Saturday, October 20, 2012

Kelley Entrepreneurs Visit Visionary Leaders

by Thomas Licisyn
1st-year MBA, Entrepreneurship Academy

The Class of 2014 just finished our first Academy Week!  For those unfamiliar, Academies provide an amazing opportunity to network with leaders in business and gain insight into a particular business area.  Depending on the Academy, students met with business leaders in such cities as Chicago, Indianapolis, and New York.  In addition, we were honored to have some of the top leaders in various industries visit Kelley to share their experiences.

I was lucky enough to be accepted in Kelley’s Entrepreneurial Innovation Academy (EIA).  We select few were invited to the Indiana University Emerging Technology Center on Wednesday for a tour of the facilities and hear some excellent speakers tell their own success stories.

Jim Pearson kicked off the day by sharing his experience as an entrepreneur.  Pearson built not one, but two successful medical device companies in Indiana.  His first big venture, Suros Surgical Systems Inc., manufactured automated breast biopsies systems for detection of breast cancer.  The company was eventually sold for over $240 million.  Not ready to retire, he developed NICO Neuro, a fascinating device company that produces minimally invasive surgical tools for neurosurgery.

Pearson left us with a few takeaways during his talk.  He reminded us that many see entrepreneurs as just the success stories coming out of Silicon Valley, but there are those entrepreneurs who are extremely successful in more traditional, less flashy businesses. He also touched on his own failures and what he learned from them.  It seems tempting to take venture capital from the first person who offers it, especially after being rejected repeatedly. But, he points out, be wary of giving too much equity away just for some capital.  Young entrepreneurs may mistakenly agree to the first offer that comes their way for perhaps validation or out of desperation.

The IU Emerging Technology Center is itself a wonderful site to tour.  Matt Rubin, commercialization manager of the facilities, gave us an exclusive tour that highlighted several biotech start-ups sharing space at the center.  Matt brings a unique flair to his role; he was formally trained as biologist and chemist before earning his MBA at Kelley.  His science knowledge helps him communicate with the tenants and even helped him earn his name on a few patents.  I appreciated seeing how space is used for the different biotech companies that move in and out of the center.  Before I arrived at Kelley, I was employed as a chemist and my employer went through a transition where we left lab space in academia for custom lab space in an industrial park.  It was fun to see how similar planning occurs for emerging science companies at the center.

Heritage Environmental Services provided us lunch for the event.  Jon Schalliol, an alumnus of Kelley, shared the innovative ways Heritage Environmental is recycling materials for use in new infrastructure projects around the country.  He also showed how Heritage was constantly pushing innovation into new areas of special material recycling.  

The real treat came at the end of the day when we were presented with a panel of heavy hitters in Indiana’s venture capitalist and private equity environment.  Questions were fielded by Joe Schaffer of Monument Advisors, Ken Green of IU Innovation Fund, Don Aquilano of Allos Ventures, and Ting Gootee of Elevate Ventures.

I came away inspired by the multitude of success stories.  These people created real value in their community through personal, passionate business opportunities and innovative ventures.  I recognize the immense challenge and risk with starting your own business, but I also find that listening to the stories of other entrepreneurs shows that it is possible to overcome those challenges and succeed in creating new value in the market.


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