University of Arizona entrepreneurial students have to come up with viable ideas for a product or service, and this week they unveiled those ideas to the public.
Graduate and undergraduate students in the McGuire Center for Entrepreneurship spend an academic year conceiving and creating inventions, and they are now testing public interest in their ideas.
Some of the inventions are intangible, such as Alex van Duuren's project called uVenturous, which is an electronic program that will help other inventors find out whether their projects are viable.
"We found out that lots of people have ideas for new products and services, they have new invention ideas but they don't know how to assess whether it has potential," van Duuren said. "We created online service to answer questions for them, things they need to know right away: are there patents that conflict? Is there a market for it? Expansion opportunities?"
First time inventors and people who already know the process could use the algorithm, he said.
Each project is the product of a team of four students, who work to develop the idea and turn it into reality.
Undergraduate student Shauna Williams is on a team creating a social network for couples.
Couples tend to get stuck in a rut, she said.
"Our venture offers these ideas, date ideas, date nights in, date nights out so you can do something fun and spice things up," she said.
The site can be used to document a relationship, as opposed to a personal, individual profile on other social media sites.
At the end of the semester all of the entrepreneur students will compete in a trade-show style competition, van Duuran said.
The students will have to pitch their venture, and if they do well, they're invited back for a longer pitch session. The winning team can take home up to $20,000 to use to launch the venture, Williams said.
This week, when they showed off their venture ideas, they were trying to gain attention and communicate them.
"The challenge was, how can you engage them and get them to come to your booth and tell them what you're offering," Williams said. Her team used photos with puppies as a draw, while van Duuran said his team offered their venture service for free to the other teams.
"We were collecting people's emails, people who had an idea," he said. The team will "run a test for them to provide that information for free."
And it's not just for practice, the students said.
"I entered the program with the intention to become an entrepreneur one day," Williams said. "You're going through the program with the idea of it being a launch-able product, trying to make it viable."
The same is true for van Duuran.
"Our team came in with the intent to launch and we all were taught to do that," he said.