#DesignYourFuture: An interview with international student, Andrii Demko

Name: Andrii Demko

Major: iMBA Andrii

 

A little background on you

I’m originally from Ukraine and currently an iMBA student at Philadelphia University. I’ve always been an entrepreneur. I started a couple of businesses back home in Ukraine, I own a patent, and I’ve just always liked to work for myself.

What is The Mobile Cards?

The Mobile Cards is a software that creates, manages, and analyze loyalty cards, coupons, and event tickets in Apple and Google mobile wallets. Website: www.themobilecards.com

We believe that consumers’ loyalty is the highest value. The Mobile Cards helps businesses to increase consumers’ loyalty, retain current consumers and attract new ones using new technologies.

What makes us unique is the way we do business, it’s not just a Saas, it’s a set of it solutions that deeply links company’s POS, CRM or a loyalty program with their consumers via mobile phones without developing an app using Apple and Google Wallets.

TheMoileCards

How did you come up with this?

Once I looked at all cards in my friend’s wallet and thought that they sucked. It was in 2003. I wanted to have one simple and beautiful place to store them. 10 years after Apple introduced their wallet. Couple years after I’ve found developers who could do a system around them.

What are you currently doing to build?

Looking for customers, reiterating the product and idea, etc

What should we expect to see from you and The Mobile Cards in the next few months?

In few months we will sign up a nation wide company.

Any insider tip for entrepreneurs out there?

They need to create a situation, where there is no way NOT to do anything. For me it’s the time when my visa will expire, I don’t have time to plan a plan. I need to do something, anything, right now, even yesterday, because if I couldn’t make what I’m planning, I will have to go back.

4 Reasons Why Market Research Is Crucial To Starting Up

You’ve thought up an idea. Maybe you woke up and an awesome idea/invention popped into your head, maybe you’ve been thinking about this for a while, maybe this is an idea that keeps popping into your head time and time again. You think you’ve got a brilliant idea (and it probably is) that could make you the next Facebook, Super Soaker, Urban Outfitters, or that famous Pizzeria in your city. Whatever your big picture is, this is your moment and you just want to see this idea happen.

So you decide to talk to a consultant or advisor or someone you think could potentially help you make this happen. You tell them about the idea, super enthusiastic, super passionate, super ready to get this going. The person may or may not match your excitement, but asks “So who is your customer? Why them? Why do you think they want what you have? Where do they currently get what you have or similar? What influences their buying decisions in this space? Is your end user the same as the customer you sell to? Who are your competitors? Why can’t they just do what you are doing because they have the money or what’s stopping them from doing what you are doing? What are they doing that is working or is a problem? How big is your market?”

As you hear these questions, you start getting agitated, you feel like they just don’t get what you are saying and that people actually want what you are offering. You begin to wonder if the person wants you to succeed or is suggesting your idea sucks or you can’t do this. Everything you thought you were going to achieve out of the meeting, now feels like a lot of homework that is dragging. Your next step is to gather all this information for this person and honestly, you don’t see the point. “What has this got to do with actually figuring out where I can get my product manufactured for these customers you are asking me about?” “I just need money to get inventory or pay x & y and then I have my business running. Tell me where to do that; not all this homework.”

You may be right, and you may be wrong, but you should really ask yourself “Why don’t I know at least half the answers to these questions?”

Doing your research will give you:

  1. A better understanding of the industry you are entering, who exactly your customer is, and how to best attract them

Wouldn’t it be nice if you knew exactly who will buy your product in a heartbeat, what they look out for in your product, how often they buy your kind of product, what their lifestyle looks like to make them need your product or service, what influences their decision making when purchasing something like your product/service?

Having answers(and not made up answers) to the questions above will help you figure out the various checkpoints you should consider hitting to make your product/service as attractive as possible to your customer, or to know how many possible customers are out there. So why not? Why not understand what your customer wants, and give it to them?

  1. A better understanding of the competition, what’s works for them, and what doesn’t

You get asked who your competitor is and you either get really defensive, or deny that you have any. Let’s take a moment to think about ourselves. Is there someone you compare yourself to or try to be better than? Your brother, your sister, best friend, friend, cousin, neighbor, classmate, the list goes on. Or perhaps you don’t even know it, but someone out there has decided you are their competition and they want to beat you at everything. It may be obvious or subliminal. Either way, you always have direct or indirect competition. The same goes for business. If you are providing customers with a variation of something they already had access to, you are competing with that other company’s product. If you have invented something new that achieves purpose x but people already get x done without your product, you have competition. The fact that you have competition doesn’t mean it’s over so pack up. It forces you to face your fears and be honest with yourself about if your battle (this business) is worth fighting.

What is your competition doing that their customers currently like? What are they doing that still creates a pain for the customer? Why is yours the better option and why are they not doing it? Does yours bring in something they can’t come up with in a short time? If they do come up with it, and start selling through all the channels they have already established, what’s your next move?

This doesn’t mean pack up your idea but it definitely lets you face your fears and figure out if it’s worth pursuing or not and if you are ready for it.

 

  1. A better understanding on your go to market/distribution strategy

Now that you have figured out who your customer is, or what they like, or what influences their buying decisions when it comes to things like your product/service, or where they go to find things like what you offer, you now know exactly how to attract them. You know where you should be advertising, or what events you should be attending to promote yourself, what kind of language to use in marketing, or what topics are relevant enough to engage your target audience. You essentially know what to do to attract your customer. Why wouldn’t you want that?

 

  1. Knowledge and ammo to shoot down all questions/ critics because you understand the why. Why you chose this method over that method.

There comes a time in every entrepreneur’s life, when they have to sell someone on their idea or business. Having done your research gives you all the ammunition you need to put your critics in check. Good research to back your idea involves, in depth industry analysis, surveying your customer and also actually approaching your customer to sell your product or service, taking note of their reaction, finding out the why, making the necessary changes, and getting back out there to see if your customer wants it. After you’ve toiled through all that, and arrived at your prefect product, you’ve got it. You essentially understand what works for you and what doesn’t. You understand why you chose method (a) over method (b) and you’ve proved it. Your critics would now just want to see it being executed like you said it would.

At the end of the day, you don’t want to get too far along before you realize you wasted time and money. If a venture is worth pursuing, you will get the research you need to back it up. You will be more confident and more invested in what you do because you know you definitely have something worth pursuing. Plus doing your research is always attractive to lenders and investors.

So anytime you feel like someone is trying to crush your idea with all these research questions, take a moment and ask yourself honestly: “Why can’t I answer all this?”

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Hear It From Our Ventures: Founder Made Wellness Conference

Written By Amanda Ricci

 

FounderMade‘s Wellness conference was held in New York City on Saturday, January 30th 2016. The day brought together blossoming entrepreneurial minds, successful startups and progressive investors. As a future founder, the event was inspiring beyond belief. I arrived in Chelsea district’s Spring Studios welcomed warmly by wellness enthusiasts and led upstairs to the Discovery Lounge filled with curious faces and appetizing products. I found myself naturally networking with New York’s Health, Active Lifestyle and Outdoors community. We brainstormed, exchanged opinions and tested out new wellness brands until it was time for meditation. The sun streamed in and the day began.FullSizeRender(3)

FounderMade hosted multiple panel discussions throughout the day. Panel speakers were some of the biggest movers and shakers in the HALO industry. Robin Berzin, MD, founder of Parsley Health brought a seemingly boundless amount of knowledge to the table on functional medicine. Her integrative health studies at Columbia University supported her passion of starting Parsley Health, a company that makes preventative medicine and wellness approaches attainable to everyone. Berzin set the mood of the day asking her audience to, “Make your life the one.” Any of us could be the one in a million who get cancer; she asks patients to try something different—try dairy free or gluten free. It may seem like a fad, but it doesn’t hurt to try.FullSizeRender

The audience had the opportunity to hear where the HALO tech, investment, apparel and boutique fitness industry is heading. A few memorable take-aways from the panel:
Nt Etuk, founder and CEO of YourGuru and YG Studios, said, “Dollars are moving from traditional industries into HALO. HALO will become the majority of the disposable income because people feel great about spending this money.” He concluded that the HALO market is not cyclical or a fad. Founder’s Advice: “Don’t cut your price!”

Carbon 38 founder Caroline Gogolak stressed a social media and online marketing presence. She exuded gratitude for the strong team she helped to build, a team that fit together like a puzzle. Gogolak expressed, “I had an amazing team who could take our online presence further than I ever could,” a critical goal now that the market desires connection to find quality. Founder’s Advice: “The DNA of your company is YOU.”FullSizeRender(1)

Tyler Gage, the founder of Runa, got personal with audience. He suggested that we implement the Five Forces to keep balance in our lives—eat clean, exercise, sleep, personal development, and relationships. Founder’s Advice: “Find great people and don’t micromanage.”
The panel got my thoughts turning. Look out for us next year on the startup pitch challenge!

Hear It From Our Ventures: 8th Annual Entrepreneurial Conference

Written by Renee Kakareka(Industrial Design- Philadelphia University 16”)

Founder of oLive

The Institute for Entrepreneurial Leadership’s Next Level Conference genuinely brought me to a next level. I got an opportunity to build new relationships and learn more specific information for start-ups. The conference was smaller and more intimate than others I have been to. It was much easier to network and I was really able to meet and get to know the speakers that held the workshops.

The opening Keynote speaker, Larry Bailin, a marketing and advertisement professional from Single Throw, talked about Innovation and the steps entrepreneurs need to take to make their business stand out among competition and really embrace the meaning of innovation. This presentation made me realize the importance of my Industrial Design education and the inherent qualities that are similar to entrepreneurship. The process of changing people’s behavior and solving problems from another perspective is very important to our development as designers. One of the quotes that stuck out to me though was that “you can’t do all the things everyone does…[if you do] that is not innovation.” As a very ambitious person I tend to try to do too much and incorporate every aspect that ‘works’ into my ideas. To innovate I need to take a step back and see where the most important, feasible, and socially acceptable aspects of innovation for my product and business model and then use a new perspective to innovate on those aspects.

“Sometimes the answer you need is a different perspective on the problem.”
– Larry Bailin (Single Throw marketing and advertising)

Some of the other great advice I got throughout the conference was about improving your website and communication to reach customers (Bert Rolling – UX Designer from Single Throw) and how to create a brand for your company and stick with its purpose (Brad Benson – Brad Benson Hyundai). Ebong Eka a business advisor from EKAnomics simplified the process of creating a business plan. I learned a lot from Ebong but most importantly, I learned about Blab and Periscope, two online interview websites that he advised to use and start building a following of people (I start my first Blab this Friday sharing my ideas and processes). Lastly, Cheyenne Bostock (from ask Chey B.) and Barry Cohen from AdLab Media stressed the importance of innovation and different areas to find innovation. They created a discussion with us to discover if our start-up’s were being innovative in the right areas and were in line with our 5 P’s – Passion, Purpose, Product (of our brand), People (the network we have built to promote us), and defining each of these pieces to get someone interested in Partnering.

Over all the conference was a great experience and I took a lot away from it to apply to the work I am doing now and will do later and I’ve met new people that I will keep building relationships with.

OLIVE LOGO FINAL

#DesignYourFuture: An interview with Top Ram winner, Renee Kakareka

Name: Renee Kakareka

Major: Industrial Design

What is oLive? (Description, mission/goal, what makes oLive unique)

oLive is an assistive medical device company adapted for all socio-economic groups. We pledge to provide superpowers for those with different-abilities and bring treatment and diagnostics to IMG_4392 (3)those without easy access to medical care. oLive approaches problem solving in a bottom-up fashion. It is more likely, by starting our design process for lower-economic areas we can reach more people. This method equips us with focused designs for the user’s culture and abilities.  Bottom-up solutions have more potential to be applied universally.

oLive pledges to create relationships with our customers. Maintaining a connection with our customers, we will adapt our programs and training to maintain consistent impact. oLive’s employees and representatives will maintain contact with the communities and customers our devices reach. We will spend time maintaining relationships to assure our stakeholders gain all the benefits of our products.

 

How did you come up with this?

oLive’s pilot product evolved from working with a PhilaU Occupational Therapy student and client in the spring of 2015. This was designing smart-glasses and a mobile application for adult deaf and hard-of-hearing persons. Over time, as I talked to more deaf and hard of hearing  students, educators, parents, and specialists, I have focused concentration for this specific project for children grades 1st through 8th to help them develop early language, cognitive, and social skills that they will be able to sustain throughout their life. My passion to design for equality and social programs, designing for the other 90% of the world, and my progress on an innovative product, influenced me to start oLive and apply my talents to create change.

What are you currently doing to build?

Currently, our focus is on the development of this pilot product and creating a network. We are connecting with deaf education programs in the Philadelphia area as well as from the school districts I attended in the Northwest Suburbs of Chicago, applying for start-up accelerators, attending conferences and learning as much as we can.OLIVE LOGO FINAL

How has Blackstone helped your entrepreneurial journey?

Blackstone has been a great help finding the resources I need to build. They have guided me along the more technical aspects of business, referred me to information and start-up accelerators, guided me to conferences and helped me find the right people for start-up services (contributing to my network). Also, they have introduced me to and are helping prepare me for competitions such as College Pitch Philly and Hatch House.

What should we expect to see from you and oLive in the next few months?

Within the next few months our product should be going through the evolution of design and testing. By May we will make headway on our technology and form development and will be coming out with an introductory commercial for our pilot project. We will be pitching our concept at the College Pitch Philly competition at the Science Center Quorum on February 24th between 4:30 and 7:00pm.

Any insider tip for entrepreneurs out there?

Get your idea out as early as possible, talk to as many people as possible. Doing this in your early stages will allow you to meet more people and get more feedback; there’s always something new to be learned. Fail early and fail often!

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The Chosen 8: Top Ram 2015 Highlights

TOP RAM

The Top Ram for this year (2015) is Renee Kakareka. Renee is a senior Industrial Design Major here at PhilaU working on wearable technology for the hearing impaired.

This year was a good one. The quality of business ideas presented, along with the research conducted to support these ideas were impressive.

After 24 submissions, we selected the top 8 to present in front of 5 judges. Each presentation was about 7 minutes with 3 minutes allowed for Q&A.

The top 8 finalists for 2015:

Elliot Harris (SD MBA)

Village Lift Financial: Village Lift Financial is focused on re-designing the access to and function of financial services to better address the pains of low income households seeking to better their lives and potentially build wealth.

 

Juliana Coculo + Team (Undergraduate)

AgraVore: A vegan and vegetarian fast food restaurant, that provides customers with a convenient service through healthy and tasty late-night options.

 

Peter Aston + Team (Undergraduate)

WeDrive: A service that allows car buyers to test drive the latest models of cars for a whole day without having to deal with car salesmen and stress of drop offs. WeDrive brings the car to you and picks it up so you may test drive as many cars as you please.

 

Dyandra Brown (MS. Global Fashion Enterprise)

Boutique Your Closet: A full service company that provides closet customization and organization with a unique twist. Emphasis is placed on fashion and social trends to bring glamour to the working woman.

 

Andrii Demko ( iMBA )trw

The Mobile Cards: This is a loyalty cards, coupons, and event ticket provider software and app that allows businesses to engage better and easier with consumers through their mobile phones.

 

Renee Kakareka (Industrial Design)

oLive: A social enterprise creating assisted devices for change around the world.

 

Sujha Balaji (MS. Global Fashion Enterprise)

Cushions n’ Curtains: A soft furnishings company that provides quality curtains and cushions at affordable prices to keep your home on-trend and in-season.

 

Evan Prince + Team (Undergraduate)

Custom Cups: A revolutionary bra and underwear company that takes underwear comfort and style to new heights by using a one-of-a-kind sizing technique, and “build-a-bra” approach.

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oLive, Village Lift Financial, and Cushions n’ Curtains and in the strategy and planning phase of their business and we can’t wait for their launch. Boutique Your Closet and The Mobile Cards have already launched. Check out their websites! It is worth it. Agravore WeDrive and Custom Cups were ideas out of class projects but we hope that someone from these teams would stick with it and pursue these ideas further.

Thank you all for attending and participating.

 

Until next time!