From Idea to Business in Eight Weeks: The Second Session of ITMO 3.0 Reload
About half a year ago, ITMO's student Malika Abdullaeva decided to replace protein cocktails with ice-cream that’s stripped from everything sportsmen avoid while "shredding" - fats, sugar and the like. The idea was suggested by her friend, who worked as a fitness instructor, and with help from ITMO 3.0 Reload, Malika succeeded in bringing the project to the point of actually having the end product. In just several months, her team Pro&Ice has not only perfected the recipe, but also brought it to the minimum viable product stage and even pitched their project in Finland, and is now getting ready to receive their first investment. Yet, there is more to come, believes Konstantin Peresh, ITMO 3.0's coordinator. On March, 29th, ITMO 3.0's second season starts, and several tens more students will get the opportunity to work with the university's technologies, study the market and make their first steps to launching their own businesses. In an interview to ITMO.NEWS, he shared about the project's details.
ITMO 3.0 Reload is conducted by ITMO's Faculty of Technological Management and Innovations in collaboration with the University's Project Management and Innovation Department, and assistance by innovative companies and organizations. Its main purpose is to help students make their first steps to creating their own businesses and contributing to commercialization of ITMO's inventions.
The first season's results came at the end of last year — at that time, the five finalists had to pitch their projects by explaining their research in detail. The teams had to demonstrate more than just knowledge of their technologies and products, but also a firm grasp of the main market instruments — the participants had to analyze target groups, conduct competitive analyses and present their projects to investors.
In the end, the Pro&Ice team won — their project was on making sugar-free ice-cream rich in protein. As Konstantin Deresh notes, the project already demonstrates good results.
"There is a Russian saying that "the first pancake never turns out" [which implies that the first time you do something doesn’t always work out perfectly -ed]; yet, we had it differently. The first season's winners continue to show great results. They've perfected their recipes, brought the project to the MVP stage — i.e. the minimal product they can work with in the future. They've also presented their project at different events — both in St. Petersburg and abroad; in Finland, they received an investment proposal, and are now working on an investment transaction. They are really a strong team, both in management and marketing, plus they already have a working technology. This is why they succeeded in showing such a great result," comments ITMO 3.0's coordinator.
How does it work: from laboratory to investments
ITMO 3.0 does not just give the opportunity to hone one's business skills, but also work with ITMO's real technologies, create a project of a business model and develop a plan to bring a technology to the market. The students here act as executors — and, in a way, the link between the technologies that "live" inside universities and the market, where they can find their investors and customers.
At the project's start, the teams can choose a technology or invention from the list presented by ITMO's international laboratories and other units. Then, under the guidance of professional mentors, they create marketing, business and financial plans, model strategies for bringing a product to the market, and present their projects to representatives of companies during a pitch session.
"This year, we've chosen 20 technologies that we find most promising according to several criteria. They are comprehensible from the commercialization point of view, and can be applied in the nearest future. — continues Konstantin Deresh. As a result, we have several categories of them. There are socially significant projects (from fields of medicine and education), Aeronet, machine learning, data science, and others. Also, we took several projects from the field of food industry, as they are very logical from a production point of view".
This season will be comprised of several modules. The first will be on information collection, processing, and creating hypotheses, the second — on project development, including commercialization, as well as collaborating with mentors and laboratories. During the third module, the teams will have to work on their investment presentation and prepare for the pitch. At last, the fourth module will be presentation, "defense", and a feedback session.
Who can participate?
Any student — be it a graduate or a first year — can participate in the project. Last year, a team of two recent school graduates already showed that Bachelor's students can beat their more experienced competitors. What's more, novices do not exactly have to gather teams and think of business plans in advance.
"This is what makes ITMO 3.0 Reload so special," comments the project's coordinator. "One can come here all by himself, and leave with a team ready for technological entrepreneurship. We work differently from how startup accelerators do. Our project teaches the foundation, which can then be used in both technological entrepreneurship and innovations management. We use technologies and inventions created by ITMO University — we find students who want to develop particular fields, and help them make first steps to creating their own businesses. Our program helps bridge the gap between one’s abstract idea of a business and reality, and makes a step towards commercialization of inventions that would otherwise be left for years."
In the end of the program, there will be no less than 15 projects in its finals, which will all get an opportunity to meet representatives of business. The technology brokering company RexLexNova that recently became partner of ITMO 3.0 Reload will not only monitor the projects, but will also create a prize fund. What's more, the best teams will compete for a trip to the Future Technologies accelerator, where they will get a chance to further develop their projects, make their first real sales and participate in an intensive course with colleagues from SkolTech and MIT.