Oklahoma State graduate students, mentors
earn grant at VentureWell E-Team Program

by Rachel Peters 
(August 6, 2015 at 9:59 am)
Students attend VentureWell workshop.

Kunal Mishra (left) and Nathaniel Evans (right) at the VentureWell workshop this summer.

A student group from Oklahoma State University was recently awarded a $5,000 grant from VentureWell to take their entrepreneurial idea to the market. The $5,000 will be used to attend a three-day workshop on how to better articulate the opportunity for innovation in the marketplace as part of the VentureWell E-Team Program.

The project for Materialsient, the name of the OSU group, will develop innovative low-cost methods to improve the impact properties of advanced composites used in the aerospace and automotive industries.

Four OSU graduate students founded Materialsient to enter the competition as part of a new course, Applied Innovation and the Commercialization of New Technologies, taught in the Spears School of Business and the College of Engineering, Architecture and Technology. The course is taught by Ranji Vaidyanathan, a Riata Fellow and Varnadow Professor of Materials Science and Engineering; Craig Watters, Norman C. Stevenson Chair in the School of Entrepreneurship, and Steve Griggs, adjunct professor in the School of Entrepreneurship. The course is cross-listed in the Spears School and the College of Engineering.

“Because entrepreneurial desires and skills are often found outside of the business school it’s important for the School of Entrepreneurship and the Riata Center for Entrepreneurship to collaborate with other colleges, in this case the College of Engineering, Architecture and Technology,” said Watters. “With this course and our outreach to other students we are building an entrepreneurial school beyond just our walls.”

The faculty and mentors hope that the success of the Materialsient team will encourage more students from across all colleges at OSU to sign up for this course and take their entrepreneurial ideas to the market.

The Riata Center for Entrepreneurship will provide business development and provide space in the Student Startup Central for continuing the student entrepreneurship activities and the possible formation of a company based on the technology. The College of Engineering, Architecture and Technology’s role will be to provide support for the technology development.

The VentureWell E-team Program cultivates opportunities for collegiate technology entrepreneurs by providing early-stage support and funding of up to $75,000, the E-Team website said. The program “gives college students the chance to move new tech ideas out of the lab and classroom and into the marketplace.”

The E-team Program is a three-stage process funded by VentureWell, previously known as National Collegiate Inventors Alliance (NCIIA).

The Materialsient team from OSU is comprised of four graduate students from the College of Engineering Architecture and Technology, along with mentors Vaidyanathan, Watters and Griggs. Materialsient hopes to include a CIE scholar from the School of Entrepreneurship for the second and third stages of the project.

Materialsient was one of the teams recognized during Stage 1, and received funding of $5,000 for two participants of the team to attend a three-day workshop. The team will use the workshop to learn about the customer discovery process and present their business case to VentureWell and industry collaborators for obtaining Stage II and Stage III funding of $20,000 and $50,000, respectively.

“The VentureWell E-Team Program provides grants and training to student-led teams looking to found ventures based on new technologies they developed,” said Christina Tamer, program officer for Venture Development and Investments with VentureWell. “Through the E-Team Program, we hope that students develop entrepreneurial skills to compliment their technical backgrounds.”

Students attending the workshop over the summer were Kunal Mishra, a graduate student who just completed his doctoral degree in mechanical engineering and will continue as a post-doctoral fellow and the entrepreneurial lead in this project, and Nathaniel Evans, who just completed his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering and is continuing as a graduate student in materials science and engineering.