2009 the timing was right for the both of them.
What resources here did you take advantage of and how did they help?
The University of Cincinnati has been a terrific supporter of Entrepreneurship, IP development, R&D and Tech Transfer. Budgets are tight, and UC IP and commercialization office is running on a budget which is far lower than what it should be, but they have an incredibly dedicated and hard-working set of folks doing everything they can to support entrepreneurial efforts at UC.