i3 - July/August 2018 - 32

Policy

By Jeremy Snow

T EC H H U B

Case Western Reserve University's
LaunchNet

 T 

en years ago, Bob Sopko wanted to use
his tech experience to help Case
Western Reserve University (CWRU)
students start Onosys, an app that lets
customers order pizza from local restaurants.
With help from Sopko, Onsys met their first
investor, who gave them $500,000 to make
their vision a reality. Over the next four years,
Onsys doubled their profits, expanded to
4,000 locations and by 2007, sold their company. Today, Sopko's full-time job is to help
student entrepreneurs do what Onosys did.
Sopko and the university started LaunchNet in 2012, a program that turns dorm room businesses into full-fledged
money-makers. Since its start, students have launched dozens of companies, made appearances at CES, and raised a
total of $6 million in funding.
"Beyond offering affirmations and critiques, we
want to provide students with an experience of what the real world of
business is like," says Sopko,
who serves as LaunchNet's
director. Students often already
have a working invention or business
idea, so LaunchNet teaches behindthe-scenes skills like how to lead a
team, find customers and everything
they need to know about intellectual
property and patent infringement.
Sopko also teaches them how to get
the money they need, whether it's
through grants or competitions, or by
connecting students to his 20-year network of tech investors, accelerators and
mentors in the Cleveland area.
Case Western's makerspace, Think[box],
also coordinates with LaunchNet. Open to
all students as well as visitors, the space
offers educational classes and is filled with
3D printers, shop tools, laser cutters and
everything needed to start building.
More than 500 students have participated in the program and many have
launched new careers. Apollo Medical
32

JULY/AUGUST 2018

Devices, founded in 2014, created a device that provides fast
and accurate blood tests from a single drop. In 2016, it won
a $225,000 National Science Foundation Small Business
Innovation Research grant. Boxcast, another LaunchNet
success story, offers an easy-to-use live video streaming
device used by Cleveland ESPN and Case Western sports
teams. LaunchNet companies, Beauty and the Bolt and
Reflexion both attended CES on the Hill in April to show
congress members and staffs their innovations.

A Visit to CES

When Sopko first brought up the idea of going to CES in
2013, it was a dream come true for Chris Wentz, a senior from
that year's LaunchNet class. Wentz, who developed Everykey -
a Bluetooth device that replaces your keys and passwords -
saw CES as the tech world's "Holy Grail."
LaunchNet already gave Wentz and his co-founders the
confidence to start their business, as well as advice on
applying for grants and perfecting their ideas. But going to
CES made their business a reality. With Sopko's help,
Wentz set up his booth and spent the show
making connections and meeting
potential investors.
Sopko has since brought a
handful of students to display
their wares at Eureka Park,
CES' startup-focused market. CES is
the perfect experience to help students
mature their business and learn what goes
into being successful, he says.
"Even that first year, we got pretty
good traffic and made some important
business contacts, some of which we still
work with to this day," Wentz says.
Since then, Wentz has turned Everykey
into his full-time career, launching a successful Kickstarter and Indiegogo campaign as
the startup's CEO. He has also returned to CES
four times, using the show to find new investors and customers.
He hopes to return to CES 2019, bigger and
better with a flashier booth outside Eureka
Park, holding its own with industry veterans.

LaunchNet encourages students to pursue
their innovative business models.
I T I S I N N O VAT I O N


https://www.onosys.com/ https://students.case.edu/career/entre/launchnet/ http://thinkbox.case.edu/

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of i3 - July/August 2018

Contents
i3 - July/August 2018 - Cover1
i3 - July/August 2018 - Cover2
i3 - July/August 2018 - Contents
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