Our starting point was the research of team member and CSM Computer Science doctoral candidate Arta Doci. Her thesis presented an alternative method for performing wireless communication in a mesh sensor network. This method involved a 'cross-layer' protocol stack, transcending the traditional four layer TCP/IP network stack. This technology was found in simulations to provide the following advantages over traditional wireless network protocols:
- Performance (data throughput)
- Longevity (lifespan of each mote)
- Scalability (total number of possible motes in the mesh network)
Since the Lunar applications are fairly nebulous I thought I'd share our terrestrial business model. Our primary offering was a mesh sensor network product we dubbed 'AquaSense'. This product was a network of sensors providing a whole system solution for municipal water networks to monitor the quality and safety of their water supply. It leveraged our proprietary cross-layer optimization protocol along with CDMA to provide communication between the sensor motes. While somewhat ambitious, our research indicated that there are a number of advantages this system could provide to municipalities:
- Environmental Compliance (Safe Drinking Water Act)
- Rapid Threat Warning
- 24/7 System Status
Some of the things I learned through this process that are worth mentioning:
Don't assume your market research is done until you have actually made contact with people in your target industry. I would suggest making 'first contact' as soon as possible once you think you have a market worth pursuing. It can either serve as a confirmation that you are onto something or save you a lot of work (and potential embarrassment) if the market isn't a fit for what you are trying to do.
I really liked the concept of the business plan in a 'deck' format. We were introduced to the idea by Frank Moyes, a professor at the Leeds School of Business in the University of Colorado at Boulder (where I am currently getting my MBA). He suggests that rather than creating a voluminous business plan, put it together using presentation software formatted like a booklet. We took this approach for our venture and the end result was a business plan which contained all of the necessary information but in a format that really 'sells' your idea instead of forcing the reader to really dig into a long document to get a sense for the business. You can find some examples of using a deck for a business plan on Frank's website.
Finally, and this may be obvious but I think that when you are going into a business venture, even if it is only for a competition, you need to be 'in it to win it'. By this I mean if you don't believe in your idea and want to take it to the next level by actually putting your own blood, sweat and tears (read: time, money, passion) into it then how can you expect someone to want to invest in your idea? I spoke to the the winners of the Lunar Ventures competition, Omega Sensors, Inc. after the competition and it was immediately clear they had a drive and a passion for their idea and their hard work paid off in the end.
This experience certainly opened my eyes to what it will take next time to win a competition like this as well as the foundations of starting and funding a fledgling business.