Exploration. Experimentation.

chemex-coffee

Ongoing education.

From the very beginning, we recognized we can’t know everything. That little insight brought about the idea of “lab,” an open format that provides the opportunity for people to share ideas, gather feedback and learn through the activity of simply coming together and talking. Exposure to new ideas, POVs, and people from all backgrounds and experiences fosters creative thinking and ongoing learning.

Today, Lab has grown to be a go-to place for sharing ideas and tapping into the community for feedback and direction. Our goal is to create a reason and place for like minds to come together across industries, genres and backgrounds. It’s also a great way to learn a little more about Translator and how our team thinks. We’ve also developed myLab, a service that brings the lab platform into your business to work with your team.

Check out our calendar to see what’s scheduled this week.

  • OPEN LAB

  • FOCUSED LAB

  • myLAB

Tuesday and Thursday morning, 8-10am | 415 E. Menomonee Street

Every Tuesday and Thursday morning from 8-10 am we have “Open Lab Sessions” at our space located at 415 E. Menomonee St. While we pour coffee freely, a fantastic cast of (mostly) Milwaukeeans participate in conversation about everything from innovation and the definition of creativity to creating change in the community. You’re more than welcome to join us—no secret password required. Would you like to suggest a topic for an upcoming lab session? Send us a note, we’d love to hear from you.

Have something a little more specific you’d like to cover during Open Lab, maybe even related to a recent challenge you’d like some feedback on? That’s where Focused Labs come in. How it works… submit your request. Chosen topics will be scheduled during an Open Lab session, we’ll post the scheduled event and invite people that may be a good fit to help with the issue. Our only criteria is that Lab is not a time to sell your company/services but a time to get open feedback on a challenge or question you have.

With such great response to the open lab concept, we’ve developed a way to utilize the platform within organizations focused on their challenges. myLab is a new problem solving service, aimed at infusing outside expertise into your in-house team to collaboratively work through an issue facing your business.

Through a flexible framework of working sessions and activities customized to your issue, teams work through the myLab structure of Problem Framing, Guided Thinking and Solution ID, ultimately resulting in a strategic, narrowed direction of solution recommendations. Interested? Drop us a line and let’s chat.

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Walking with Purpose: Veterans Trek

Tom Voss (left) and Anthony Anderson (right) of Veterans Trek

Tom Voss (left) and Anthony Anderson (right) of Veterans Trek

Written by Molly Dvora Rosenblum

You may not understand why Iraqi combat veterans Tom Voss and Anthony Anderson plan on walking from the Milwaukee County War Memorial to the West Los Angeles VA, furthermore, you may not understand their struggle as veterans reintegrating into civilian life. But that’s okay with them. The two men know that most Americans have little exposure to the emotional and logistical needs of veterans who have returned home. They know that many people think of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in abstract numerical terms made more sterile by the now-lifted 18-year ban on photographing military coffins. They’re also aware that some will scoff at the importance of their over 2000-mile journey. But that’s exactly why they’re embarking on their Veterans Trek, to spread awareness of issues facing veterans to those who may not understand but are open to learning.

One goal of the trek is to raise $100,000 for Dry Hootch, a non-profit organization dedicated to “helping veterans and their families who survived the war, survive the peace” (and with whom Anderson is the Director of Operations), another is to draw out and engage veterans across the nation who may be lacking in social and emotional outlets, and an additional benefit of the Trek will be publicizing the solace many sufferers of PTSD find in connecting to nature.

Tom and Anthony discuss their Trek at Translator Lab

Tom and Anthony discuss their Trek at Translator Lab

Voss and Anderson came to their Focused Lab today wondering how best to leverage social media tools to engage the public with their journey in real time while keeping their safety a priority, and left with a plethora of suggestions, some of which are listed below.

  • Document mini-Treks within the cities and towns the pair will be walking through, wherein local veterans lead the two men to their local VA or other speaking or publicity engagement.
  • Create physical reference points to illustrate the startling statistic that 22 veterans commit suicide per day, via asking 22 community members to stand up as a group in solidarity with those who felt they had no other options. Use a corresponding hashtag for Twitter updates on this aspect of their tour.
  • Post an interactive map for followers to track their progress and become a part of their story through pictures and relevant articles posted at each spot on the map.
  • Leave a trail marking their path made up of their chosen hashtag insignia or other small totems. This would pave the way for other veterans to follow in their footsteps and/or produce landmarks to visit.
  • Write a list of specific calls to action for community members to work from to become more involved.
  • Generate an engaging visualization of the money that has been earned for Dry Hootch in real-time.
  • Brand the Trek clearly such that it can be seamlessly represented across media channels. Shirts, rucksacks, hats and flags were all suggested as branding mediums.

 

What became clear through the discussion at Lab is that Voss and Anderson need a solid team member stationed at home who can act as a dispatcher for the media surrounding their journey. They will be walking through terrain better suited to ATV’s then broadband, and won’t be able to keep up with the response they hope to inspire. If you have any leads on a responsible individual who would be willing to volunteer their time for this worthy cause, please contact them at [email protected].

Lab attendees give the veterans feedback on their social media strategy and branding

Lab attendees give the veterans feedback on their social media strategy and branding

Voss and Anderson leave in 17 days for their cross-country journey. They have the support of their families, of their community of veterans, and they are hoping to have your support as well. Follow them on Twitter @VeteransTrek, canvas your local outfitting store to provide them with necessities, donate via PayPal and see them off on Friday August 30th from 8:30-10AM at the Milwaukee County War Memorial (750 Lincoln Memorial Dr. Milwaukee, WI Veterans Park Free that morning at the War Memorial lot).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Taking “Girl Rising” From Macro to Micro

 

 

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Written by Molly Dvora Rosenblum

Kathie Campbell and Ericka Joy Daniels of Brady Corporation, Sheila Taphorn from Marquette and Tracy Johnson from TEMPO were so moved by Richard E. Robbins’ documentary Girl Rising that they organized the Milwaukee screening of the film at the Weasler Auditorium on the Marquette University campus in June, with over 400 students in attendance. The feature-length film documents the journeys of nine girls from across the globe in pursuit of the transformative power of education. The film aims to shed light on the gender inequity that exists globally in the education system, especially when it comes to girls’ access to decent educational opportunities. Campbell and Daniels believe that others will benefit from watching the film, whether manifested as inspirational fodder for effecting educational policy change or simply as a way to step outside of the Western Tunnel Vision Syndrome regarding access to education. In short, they hope that the macro-level story that Girl Rising tells will influence community members to change things on a micro-level.

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In their quest to expose as many people as possible to Girl Rising’s message, Campbell and Daniels requested a Focused Lab at Translator to strategize their next steps in bringing the film to the widest audience possible. Lab attendees were asked to brainstorm ideas for possible curriculum integration, potential viewer demographics outside of the education system, satellite screenings and other ways to serve their overarching goal of mass awareness of and exposure to the film. Collaborations with student groups from local universities as well as potential partnerships with Girl Scouts of USA and church groups were all suggested as ways to spread the film’s message. Campbell and Daniels believe that fostering an appreciation for education at a young age ultimately serves to strengthen the educational system as a whole, and hope to create a ripple effect of positive change through their screenings of Girl Rising. With the mantra of “global perspective inspires local engagement” ringing in their ears, Campbell and Daniels have set out to extend the film’s important message to not only young girls in America but to global policy makers.

Girl Rising’s social media and general virtual presence is strong, and Campbell and Daniels plan on leveraging the film’s established credibility as a way to lure in Milwaukee groups in need of programming. When asked what action they hoped viewers would take after attending a screening, both women mentioned the easily navigated map laid out by the film’s production team, 10×10. In other words, Campbell and Daniels want to be the evangelists for Girl Rising, planting the seed of awareness of this vital global issue because they know that the film has enough support to back up the cause.

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With its lush visuals, heart wrenching testimonials and a soundtrack meant to tug at your heartstrings, Girl Rising is a poignant reminder that access to education shouldn’t be taken for granted by some, but tirelessly worked towards by all. Kathie Campbell and Ericka Joy Daniels know this and are ready to start the fight.

Are you interested in contributing to this discussion? Do you have ideas as to how these women can best spread the message of Girl Rising? Would you like to join them in their pursuit? Comment, tweet or share.

Optyn to a New Inbox

Written by Molly Dvora Rosenblum

 

Optyn CEO and Co-founder Alen Malkoc began his focused Lab session on Thursday morning by describing a morning ritual familiar to many: wake up, immediately reach for your smart phone and begin deleting mass marketing emails from businesses who have acquired your address. It’s a modern day chore that has been integrated into our daily life and Malkoc hopes to reimagine its format to better meet our needs. His free for consumers service, Optyn, allows consumers to organize their marketing emails in a separate account from their personal address, creating a third-party barrier between businesses and consumers. The service also gives small business owners the necessary toolbox to create effective marketing emails and customer lists.

When addressing the growing consumer need for a means to manage the copious amount of marketing material sent out everyday, Malkoc referenced another common occurrence among the tech-savvy consumer: creating an alias email address and using it whenever businesses ask for your information. This virtual email marketing graveyard approach sacrifices deals and special offers for the solace of avoiding an inbox full of spam. The Optyn Chrome extension offers a new approach by giving the consumer control of who receives their Optyn address. Optyn users would then be able to use their account as a marketing digest, with folders organized by “coupons,” “promotions,” “newsletters,” and tabs available to track your “current connections,” “past connections,” and “suggested connections,” all under the guise of anonymity.

On the business side, Optyn offers small business owners the ability to create a marketing campaign in “two minutes or less” to be sent out to their customer list. The service will have the ability to syndicate across social networks (emailing to Facebook and Twitter followers, posting to coupon aggregation sites and shopped through Google Offers) and offer easy-to-use engagement triggers such as “create a coupon,” “contest,” “event” or “announce a sale” for their customer list.

The fine balance of managing the business that wants to pursue an even deeper brand connection with their customer through email marketing and the consumer who wants distance from even their favorite brand is addressed through Optyn. So the question is, what will you do with that extra time in the morning?

Interested in hearing more about what gener8tor’s summer 2013 Acceleration Teams are working on? Join us for the next gener8tor startup Lab on Thursday August 1st (8am-10am) to hear from Slide Fox, right here at Translator.

Branding, Messaging, and Injecting Emotion into an Analytics Brand: The Docalytics Lab Recap

Written by Molly Dvora Rosenblum


Evan Carothers, founder and CEO of Saint Paul, MN startup Docalytics came to Lab at Translator today to hone his product messaging and branding. Carothers heads one of the five companies chosen for the gener8tor Summer 2013 accelerator program, and wanted to use Lab’s unique platform to gather feedback on his website copy and taglines. This exercise sparked an insightful discussion on not only Docalytics, but on the creative process of developing meaningful branding for a company with a multifaceted value proposition as a whole.

First, a description of what Docalytics offers its target demographic: cross-platform technology that allows customers to track user interaction with documents and sales collateral such as whitepapers, eBooks, case studies, presentations, sell sheets, and PDFs. Docalytics empowers businesses to produce better content, get more sales-ready prospects, and prioritize sales outreach. It also gives the authors of corporate whitepapers and research texts the opportunity to gather rich data from its readers. Carother’s product allows its subscribers to literally see how readers consume their material, from mouse positioning to time spent per page. Lastly, Docalytics allows marketers to gain easy access to vital business documents without the hassle of first providing detailed and cumbersome self-qualification information on the website.

The main crux of Docalytic’s Lab centered on the issue of how one distills a product with multiple target demographics into a unified and succinct brand? In other words, how can Docalytics be everything to everyone? The UX of the Docalytics site was discussed in relation to this issue, as the multifaceted value proposition of the product requires several unique entry points into the site experience. In answer to this complicated query, Lab attendees urged Carothers to clearly articulate the product to be readily understandable to all end customers. Other suggestions included emphasizing the low barrier to entry and gentle learning curve of the product, making sure that the call to action button is prominently displayed at multiple touch points throughout the site and replicated in their copy, and identifying who of their potential customers has the sorest pain point and using that information to formulate targeted copy and call to action.

Lastly, Mark Fairbanks of Translator urged Carothers to find a way to bring emotion to an analytic tool. In order to build a successful brand, Carothers must access the emotional components driving the end customers to desire what the brand has to offer and use it to his competitive advantage at every stage of his messaging and brand engagement efforts. Carothers knows that Docalytics fulfills multiple data needs in the B2B world, and after today’s Lab, he is better equipped to successfully brand them.

Here’s a link to Docalytics Overview Video.

 

 

 

Batter Up: Jon Drouin Pitches an Online Baseball Magazine at Lab

Written by Molly Dvora Rosenblum

For Jon Drouin, baseball is not just a game, but a lifelong obsession.  He developed his idea for an online magazine about baseball out of nostalgia for the lore surrounding his favorite sport as well as the desire to forge a meaningful career from his true passion. When describing the project, which he hopes will be an expertly curated compendium of baseball anecdotes, exclusive interviews culled from candid and casual discussions with players and infographics to aid in the visualization of stats, Drouin leaned heavily on the emotional drivers that led him to the project. “Dream job,” “pie in the sky,” and “pipe dream” were all used to describe Drouin’s hope to someday be able to earn a living from writing, talking and of course still dreaming, baseball.

"Drouin's childhood love of baseball mythology is a step closer to becoming a career reality after his Focused Lab at Translator"
“Drouin’s childhood love of baseball mythology is a step closer to becoming a career reality after his Focused Lab at Translator”

Drouin contacted Translator to host a Focused Lab discussing his magazine concept because he wanted to use the agency’s unique service as a pitching platform for his business model, and in the hope that the collaborative atmosphere of Lab would foster new ideas. The value of a Focused Lab session for an entrepreneur is monumental, as it allows the individual to survey a panel of participants from a diverse background about their product. Drouin was able to smooth out some of the rough edges of his plan through the conversation at Lab, zeroing in on what may need to change in order to make his dream job a reality. The following is a post Focused-Lab Q&A I had with Jon, discussing his experience at Lab:

Translator: What did you personally gain from your Focused Lab?

Jon: I gained important insights from the lab about the potential business models, the competition, the audience, and the content for my idea.  Most importantly I gained a renewed sense of enthusiasm for the potential of the idea to become a reality.

 Translator: What specific deliverables came out of the discussion? ie do you now have new action items or directions for your business model/plan that weren’t present before Lab?

Jon: New actions items include; a bunch of reference sites to research, a new content model to explore, an imperative to understand the iPad magazine publishing requirements, a new potential business partner, and new metrics to track if the idea becomes real.

Translator: Any thoughts on how the experience could be improved?

Jon: I enjoy the free-form format, but if I had to pick something to improve, it would be a follow up or recap that would document the results of the lab and share them for the participants to follow up on and give those who are interested but could not make it a chance to understand what was discussed and allow them an opportunity to contribute after the event. [author’s note: please join our Translator Lab Chat group on Facebook to continue to conversation).

Jon’s experience as the focus of a Focused Lab is indicative of what Focused Labs at Translator can provide to entrepreneurs (both present and future tense). Please contact us for details on hosting a Focused Lab for your project idea, and, as always, join us on Tuesday and Thursdays from 8-10am at Translator for great discussion and strong coffee.

Does OpenHomes Inc. Have the Key to the Housing Market?

Written by Molly Dvora Rosenblum

Welcomed to Lab as one of the companies chosen for the gener8tor Summer 2013 accelerator program, Scott Rouse and Kelda Roys of OpenHomes Inc. were able to use Lab to gather feedback on their business plan and branding direction.

The session began by Rouse and Roys asking the participants to identify the top three things they look for when buying a home. Location was a clear frontrunner, school districts drew a solid showing, size mattered, but gut instinct reigned supreme. Homeowners outlined the process by which they came to own their current or past properties. Two people described driving onto their potential street on a Saturday night, turning the lights off and observing the block. One attendee recalled sitting on the front stoop of a home they were considering for purchase on the North Shore of Milwaukee at 5pm, encouraged by their real estate agent to watch the cars of the neighborhood pull into their respective driveways after the evening commute. As he watched BMWs, Audis, and Mercedes park, his broker asked him to think about whether he, as a Honda man, would be comfortable living in that house. Whether identified by the participants as instinct, feeling, emotional draw, sense of place or charm, a direct appeal to our often-subconscious emotional needs surrounding shelter defined the conversation.

In order to capitalize on the instinctual trigger that often closes a real estate deal, OpenHomes Inc. has developed a detailed questionnaire structured to assess the buyer’s emotional drivers, using them to match the buyer with their new home. Rouse and Roys hope that the hyper-personalized format of their platform will attract homebuyers and sellers who desire a fresh approach to real estate.

Rouse and Roys are hoping to revolutionize the way homes are bought and sold. Their main competitive advantage is clear: their service will save users money by charging clients 1% rather than the traditional 6% commission collected by real estate agents. But beyond the monetary incentive, OpenHomes Inc. seeks to empower both sellers and buyers by cutting out the middleman and transforming the real estate market into one that favors flexibility and transparency. Poised to claim brand positioning alongside housing networks like Airbnb, the concept behind OpenHomes Inc. relies heavily on crowd sourcing and peer reviews. The basic structure that Rouse and Roys are developing is meant to provide buyers and sellers with the necessary tools to coordinate all aspects of the buying/selling process – – all within the swipe of a smartphone. Attorneys will be available to answer questions traditionally left to brokers, professional opinions will be leveraged to verify wiring, plumbing and other code issues that first time buyers may feel unsure about and neighborhood endorsements or warnings will be posted to inform potential buyers.

We take to the internet in search of food and clothes, and with the launch of OpenHomes Inc., it seems that the industry of procuring shelter may also be due for a tech-centric, customer oriented restructuring initiative.

The Future of Lab

Written by Molly Dvora Rosenblum

 A good idea needs time to gestate, to evolve. It needs a brainstorm to nurture it, a period of protected dormancy to quietly grow, and a carefully prepared habitat to welcome it into the zeitgeist when ready. Lab, an open-forum discussion series curated here at Translator on Tuesday and Thursday mornings from 8-10AM, strives to provide the perfect conditions for successful cultivation and eventual harvest of some of Milwaukee’s best ideas.

 In today’s Lab a cohort of eighteen Lab regulars sat down to discuss the future of Lab with the Translator team. Each participant was encouraged to share what Lab represented to them, and what their vision of its future looked like. As the discussion developed it became clear that participating in Lab struck a resonant chord within everyone in attendance. As Lab regular and Rhythm For Unity founder Tom Gill said, “Every two hours spent here lasts for days.” The importance of the feeling and aesthetic energy of the space at Translator became a common theme in the discussion, as did the welcome reprieve from de rigueur business formality. The themes of Lab fostering partnerships, providing the building blocks for solid community relationships and creating a support system to bolster its participants were also emphasized.

While some Labs are potluck in style, others are “focused,” or thematically concentrated to unpack a single subject, business, or idea. Past Focused-Lab presenters provided testimony as to how the feedback they received during Lab benefited their business. Nancy Armitage, coordinator of the Southeastern Wisconsin chapter of the Alzheimers Association’s Memories in the Making, reiterated that her Focused-Lab at Translator was transformational in raising awareness for her cause, adding that “coming here gave me a map” to better define the scope of her business. The inherent value of constructive, honest criticism also came up as a crucial tenet of Lab, with multiple attendees testifying to the importance of having a rotating cast of people whose diverse opinions they can seek.

When looking to the future of Lab, a few topics arose. Among the suggested Lab focuses were:

  • A discussion of what art means in Milwaukee
  • An education themed Lab
  • A crash course in constructing a Business Model Canvas
  • Practical tips for entrepreneurs
  • A discussion of pricing strategies
  • A Lab on personal creative and business processes

 

Additional suggestions included a special invite-only “after hours” edition of Lab for further networking, Lab dinners with roundtable style conversation, and membership models with sponsorship opportunities. A collective desire to uphold the current architecture of Lab reverberated around today’s semi-circle, with no one expressing the need for drastic change to Lab’s existing format.

Through today’s dialogue it became clear that the sometimes-intangible mystique of Lab could be a barrier to entry for potential attendees who are interested in the forum but unable to devote the time needed to discover its potential. We discussed the potential friction between protecting Lab’s integrity as a safe space for creative thinking and growing it as an asset to the community. So as not to strip the meetings of their intimacy, the group stressed the importance of keeping the attendance size small, with a soft cap of 25.

In a culture obsessed with immediacy, it can be difficult to create the cognitive space necessary to nurture an idea seedling. By opening its doors to the community twice a week, Translator provides the necessary environmental requirements for thoughtful germination. The continued growth of Lab and its unique idea-generating alchemy will remain an invaluable asset to the Milwaukee business community.

Let’s continue the conversation. What do you see as the defining aspects of Lab? What could change? How can Lab be positioned to more effectively benefit the community? Is there any interest in a Lab membership? What Focused Lab topics would you like to see covered in the coming months?

Rhythm For Unity or: How I learned to Stop Worrying & Love the Djembe

Written by Molly Dvora Rosenblum

Full disclosure: I walked into today’s lab with a prejudice against drum circles. I don’t know how many times I’ve rolled my eyes after walking by a college-town drum circle littered with hacky sacks, festering with Frisbees and sprouting yerba mate gourds. To me, and perhaps this is generational, a drum circle equals trust fund hippies and other people I don’t want to get stuck in a conversation with about jam bands. In spite of this admittedly close-minded preconception, I was intrigued when I learned the topic of today’s Lab. Even – be still my fake-Rasta repelled heart – excited to participate!

Tom Gill of Rhythm For Unity Facilitating at Lab.

The primal siren call of a drum is exactly what Tom Gill of Rhythm For Unity counts on when assembling his facilitated drum circles. Gill spent much of his adulthood in corporate America and, as he says, one day traded in his suit for a drum  – – and never looked back. He is now intent on bringing the power of positive vibration to the world that he chose to leave, because “it needs it.” He dreams of injecting corporate culture with a tonic of shared community, creativity and healing vibration. At Lab today, Gill brought his whimsical brand of connectivity with him via a circle full of drums and other more exotic percussive instruments. And I am pleased to report that I conquered my djembe-phobia and enjoyed every second of the experience.

I love the smell of drum circles in the morning.

For many modern professionals, the act of trading in a smartphone for a bongo requires a great deal of vulnerability. Gill knows this truth and sees it as an opportunity rather than a source of strife. He believes that the effects of drumming as a group unlock inner channels of freedom, the trickledown effect of which has unlimited possibilities. Gill facilitates drum circles in nursing homes because he feels that seniors represent a demographic whose creative resources have been neglected. He teaches inner-city students how to construct their own drums from plywood and packing tape, empowering them through rhythmic creation. He feels that the reverberating potential for change inherent in communal drumming is an untapped market in an increasingly creatively truncated culture. Referencing the concept of a “heads down” society, wherein most individuals spend the majority of their time checking in on what others are doing through screens of varying sizes, Gill reiterated the need to take time out for meditative reflection. Gill is an effective facilitator because he practices restraint while leading his drumming sessions: he supplies the participants with the tools to create and stands back to listen.

Okay, maybe not pure joy, but fellow Translator intern Emily Ebert (right) and I certainly look like drum circle naturals.

Judging by the looks of pure joy on many of the faces gathered in the circle at Lab today, we could all benefit from the release provided by a little communal drumming – even prior skeptics like me. But – for the record – I still hate hacky sacks.

Tom Gill offers facilitation services as well as lessons. He also hosts an open drum circle in his Wauwatosa space every third Thursday of the month. Contact him at 414.774.8848 or [email protected] 

 Please join us on Tuesday and Thursday Mornings 8-10am for Lab at Translator!

Midwest Social Innovation Start-Up Challenge: Defining Target Markets

Written by Molly Dvora Rosenblum

In lab today, four of the five teams selected for the Midwest Social Innovation Start-Up Challenge (Jared Clemens of Culture, Paul German of Interactive Mobile Activity Station, Mike McFadden of Drop Top and remotely, Victor Hung of Project SAM) presented their business plans and received feedback from both moderator, McGee Young of Marquette University, and corporate mentors from Brady Corporation. Notably, all candidates were more polished in their proposals than in previous sessions, and it will be exciting to see them hone their ideas even further in future sessions.

McGee led Lab by asking the teams pointed questions aimed at refining their project goals and presentation points. This exercise helped the candidates to better define their business models and shed light on any conceptually threadbare areas in need of mending. The teams outlined their value propositions, customer segment models, and revenue models as part of their work towards filling out their business canvas. After each team presented and took notes from McGee, they broke off into small groups consisting of Brady mentors and Translator staff to discuss their proposals in depth.

A few consistent key takeaways spanned the individual groups, providing valuable food for thought for any budding entrepreneur intent on sharpening their business acumen. The need for each group to clearly define their target market, identify potential revenue streams and provide hard statistical data to support their proposed model were brought up in each individual discussion. Other over-arching themes included the need to formulate a product pitch with your end-customer in mind rather than attempting to convince the customer that they need your product without first researching their consumer needs.

At Lab’s close, McGee left the teams with instructions to prepare for the next mentor session on Tuesday July 9th by interviewing their potential customers and using the results to shape their revised business model. McGee reiterated the importance of testing hypotheses rather than testing an end product, and encouraged the teams to engage in the vital practice of evaluating their value propositions and measuring the willingness of their customers to pay before the next meeting. Basecamp will serve as the main information hub for mentors, candidates and Translator.

Midwest Social Innovation Start-Up Challenge: Introductory Lab

Written by Molly Dvora Rosenblum

In lab this morning, entrepreneurial drive met seasoned corporate experience.

Today marked the kickoff of the Translator Lab phase of the Midwest Social Innovation Start-Up Challenge whose goal is to provide an “opportunity for aspiring entrepreneurs to submit a business model that includes a social or environmental impact that makes the world a better place” (http://www.marquette.edu/social-innovation/design-challenge.php).

Of the five semi-finalists selected from the competition, Jared Clemens of the University of Chicago, Paul German of AV Milwaukee, and Mike McFadden of Lake Villa School District #41 attended the Lab session to connect with their corporate mentors from Brady Corporation (http://www.bradycorp.com/).

Paul German delivered a heartfelt product pitch for his iStand, a “mobile multi-use interactive whiteboard stand” that he hopes will knock down barriers to entry for anyone with a disability to learn and communicate freely.

Jared Clemens pitching his social network, ‘Culture,’ which connects graduate research students with educators in low income communities.

Jared Clemens described his brand of social innovation, “Culture,” as the OkCupid of science education. Culture would provide a social network through which graduate students at the nation’s top research schools could connect and assist educators in low-income neighborhoods. Clemens described his desire to distance himself from the Ivory Tower complex that can vine the hedges of many top-tier research schools, including his own, the University of Chicago, by providing an opportunity for science outreach.

As a teacher, Mike McFadden has identified a dearth of computer science education nationwide, most notably in low-income communities. He has piloted his own web-based curriculum program using open-source technology so that the academic tools are available to schools and students at no cost. McFadden highlighted the need for an “authentic project” through which students can more holistically learn computer programming skills. He referred to coding expertise as an economic equalizer for students growing up below the poverty line, and expressed the need to provide that education through his product, Drop Top.

Max, the original social innovator

Jeff Snell, of Marquette’s University Leadership Council, described the Midwest Social Innovation Start-Up Challenge as an occasion to “take assets that are underutilized and achieve greater utility,” a challenge which all three of the semi-finalists represented are ready to take on.

Please join us at Lab Tuesdays and Thursdays 8-10am for continued discussion of this exciting contest!