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Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Zeopane @CMU

I know this update has been long overdue. I was just too busy catching up with friends in Pittsburgh, Columbus and all over the US and to some extent sulking over the CMU Results. Zeopane along with 11 other teams could not make it to the final round or even the challenge round. This might sound like a huge negative - but it really isn't.

In hind sight, we definitely had come up with a great product and a decent presentation. There were a few major issues with the business plan itself which were pointed out to us. And this feedback and the contacts we made is probably the greatest take-away from the competition. For future students, when looking for a product, you will need to look for a product in your area of strength. Pharma / Medicine wasn't any of our subjects of specialization and Diabetes / Insulin wasn't too except that I have more than a handful of diabetics in my extended family. This definitely hurt us to a great extent (not having someone with the tech expertise in there). Although I was able to answer most of their technical questions, I think having the expert speaking would have been a lot more effective.

Pharma was definitely one of the tougher tracks to be in. There were some really good teams in the Pharma track along with ours that didn't make it through to the next round.

Our team not having anyone familiar with the drug-approval mechanism in the US was definitely a weakness. Some of the terms like the 510(K) approval - our team hadn't even heard of it. On the other hand, some teams had already met the FDA and sought their views on how they should seek approval for their products.

And looking at the other presentations, one other huge weakness was not having the inventor alongside us. This greatly shows the inventor's commitment to the cause and the company (especially if he comes all the way from Hong Kong). We are now trying to convince Prof Yeung to accompany us to Rice since we do not have a faculty advisor for the competition since Prof. Larry is already in the US teaching in Darden.

One of the other suggestions we got from one of the judges was that we should probably just focus on manufacturing the microneedles and let the specialist pharma companies decide where they want to use it. The only problem we have with that approach is how to convince the Pharma companies that this works.

Overall, some great feedback, lot of learning and the realization that HKUST has a long way to go in terms of even being close to a good school for entrepreneurship. HKUST does not claim to be big on entrepreneurship. But just what being a good school for entrepreneurship dawned on me during the competition looking at the other teams, their commitment to their product, the huge investments they had made (more than hundred thousand dollars) and how much further they were into making their product commercially viable.

Looking forward to leveraging some of this feedback and giving an improved performance in Rice.

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