business


The Verge Consulting Program: Practical, Experiential & Entrepreneurial

Last summer, I had an excellent opportunity to work with the CT Small Business Development Center (SBDC) and the Connecticut Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation (CCEI). I was a part of the Verge Consulting team, a program coordinated by CCEI in  collaboration with the SBDC, consisting of six UConn graduate students. As a Verge Consultant or “business consultant”, we worked with SBDC Business Advisors to aid startups and small businesses of the state of Connecticut.

Exposure to startups

One of the primary reasons of my application to Verge Consulting program was the promise of exposure to challenges and business conditions unique to startups. The program certainly delivered on it’s promise. I worked with startups and small business from industries spanning healthcare, medical devices, food, cosmetics, analytics, e-commerce, mobile applications, online education, apparels & technology. I was exposed to a plethora of business factors affecting these industries, which was all brand new information for me learn. Our clients faced multiple challenges some of them unique to their businesses and some were caused by macroeconomic factors. Deciphering their needs and prioritizing them was just the beginning. We carefully curated our services and equipped our clients with required tools, knowledge and advice to face their challenges better.

Entrepreneurial Stories

My favorite part of the program was meeting each entrepreneur. In client meetings we had a chance to meet the founders and executives of the businesses that we worked with. Many times I found myself inspired by their stories because their passion for entrepreneurship was contagious. The challenges, triumphs and mistakes they shared were both thought provoking and contributed to my knowledge and understanding of how to start and sustain a business. The feedback that I received from our clients was also immensely helpful and insightful.

Experiential Learning

Business education was new to me when joining the MBA program and so were many concepts of business. Verge Consulting provided me an opportunity to apply the business concepts that I learned in the classroom to real world business problems. The classroom concepts were a solid foundation to get me started. I learned quickly that there was no predefined way to proceed in a business. We advised our clients and provided them with required tools and knowledge to enhance their capability to face their business challenges to better set them up for growth. For each client and unique challenge they faced, the advice was different.  We had the ability to design analytical dashboards to formulating acquisition, engagement and monetization strategies, all of which were new skills I was able to add to my arsenal.

Excellent Mentors

Our team of consultants worked with and reported to SBDC business advisors. The business advisors are industry veterans who are entrepreneurs themselves. From education at Ivy League universities to years of experience and success stories, their qualifications and subject matter expertise were second to none. They gave us our freedom to learn and enhance the knowledge and skills that was of interest to each of us. Most importantly they tried not to influence our decisions but rather guide us. This paved way for us to define our unique approach to problem solving. This program allowed me to be mentored by the best I could have asked for.

Peer Learning

Our team of business consultants was the cherry on the cake. With our entrepreneurial backgrounds and expertise in various industries and domains we constituted a diverse team. The best element of this team was knowledge sharing. To state a few, I learned market research techniques from Szu-Tung, financial analyses from Keshav, medical device knowledge from Guanwei and search engine optimization from Surya. Our team was dubbed “the dream team”. We were effective presenters who finished each other sentences to a point of scary coordination.  It was combination of our skills and varied areas of interest that allowed us to work with so many different small businesses and startups.  We were each able to contribute to the problems we were solving in a meaningful way, all the while, learning from each other.

Overall, I not only have gained working business knowledge and entrepreneurial skills but also have made friends and mentors for life. If you are looking for a great summer learning experience to work on business problems that would expand your learning and skills, Verge consulting is an excellent program to consider. Learn more about the program through the link below.

https://ccei.uconn.edu/programs/verge/

This post was written by:

Sreeman Kumar Podisetti
MBA, Class of 2018UConn School of Business

 


Winter in Israel: Day 4

This is the start of our fourth full day in Israel. The pace is intense. By observing the culture of Jerusalem, the West Wall, and the Dead Sea we are starting to understand the nation and its people. The reoccurring sight of armed police and soldiers started to get routine until we went to the border with Jordan yesterday and witnessed the live mine fields which brought the reality of past despair, suffering, and a feeling of isolation knowing that there were three more borders (Lebanon, Syria, and Egypt) not including the chaos in the Gaza Strip and to a lesser extent the West Bank. The isolation of Israel I equate to the battle of David versus Goliath as little Israel is simply disliked (because of religion) and outnumbered by its numerous neighbors. Well, yesterday we made the trip from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv and today we have power-packed meetings with the Weizmann Institute and their tech transfer office, Yeda Research and Development Co., Ltd.

Weizmann Campus

The Weizmann Institute of Science was formed 14 years before the State of Israel came into existence. The Institute is a research facility for biology, biological chemistry, chemistry, physics, mathematics and computer science. There are over 175 staff scientists and students. The founder of the Institute, Dr. Chaim Weizmann, wanted a comfortable American/European style campus where faculty research scientists lived alongside their students to maximize the exchange of ideas and innovation. It is in pursuit of that objective that students attend on full scholarship, live on campus, and receive a small stipend. The mission of the Institute is “curiosity leads Institute scientists to broaden human knowledge, to make new discoveries – for the benefit of humanity.” Scientists are required, first and foremost, to follow their own curiosity. The Institute receives over $100M in grants each year (45% from Europe, 40% from Israel, 10% from U.S., and remaining from others). While the scientists are encouraged to conduct research for research sake, the Institute recognized that their inventions needed to get to market. To accomplish that purpose they soon created the Yeda, the first technology transfer company, to capture and protect the inventions discovered by the Institute and to then find businesses that could market or make use of its technology.

CCEI students outside of Yeda

Income from licensing goes back into the Institute to fund more research with a percentage going directly to the research team. The incentives to invent, patent, and bring products to market has never been greater. To make this happen there is collaboration between inventors, business professionals, and venture capital investors. Although this model takes place in the U.S. in some instances it should be considered for greater replication in depressed areas in an effort to increase company formations and jobs.

Ronen Kreizman, PHD Director of Business Development, YEDA Answering questions from UConn Students

 

This post written by: Steven Jenkins

Steven R. Jenkins, JD, LL.M, CPA, MBA: I am employed with Manafort Brothers Incorporated as its General Counsel and Compliance Officer. Through the UConn Law School, I am currently completing an LL.M. in Intellectual Property and Environmental law. My overseas studies thus far include England, Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, China, and Dubai. This trip to Israel is of interest to me as Israel is a meca for political, theological, and business issues. My goal is to compare Israel to the United States and the other countries I have studied in with a focus on business and intellectual property. (what intellectual property rights & protections exist).


Winter in Israel: Day 3

Our third day in Israel consisted largely of traveling from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv, with a few stops and detours along the way.  The day included both visits to common attractions in Israel as well as sojourns to lesser-known areas.

After travelling to the West Bank and driving past the historical site where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found, we began with a brief excursion at Ein Gedi, a nature reserve in the midst of the desert. Although we did not stay long, we hiked through the reserve, visited a small waterfall with an ancient biblical legend associated with it, and were introduced to some of the local wildlife on the hike.

Landscape of the West Bank

On the way to the Dead Sea, we made a short expedition across the Jordanian border and visited Qasr al-Yahud, a baptism site that is officially considered to be part of Jordan.  While the group crossed the fence demarcating the border between Israel and Jordan, we didn’t need our passports because the area in which Qasr al-Yahud is located is surrounded on all sides by guarded fences or bodies of water. Mutual cooperation between the Israeli and Jordanian governments ensures that it is not possible to cross the river on one side and journey further into Jordan.

A temple at Qasr al-Yahud

The lowest point on Earth, the Dead Sea, was the next stop.  Although the high salt concentration of the sea usually allows visitors to float in relaxation, the waters were unusually choppy on the day the group visited.  In keeping with the Israeli reputation for entrepreneurship and innovation, the local community has made use of the chemical properties of the sea and created a thriving cosmetics industry nearby and abroad.

The group experiences swimming in The Dead Sea

Prior to arriving at the sea itself, the group stopped at a local store that has since turned into a multinational company, Ahava, which sells a variety of products containing the minerals found in the sea.  For most group members, though, the natural mud found on the shores of the beach sufficed.  During lunch afterwards, some found time for a camel ride, a frequent attraction throughout the area, as seen in the photo below.

A student riding a camel

While clever irrigation techniques have allowed the landscape of much of Israel to become somewhat temperate, the natural aridness of the surrounding region is on full display in the enormous cliffs and sandy desert of the West Bank. Carved into the rock of one such cliff was the group’s final stop before heading onward to Tel Aviv, St. George’s Monastery, an ancient site inhabited to this day by Orthodox monks. Here, too, the local Bedouins have exhibited an entrepreneurial spirit by setting up a stand at the entrance to a nearby hiking trail to sell local trinkets and sustenance to exhausted tourists.

St. George’s Monastery

This post written by: Jenny Blessing

I am a junior Computer Science major in the School of Engineering minoring in Mathematics, English, and International Studies.  At UConn, I research election technologies at the Center for Voting Technology Research, and this past summer I interned at Google working on a data protection team. I look forward to learning about entrepreneurship and innovation in the dynamic country of Israel and comparing it to my own experiences so far in the United States.


Winter in Israel: Day 2

Conveying the level of exuberance that was felt as I opened my hotel curtains on Friday morning may be a tough task. I fear that this remarkable amount of excitement may not resonate with the readers who do not have the pleasure of being faced with this breathtaking view of Jerusalem. Today marks the weekly holiday of Shabbat, where people come together with their loved ones to celebrate their unconditional bond with each other.

 

The students visited the Machane Yehuda Market on Friday

After enjoying lunch served up from the hospitable staff at the hotel, our group ventured to a spot that holds vast significance for anyone whose heart allows them to evoke empathic emotion. This stop is known as Yad Vashem, a museum that documents the atrocities of the holocaust.

Because of the immense devastation that came as a result of the Third Reich, the presence of somber sensations upon the onlookers of such an exhibit is expected. However, what was surprising to me was the sadness that came from observing the bleak expressions on the faces of viewers who appeared to be of Israeli descent.

The “Hall of Names” at Yad Vashem Holocaust Center contains short biographies of every Holocaust victim

Having a first hand look at the brutal effect that those unthinkable events had on people whose ancestors were likely a part of it provided me with a perspective that enabled me to consider the occurrence in more realistic terms. In this moment, I was not a privileged American student listening to a teacher lecture on some catastrophic event that took place during World War Two; nor was I an insensitive homebody watching some ‘History Channel’ special for the purpose of entertainment. No, this was not the case. In this moment, I was rubbing shoulders with men and women who knew the heartache of visiting a grave sight that was dug because of the inhumane decisions of Adolf Hitler, and felt the raw pain that comes from envisioning a relationship with grandparents that they were never able to meet. As I stood there with my spirits in a downward spiral, all I could do was hope that the people that I was empathizing with somehow understood that I felt for them dearly.

Rachel Wagner Rosenzweig presenting to students at Made in JLM
The group at Made in JLM

 

Although I was so deeply touched by the sights at Yad Vashem, I had to seek composure as our group was set to meet with the staff that is responsible with running the well-renowned company, “Made In Jerusalem”. Just as a valuable experience was gained just hours before inside of the museum, the same was achieved inside of these walls. The interesting talk helped add to the foundation of my business acumen, showing me new methods to approach opportunities that can lead to financial growth. I am thankful to have been given the chance of sitting in the same room with individuals of that stature, because I have a firm belief that the strategic tools learned from that meeting will one day help me build something substantial in the arena of wealth.

Although this day was already one that would not soon be forgotten, it would have felt incomplete without getting in on the holiday festivities. Luckily, thanks to a lovely host family, my group was welcomed to a dinner where not only was the food abundant, but also were the compassion and generosity. The singing of faith-laden songs, drinking of domestic wine, and discussing of the nation’s happenings made me feel as if I was a part of their community. I appreciated their willingness to let a stranger into the their home and treat me as if I was one of their own. Because of that, I will always have a special respect for the people of Israel. Although I am aware that one family cannot represent an entire country, the way that I was treated inside that house combined with the genuine feeling that I received from the people on the street gave me enough evidence to maintain a favorable view of this region long after I land back in America.

Post written by:

Jonathan DaCosta

My name is Jonathan DaCosta, a junior majoring in biology and minoring in economics with the plan to matriculate into a physicians assistant program after earning my Bachelors degree. I hope to get a great understanding on what it takes to become an entrepreneur and how these accelerators innovated their company so quickly. I want to be a well-rounded individual in the business field and in the medical field.


Winter in Israel: Waiting for Students to Arrive

CCEI Managing Director Michelle Cote visiting Jaffa as she prepares for students to arrive to Israel.

This morning, CCEI’s 8 Winter in Israel students arrived in Tel Aviv to be welcomed by CCEI Managing Director Michelle Cote and adjunct professor and Partner at Hinckley Allen, Daniel Gottfried. These students will spend the next 10 days traveling through Israel and learning from leaders in technology, business, visiting government offices, large high tech enterprises, venture capital investors, technology accelerators, and academic institutions. In addition our students will be visiting some of Israel’s cultural and historic sites, from the old city of Jerusalem to the Dead Sea.

Students and faculty directors stop to appreciate the view over Jerusalem on their first day in Israel

Beginning on Friday, each of our 8 students will be recounting one day of the program through this blog – telling us about the places they’ve visited, what they’ve learned, and their experience so far being immersed in the entrepreneurial culture of Israel. We can’t wait to hear from our students and see their photos over the course of the trip!