Research at SIU | Create. Innovate. Educate. Sunday, May 6, 2012 | The Southern Illinoisan | Page 15
Impatience leads to business venture We’ve been able to raise a substantial amount of investment capital right here in Southern Illinois and it’s going to stay in the Southern Illinois area. With the University here and the support we have, we are showing that you can have a successful technology business in the region. Benjamin Wasson, orderbolt CEO
By Christi Mathis
In today’s hurry-up world, a pair of Southern Illinois University Carbondale students translated their impatience while awaiting service at a local establishment into a new business venture. Benjamin Wasson, of Hudson, Wis., and Bryce Morrison, of Waukegan, were both Southern Illinois University Carbondale business students during a 2010 University study-abroad trip to Grenoble, France, led by Suzanne Nasco, associate professor of marketing. The two became friends as their knowledge of the business world grew. Then one evening in the spring of 2011, they were at a busy local establishment, waiting for someone to take their order, when their impatience led to an idea. What if there was a smart phone application that would allow you to quickly place your order at a restaurant or bar and pay your bill when you’re ready to leave, rather than having to wait until someone had time to help you? They tossed the idea around a bit but did nothing more until Wasson returned to Grenoble as part of his master’s degree studies in the summer of 2011. As part of a group project, he and his team studied the viability of the business concept and created a business plan that earned positive feedback from faculty and others. Fast forward to 2012 and you will find Wasson and Morrison preparing for the May launch of orderbolt Co., a mobile ordering and payment solution that is debuting in Southern Illinois restaurants and bars. The two have plans for an expansion of the company’s coverage area and also the types of services you can take advantage of and pay for through your telephone. Wasson, who holds a bachelor’s degree in computer science with marketing and business administration minors from SIU Carbondale, will earn his MBA in May and serves as CEO of orderbolt. Morrison, a marketing major, is the
PHOTO BY CHRISTI MATHIS
orderbolt – Bryce Morrison, left, of Waukegan, is COO and Benjamin Wasson, of Hudson, Wis., is CEO for the new mobile ordering and payment solution business orderbolt Co. The business is housed in the SIU Carbondale Dunn-Richmond Economic Development Center.
company’s chief operating officer and is taking a semester off from school to focus on orderbolt, but plans to resume his education in the near future. The two say orderbolt is a mobile ordering platform that streamlines customer service. They are confident businesses will also benefit with increased sales and customer retention while customers enjoy improved experiences at those businesses. Already Blue Martin in Carbondale has signed on and the company is seeking other businesses interested in the service. It works like this. Customers scan a QR code on their phones at participating businesses and that prompts them to download the orderbolt app. Or, they can download the app from the company website at www. orderbolt.com. Businesses pay a fee to participate but there is no cost to customers. Then, customers can use the app to place orders on their phones and wait for a server to deliver. Afterward, simply pay your bill by smart phone and leave when you’re ready. Morrison said they anticipate their company will be able to help people do virtually anything they want to do on
their smart phones – whether that involves paying rent or taxes or ordering a diamond tennis bracelet. Likewise, while they are now focusing on providing their services at restaurants and bars in Southern Illinois, they plan to expand to the St. Louis metro area and beyond. Morrison took the top prize in the 2011 College CampCEOSaluki Operation Bootstrap. The intensive weeklong business training program focused on SIU Carbondale student entrepreneurs who planned to start a business in the Illinois Delta Region. The program combines instruction and training with seed capital to help launch businesses with economic impact. The Delta Regional Authority provides funding through the University’s Entrepreneurship and Business Development Unit. Morrison took first place and claimed $7,500 in seed capital along with $2,500 in consulting services, software and materials. “That put us way ahead in our plans and it gave us the credibility and means to find developers and investors and make this really happen,” Morrison said.
Wasson boosted their business acumen as well, participating in Operation Mousetrap, a program that helps University faculty, staff and students commercialize research and innovation technologies. “Our collegiate version of Operation Bootstrap provided a great kick start for one of the founders of the company that resulted in him winning the top award at the business plan and pitch competition. Additionally, Operation Mousetrap provided the other founder with a similar training experienced focused on management of a technology venture. These entrepreneurial training experiences have positioned this company for future success,” said Emily Carter, director of entrepreneurship and business development for the University. Completing the program also enabled the start-up business to have access to a spot in the University’s business incubator at the Dunn-Richmond Economic Development Center. Wasson and Morrison said that has been crucial in enabling them to recruit Travis Rowland as a lead developer for their team, as well as student interns who help the company
and in turn, get valuable hands-on training in business development and marketing. “Currently a tenant in the Small Business Incubator, orderbolt, and its CEO, Ben Wasson, has had a wonderful working relationship with Southern Illinois Research Park. orderbolt is a startup company demonstrating tremendous growth potential,” said Kyle Harfst, executive director of the Southern Illinois Research Park. Morrison and Wasson also credit their advisers – Nasco and Tom Harness, a double alumnus of the University. Morrison said Nasco has helped them create an effective and timely marketing plan and pricing strategy, and having Nasco and Harness, also a graduate of a previous Operation Bootstrap, and their credentials and expertise on board has also helped enhance their business legitimacy in the eyes of other investors. “We’ve been able to raise a substantial amount of investment capital right here in Southern Illinois and it’s going to stay in the Southern Illinois area,” Wasson said. “With the University here and the support we have, we are showing that you can have a successful technology business in the region.” For more information about orderbolt, visit the website at www.orderbolt.com or email Morrison (bmorrison@ orderbolt.com) or Wasson (email@example.com).
Innovation Engines: University research key By Christi Mathis
When an assistant football coach at the University of Florida asked for help in determining why his players suffered from heat-related health issues, a team of campus researchers traced the problem to a loss of fluids and electrolytes. They developed a new drink to replace the water, electrolytes and carbohydrates. Today, Gatorade is an internationally known sports drink. “Many inventions in the worldwide marketplace today are actually the direct result of university research,” Kyle Harfst, executive director of the Southern Illinois Research Park, said. “Robert Cade and his fellow researchers at the University of Florida created Gatorade and it’s become extremely successful with intellectual property licensing fees benefitting the university, manufacturing businesses earning profits
We are very pleased to say that SIU’s efforts to take the research ideas developed on campus and transfer them to intellectual property and commercial ventures have been growing steadily. The impact of these efforts on creation of new ventures, more successful businesses and high value jobs in the region is sure to continue and grow further. John A. Koropchak, vice chancellor for research and graduate dean and athletes and customers enjoying the health benefits. SIU Carbondale may not have Saluki-ade but we have many successful University discoveries that have advanced to the marketplace and done quite well, and these efforts are growing.” In the 2011 fiscal year alone, the University developed 25 inventions, executed four licenses/options, filed 16 U.S. patent applications, received five new U.S. patents, and brought in more than $677,200 in license income and royalties. Harfst said the idea of technology transfer and commercialization of University research is relatively new but at SIU Carbondale, the developments span a wide spectrum, including the
fields of agriculture, medicine, technology and much more. In the past decade, University researchers and scientists have developed 123 inventions, issued 54 licenses or options for innovations, filed 122 patent applications and received 41 U.S. patents. “Research universities like SIU are increasingly being called upon to be innovation engines, as exemplified by many federal economic development initiatives, such as those related to energy or manufacturing. We are very pleased to say that SIU’s efforts to take the research ideas developed on campus and transfer them to intellectual property and commercial ventures have been growing steadily. The impact of these
efforts on creation of new ventures, more successful businesses and high value jobs in the region is sure to continue and grow further,” said John A. Koropchak, vice chancellor for research and dean of the Graduate School. The Technology Transfer Program, under the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research, is the ‘first point of contact” for any faculty or staff inventors on campus, according to Jeffrey K. Myers, senior technology transfer specialist. The office evaluates and determines if the innovation is a good candidate for licensing or has potential to become a start-up business and then proceeds accordingly. Myers said the University has more than 60 patents
pending and a strong record of accomplishments with licenses and startups. During the past 15 years or so the office has had many successes including mining machinery dust control technology, a gas chromatograph (analyzing instrument), carbon dioxide to methanol conversion technology and biotech crop traits. These and other University creations help improve lives and generate income for SIU Carbondale, Myers said. “With our large portfolio of pending and issued patent, we expect to see a great deal of success in the near future,” Myers said. The office also launched the SIU Saluki Concept Fund in November 2011 to help bring promising technologies closer to commercial viability through the award of funds. Myers said one commercialization project is nearly complete and several others are in the works.