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Student start-ups take center stage

Recent Northeastern University graduate Christos Kombouras says mobile commerce is rapidly expanding, and while companies are salivating to capitalize on the trend, they simply don’t know how to manage and effectively market themselves in the mobile space. He says that’s where his venture, MobiLaurus, comes in.

MobiLaurus provides the digital platforms for businesses and customers to connect. For instance, people can use their mobile phones to access daily specials or place orders at local restaurants, or order a shuttle service to pick them up at the airport.

“Everything is going mobile, particularly transactions in commerce,” says Kombouras, who just earned his master’s degree from Northeastern University’s School of Technological Entrepreneurship (STE).

MobiLaurus was one of 10 “I-Cubator” projects students presented recently to a group of Northeastern University professors and potential investors. I-Cubators combine experiential learning and technology commercialization, and are a component of STE’s master’s program.

For a full year, students work in groups on their ventures to further develop a technology, create product prototypes, evaluate markets and customer needs and create fundable business plans. The students work in collaboration with Northeastern faculty.

“What makes this unique is that it’s an experiential component of the STE graduate program,” says STE Dean Paul Zavracky.

The program, at the end of its fourth year, exemplifies Northeastern’s entrepreneurial spirit, as well as the university’s commitment to use-inspired research that solves real-world problems. In all, nine I-Cubator ventures have been incorporated, including five of those presented this year.

Another one of this year’s I-Cubator ventures has a uniquely collaborative twist. It is a rehabilitation device for stroke patients and integrates various complex hand motions for patients to repeat. A team of Northeastern students has researched marketing opportunities in the United States, while another group of students from Waseda University in Japan has done the same in that country’s market. The device was developed by Constantinos Mavroidis, professor of mechanical and industrial engineering.

Other ventures presented included NeuBuild, which offers a green, prefabricated housing construction system for Chinese real estate development companies; Style Check, a mobile phone app that helps people select what type of clothing to buy and wear; and Nicknack Publishing, which provides services for an older generation of people interested in writing books about their lives and experiences.

The presentations, meanwhile, served a dual purpose—students are not only graded on their presentations, but the review panel of potential investors provides its own feedback on the projects. The panel’s input is collectively used to determine whether each venture should continue in the I-Cubator program, should be spun out of the university, or be discontinued.

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