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Venture Founder's Program -- December Update #2

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As our Fall semester draws to a close, I realize that it’s been nearly five months since we embarked on our Venture Founders Program adventure. Looking back to mid-July, I can still recall the eager, hopeful attitudes that we Venture Founders began with. While we still maintain much of that enthusiasm, one undeniable fact has begun to sink in. Entrepreneurship can be exhausting. That’s not to say that I thought it would be a walk in the park, but I didn’t think it would be a trudge up a mountain.…

From Villanova to ESTEEM

Carney Kellan

While Minnesota native Kellan Carney was earning a pre-medical degree in biology at Villanova University in Philadelphia, he couldn’t help but gain exposure to business because of Villanova’s highly respected business school. He recalls creating fantastic entrepreneurial plans with his friends in finance, economics, or marketing, knowing they probably would never come to fruition. Yet his desire to turn fantastic ideas into actual ventures led him to seek a business minor by attending Villanova’s Summer Business Institute (SBI), which turned out to be great preparation for the ESTEEM Program.…

My Week in ESTEEM: December 5-11

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As December rolled in, so did the Christmas cheer, snow, and preparation for finals. The week followed a fun weekend, including an Irish tradition called the 12 pubs of Christmas where we all wore our ugly Christmas sweaters or “jumpers” as the Irish lads call them. Monday we had our last marketing class which was followed by a dinner party at Professor Kitz’ house. After class we all headed over there for pizza, but it was a short party since we were all stressing about our launch strategy final that was due the next day (the first draft of Chapter 5 of our thesis).

Venture Founder's Program -- December Update

Hardwicke David

Writing this post has come at a formative and exciting time in this rollercoaster human centred

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design journey!


In the midst of extensive thesis work, projects and football weekends, the progress each Venture Founders Program (VFP) member has made over the last couple of months is truly admirable:

ESTEEM Spring Break Silicon Valley Trek 2017

The ESTEEM Graduate Program is offering a unique spring break opportunity for junior STEM and Design majors! Every year, the ESTEEM Program takes all of its students to Silicon Valley for spring break, immersing them in one of the most innovative places in the world. Students tour start-ups and multi-billion dollar companies, have a chance to shadow a person/team at a company or venture capital firm for a day, and have multiple opportunities to network with venture capitalists, Notre Dame alumni, and others in the Silicon Valley entrepreneurship ecosystem. Past tours have included Uber, Google, Intersect ENT, Zeltiq, Lighting Motorcycle, IDEO, and the at Stanford.

From Xavier University to ESTEEM

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John Means, a member of the ESTEEM Class of 2016, returned to his undergraduate campus, Xavier University, and helped recruit four men to the Class of 2017. Ben Kelty, Roy Saikali, Alex Curry, and Mitchell Cornely say the program provides complementary skills – and the connection to the Notre Dame alumni network and career services help – that allows them to pursue their dream careers. The intense summer semester, with rigorous courses in mostly-new topics, helped the cohort bond and feel at home on the Notre Dame campus.…

Thesis Spotlight: Blockchain Technology: Revolutionizing Cross Border Payments

Hickey Zachary

Modern technology has revolutionized worldwide communication standards. Phone calls and e-mails, that travel directly from A to B, help maintain contact between people no matter how far apart they are. However, when dealing with wealth (or money) things become more problematic. In person, the process of transferring money is cheap, secure, and anonymous - if Alice needed to send $1 to Bob she could easily hand him the dollar with dependability and privacy. Yet, if Alice and Bob were living in different states, countries, or continents, they would have to trust a central authority to act as a validator and liaison for the transaction - adding unnecessary fringe fees and time delays.

From University of Portland to ESTEEM

Zellerhoff Tori

Victoria Zellerhoff came to ESTEEM from the University of Portland (UP), Notre Dame’s sister school in Oregon, to add business skills to the excellent technical background she gained with her mechanical engineering major and biology minor. She also found a national reputation, an unparalleled alumni network, overflowing career fairs, and an actual football team (Portland’s disbanded in 66 years ago, hence “Undefeated since 1950”). …

Thesis Spotlight: Food Allergy Prevention

Lengerich Constanza

Food allergies affect 1 in every 13 children in the US, and it has increased by 50% since 1997. Food allergies result in more than 300,000 ambulatory-care visits a year among children, and it’s the leading cause of anaphylaxis outside the hospital setting.

Allergists struggle to diagnose allergic reactions in children because they don’t have a clear history of reactions, and current diagnostic tests provide information only about the levels of IgE antibodies – which let patients know if they are allergic, but cannot predict the severity of reactions. Currently, a food challenge test is the only method of diagnosis, which consists in giving the patient small amounts of the food, and monitor the reactions. 40% of these tests result in severe reactions. Also, the experience is extremely traumatic for mothers and children, and doctors feel very uncomfortable exposing patients to potential life-threatening reactions. Consequently, many patients prefer not to have the test and then never know which foods will cause severe allergic reactions. Food allergies negatively affect the quality of life for families: meal preparation by 60%, social activities by 49%, stress levels by 41% and school attendance by 34%. The US economic cost is estimated at $25 billion annually or $4,184 per year per child.…

My Week in ESTEEM: November 14-18

My week in ESTEEM started in sunny San Francisco and ended in snowy South Bend, to say my wardrobe is confused right now would be an

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understatement. As Monday’s go, mine was pretty interesting and consisted of a day of intense interviewing at a late stage tech startup in San Francisco. After some San Franciscan Sushi (always a necessity when getting out of the Midwest) I took my fried brain back to South Bend via two red-eye flights and a quick nap in Detroit airport. I landed early Tuesday morning, exhausted but excited to head to Dennis Boyle’s talk later that day. Dennis Boyle is one of the original founders of the design and innovation firm, IDEO and more importantly a Notre Dame alum (A.B.N). Dennis spoke about his journey to date and the role of design thinking and entrepreneurial insights in healthcare. He emphasized the power of empathy in generating ideas and empowered his entrepreneurial audience to constantly put ourselves in our customer’s shoes to effectively solve problems.

Lunch & Learn: Tim Jenks

On Friday, November 18, we had our last Lunch and Learn session of the semester (which is crazy – the semester has flown by!). These have been a valuable part of our fall schedule and a relaxing way to close out the school week. We’ve heard from a variety of professionals working in STEM fields with unique backgrounds. It’s an open, candid conversation – they let us in on their successes and failures, what’s worked and what hasn’t in their careers, and are always eager to answer our questions.…

My Week in ESTEEM: November 7 - 11

Sedor Michael

Despite plenty of activities going on within the program itself, it would be impossible for me to recount my week in ESTEEM without acknowledging what has been a truly extraordinary and unanticipated series of recent events. Having borne witness to some of the most shocking upsets in recent history, including Brexit, the incredible Cubs World Series victory, our intramural soccer team’s heart-wrenching quarter final loss, and Taylor Johnson’s acceptance into Notre Dame, the year of 2016 might be more accurately deemed the Year of the Underdog, and on Tuesday night that moniker was again reinforced following the surprise election of Donald Trump as President of the United States. While the result was certainly unexpected and in some cases polarizing both across the nation and in ESTEEM itself, it was cool to see the discourse here in the program stay both civil and invigorating, a comforting reassurance that despite our diverse assortment of backgrounds, an informed and open minded exchange of ideas is always possible. It’s also worth noting that the overwhelmingly default response to each of these markedly different historical events, regardless of sports allegiances or political leanings, has been an extended visit to O’Rourkes Irish Pub.…

From St. Mary's College to ESTEEM

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Sarah Prezek majored in biology at Saint Mary’s College and minored in gerontology, a longtime interest – “I loved the elderly as a child,” she says. “People think babies are cute. I thought old people were cute.” She first considered a medical career, but when she changed her mind, the next step turned out to be across the street at Notre Dame’s ESTEEM Program, where she could gain skills for service. Another perk just happened to be another season of football and tailgates.…

ESTEEM Students Attend Cleveland Clinic Medical Innovation Summit... Part Three

Dawson Ali

Last week, five of us ESTEEM students had the opportunity to attend the Cleveland Clinic Medical Innovations Summit from October 24-25. We got to hear from some amazing speakers, watch healthcare startup companies pitch their ideas to a panel of judges, network with a variety of experts in the healthcare field, and learn about the latest cutting-edge biomedical technology. It was a whirlwind few days as we went from event to event, and an overall incredible learning experience. It’s hard to pinpoint a single speaker or event that was my favorite, but as I reflect on the Summit as a whole, a few key points stand out.…

ESTEEM Students Attend Cleveland Clinic Medical Innovation Summit... Part Two

October 23, 2016 was a long day. I flew out of New York City’s JFK airport at 6:30 A.M EST, landed in Chicago, and drove to Cleveland, Ohio. 800 miles in the air and 350 miles in a car. Looking back on that day now though, it seems like a pretty small price to pay for the trip that the ESTEEM program here at Notre Dame could help my friends and I experience.…

Lunch & Learn: Tim Connors

Tim Connors

On October 26, 2016 the ESTEEM class had the pleasure of hearing Notre Dame alum, Tim Connors ‘89, speak on his incredible experience at PivotNorth Capital, an early-stage software-focused venture capital firm based in Menlo Park, California. Before founding PivotNorth, Tim worked for twelve years at Sequoia Capital and U.S. Venture Partners. He conceived and co-founded, helped build C-Cube from a startup into a publicly traded leader in digital video, and has worked closely with many different entrepreneurs in developing their ventures. He also serves on the Board of Advisors of the Gigot Center for Entrepreneurship at Notre Dame. Needless to say, Tim has had an impressive career and was someone we were all looking forward to learning from.…

Alumni Spotlight: Matt Hansen

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As a member of the ESTEEM Class of 2015, Matthew Hansen learned to canvass potential customers to gauge the demand for products and identify the most desired features. Working in the product development unit of Mobisol in Arusha, Tanzania, he plays a part in field visits for face-to-face interviews and observations, conducts telephone surveys and focus groups, helps decide whether to create the product in-house or source it elsewhere, and runs pilot programs to assess the feasibility of adding the item to the company’s line.…

Lunch & Learn: John Crowley

John Crowley’s appearance was the most anticipated Lunch & Learn so far. A few weeks prior to him joining us in the Greenhouse at Innovation Park, we watched the Hollywood version of his story in the film "Extraordinary Measures." During his discussion with us, we realized just how extraordinary he has been and continues to be in the biotechnology world. …

ESTEEM Students Attend Cleveland Clinic Medical Innovation Summit... Part One

[Editor's note:  Five ESTEEM students recently had the opportunity to attend the Cleveland Clinic Medical Innovation Summit, held October 24-26 in Cleveland, Ohio.  Mitchell Cornely writes about the first day.]

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Monday started off with a very early morning wake-up call and an immediate sense of urgency that would not leave us following the day’s events. After surviving through Davis’ insufferable snoring on Sunday night I had a feeling that staying attentive would be the biggest issue for the day. Little did I know that the keynote speaker for the day, Joe Biden, would convey a message more potent than the several cups of coffee I powered through. We made our way over to the convention center a couple hours early as security for the Vice President’s appearance was on full alert. After an exciting “innovation challenge” in the morning, it was time for Vice President Biden to take the stage.…

Faculty Spotlight: Sunny Shah

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In March of 2016 Sunny Shah, Assistant Director and Faculty of the ESTEEM Graduate Program at the University of Notre Dame, was interviewed by Steve Blank about his journey to entrepreneurship. Like most students in ESTEEM, I have spent a lot of time discussing my thesis project, coursework, and my job search with Sunny. However, these topics were the extent of those quick meetings. Through listening to the interview I found out more about his background and how he got involved with ESTEEM.…

Thesis Spotlight: NORDAM Aerospace Group

Sedor Michael

Four and a half decades before Michael Sedor joined the ESTEEM Graduate Program, a small, bankrupt manufacturing company in Tulsa, Oklahoma caught the eye of an entrepreneurial man named Ray Siegfried. Taking a leap of faith, Ray bought the failed business and began building the aerospace company of his dreams. Now officially known as the NORDAM Aerospace Group, Siegfried’s company has grown into a billion dollar, privately owned major aircraft supplier, boasting over 2,500 employees and providing key components to industry leaders such as Airbus and Boeing.…

Fabrication Laboratory Up and Running at Galvin Life Sciences Center

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ESTEEM Graduate Program Thesis Adviser Matthew Leevy, a Research Associate Professor and Director of the Biological Imaging Core, has launched a fabrication laboratory in the basement of Galvin Life Sciences Center to serve the University at large. Tony Van Avermaete, a design and fabrication specialist, will serve as the operational manager of the new facility. The laboratory, which includes three CAD workstations, has the most advanced 3D printer on campus and is adding a laser cutter this month. It offers fabrication of a finished design, consultation on designs in process, and comprehensive design and fabrication based on a back-of-the-napkin sketches. The service is set up within CORES for access to all faculty, staff, and students on campus.…

From Stonehill College to ESTEEM

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Stonehill College, a Catholic institution with 2,500 students founded in 1948 in Easton, Mass., is sometimes called Notre Dame of the East because of similar architecture, shared traditions like priests in the residence halls, and shared names like Notre Dame du Lac and Cushing. When Stonehill undergrads Emily Tokarowski, Matt Brooks, and Brendan Hughes came to the University of Notre Dame for ESTEEM, they found differences in scale and common ground in culture.…

Alumni Spotlight: Kiel Hockett

When he was an undergraduate at the University of Notre Dame, Kiel Hockett added a degree in history to his degree in aerospace engineering so that he would learn to write papers and manage documents effectively. Then he decided he want to learn more about research and development, customer service, ethics, finance, and operations, so he joined the ESTEEM Class of 2011.…

Thesis Spotlight: Gleaux, Inc.


When he was earning a degree in biophysics at Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ben Kelty wrote a capstone course project on the bioluminescent plant created by BioGlow Tech, now Gleaux Inc., a fascinating technology with potential uses from landscape planting to bedroom nightlights. After two years of undergraduate science research, Kelty decided to seek problem-solving opportunities in the business field – so he joined this year’s ESTEEM class.

My Week in ESTEEM: October 10-14

Dawson Ali

“Midterm week” took on a new definition for me. Compared to my undergrad experience, when midterms generally entailed a series of exams, the ESTEEM midterm week was a bit different.

It opened with a traditional midterm exam in our Technical Marketing course, but the remainder of the week was centered on presentations and other assignments. For most of us, the primary focus was our thesis technology oral exams. After hours of practice and meticulously putting together our slide decks, it felt like a huge weight lifted off our shoulders to have these presentations done. Fortunately, ESTEEM has prepared us very well for presenting so at this point, it feels like second nature. Many of us were reminiscing about our “3 Minute Thesis” presentations we gave over the summer compared to our technology orals and how much more comfortable we now feel with public speaking.…

Venture Founders: Update No. 1


The past two weeks have been very exciting for the Venture Founders Program! We had our first Steering Committee meeting with Jeff Hodgson from Elevate Ventures, Don Ginocchio from SAP, Iris Hammel from St. Joe CEO, Andrew Wiand from enFocus, and David Murphy from ESTEEM. You could say Dustin and Maria were a little excited for the meeting, judging by the inspirational Rocky clips they sent out the night before...

Thesis Spotlight: Trebor International


The semiconductor industry accounted for over $335 billion last year! You may be asking what exactly is a semiconductor? Well, a semiconductor is a material that has the conductivity between that of most metals and of an insulator. They are often used as an essential component in electronic circuits, and more specifically in microprocessors. The manufacturing of a semiconductor wafer is quite complex and includes many different processes. One of the important components of this manufacturing process includes pumps that are used to move chemicals through the systems used in the fabrication of the wafer.…

My Week in ESTEEM: October 3 - 7

Martin Eoghan

What a busy week!

After spending the weekend in San Jose for a job interview, Monday started with a day of hibernation in the library to catch up on work. In the evening we had our first Startup Weekend meeting with David Murphy. Next February a group of ESTEEM students will work with TechStars to run a Startup Weekend event bringing students together for a weekend of collaboration in building their own startups.…