Summer Fellowship


Digital Surgeons Brings Branding Expertise to CT Startups

Accelerating your business through brand and marketing

“Should I really be worried about my brand?”

With so many things to focus on like product development and raising capital, have you ever found yourself asking that same question?

Chances are, if you’re an entrepreneur or in marketing, you’ve pondered the question at least a few times.

Ask Joe Pilcavage, Head of Creative at New Haven’s Digital Surgeons , a creative consultancy that specializes in positioning, branding, and launching visionary founders’ latest startups, and you’ll get an answer that might surprise you.

He’ll tell you that, “One of the single greatest reasons businesses fail is because of their branding. At some point in the journey, whether it’s their initial inception or their future marketing efforts, they fail to deeply understand their customers and deliver a consistent experience that answers their needs.”

That’s because a brand, as it turns out, is something people feel . Our ability to create a positive, lasting feeling is what ultimately gets investors and customers to buy in.

Wait a minute. Really?

Sounds like something worth exploring, right? Well, that’s exactly what Pilcavage and Pete Sena, CEO and co-founder of Digital Surgeons, did for a dozen Connecticut startups at the CCEI 2020 Summer Fellowship Program in late June as part of their thinkfwd initiative. Pilcavage and Sena, who together have over thirty years of experience in brand strategy, go-to-market innovation, and digital transformation, broke branding down bit-by-bit for the eager entrepreneurs. What follows are a few key takeaways of their presentation, one that was enthusiastically received by those in attendance and still being talked about here at the CCEI.

8 Key Takeaways From the Digital Surgeons Branding Presentation

  1. Branding works because of the emotional attachment we give to a product or a purpose.
  2. Brands are living organisms that must respond, adapt, and evolve over time.
  3. Positioning is all about deciding the space you want to occupy in the minds and lives of your audience.
  4. When you try to speak to everyone, you’re heard by no one.
  5. Humanizing your brand into what Digital Surgeons calls Brand DNA allows you to set a north star for how you want to communicate to and with your customers.
  6. Your brand’s tone of voice should be a driver of differentiation in your space.
  7. Your visual language is your voice without words. Choose your logo, colors, fonts, and images wisely. You only get one chance to make a first impression.
  8. Your brand should be regarded as sacred, but that doesn’t mean it’s untouchable. Testing, learning, and iterating often are vital in continuously providing a stellar brand experience.

Throughout the course of the program, Pilcavage and Sena also led exercises with the entrepreneurs to help them refine their own brands in real-time. Interested in doing them on your own? Click here to check them out. And if you want to learn more about Digital Surgeons, their work, and branding in general, hop over to the Digital Surgeons website.

Digital Surgeons


Summer Fellowship 2020 Highlight: onewith

 

onewith provides a smoothing, second-skin fit through a re-imagined method of creating swimwear that mimics the feel of seamless undergarments. In addition to feeling and fitting differently, onewith seeks to capture, in its aesthetics and detail, sun-soaked, nostalgic East Coast summers.

For as many swimwear companies as there are, they are all – even the brands that are ‘figure-flattering’ – constructionally very similar. I had this realization in the spring of 2019 when I was trying on roughly a dozen swimsuits in my living room, and was feeling frustrated (to say the least) with the way they were looking and feeling. I said, out loud, that I wanted to create a swimsuit that felt ‘one with’ my body, and upon saying that, the ethos and brand came to me immediately.

My background is in fashion, and more specifically, the bridal industry, so I was familiar with the pain points women had with garments and the way they fit, especially in categories as intimate as bridal, lingerie, and swim. I have also been a content creator for 12 years, making YouTube videos for an overwhelmingly female audience since 2008. With this experience, and now with the idea for a brand that I felt could help women feel more confident, I felt a responsibility – and unwavering passion – to bring onewith to life.
    As the daughter and sister of UConn alumni and a proud UConn alum myself, being accepted into Summer Fellowship was surreal. So many amazing businesses and UConntrepreneurs have come out of this University, so I knew I was going to take this opportunity and make the absolute most of it. The quality of curriculum, content, mentors, and speakers in Summer Fellowship is absolutely top-notch. I have absorbed and implemented so much of what I have learned already and look forward to continuing to do so. I also love networking – even virtually – with the other Fellows! It’s fun to bounce off of each other and feel so supported within the group.

    Summer Fellowship 2020 Highlight: Sourcery

    As a historian, Dr. Tom Scheinfeldt was no stranger to the challenge of gaining access to remote, non-digitized documents. In the past, he had brought to market software that aimed to solve other problems researchers had–so why not try to solve this one, too? Tom brought his idea of a remote document delivery tool to a team of developers, designers, archivists, and researchers at UConn’s Greenhouse Studios–and Sourcery was born. Sourcery is an open-source, community-based mobile application that expands access to non-digitized archival documents in this digital world. The researcher will make a document request from his or her mobile device by entering the document’s citation information, Sourcery will locate the document in the correct archive, and the archivist will have a simple platform to scan and share the document with the researcher quickly and efficiently. The Sourcery Team is excited to launch a custom enterprise version of Sourcery at the end of this summer to help researchers during a time when social distancing measures limit in-person access to collections and the ability to travel.


    Summer Fellowship 2020 Highlight: Pisces Atlantic

    I’m Peter Goggins, I’m a senior environmental science major in CAHNR, founder of Pisces Atlantic. My company produces a commercial fish feed made from alternative, novel, protein sources. These feeds are intended for use on big fish farms where most of the global supply of seafood is produced. I was inspired to create an alternative feed after I learned how environmentally destructive conventional feeds are as well as their increasing scarcity (and associated skyrocket of price), in recent years; I learned about this after reading a National Geographic article and decided that I was going to revolutionize the industry by making a more effective, greener feed that could be sold at a lower price than what’s on the market today. Pisces Atlantic feeds are a clean break from what is typical in the aquafeed industry by completely disregarding traditional nutrition sources and utilizing vegetable & insect proteins in their place to create a more effective, more sustainable, and more economical feed.

    I’ve enjoyed a decent amount of award recognition over the last few years: I’m a past GetSeeded winner, two-time Accelerate UConn program graduate, second-place finalist and award winner of the Innovation Quest program here at UConn as well as a summer InQbator graduate. More recently I’ve won an award from the city of Middletown’s Collision pitch event, been accepted to CCEI Summer Fellowship, and filed a patent application after having been accepted to the UConn IP Law Clinic. Finally, I was awarded a grant to facilitate the use of an intern team through UConn’s brand-new VentureWerx program. I’ve conducted extensive rounds of R&D, made a season-long exclusive-supply sale to a farming business, and have recently focused my efforts on constructing a manufacturing line at my facility in East Hartford.

    Summer Fellowship has been fantastic and eye-opening. If I had to boil it down to one critical aspect I’d highlight the interactions with industry experts and mentors: I cannot overstate how helpful it has been to continually have meetings with the program guests and allow them to vet my ideas, evaluate my pitch, and help me build out my business. I’m particularly excited to keep making sales, my manufacturing should be live soon and I’m anxiously anticipating an influx of regular sales!

     


    Summer Fellowship 2020 Highlight: Unlimino

     

    MACRØ is the inaugural product of Unlimino LLC, a non-niche technology company comprised of five members. The company was started because we love technology and want to be a key factor and influence in how we develop the future of it, regardless of industry or niche. The five members are Harrison Burr (CEO), Pranav Thaker (CMO), Andrew Martino (CFO), Brandon Lebiszczak (CCO), and Christian Galain (COO). MACRØ as a product specifically is a niche solution to code and keyboard shortcut-intensive industries, such as computer programming, graphic design, video editing, music production, and web design. Shortcuts are too complicated (not to mention there are too many of them), code gets repetitive, and a lot of time is wasted in the aforementioned industries simply doing what should be instant. If only we had one-click keys that do the tedious/hard stuff for us. Well, MACRØ does just that: we make it easy to program and create one-click easy keys that can be used anywhere on your computer by removing the need to code and introducing a simple, drag-and-drop user interface. We create a virtual keypad that lives on your desktop, giving you access to these custom-made keys that adapt to how you work. Basically, MACRØ is a next generation computing productivity tool that adapts uniquely to how you work! So far, we’ve raised over $18,000 in seed funding between three entrepreneurial incubators (iQ, Accelerate UCONN, Get Seeded, Summer Fellowship), in addition to having developed an early beta version of the software. So far in Summer Fellowship we’ve received insights that have truly shaped the way we approach the development and execution of a purely software, SaaS solution in the business and entrepreneurial realm. Marketing strategies, IP nuances, financing, revenue modeling, all-in Summer Fellowship has been one of the most educational accelerators the Unlimino team has gone through to present.

     

     


    Summer Fellowship 2020 Highlight: VeraDermics

    The VeraDermics team is composed of several dermatologists who treat warts on a regular basis. Like many other physicians, we are unsatisfied with current treatment options for pediatric warts. Existing methods are either painful, ineffective, or both, which means many children leave the doctor without getting treated. 

    To solve the problems with current wart treatments, we invented the 1st ever kid-friendly and easy-to-use wart treatment. Our product, WartPatch, combines the most effective wart treatment with a kid-friendly drug delivery platform. WartPatch uses a dissolvable microneedle patch to deliver immunotherapy. Microneedle patches are established, patient-friendly technology that go onto the skin like a band-aid, and the microneedles dissolve into the skin which releases immune stimulating medication. Immunotherapy is a treatment that gets the body’s own immune system to fight off the wart virus. 

    It has proven especially effective in treating warts in children, but is typically too painful in its current injectable form. This process of administering immunotherapy in a microneedle patch would be virtually painless, and thus an excellent fit for the pediatric market. 

    Many people have validated the potential for WartPatch, as we have been selected grand prize winners of MIT Hacking Dermatology, The Blue Health KC Venture Creation Challenge, and Connecticut Business Plan Competition. We are also participating in UConn’s InQbator Program, and we have been accepted into the Pepper Hamilton Emerging Growth Program for intellectual property legal representation. Apart from Summer Fellowship, we have also received funding from UConn Get Seeded and the Texas A&M New Venture Competition. In total, we have raised $130,000 of non-dilutive funding. 

    Currently, we are partnered with the Southwest Research Institute to create a trial-ready prototype. We have also filed a provisional patent. In addition, we have partnered with dermatologists to perform an investigator initiated clinical trial once our prototype is completed. 

    Our core team is composed of several highly-skilled members with expertise in biotechnology, life sciences consulting, and corporate logistics. Dr. Reid Waldman is a dermatology resident at UConn is the company’s COO and expert on clinical trials. Dr. Timothy Durso is a dermatology resident in San Antonio and the team lead in preclinical design and execution. Dr. Madeline DeWane is a recent graduate of the UConn school of medicine, the company’s CSO, and is completing her internship at Yale New Haven Hospital. Dr. Ming Lee is a dermatology resident at Boston University and will be directing FDA regulatory compliance. Kyle Ryder is a life sciences consultant for early stage startups at Trinity Life Science partners and is the head of business development. Dr. Steven Waldman, a former hospital CEO, CFO and Board Chairman, is serving as the company’s CEO. Audrey Worth, an undergraduate molecular cell biology major at UConn, is an intern for VeraDermics and liaison to CCEI’s Summer Fellowship. 

    At Summer Fellowship, we have enjoyed learning about value propositions and customer personas and how critical it is to understand these areas before a startup even considers entering the market. We have also gained valuable insight from mentors such as Nicole Wagner, the CEO of LambdaVision. Nicole offered advice on grant writing from her own experience. We are most looking forward to learning more about marketing and brand development at Summer Fellowship. We currently have a company website (www.veradermics.com) and LinkedIn page, and we would love to explore ways to further develop these avenues and additional opportunities for marketing. 

     


    Summer Fellowship 2020 Highlight: Hintersight Studios

    Auto-Combat is a digital hybrid board game adaptation of the auto-battler genre. It uses NFC embedded cards to interact with a specially designed surface to seamlessly communicate with the user’s phone. Players acquire cards, representing different units, and form a synergistic army with them. Once the physical cards have been arranged on a surface, the characters come alive and battle your opponent’s army in real-time on the phone. Only through strategy, planning, and a little luck, can someone overcome others and be declared the winner.


    Summer Fellowship 2020 Highlight: WrapUp

    WrapUp started as a passion project by Harsh Patel in India. Harsh noticed an aging infrastructure was failing the country resulting in communities being overrun by plastic pollution that would take generations to degrade. His co-founders, Kishan Patel and Louis Blanco Fernandez, both noticed similar problems in their own communities. Together they set out to create a solution to help reduce the 14.5 million tons of single use plastic produced by the food packaging industry every year. Current bioplastics are marketed to be sustainable but contain additives like PLA, which take years to degrade and often require special conditions to break down.

    The first product, WrapUp Films, started in the Netherlands and uses natural ingredients to create a new type of bioplastic that’s better for the planet. Unlike other bioplastics, our starch blend will degrade naturally in under a year on land and even faster in our oceans. Our product is completely compostable which means it will break down naturally. The formulation leaves no residuals like harmful micro plastics and can even be used as compost for gardens. This means that no turtles or sea life is harmed by our plastic. The unique formulation also allows for the packaging to be infused with aromas, flavors, natural colors, and textures which allows businesses to redefine their consumer experience like never before.

    WrapUp began in the summer of 2019 and since then has been a part of Accelerate UConn, Smile Labs, EIT Food, Open Lab Skane, Venture Lab at Lund University, and now Summer Fellowship. During Summer Fellowship, we hope to finish lab testing for our product, get a better sense of the manufacturing requirements, and better understand our market.

    We firmly believe that there is no Planet B. It is up to all of us to care for this planet that we call home not only for us but for future generations. So please re-use, recycle, and WrapUp.


    Summer Fellowship 2020 Highlight: Kona Brand

    Kona Brand creates fun Winter flannels that make you smile so that active, driven people have a reminder to live a more care-filled life. Now, living a care-filled life isn’t something people hear a lot, in fact it’s the antithesis of living a care-FREE life. When we picture a care-free life, we think of The Dude (from the movie “The Big Lebowski”), and there’s nothing wrong with that. However, at Kona Brand we care about things. We care about our jobs, our hobbies, and how we spend our time the same way we care about our friends, family and pets. So, the idea of living a care-FILLED life is to basically throw everything you are into things that make you happy. For us, that’s making fun Winter flannels that make you smile, while finding a home for every dog.

    Why do we care about finding a home for every dog? Well, I grew up with rescue dogs in my house and my beautiful good boy rescue dog, Kona, was the inspiration behind Kona Brand. Sadly, only 1 out of every 10 dogs born will find a permanent home. Each year, approximately 1.2 million dogs are euthanized because shelters are too full and there are not enough adoptive homes. That is why we are donating a percentage of each Kona Brand sale to dog charities and hope to partner with them in the future.


    Summer Fellowship 2020 Highlight: Momentum

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Momentum, est 2018 –  saw the problem of underprivileged youth not being connected to resources that cater to their interest, guidance counselors not being able to service youth effectively due to high ratios and not having the right tools as well as youth resources being underutilized because of redundancies in program and inefficient marketing. The members of our team included Janoye, Chizi, Alula, AJ, and Astou. 

    The overview of the problem we are solving includes high school students, especially those from low-income families, usually have a difficult time finding resources to advance their education and career, including important information about community scholarships or occupation training opportunities. In addition, many community scholarship opportunities or local career programs cannot find enough eligible participants. As a result, these local resources remain underutilized, while low-income youth miss the education and career opportunities to break the poverty cycle. Our preliminary market research confirms the adverse impact of the disconnection between high school students and local resources. In Hartford, we found 50% of high school students are not going to college and only 70% of the students who enrolled in their first semester actually attend the college in the following semester.

    The overview of our solution is a digital platform that is geared towards helping students that are underprivileged find connections to an ecosystem of resources that interest them in education, employment, and mentorship. Momentum is a centralized system with local resources, allowing students to compete with those in the same socio-economic status. The Momentum app is a platform that will connect local high school students to local community resources aimed to assist them in education, employment, and mentoring opportunities. Some would coin our app as the “LinkedIn for Kids”. The app will launch in Hartford and students will have opportunities to connect with resources in Hartford County free of charge. Students will earn app currency for interaction and usage of the app. They can use app currency to purchase user-relevant items donated from our partners on the app.

    We have been involved in Innovation Quest, Focus Groups boys and girls, social innovation childhood prosperity lab commence ct children’s hospital, get seeded, verbal commence hartford fire dept , verbal commence hartford department

    We have learned the stages of growth, pertaining to the stages of existence, & survival, and how they differ, and we’ve also learned about path to market and how there’s different key factors that impact being successful when getting to marketed and also sourcing production regarding determining key inputs that we want our app to have, and producing capacity as well as scaling intellectual property, getting trade marks, patents developing a plan of action; identifying target groups, contact list What are you looking forward to the most in the program? We’re looking forward to being able to learn as much as we can, and be able to learn from industry experts as well as be able to make sure we’re not a part of the 9/10 startups that fail!