“None of us were trying to be entrepreneurs, (but) we saw something that was making us upset and we felt like we could solve it.” Mackenzie Andrews believes in the process that helped make Nanodropper a reality. The startup aims to disrupt the eyedropper market by reducing cost, waste, and side effects with its innovative technology. Early on, the team realized they had significant backgrounds in biology, bioengineering, pharmacology, neurobiology, and mechanical engineering—but not business. That’s where the workshops and Team Formation Nights offered by the Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship helped make a difference.
“Going to these types of events was really crucial to our success, because most of us didn’t know what to expect going into competitions,” said Andrews (Neurobiology and Bioengineering ’19).
Now Nanodropper is leading one of several Team Formation Nights this fall quarter across campus. On Tuesday, November 13 at 5:30 p.m. in Foege N130 they will discuss health care and life sciences innovation. They also can’t wait to give back to students just like them. Andrews, is currently in a graduate program in Bioengineering at the University of Washington, as well as co-founder Jennifer Steger, who is a Pharmacology PhD candidate. Co-founder Allisa Song graduated back in 2015 from UW with a dual degree in Psychology Honors and Biology. Song is the only founding member to compete with—and create a company prior to—Nanodropper.
“(The Buerk Center) has tons of people that are willing to reach across disciplines and help people out in a way that they need it,” said Andrews. “They were okay with hearing that we don’t know as much as we needed, but we were willing to learn.”
There are two Team Formation Nights leading up to the Nanodropper event. The first is on Wednesday, October 17 at 5:30 p.m. in the CoMotion Fluke Hall MakerSpace. This first night is particularly fun because it explores one of the spaces on campus where ideas truly take shape. Students will learn how to use the 3D printers, sewing machines, and other tools. Best of all, these spaces are among the many ways to use prototype funding available through the Buerk Center, should you choose to apply.
The next Team Formation Night focuses on building a sustainable future. Angel investor Eric Carlson will speak on Thursday, November 1 at 5:30 p.m. in Gould Court at the event, which is aimed at all students, environmentally-focused or not.
“There aren’t many places where you can be completely open about your early concepts, but these events are just that,” said Terri Butler, manager of the Health Innovation Challenge. “If you have any inclination at all toward new, innovative ideas, you won’t want to miss these!”
The Team Formation Night series caps off with our most popular entry, the Panel of Past Participants. Join us Wednesday, November 28 at 5:30 in HUB 145 and hear from entrepreneurs who were students just like you as recently as last year. Some had startups up and running by the end of the year, but even if they didn’t, they had an experience they could add to their resume and build on for the rest of their life.
In between, the Buerk Center will also hold a workshop focused on customer discovery and market validation. A panel of experts from the community will gather on Thursday, November 8 at 12:30 in HUB 145 and take questions from students, while also participating in team-building exercises. It’s a great opportunity to learn how to reach out to a customer base early for feedback, even before student innovators have a prototype.
Each of these nights lead into an exciting start to 2019. Competition season kicks off with the Science and Technology Showcase (STS) in early January. The event is co-hosted by the Science and Engineering Business Association (SEBA) and the Buerk Center is an early opportunity for many technical or lab-based projects to receive exposure and feedback. January also marks the opening of the applications for the Hollomon Health Innovation Challenge on March 6 and the Alaska Airlines Environmental Innovation Challenge on April 3. The season caps off with the biggest college startup competition in Pacific Northwest later in April (details coming soon!).
For more information on these opportunities, or anything else, please contact us at the Buerk Center or stop by our office in Dempsey Hall, Room 227.