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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Grant opportunities for student entrepreneurs at NCIIA

About a month back, I attended a NCIIA workshop called Venture Well East at the Microsoft NERD center in Cambridge. It was a good overview of what NCIIA does and how there are many grants and programs which can support student teams coming out of universities with some cool ideas. If you are a student team or a budding entrepreneur you should definitely visit their website and check out the resources they have ( For the upcoming workshop tracks “Lens of the market” and "Venture Labs" under the Venture Well program at NCIIA the application deadline is March 19th ( A bit short notice, but the application is not that complicated, you can do it. Do check it out.

About the workshop: I missed a little bit of workshop on that day, but there were a couple things I liked a lot. One was a talk by James Barlow on “Pushing the Mental Reset Button” in which he talked about how because of the conditioning our brains undergo, throughout life, influences our decisions by building in prejudices or automated responses. When facts are missing (rarely do you have 100% facts at your disposal), you make decisions based on opinions and guesses. There, you tend to make mistakes. Everyone makes mistakes but successful people make quick and cheap mistakes. The outcome of an event depends on the response you have, but you need to have a response otherwise you will not have any control on the outcome. He had a few interesting exercises to bring home the point of our conditioned responses, which made the workshop fun.

The other was the keynote from Matt Mason on “The Virtuous Circle: The Art of Powering Feedback Loops”. Matt is the author of “The Pirate’s Dilemma”. In his talk he shared the interesting story about how, to air new music on radio, people in UK went in the unchartered territories of sea where no laws applied on them or the police could not catch them. Those pirate stations became so popular that they gave rise to a new business model, and a direction to the radio industry. The book shares the idea of changing business models with new innovations driven by the youth culture.

The radio example actually reminded me of our first exercise in TLP, where we were supposed to think of some idea to solve a problem in the dental industry. One of the ideas we considered was unknowingly very similar to the above case. We thought about dental care cruises. A cruise on the waters where no law applies and patients in dire needs can get cheaper solutions from good doctors recruited from countries where fees are not high. For some reasons, we did not go ahead with that idea but to find the similarity of using the unlawful waters to genuinely solve a problem amused me.

Overall, it was a nice day with speakers and a couple of panels sharing insights of the startup world. Check out NCIIA and Venture Well website to find what other programs they may have which could interest and help you.

Full Disclosure: As a student team we won an NCIIA E-Team grant, and I have participated in some of their programs which are a good resource for students especially who have no other entrepreneurship background but an idea to do some good work. I have also applied for the upcoming workshops, so if we get in may be I will see you there!!

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