By Scott Meacham
Copyright © 2013, The Oklahoma Publishing Company
Aravind Seshadri, founder and CEO of Roll-2-Roll Technologies, came to Oklahoma from India to earn his master’s degree in mechanical engineering at Oklahoma State University. He liked Oklahoma and OSU so well that he applied to earn his Ph.D.
Out of curiosity, Seshadri signed up for an entrepreneurship class at OSU for scientists and engineers. There he heard about the Governor’s Cup and joined with some MBA students to compete in the 2012 Business Plan Competition.
The team didn’t win, but the experience started Seshadri thinking that starting a company just might be possible.
This spring, he formed a second Governor’s Cup team. For their concept, they talked to many companies including Proctor and Gamble and 3M. The result was the business plan for Roll-2-Roll Technologies, a company that makes an improved lateral guide for reducing waste in manufacturing processes that use raw material that comes in rolls — like diapers, newsprint and other consumer products that are made from plastic, metal, paper, film or foam.
Roll-2-Roll’s product is based on patented fiber optic sensing technology and control algorithms that Seshadri helped develop as part of his master’s thesis at OSU. It saves companies money through waste reduction, improved equipment set up and utilization, and process efficiency.
The Roll-2-Roll team placed second in the Governor’s Cup and first in the Tri-State Competition in Las Vegas, earning $40,000. They also won the OSU Riata Business Plan Competition. Seshadri received his Ph.D. in May, and OSU is funding a postdoctoral fellowship for him to continue to develop and commercialize the technology.
Roll-2-Roll completed the Proof of Concept Center (POCC), a new program managed by Elaine Hamm of i2E designed to enhance the commercialization of new technologies. They contacted more than 100 companies worldwide and, based on that input, reworked every aspect of their business plan.
“You don’t want to develop something no one wants to buy,” Seshadri told us. “The POCC is a proven methodology. Completing the program puts us in a favorable position to raise outside investment.”
Roll-2-Roll Technologies still has work to do, including completing a prototype, working out licensing agreements with OSU and writing an SBIR grant, but the company is off to a fast start.
All of this is because of the linked initiatives available in Oklahoma to encourage and help bright entrepreneurs build new companies here in our state.
From students who want to study engineering, to classes in entrepreneurship at Oklahoma’s colleges and universities, to the Governor’s Cup, the Proof of Concept Center, and on through to a continuum of investment capital, it’s all part of a cohesive pipeline to build an innovation economy in Oklahoma.
We are on a roll!
Scott Meacham is president and CEO of i2E Inc., a nonprofit corporation that mentors many of the state’s technology-based startup companies. i2E receives state appropriations from the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology. Contact Meacham at i2E_Comments@i2E.org.
Did You Know? A recent survey by the Kauffman Foundation suggests that it may be possible to increase entrepreneurship by exposing more people to existing entrepreneurs, especially peers or contemporaries. SOURCE: Getting the Bug: Is (Growth) Entrepreneurship Contagious? October 2013