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Aspiring Student Entrepreneurs DARE to Think Out of the Box

Three students present winning product ideas in University's Dare to Risk Entrepreneurship (DARE) competition

Lots of people have great ideas for a new technology or business, but few see their concepts come to fruition. Three Stony Brook University students who entered the Dare to Risk Entrepreneurship (DARE) competition, however, belong to a select group of creative thinkers who have won money to lend their acumen to market business proposals that they think represent commercially sound products.

DARE studentsThe DARE Competition, co-sponsored by the Small Business Development Center, is the brainchild of Ann-Marie Scheidt, director of economic development at Stony Brook University. The purpose of this Stony Brook contest is to provide opportunity for one of the University’s greatest resources — its talented and ambitious students.

This year’s event was held at the Long Island High Technology Incubator on March 28. David Kerezius ’14, a double major in business management and economics, from Selden, New York, took first place and $25,000 for Feedies, a venture that markets an air-proof engineered baby bottle to reduce colic.

Daniel Perrucci ’13 of Nesconset, New York, a double major in business management and Asian and Asian-American Studies, and his partner Gina Kim, a junior at Harvard College, nabbed second place and $20,000 for their creation, ProFound, a product that will help people locate lost items or prevent items from becoming lost.

Third prize and $5,000 went to Joseph Miccio ’16, from Bayside, New York, a first-year student in the School of Medicine, for SonInk, a newly engineered tattoo ink removable by ultrasound.

Both Kerezius and Miccio went on to compete in a regional competition held at Farmingdale State College on April 11, with Kerezius winning first place and $15,000 and Miccio placing second and receiving $10,000. All three entrepreneurs qualified for the statewide New York Business Plan Competition on April 26 — one of the largest collegiate business contests in the nation —in which 88 teams vied for seed money. Although none of them won in that competition, all three Stony Brook entrepreneurs said they were satisfied with how far they had come.

Not many people realize the behind-the-scenes work needed to bring a product to market. When Kerezius was developing a business plan for Feedies, he assembled a team that included Margot Palermo, business honors program director at the College of Business, and Aaron Foss, a personal advisor and successful entrepreneur from Port Jefferson, New York.

Research is crucial to the aspiring entrepreneur, Kerezius said. He contacted and consulted with numerous intellectual property attorneys, start-up advisors, angel investors, and Long Island-based incubators, Canrock Ventures and LaunchPad Long Island. Palermo, his faculty advisor, has also served as his coach, sounding board, mentor, and resource within the Stony Brook community.

But how does an entrepreneur get an idea for a start-up in the first place? In Perrucci’s case, personal experience played a role.

“I was fed up with losing things like my wallet, keys, TV remote and glasses,” he said. “That’s when my partner Gina and I decided to come up with an innovative product to help us find lost items. Though we’re in the early stages of development, we’re excited to make our idea a reality.”

He said that securing money for prototype development is key. An entrepreneur with seed money needs a pilot program to test the market and use the remaining funds to build the product and have a proper launch. The next step is to seek funds from an angel investor, usually someone who has achieved success in their own career and wants to give up to $250,000 or so to a budding entrepreneur.

“After that, you might look to pitch your idea to a venture capitalist who is looking to push it to become a public company. Angels invest in people; therefore it is important for aspiring entrepreneurs to have strong interpersonal skills as well as the ability to network and build meaningful relationships,” he said. “There are numerous places to find angel funding — start-up accelerators, websites such as Angelsoft.net, friends and even family.”

Miccio’s road to entrepreneurship began with his association with Dr. Richard Clark, founding chair of the Department of Dermatology and a professor of biomedical engineering at Stony Brook, and Dr. Yi-Xian Qin, a professor and director of the Orthopaedic Bioengineering Research Lab at Stony Brook.

“If we can formulate a highly aesthetic ink that is removable by ultrasound, I believe our product will enter the market very quickly,” Miccio said. “This summer I’ll start fabricating tattoo inks and testing the effects of different ultrasound waves on ink dispersion.”
 
But even if SonInk is a smash hit, Miccio said, the way he ultimately wants to help people is through medicine.

“However this turns out, I hope to be a practicing physician at a university hospital and remain involved with a lab group conducting translational research, which enhances human health and well-being,” he said.

By Glenn Jochum

 

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