Graduate students from Martin Tuchman School of Management (MTSM), as well as Newark College of Engineering, worked with the CEOs of nine new ventures — seven in the Newark area, one from Manhattan and one from Finland — to help develop and execute their ventures’ go-to-market strategies.

These efforts were part of MTSM’s MGMT680 course, Entrepreneurial Strategy, that joins entrepreneurship and innovation management students with practicing entrepreneurs. The course exposes students to the challenges of technology startups, and empowers them to contribute to the strategic decisions and bottom-line revenue of the participating ventures. 

At the start of the semester, entrepreneurs seeking strategic business support pitch to MGMT680 students, who then choose the ventures they would like to assist. Students come to the course with diverse backgrounds and interests, which they advance by collaborating with their selected ventures.

“This is both a learning opportunity for students interested in entrepreneurship, and a community service by MTSM,” said Associate Professor of Entrepreneurship Cesar Bandera. “When MGMT680 began several years ago, it focused on new ventures in NJIT’s Enterprise Development Center. The course has now expanded to include companies across the tristate area and beyond — even Europe!”

Here, we take a closer look at some of the collaborations.

Treadmills for Injured Runners

NJIT alumnus John Crobmie ’90 (bachelor’s in mechanical engineering) ’00 (master’s certificate in business management) has over 30 patents for surgical, therapeutic, diagnostic and orthopedic medical devices. A former All-American runner, Crombie lost the ability to run due to injury. His company, Upstart, seeks to bring running back to people who have been injured or want to protect themselves against future injury. Its latest product, Float Treadmill Wings, gently suspends patients on treadmills from 20 percent of their body weight to 100 percent in precise 1 percent increments for low-impact, pain-free movement with normal gait and balance. MBA student Elizabeth Oliner led a team that conducted primary market research with regional physical therapy clinics and gyms, and developed a branding strategy and financial models for the proprietary sports medicine rehabilitation device that include sports celebrities who are investing in Upstart.

“The team was successful in not only creating the business documents needed, but they uncovered a new market for the device and a new market penetration strategy,” Crombie noted. “The value the team added is reflected in the appeal the offering now has to investors, and I am now securing funding from several new sources. In addition, the business plan has attracted the attention of investors seeking international distribution. I am very pleased with the quality and the timeliness of the business deliverables.”

Mindfulness Workplace Exercises

Cuckoo Workout is a workplace-wellness startup founded by Veera Lehmonen in Helsinki, Finland. Her company offers app-based activities designed by physiotherapists to energize office workers during the workday, strengthen interpersonal dynamics and help avoid the health risks of sedentary work. After a successful product launch that secured 70 business clients in 11 countries, Cuckoo Workout seeks to enter the U.S. market. In support of this strategic goal, MBA students James Colonias and Rita Tabe identified an initial target market of Manhattan companies with wellness officers receptive to Cuckoo Workout’s value proposition. In addition, MBA student Hana Sherza conducted a social media marketing campaign promoting Cuckoo Workout through the Instagram influencer platform Quantum Sponsor, which is also Sherza’s client in this course. The analytics on Instagram influencers and followers collected by Sherza allowed Cuckoo Workout to refine its value proposition for the U.S. market. Recently, Lehmonen and Customer Coordinator Linda Kuula came to NJIT to review the students’ strategy and financial projections.

Lehmonen was especially taken with the enthusiasm of the students, and was pleased with the wide knowledge she received about the U.S. markets. “We are really satisfied and we would recommend others to work with [the MGMT680 students].”

Entrepreneurial Strategy students James Colonias and Rita Tabe (left), and Hana Sherza (far right), helped Cuckoo Workout’s Linda Kuula and Veera Lehmonen (third and second from right) with their company’s entrance into the U.S. market.

Using Crowdfunding to Test the iPhone Accessory Market

SLIMMODS seeks to commercialize a patented modular cellphone case with built-in functions including a battery pack and telescopic selfie stick. After building a successful prototype, SLIMMODS Co-founder George Youlios turned to NJIT MBA students Yujae (Keith) Yi, Hana Sherza and Toyin Oloko-Nelson, and Master of Science in Manufacturing Engineering student Araviind Krishnaraj for market research. Led by Yi, who has a background in entrepreneurship and investment banking, the team launched Indiegogo and social media campaigns to test the market and raised $5,000 in one month. The team’s next milestones are pricing strategies and licensing opportunities.

“Our subject was looking for a rollout strategy to commercialize their new invention. As a solution, we suggested a crowdfunding platform to test the market by preselling their products. In the end, we achieved 101 percent of the fundraising goal and presold their products,” said Yi, adding of MGMT680, “The entire class came together, embraced everyone and shared their knowledge to assist our subjects. It was beyond a classroom assignment, it was a challenge to ‘be all you can be’ experience.” 

A “Check Engine” Light That Predicts Vehicle Health

With its Mechanic on Board® and Em-CARS™ technologies, 4.0 Analytics combines networked on-vehicle sensors with big data predictive analytics that anticipate vehicle operating conditions, so that public and private organizations can lower vehicle emissions, improve vehicle efficiency, reduce maintenance costs and extend fleet life. MBA students Gary White and Manish Kakadiya worked with 4.0 Analytics CEO and Co-founder Mark Scotland to develop a go-to-market strategy in New Jersey. In coordination with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and Newark Mayor Ras Baraka’s Newark Green Zone 2020 initiative, the strategy has deployed Mechanic on Board® in thousands of city of Newark vehicles, and interfaces over the air with the New Jersey vehicle-inspection database. This deployment will expand to private fleets in New Jersey and in other states.

“Working with Mark has been one of the most rewarding experiences,” said White. “The Entrepreneurial Strategy class gives the most realistic look into the life of a startup company and how founders harness innovation in a way that allows their startups to thrive. Professor Bandera goes beyond the textbook and pushes us to really engage and be a part of the entrepreneurial process, making less theory and more action.”

Remarked Scotland, “I applaud NJIT's business graduate program for establishing a framework for linking students with business owners who can expose students to real-world projects. Business owners can help mentor or guide the project while receiving assistance in achieving specific project objectives.”

Putting a Price on Helping Youth Sports

FundMyTeam is an online fundraising platform for youth sport teams — a $19 billion industry. Compared with those of other platforms, FundMyTeam’s fundraising campaigns are easier to manage and have a higher success rate (over 90 percent) in less time (25 days instead of nine weeks or more). They also cost less, with a fee of only 15 percent of the total raised. Founded by Jay and Anne-Sophie Whitehead, FundMyTeam made the 2018 Red Herring Top 100 North America, which recognizes the continent’s most exciting and innovative technology startups, and was selected Top 50 Most Innovative Sports Startups of 2017 by the HYPE Foundation. Jay, a serial entrepreneur who is on the board of advisers of NJIT’s College of Science and Liberal Arts, values primary market research and knows that pricing technological innovation can be harder than designing it. His request of MBA students Nikola Gogic and Yiting Zhu was straightforward: learn pricing model preferences from current and potential clients, determine how FundMyTeam can differentiate itself from its competitors and uncover industry trends. Gogic and Zhu deployed an online survey campaign that yielded actionable information that is guiding the way FundMyTeam does business.

Students interested in experiential entrepreneurship education, as well as business owners, investors, and incubator and accelerator managers seeking business support, are encouraged to contact Bandera (cesar.bandera@njit.edu) for more information on MGMT680 and other programs at MTSM.