Innovation and Entrepreneurship Highlighted at Intel ISEF 2012

This morning, the Intel Foundation sponsored a symposium for attendees of the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (Intel ISEF) 2012 which allowed finalists to ask questions of professionals who have been actively involved in developing products and starting or funding companies.

Competing student finalists and attendees of Intel ISEF 2012 had the opportunity to interact with professionals who have started or funded companies and predict upcoming technological trends. Wendy Hawkins, Executive Director of the Intel Foundation; Director of Philanthropy, Intel Corporation; kicked things off by focusing on the value of entrepreneurship. She introduced panel participants who included: Cindy Fotz, Director of Patents, Intel Corporation; Benjamin Gulak, CEO & Chairman of BPG-Werks and Intel ISEF alumnus; Lila Ibrahim, Investment Partner, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers; Brian David Johnson, Futurist, Intel Corporation; and Andre Marquis, Executive Director, Lester Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, UC-Berkeley.

Brian Johnson advised finalists to learn from their mistakes and follow their passions, not to follow what they thought might be the most successful path, as success is hard to predict.  Lila Ibrahim discussed the importance of being able to pivot from one track to another when audience reaction or testing suggests a new avenue to approach a problem. Ben Gulak advised, “it’s not just about getting the money to build a company; it’s about getting the right money from investors you can work with who give you the room to experiment and be creative” and likened the process of wooing investors to that of dating!

Cindy Fotz advised getting a patent early in the process, but only once you have determined a real need for one as the process is laborious and expensive. Andre Marquis added, “don’t tell everyone the secret to the sauce right away- you need to learn how to talk business without providing confidential information. Otherwise, you can have a fantastic product that people love, but still not make any money.”

Approximately 25% of this year’s Intel ISEF finalists have begun the process or intend to apply for a patent related to their research. The symposium consisted of a group question and answer period, followed by speed mentoring, where finalists were each given three minutes to ask individual questions of the panel participant of their choice.

Topics covered during the presentation included:

  • How do I know my idea and/or product will be successful?
  • What happens if my idea fails?
  • When should I apply for a patent? How do I know what kind of patent I need?
  • How has funding via crowdsourcing affected the venture capital industry and the availability of funding for new ideas?
  • How should you pick investors and or co-founders/co-workers?
  • How can you get an education in business at the same time as you are obtaining a degree or training in a technical field?
  • What is the best way to come up with novel ideas? Where do you draw inspiration from?

The Innovator to Entrepreneur symposium is just one of many opportunities to interact with innovators, doctoral level scientists, and other professionals available to attendees at Intel ISEF 2012.