Indiana University

IUPUI Innovation-to-Enterprise Central program supports student entrepreneurship

  • May 1, 2013

The Innovation-to-Enterprise Central program at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis recently wrapped up its second-year projects, which included the prototype for a mobile application that helps users answer the question “What’s for dinner tonight?”

Innovation-to-Enterprise Central is an exciting entrepreneurship and innovation initiative hosted by the IUPUI Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research, with support from the IUPUI Center for Research and Learning and the IUPUI Solution Center. The program engages multidisciplinary student teams who work to enhance research commercialization and entrepreneurship on the IUPUI campus.

The program offers practical training in entrepreneurship to students like James Plew and Ajay Bohra. Seniors in the Kelley School of Business at IUPUI, Plew and Bohra teamed up this year to pursue an idea for a mobile application to help consumers do more with the food in their kitchen.

The main impetus for their project was the desire to make meal-planning a digital reality, with the ability to find recipes that took advantage of food sitting in a pantry, fridge or freezer. But such a decision can only be made at home, where consumers can see all the available food. If they could turn the “physical inventory” of food in the pantry into a “digital inventory,” consumers could browse their pantry on the go and, more importantly, prepare for dinner in advance. 

Plew and Bohra recruited three other undergraduate students to join their team. Together, they worked to validate the technology, develop a working prototype of the app -- named MyMenu -- gain feedback on the user experience and create a business plan to launch it.

Josh Rafail, a senior studying computer engineering at IUPUI, was one of the team members working to produce a prototype of MyMenu.

According to Rafail, “The most valuable thing I learned from Innovation-to-Enterprise Central was that the primary resource for deploying a product is people; and it’s hard to find that, but ITEC brings those people together. I used this as a key talking point in job interviews, and this was a valuable source of experience for potential employers.”

Plew hopes to continue with launch of a product based on the MyMenu prototype.

“Beyond anything, I can take away from this experience new insights into early-stage startup culture, common issues, technical challenges, leadership principles, and best practices for team building and business development,” Plew said.

Innovation-to-Enterprise Central projects are selected to give IUPUI students meaningful opportunities beyond what they would typically encounter in academic coursework or other campus activities.

An IUPUI campus priority is to play a key role in supporting the economic development of Indiana and the nation through the transfer and commercialization of research-generated intellectual property.

“The ITEC program is a giant step forward for IUPUI's initiative for making positive impact,” said Center for Knowledge Diffusion Director Margaret Clements, who attended the initial project kickoff and expressed strong support for the initiative. "By connecting good ideas with good team members and good advisers, the ITEC program is imbuing the IUPUI campus with an ethos of entrepreneurship."

Four members of MyMenu team: Meagan Gardner (left to right), James Plew, Romil Verma, and Josh Rafail.

Four members of MyMenu team: Meagan Gardner (left to right), James Plew, Romil Verma, and Josh Rafail.

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Diane Brown

Etta Ward