A recent workshop hosted by the University at Buffalo’s NYS Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics and Life Sciences provided a firsthand — and somewhat harrowing — look at what it takes to start a business, says Tomás Henriques, assistant professor of music at SUNY Buffalo State.
Henriques is the inventor of the Sonik Spring, a handheld metallic spring outfitted with orientation and force measuring sensors that users manipulate to process and generate audio and video in real time. He attended the workshop in June to get expert advice on turning his prototype into a successful product. Henriques and the Research Foundation for SUNY have a patent pending on the Sonik Spring, which he plans to develop into both a musical instrument and a tool for use in physical and cognitive therapy.
One of the more revealing parts of the workshop was the session in which the inventor-entrepreneurs practiced pitching their business plans to investors. It was a lot like the TV show “Shark Tank,” Henriques says. “It was a first taste of what the next steps will look like when venture capitalists try to buy a big portion of your company.
Henriques has continued to work with Scott Lee, the business consultant who served as his coach during the workshop. Lee is helping Henriques plan a company launch.
“We’re looking at a two-track approach,” Lee says. To get the Sonik Spring to market fast, they will first promote it as a musical instrument. At the same time, they’ll collaborate with UB’s Office of Science, Technology Transfer, and Economic Outreach to find funding for a product to be used in physical and cognitive rehabilitation.
Doing the tough work required to start a business, while also teaching a full course load and conducting research is a daunting challenge, Henriques says. But the prospect of creating a successful product makes the effort worthwhile. “I would love to see a lot of people in different parts of the world using my device.”
Maxwell is the Coordinator of Digital Engagement for The State University of New York.