Summer is the time when the market becomes saturated with recent college graduates who are eagerly looking to pursue their professional dreams. An increasing number of students in both undergraduate and graduate programs are pursuing entrepreneurship over traditional jobs. We sat down with Brian Mogen, University of Washington Bioengineering PhD student and recent finalist in the UW Business Plan Competition –the state's top business plan contest – to learn more about what motivates him to pursue entrepreneurship and how the value of helping others plays a role in the future of business.What is the profile of the members of your business plan team?
Tell us more about the vHAB team.
We are a unique team in that everyone is either a current or former student. We have one student who finished his undergraduate studies last summer and has been working with us on a fellowship.
What is the technology you developed for your business plan?
We designed a platform that takes people through the occupational therapy of their hand and arm using motion capture and muscle sensing. By turning all the general movements of what occupational therapists use after a spinal cord injury, or stroke, or really any disease presentation that affects arms, we created a series of games that you play that are really therapy. So patients play their way to healing while their therapists and doctors can measure their development with the game scores.
What motivated you to join the business plan competition at University of Washington with this idea?
We are PhD students and most of us were working on related projects that focused much more basic neuroscience and computer science – areas that were many years away from any real large-scale implementation. We all came into this program with the idea of wanting to help people. This product was a way to leverage all of our learning to develop something with real practical use today.
Do you consider yourself an entrepreneur?
Entrepreneurship is more of a mindset than a label. It’s a way of approaching problems from multiple angles at the same time. I never really had an “a-ha” moment that I wanted to start a company and do everything I could to make that company work. It’s really just about solving problems. I’ve been amazed to find so many resources available to us and have been encouraged by a community of entrepreneurs that have been responsive to our vision. There’s a real supportive culture with entrepreneurs that you fall into when you start to pursue this path.
What is the most important lesson you’ve learned as an entrepreneur?
Time is your most valuable asset. It’s more valuable than money. You really need to be judicious about which aspects of an issue you choose to solve and where you choose to spend your time no matter what you do.
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