By STEVEN NALLEY
Gerald Nelson is open to ideas for taglines for Mississippi State University’s Office of Entrepreneurship and Technology Transfer.
Taglines are short phrases which summarize a company or other organization’s vision, and Nelson, OETT director, gave several examples: Apple has “Think different;” Nike has “Just do it.” Currently, he said, OETT has “Invention to Innovation.”
“You may think of a better one,” Nelson said to business leaders, students and faculty at the Hunter Henry Center Tuesday. “If so, please send it in.”
Nelson’s speech opened MSU’s first Investing in Innovation Conference, where attendees exchanged business ideas, inventions and the means to bring them to market.
The conference, also known as I3 Day, included a showcase of intellectual properties, a luncheon recognizing new patent holders, several guest speakers and awards for innovation. It also featured a student competition for one of these awards, the Elevator Pitch Competition, where students each have 90 seconds to pitch a business idea to judges.
Other award winners at I3 Day included:
u Philip Steele, a professor in the MSU Department of Forest Products, who won the Innovator of the Year award.
u The Juliet Collective, a custom guitar pedal and amplifier company, which won the student-level Start-Up Company of the Year award.
u Innometrix, a biomedical device company, which won the faculty-level Start-Up Company of the Year award.
David Shaw, MSU vice president for research and economic development, said I3 Day is one of several efforts the university makes to support entrepreneurship in Mississippi and at MSU. Other efforts include removing obstacles, recognizing innovative faculty and students, and streamlining the paperwork process.
“Today is really all about celebration and stimulation of thought,” Shaw said. “I look forward to a lot more discussion and visiting with all of you ... and most of all, listening to the great ideas that you have. There’s a lot of great things happening here at MSU. We can complain about budget problems ... but I don’t know if I can say there’s ever been a better time in the last 27 years I’ve been here to be a Bulldog.”
Guests at I3 Day also toured the Thad Cochran Research Park and attended a variety of breakout sessions featuring several guest speakers. The keynote speaker was Joel Bomgar, founder of a remote technical support corporation called Bomgar Corporation. Bomgar said he was not the first in the remote support business, but by selling hardware to such major companies as Ebay, Nintendo and Facebook, he was able to get market share separate from other companies who only rented remote support services to smaller companies.
“If you’re in a business where your business model looks like everyone else’s, you’re going to get your lunch eaten,” Bomgar said.
Bomgar’s story was part of a presentation called “Disruptive Innovation,” and he said his company served as one example of the titular business policy. Where other companies try to follow the example of the first business in the field or attempt to outdo that business through innovation, Bomgar said businesses should innovate in ways that send them in a different direction.
For example, Bomgar said, Dell was able to disrupt IBM’s hold on the computer industry by selling custom-built computers where IBM sold pre-defined product lines. He said Southwest Airlines was another example; by eliminating the assigned seating, international flights and multiple airplane models other airlines used, Southwest Airlines was able to sell tickets at a lower price and pull ahead.
“You can’t be disruptive by having a brick building where they’ve got a tile building,” Bomgar said. “You’ve got to look at the fundamental things about the market and the buyer.”