|After a full day of business training, Dimitris Iakovakis, Vicky Bikia, Despina Efthymiadou and Konstantinos Mavrodis get into the Halloween spirit at Microsoft Campus.|
The second day of the Ability Bootcamp was a busy one for Team Prognosis of Greece. Dimitris, Vicky, Despina and Konstantinos spent the day with Microsoft experts in legal, marketing, public relations and business development.
The Ability Bootcamp is a week-long, customized experience given to Team Prognosis as this year’s Imagine Cup Ability Award winners. New to the Imagine Cup competition in 2015, the Ability Award was created to honor the more than 1 billion people in the world with disabilities and was awarded to the team that best used technology to make an impact in those lives.
“Today was especially enlightening for us!” Vicky said. “In our university, we don't have lectures or courses on marketing and business. So, we took a lot of notes today and will spend time later trying to absorb and implement it all!”
Even without formal business training, the team made some great choices for their project. For instance, Despina said, “The business development team told us that our decision to conduct a case study before doing anything else was the right thing to do. I was really happy to hear that.”
Prognosis is a Windows Phone app designed for early detection and intervention of Parkinson’s disease. The app collects user data from sensors embedded in a mobile phone and, optionally, via the Microsoft Band. The app runs in the background and data is collected unobtrusively. In its present iteration, the app collects motor function, gait and quality-of-sleep data, which are critical for determining whether a patient suffers from two common Parkinson’s symptoms - “freezing of gait” and poor sleep quality.
First Stop: Making it legal
The day began with a trip to Microsoft Legal and Corporate Affairs. Here, they discussed which aspects of Prognosis to make open source and which to patent.
“In some projects, specifically medical ones like ours, you have to be open source to gain the trust of your audience,” said Konstantinos. “However, there is a tradeoff. If you don’t patent your code and solutions, someone could take your work and build on it – even a large corporation. They can take your credit and profit, and that would be devastating.”
So how does a company decide which aspects of a project to open source? Through hours of research and discussion. Through cooperation with teammates and with no small dose of courage. No one ever said going into business wasn’t scary.
Despina said that they plan to “confront the fear with knowledge,” continue to educate themselves and draw upon the Ability Bootcamp experience to be the best entrepreneurs they can.
Next stop: Biz dev tips
The second meeting of day two was business development, or biz dev. Biz dev is all about how to get your product into buyers’ hands.
Team Prognosis left this meeting knowing they need to get to know their audience to really ramp up demand for their product.
“This is difficult for our project because it is so multi-faceted,” Dimitris admitted. “We not only have to get users on board, but we must win also the trust of the medical doctors as well as actual Parkinson’s patients. Each of these audiences have different needs and motivations for using our application.”
Last stop: Crash course in public relations and marketing
At their third meeting of the day, the team got to talk with public relations experts. There, they worked on strengthening their logo and branding.
“We learned in PR that we have to somehow keep our product always in the users’ minds,” said Dimitris.
“Right!” Despina added, “The PR team told us, ‘Out of sight, out of mind!’”
Marketing was the last topic for the day. From that meeting, the team took away the hardest to-do of their immediate future: Get the business pitch down to five minutes or less.
“This will be our most difficult task right now,” said Vicky. “Throughout every meeting today, we heard the word ‘brief’ repeatedly. It was such a valuable day for us!”
Despina really hit it home when she summed up the day. “Today, we were upgraded from engineers to entrepreneurs,” she said. “To all you engineers, never underestimate these business fields. They make all the difference between success and failure.”
Imagine sitting down with Microsoft experts in all these specialties like Team Prognosis did. Imagine the best in the fields of marketing and legal looking at your project and offering concrete next steps to move your business forward. Your idea really could be the next big thing.
Ready to start an incredible journey that could lead you to your own Ability Bootcamp? Register today for Imagine Cup!