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PowerGenie aims to take a bite out of passive energy waste

Unless they're unplugged, your television or DVD player are never truly off.

Through what's known as "passive" or "phantom" energy, household appliances drive up your energy bill even after you flip the off switch. And unless you unplug those appliances, there's no easy way to stop it.

That could change if a team of young Cincinnati entrepreneurs gets their energy-saving power outlet on the market. The PowerGenie, envisioned as a smart version of a traditional power strip, is the first product under development by Sustain-A-Watt Energy Solutions.

Passive energy is a big money and energy waster. It can add up to $40 a month to an average home's energy bill, or $5 billion a year across the U.S., says company co-founder and recent University of Cincinnati grad Rod Ghavami.

Appliances plugged into the PowerGenie can be turned off through a smart phone application that users can control from any location. The patent pending PowerGenie is still in the early development stage, but has won several business and innovation competitions. Most recently, it was a winner in the Cincinnati Innovates competition, winning the LPK Design and Branding Award.

"We have a proof-of-concept prototype, basically a Frankenstein prototype," Ghavami says. "Since graduation, some of the people on our team earlier have disappeared, and we've brought on some new people who are excited about the project and want to work on it."

The PowerGenie started as a class project for the electrical engineering student.

"As part of our senior design project, we came up with the idea of monitoring real-time electricity consumption from an outlet. That's how the PowerGenie came to be," Ghavami says.

After winning a Green Energy Business competition, the idea was further refined.

"We realized we could turn this into a real product and help the average person save energy," he says.

The PowerGenie is designed for residential use, but the technology could be expanded eventually for business use, Ghavami adds.

LPK will be soon working with the company on marketing and consumer design. The company is also seeking angel investment and is working on a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds. The goal is to create a product ready for production by early next year.

By Feoshia H. Davis

Ohio University’s Innovation Engine Accelerator graduates six startups

Six startups founded by students and recent graduates of Ohio University and West Virginia University have emerged from Ohio University’s Innovation Engine digital media accelerator, which is a summer entrepreneurship program aimed at keeping business and technology talent within the state.
The fledgling companies received up to $20,000 in seed funding and underwent a 12-week boot camp featuring mentorship opportunities with established executives and venture capitalists. Lynn Gellermann, Executive Director of the Center for Entrepreneurship, taught in the program, offering his expertise in digital media IT.
“These six teams were selected out of 17 applications,” says Gellermann. “They were screened, interviewed and selected based on their team, their idea and application.”
Viable ideas with viable markets won out.
“We look at the prospect of [the company] being able to put together an idea or beta product in a short time that they can demo.”
The program is made possible through public-private partnerships that offer expert insight and financial backing. These include the Center for Entrepreneurship, the Russ College of Engineering and Technology, the Scripps College of Communication, the Voinovich School and TechGROWTH Ohio. “We also have private support from WesBanco,” notes Gellermann.
Participants, says Gellermann, felt as if they received a “mini-MBA” in the 2013 program, noting a majority came from engineering or communications backgrounds. And whether they continue with their startup or not, Gellermann says the accelerator “impacted the way they think.”
“We hope that some of them will start up, make it to the marketplace, raise capital, employ some people, and become viable startup companies in the region,” says Gellermann, adding the program is also about building a culture of entrepreneurship in southeast Ohio.
The 2013 companies include MyCampus, which created a mobile app that allows college students to quickly sell and purchase items. Razor Dynamics offers a product that improves mobile phone location services. AccessAble developed a website to provide travel information and booking services for people with limited mobility. Atlas Language Innovations created an educational online video game that can teach users Arabic and other languages. Foleeo developed an online portfolio tool for job seekers in the business, engineering and technical fields. Lastly, Anyvent offers software for inexperienced event planners.
“Students will go back home and talk to their friends,” says Gellermann. “It’s really helping to promote a culture of innovation at OU.”

Source: Lynn Gellermann
Writer: Joe Baur

Ohio universities clock in on prestigious college rankings list

In the 2013 edition of its annual National Universities Rankings, Washington Monthly awarded the number four spot to Case Western Reserve University. In fact, with an overall school of 93, Case shares the number three spot with Texas A&M. The Ohio State University earned a respectable ranking of number 28 with an overall score of 70.

The ratings are unique in that they rank schools not on various academic statistics but rather on their contribution to the public good. Specifically, they look at three broad categories: Social Mobility (recruiting and graduating low-income students), Research (producing cutting-edge scholarship and PhDs), and Service (encouraging students to give something back to their country).

UC launches its first Massive Open Online Course with free credit option

Massive Open Online Courses, or MOOCs, are gaining traction at major universities across the country. These free, online courses open higher education to the masses. Students are limited only by their desire to learn.

MOOCs gained major attention in the United States after prestigious universities like Stanford and MIT began offering them. The courses are open to any student, regardless of educational background, and can last from four to 17 weeks. Course structure varies by institution, and each potentially can have thousands of students. MOOCs generally are about the process of learning, and students aren't awarded college credit for completing them.

But this fall, the University of Cincinnati of Cincinnati will push the boundaries of MOOCs by offering a program for which participants can earn free college credit if they complete it.

UC professors Drew Boyd and Jim Tappel will teach Innovation and Design Thinking. The course will teach students the tools that organizations use to innovate everything from new products to new employee training methods. Students who complete the MOOC and enroll in a UC Business or Engineering degree program can apply the credits. It will be a two credit hour course.

"This is one of the first, if not the first, option available to turn a MOOC into course credit," explains Tappel, an Engineering and Applied Science professor. Tappel and Boyd, a marketing and innovation professor, will begin their seven-week course in October. During those seven weeks, students will apply innovation tools, using them to create new product or service ideas.

Innovation can be taught, Tappel says. This course can help individuals or groups learn, step by step, the innovation process.

"All companies today realize that innovation is important (for growth)," says Tappel, "and it's different than creativity. Innovation takes creative thoughts and turns them into a practical, pragmatic result."

By Feoshia H. Davis

Groundbreaking high school accelerator program graduates nine entrepreneurs

When Zach Schwartz, Samir Amrania and Vibhu Krishna graduated from high school last year, they wanted to create a better program to help high school entrepreneurs. So in May 2012, they approached LaunchHouse and started LightHouse Ohio and the LEAP (LightHouse Entrepreneurial Accelerator Program). The program is the first high school accelerator program in the country.
“Northeast Ohio has a problem with brain drain,” explains LightHouse CEO Schwartz. “If we can get these kids involved in high school, to get connected in organizations like LaunchHouse, maybe more would stay.”
LaunchHouse CEO Todd Goldstein couldn't agree more. “We believe the next generation of entrepreneurs is coming at the high school level,” he says. “These kids are tech savvy and have a higher level of entrepreneurial spirit.”
This summer nine teams from area high schools enrolled in the six-week LEAP program, run out of LaunchHouse, to flesh out their business ideas and learn what it takes to develop and run a business. The nine were chosen from 70 applicants.
On Friday, August 2, the nine teams pitched their companies to the community and investors. It’s too early to tell if the teams secured any investors, but Schwartz says there was quite a bit of interest. Senator Sherrod Brown addressed the group via video.
Four of the nine businesses already are generating revenue, including Shaker Mowers, a landscaping company started by Shaker High students James Caffrey and Kyle Whitlach, which has more than 50 clients. The company has hired three people and has a 10-person waiting list of potential employees.
Another successful company is Vexum Supply, a skate and arts-based clothing company created by Solon High student Jacob Roscoe. He uses recycled fabrics and does all printing, sewing and stitching in Cleveland. The clothes already are on the racks in many area stores. Roscoe has hired one employee.

Chicken Coup Studios is a video game development studio that is creating a remake of Donkey Kong. Shaker students and founders Patrick Pastore and Charlie Hummel have hired two employees. Hawken student Phillip Hedayatnia and Gilmour student Megan Porter also hired two people to help with YouCue TV, a digital media-streaming box.
“These companies are generating revenue and are profitable,” says Goldstein, “They’re not only growing their businesses, but they are hiring employees. It’s a true testament to the LightHouse team and the hard work of these students.”
The LEAP program is funded through a grant from Craig Stout and the Arminius Foundation.

Sources: Zach Schwartz and Todd Goldstein
Writer: Karin Connelly

Dayton Development Coalition aims to promote entrepreneurship

The Dayton Development Coalition (DDC) is launching a series of new programs aimed at promoting and supporting entrepreneurship in the Gem City.
Joel Ivers, Vice President of Entrepreneurial Development at the DDC, describes how his organization plans to work with Dayton’s entrepreneurial community. He notes meetings with community leaders, the creation of an entrepreneurial ecosystem database to help startups better connect, and a fundraising effort to raise $10 million in seed funding for new startups.
The operation is best summed up as a community-wide effort to bring more innovation and startup activity to Dayton. Ivers lists partner organizations such as TECDayton, IDCAST, the University of Dayton Research Institute, Wright State University, Central State University, Sinclair Community College, Wright Brothers Institute and various economic development organizations throughout the region. “Also, some entrepreneurs themselves are working with us to lead and provide support for all activities,” says Ivers.
In the early stages, it’s difficult to say what the economic impact will be even though “most initiatives have already begun.” But Ivers and his colleagues are confident these new programs will play a significant role in Dayton’s comeback as a startup-friendly city, provided their fundraising efforts are successful. “When funding is finalized, we will create goals for jobs and revenue,” Ivers notes.
Though news of these efforts is just coming out, DDC is not waiting around for progress.
“The goal is to launch the fund by the end of September,” Ivers explains. “And [we] expect to close the fund before the end of the year.”
Source: Joel Ivers
Writer: Joe Baur

Lorain County Community College launches new entrepreneurial networking group

Lorain County Community College (LCCC) has launched the Fostering Entrepreneurial Business Education Networking Group (FEBE) for current and aspiring entrepreneurs of Northeast Ohio to expand their resources and contacts.
“The group is open to all entrepreneurs of Northeast Ohio,” explains Janice Lapina, Program Manager at LCCC. “There will be entrepreneurs telling their stories along with a presentation from a local resource, answering your questions as an entrepreneur.”
FEBE will meet every Wednesday from 10 to 11 a.m. in the Entrepreneurial Innovation Center at LCCC. During the meeting, entrepreneurs will discuss how they started their venture, take part in a question and answer period, and network with their colleagues.
Lapina credits the Great Lakes Innovation & Development Enterprise (GLIDE), the Small Business Development Center and Blackstone LaunchPad for the creation of FEBE. “These three entities work together to get entrepreneurs and resources to present at the weekly meetings,” says Lapina. Naturally, the three organizations all have similar goals to FEBE.
“FEBE has been established to foster entrepreneurship in northeastern Ohio and to encourage growth of startups and existing businesses by information sharing, networking and inspiration,” Lapina explains. “FEBE reaches out to entrepreneurs, the community and students by providing entrepreneurial business education and promoting economic growth.”
Lapina continues, saying FEBE is working to bring together “individuals to help support and grow entrepreneurial ventures in Northeast Ohio, inform and educate attendees on entrepreneurship and provide a free platform for new and existing entrepreneurs.” She encourages interested readers to register for this free program here.

Those who do may have the opportunity to be part of a special movement within the region.
“Through community involvement and entrepreneurial networking, the program promotes economic and community stability within Northeast Ohio.”
Source: Janice Lapina
Writer: Joe Baur

Xavier MBA course links entrepreneurs, business students to fuel growth

Entrepreneurship might be in the blood, but success takes more than passion. It also takes a head for business, and there are tried steps that every business should take to go from concept to reality.

An entrepreneurship course at Xavier University pairs the region's startups with MBA students for a partnership of theory and real-world application. The course, ENTR 668, is an extension of the University's X-LAB (Xavier Launch-a-Business) competition. X-LAB was founded by Xavier's Williams College of Business.

"We've learned through X-LAB that 90 percent of our businesses understand their idea, and are passionate about it, but they don't how to take it to market," says professor Joe Carter, X-LAB's Director. "That's a gap we can fill at Xavier."

As part of X-LAB, finalists meet with potential investors and receive training and consulting services during an 18-week process. Once that ends, ENTR 668 students choose a handful of businesses from the finalists for more intense consultation.

"The MBA students, along with a business advisory board, interview the X-LAB finalists and decide which businesses they are going to help," Carter says.

Each business can have a number of students assigned to it, depending on its needs. Some have had up to eight advisors. The businesses that have benefited from XLAB include the 3D printing company 3DLT and Ahalogy (formerly Pingage), a results-oriented content marketing system.

Students work with the business for a semester, but there are plans to expand it to two semesters in the near future, Carter says. There is no cost for these services for the business.

Student consulting work runs the gamut, from developing marketing plans to business model development and verification to market expansion.

"We'll have students working late, on the weekends or after midnight because they are so invested in these businesses," Carter says.

The business owners aren't the only beneficiaries. Students—most whom are older professionals—win too.

"Businesses bring their knowledge and have practical work experience," Carter says. "We see this as a huge way to differentiate our program. Our students have all these business tools, but in this course, they have to know which tool to pull out of the toolbox."

By Feoshia H. Davis

OU Senior aims to take the legwork out of equity crowdfunding compliance with Crowdentials

As an entrepreneurship/business management senior at Ohio University, and the president of the school’s Entrepreneurship Club, Richard Rodman has started two successful companies during his studies. Most recently, he noticed the need for some guidance in the crowdfunding trend.

So Rodman first started 530Funds in November 2012, a search engine and news site for the crowdfunding industry. “It was really hard to sift through Google to find the right platform,” he says.

But Rodman quickly realized the real need was in helping users navigate the forthcoming SEC regulations on equity crowdfunding and make sure they are compliant while raising money for their cause. Individuals, investors and crowdfunding platforms must comply with these regulations.
That’s when Rodman came up with Crowdentials. “Crowdentials is regulatory software for the rules SEC has created,” he explains. “It’s a simple web form -- kind of like TurboTax -- where you can cross-reference to see if you comply.”
Crowdentials helps take the legwork out of fundraising. Through the site and one form, investors, businesses and crowdfunding platforms ensure they are in compliance while raising money or investing in a new company. “We take care of compliance; you take care of business,” says Rodman says. “Businesses shouldn’t have to waste their time researching all the regulations.”
Crowdentials was accepted into the inaugural FlashStarts program, run by Charles Stack and Jennifer Neundorfer, this summer. Rodman says there was an “instant connection” in the interview process. “I think it’s going to do a lot,” he says of the program, adding that he enjoys working with the mentors and interns on hand and bouncing ideas off the other entrepreneurial teams.
Rodman has two partners.

Source: Richard Rodman
Writer: Karin Connelly

Ohio Third Frontier awards $3 million to University of Dayton for advanced sensor tech development

Ohio Third Frontier has awarded the University of Dayton Research Institute (UDRI) $3 million to continue development of an advanced situational awareness platform that will be compatible with multiple sensor products.
Situational awareness systems refer to products with sensors that respond to environmental changes, such as seismic waves, infrared light and motion. Kevin Klawon, a software systems group leader at UDRI, gives the example of a camera that responds to someone entering a backyard.
Currently, customers such as law enforcement, border patrol or first responders have to approach different manufacturers for different needs. Klawon’s team, however, envisions a simpler solution that is now within reach thanks largely to the Third Frontier award.
“We actually have a platform that we’re building where you can just plug sensors in and the platform itself will be able to understand what kind of sensor it is,” Klawon explains. He anticipates substantial savings for customers who will only have to invest in one platform that can be reconfigured depending on changing needs. In all, Klawon expects the software development to result in 30 new jobs over a three-year period.
Klawon insists the idea isn’t revolutionary. Over time, he says, technology tends to find ways to integrate into one, simple package; but it has yet to be done in the emerging field of situational awareness systems. Klawon believes UDRI's work in the field will further reinforce Dayton’s growing national reputation as a leader in sensor development.
“This is a market the Dayton region has started to develop,” says Klawon. “We lost most of our automotive sector, so others have had to come up. I think this is one of the emerging sectors that will prove to help the region and become what the Dayton region is known for.”
Source: Kevin Klawon
Writer: Joe Baur

OSU staff members develop lightning fast pitches at Startup Snapshot event

Ten Ohio State University faculty members got their speed-dating chops on earlier this spring, but not the sort that should worry their significant others.

First came the warm-up: each gave three-minute presentations on their start-up ideas to more than 60 Columbus-area CEOs and entrepreneurs from a range of fields. The occasion was the first Startup Snapshot event, sponsored by the university’s Technology Commercialization and Knowledge Transfer Office (TCO).
“The purpose of the event was to showcase our potential startups to CEOs and entrepreneurs, with the intention of procuring business leads and CEOs for them,” explains Brian Cummings, TCO vice president. In addition to the faculty members, one senior economics student also pitched his idea.
“We selected a diverse set of technologies at various stages of development to convey the extensive breadth of research, innovation and technology we have,” Cummings says. “Many people are surprised to find that we’re doing work in a specific area. This enabled them to really get a feel for all of the exciting things we have happening right now.”
Ten-minute round-robin “speed dating” sessions followed the lightning-fast pitches.
“Presenting at Startup Snapshot forced me to distill my idea down into its basic elements, yet allowed for in-depth conversation, too,” says faculty member Jane Wright, curriculum manager for Ohio State Extension. “It was the whole elevator approach but with the added luxury of immediate follow up.” Wright pitched her idea for Total Animal, a technology platform and interactive learning system that teaches and tests users on knowledge of livestock and companion animals in a fun and engaging software application.
According to Cummings, the event was a great success. “The engagement from our researchers and the community was more than we could have hoped for,” he notes. “The event resulted in the scheduling of 25 follow-up meetings, 15 new mentors agreed to become a part of TCO’s expanding mentor network and multiple companies are projected to launch.”
Another Startup Snapshot event is slated for this fall.
Source:  Brian Cummings, OSU
Writer:  Lynne Meyer

Dublin-based Acceptd partners with the National YoungArts Foundation

Acceptd has developed a new strategic partnership with the Miami, Florida-based National YoungArts Foundation to better streamline the nationally renowned arts organization’s application process.
“YoungArts Foundation is a great organization,” says Don Hunter, co-founder of the Dublin-based company that assists students around the world with applications to performing arts schools. Representatives from the two organizations met last year at a National Dance Education Organization conference in Los Angeles. Hunter says YoungArts was already familiar with their work and eager to find ways to collaborate.
Discussing YoungArts’ HBO2-televised MasterClass program where applicants have the opportunity to work with experts in their respective field for scholarship opportunities, Hunter says getting Acceptd involved was the proverbial no-brainer. “They get about 10,000 applicants,” he says. “So it seemed like a natural fit to work with them on the application process.”
Ultimately, it’s about creating new opportunities for students. “If we can create opportunities for young artists to pursue their passion and get opportunities they might not otherwise had, I think we’ve fulfilled our mission,” Hunter explains. “If we can create a better market and awareness for these guys, all the better.”
To date, YoungArts has awarded 17,000 artists with more than $6 million in monetary awards. Moving forward, Acceptd will play a key role in evaluating the digital applications and portfolios for YoungArts. And Hunter says he’ll be sure to look out for his home crowd.
“It’s a great opportunity for artistic students in Ohio,” says Hunter. “We have great relationships with faculty around the state, so we’ll be sure to market this opportunity to them.” Acceptd participated in OSU's 10Xelerator program in 2011 and has since recieved grants from TechColumbus and NCT Ventures.

The YoungArts application will open on Acceptd this week.
Source: Don Hunter
Writer: Joe Baur

Cincy high school students earn college credit with video distance learning

Students at 10 Cincinnati area high schools are earning college credit through a new dual enrollment program at the University of Cincinnati's College of Engineering and Applied Science (CEAS).

It's the first step in a wider plan that will allow incoming UC engineering majors to complete their freshmen year of college before high school graduation.

The dual credit program grew out of a longer collaboration between CEAS and area schools that started in 2007. That's when CEAS began offering an introduction to engineering course to high school seniors. The course is offered through an educational video platform called Mediasite, which is designed specifically for educational use.

That collaboration started with four schools—Harrison, Mother of Mercy, Mt. Notre Dame and Princeton high schools—and now more than 13 participate (however, not all offer the dual credit option). The 2012-2013 school year was the first that students could take courses for credit at UC, says College of Engineering Academic Director Eugene Rutz.

Not all students take the class for dual credit, but out of the 500 who did, about 140 of them earned credit, Rutz says.

UC faculty and the high school teachers work together to deliver the course. UC provides lessons via videos, which students can watch from home. In the classroom, high school teachers assign projects that require students to find solutions to questions by creating an engineering-based solution that builds on what they learn in the videos.

"They build a prototype for the solution, test it, report it and defend," says Rutz. "There's a verbal presentation of it as well."

During the school year, students complete several projects—some could take a week, some could take a month. The focus is on applied learning.

"This is a course that helps students see and appreciate why they learn math and science," Rutz says. "They are also learning critical thinking, and that there are multiple ways to solve problems."

CEAS plans to add more high schools to the program next year, and add an additional engineering course, says Rutz.

By Feoshia H. Davis
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UC researchers develop smarter, solar-powered water filter

Researchers at the University of Cincinnati have developed tiny, solar-powered water filters that target and remove carcinogens and antibiotics from lakes and streams.

These protein-based filters are smaller in diameter than a human hair, and work differently than current surface water filters that are made of activated carbon. Those carbon filters work much like the ones in home water filtration systems.

"In Cincinnati, we have one of the largest activated carbon treatment facilities in the United States," says David Wendall, a faculty researcher and environmental engineering professor at UC. "But what the current filters do is bind a lot of different [non-dangerous] compounds; it will will coat the filter very quickly."

UC's research was published in the "Nano Letters" journal. It showed the new filters absorbed 64 percent surface water antibiotics, compared to 40 percent absorbed by current filtering technology.

The research is important because there is growing scientific evidence of harmful effects of the hormones and antibiotics that work their way into our lakes and streams.

"We're starting to understand that birth control is feminizing fish, and antibiotics promote resistance in certain organisms," says Wendall. "It's what is contributing to superbugs that resist to antibiotic treatment. We're learning more about what happens when we dump antibiotics into the environment."

Generally, the contaminates arrive in waterways from runoff through farms or when we flush or trash our medicines.

"The main sources are from farms," Wendall says. "They put antibiotics in animal feed so they will grow fast and stay healthy. But some of their waste ends up in the rivers as runoff, where [the antibiotics] don't break down, and it ends up contaminating our water."

The filter at UC was developed in 2010. Testing has proven successful in specifically targeting antibiotics and other harmful materials.

Wendall describes the filters as "selective garbage disposals." Filtering ability is fueled by sunlight, and the filters actually preserve antibiotics in a way that famers can reuse if filters are recovered.

The university's research is continuing to be tested and refined, Wendall says. But current work could be used practically in three to five years.

By Feoshia H. Davis
Follow Feoshia on Twitter

Blackstone Launchpad opens fourth location on Case Western campus

The fourth Blackstone LaunchPad opened on the CWRU campus on April 23, providing a place for aspiring entrepreneurs to gather, learn and get advice.

“LaunchPad is aimed at students seeing it and saying, ‘I have an idea,’” says Deborah D. Hoover, president and CEO of the Burton D. Morgan Foundation. “It’s aimed at students walking in and talking to people and an idea takes off.”
The Burton D. Morgan Foundation in Hudson and the Blackstone Charitable Foundation announced in November 2011 that they had committed $3.2 million over three years to open LaunchPad locations in Northeast Ohio to train area student entrepreneurs.
The LaunchPad is a venture coach program developed at the University of Miami, Florida in 2008. The program provides participants with advice and mentorship to take business ideas to fruition. Students are matched up with venture coaches to guide them through the development process.
The other Northeast Ohio LaunchPads are on the campuses of Baldwin Wallace University, Lorain County Community College and Kent State University. The goal is to create 150 new sustainable companies in the next five years, which could generate as many as 3,000 jobs. Hoover says they expect to exceed that goal.
More than 40 students already are registered with the CWRU LaunchPad and 16 are exploring their business ideas. “More than 400 student ventures are underway among the four campuses,” says Hoover. “We think that’s pretty great.” Registration is ongoing.
Nearly 200 people turned out for the opening in CWRU’s Thwing Center. “It was great, we were really pleased with the way it went,” Hoover says of the opening. Attendees included Case president Barbara Snyder and Bob Sopko, director of the CWRU LaunchPad, as well as Joan Solotar, chair of the Blackstone Charitable Foundation and Vinny Gupta, chair of the Ohio Board of Regents.

Source: Deborah D. Hoover
Writer: Karin Connelly
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