CMU Portugal Presents inRes To Entrepreneurs
||On April 2 and 3, 2014, the CMU Portugal Program organized three sessions to present the 2014 Edition of inRes, its Entrepreneurship-in-Residence initiative, to entrepreneurs, in the cities of Porto (UPTEC), Coimbra (IPN) and Lisbon (Taguspark Incubator), in Portugal. Applications are open until April 30, and the results will be announced on May 19, 2014.
In the different sessions, João Claro, national director of the CMU Portugal Program, started by providing an overview of the CMU Portugal Program, covering its fundamental areas: talent development, collaborative research, industry partnerships, and technological entrepreneurship. He then went on to present inRes, short for “in Residence,” a very early stage acceleration program for entrepreneurial teams working in Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) in Portugal. “We decided to launch this initiative after looking at the entrepreneurship support landscape and realizing that in some areas there was little to no support being provided to early stage new ventures,” explained João Claro. “With inRes we want to help overcome the human and social capital gaps that early stage high-tech new ventures often have, in particular academic spin-offs led by less experienced entrepreneurs,” said João Claro, adding that “these are some of the challenges facing startups, namely in areas where Portugal does not have strong industries or markets.”
|Combining existing capabilities and opportunities in the CMU Portugal Program, inRes will start with a preparation period in Portugal, to develop “the product/service and business concepts to a point that will allow the teams to take full advantage of the immersion in the U.S., as well as to help them prepare their pitches for the multiple situations of communication that they will face throughout the immersion,” said João Claro.
Immersion in the U.S. Will Enable a Sustained Development
inRes teams, to be announced in May 19, will benefit from a two-stage program: a preparation period in Portugal (between June and September, 2014), followed by a six-week immersion in Pittsburgh (between October and November, 2014). On December 2014, the CMU Portugal Program will hold a public session in Portugal to show the teams’ achievements. During the program, inRes teams will be mentored and advised by a core team of experts and mentors.
The mentors will play a key role in this program, providing one-on-one feedback and input. “They will help by asking the right questions,” João Claro explained. Lacking specific competences, as well as key contacts and funding, early stage technology businesses tend to develop at a slower pace. By providing mentoring and supporting teams in networking and in the development of managerial skills, inRes will help put ventures in motion, closing gaps and bringing the projects closer to their target markets and potential customers, partners and capital. “What is your path to market? And how can this initiative help you along that path?” João Claro enquired. These are some of the questions that the applicants to inRes will be faced with.
|Other than João Claro, other experts involved in this initiative are Tara Branstad, director of the Center for Technology Transfer and Enterprise Creation (CTTEC) at CMU, Dave Mawhinney, co-director of the Carnegie Mellon Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) and director of the i6 Agile Innovation System, and Suzi Pegg, vice-president for global marketing at Pittsburgh Regional Alliance. Other members will soon be joining the team of specialists.
In Coimbra, Paulo Marques, CTO of Feedzai, spoke about how the CMU Portugal Program and its innovation ecosystem may be an important enabler for startups to succeed in the U.S. market, as well as the essential role that the advisory board can have on the sustained development of the company.
“Pittsburgh is an excellent host for this initiative because of the strength of its economic activity in key sectors, such as healthcare, information and communication technologies, energy and environment,” said João Claro. Moreover, CMU has a wide range of outstanding educational opportunities and on top of that “the institution is prepared to create customized training for this program. In Portugal, and even elsewhere, there is a scarcity of training on managing early stage high-tech new ventures, on topics such as recruiting and developing a team, building and managing a board, among others. We have identified topics that are relevant for early stage startups, and are working to make a consistent set of modules available for this program,” revealed João Claro.
|Pushing People Out of Their Comfort Zones
The initiative will be supporting two team members per project, ideally founders or leaders, combining between them as much business and technology knowledge as possible. While in Portugal, the core team will provide intensive training to better prepare the teams for the six-week immersion period in Pittsburgh.
According to João Claro, “inRes will be very intense and challenging, and will require a strong commitment from the teams,” adding that “it will push them past their comfort zones, and require them to work at a steep pace, cope with high levels of uncertainty, and constantly reach out for contacts to further build and validate their business projects.” João Claro also emphasized that the “submitted projects should have an international ambition.”
inRes is coordinated by the Carnegie Mellon Portugal Program, funded by Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia (FCT) and supported by the Conselho de Reitores das Universidades Portuguesas (CRUP), in partnership with Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh Regional Alliance and UTEN Portugal. Applications are open until April 30, 2014. For more information, go to www.cmuportugal.org.
In Lisbon, Tara Branstad
emphasized the formal entrepreneurship education which CMU excels, which is
a major asset for the chosen participants, especially because the entire CMU
atmosphere is rich in events, advisors and alumni that are prone to networking.
“The participants will benefit from being exposed to a highly
dense environment of world-leading research groups and formal
entrepreneurial education, market and industry specialists,” Tara Branstad
explained. In 2013, CMU launched 36 startups.
In the U.S., the inRes teams will be able to develop contacts
with potential partners, experts, clients, investors and advisors, and will
stay at an accelerator of relevance for their particular area. There, the teams
will not only share the same space, but also their challenges, problems,
approaches and solutions, with other resident startups.
In Lisbon, the session also had the contribution of two participants in the 2012 pilot edition of the Entrepreneurship in Residence initiative: Paulo Dimas, co-founder and CEO of Faces.In, and Bernardo Motta, co-founder and CCO of Observit. The two spoke candidly about their experience in Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon, and how it helped them better develop their companies. “CMU allowed us to be in contact with top people,” Paulo Dimas stated, as he explained how Faces.In had to change and adjust its pitch to the U.S. market. Bernardo Motta also stressed the importance given to the motto: “be the best in one specific market.”
The two entrepreneurs gave extremely positive and relevant inputs in terms of how to adapt and/or redirect a startup considering its specific context and longtime goals. With wise words and good results to show, Paulo Dimas and Bernardo Motta encouraged everyone to participate in the inRes program. For them, being part of this experience is a “privilege” and provides a vast and important network that can help early stage companies go farther and develop in a faster and more robust way.