Here’s a riddle: What do a breast pump, a shower chair accessory and artificial intelligence have in common?
Answer? They are all new ideas in the emerging field of “technology entrepreneurship,” which combines innovation and investment to create new business opportunities.
The examples above came from business proposals submitted to the 20th annual Henry A. Panasci Jr. Technology Entrepreneurship Competition at the University at Boulder in New York.
More specifically, the breast pump creates a personalized experience for nursing mothers, the shower chair accessory promotes greater independence for the aging and disabled, and the new AI platform is meant to optimize the scheduling of operating rooms.
The proposals of the five finalists represent more than just potentially lucrative product ideas. They illustrate the wide variety of opportunities available to those interested in the intersection of technology and entrepreneurship. The competition awards $52,000 in startup funding for the plan that’s most likely to succeed in Western New York.
But combining technology and entrepreneurship isn’t just for competitions. It’s already at work in the real world.
Montreal entrepreneur Shady Elhami is president of a company that constructs special dryers with a new technology that uses UV light to improve hygiene and safety. The UV light ensures that hands or hair are not infected with germs and bacteria after washing.
Shady Elhami’s investment in this specialized technology is one example of technology entrepreneurship, which is loosely defined as a capital investing move that uses tech-related assets to make a company more impactful and to help the business grow.
“If you can find the right people or you have already discovered a great idea, the field of technology entrepreneurship is wide open for new opportunities,” Elhami said. “One small technological improvement can vastly improve your business and your business’ future.”
Canadian firm Technology Innovation Management Review offers a more detailed definition of technology entrepreneurship: “Technology entrepreneurship is an investment in a project that assembles and deploys specialized individuals and heterogeneous assets that are intricately related to advances in scientific and technological knowledge for the purpose of creating and capturing value for a firm.”
The firm also notes that technology entrepreneurship is based on the following four aspects:
- Outcomes – The idea should both create and capture value for the business. Sources that create value and those that capture it “may not be the same in the long run,” according to the article.
- Target – The idea is aimed at a particular organization or industry with a need for the product, service or idea.
- Mechanisms – The idea must have an established mechanism for creating and capturing the value, and a stock of resources that can deliver it.
- Interdependence – The people behind the idea must be influenced by timely and relevant scientific knowledge, and the project must explore that knowledge in a way that results in positives for the organization.
Shady Elhami uses technology entrepreneurship for the benefit of his companies, but the ultimate point of technology entrepreneurship is to add value to the customer’s life.
Before the pandemic began, additional disinfecting measures like a UV light in a dryer might have been less interesting to businesses and consumers.
The technology was created by company Laminar Flow, which aimed to fill the need for cleaner washrooms. Elhami then used the technology to enhance his company’s hand and hair dryers.
With Elhami’s use of the new technology, only .12 microns of bacteria remain after drying — equal to one-one-thousandth of the size of a human hair.
In the age of COVID-19, cleaning technology that powerful is likely to remain highly desirable for years to come — as will the growing field of technology entrepreneurship.