My Week in ESTEEM - Week 10

Author: Matt Caponigro

Matt CaponigroMatt Caponigro

Welcome back to "My Week in ESTEEM" where students reflect upon their experiences in our program.  This week's blog is brought to us by Matt Caponigro who talks about the return to classes after fall break, Silicon Prairie, and getting out of the building to the social venture Better World Books.

Unlike many undergraduate programs, the ESTEEM graduate curriculum rotates quarterly. Our new quarter (or “mod” in ESTEEM parlance) began Monday, so instead of waiting until the usual 5:15pm to gather for Technical Marketing with former chief marketing officer of OfficeMax Prof. Michael Kitz, we showed up to 117 DeBartolo Hall at 3:30pm for Business and IP Law for Science and Engineering Based Companies. This is the first of ESTEEM’s Business Law courses taught by Prof. Tonia Hap Murphy, a former in-house attorney for the Indianapolis-based pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly.  As with many weeks in ESTEEM, the first week back from Fall Break was a whirlwind. ESTEEMers who had travelled around the country (e.g. the ESTEEM emissaries to the SAP TechEd Conference in Las Vegas) and even the world (e.g. the two-person delegation to a 3D-printing conference in Brussels, Belgium) reconvened in a blustery South Bend to continue their studies (with a few changes since they departed campus), turn in Chapter 2 of their theses (more on that later), and go on the first of two fields trips to meet technology entrepreneurs and innovators in what—as a 12-year resident of South Bend— I will boldly claim is the best kept secret of Silicon Prairie.  

Besides Prof. Murphy, last week we also met Prof Mark L. Bourgeois from the Reilly Center for Science, Technology and Values for our first discussion of the ethical implications of technology in Ethics Technology and Ethics I, and Matt Willmore, the program architect behind mobileND, who will guide our foray into Current Trends in IT for the next 5 weeks. Although brief, these opportunities to learn more about IP & business law, engage the intersection between ethics and technology, and dive into all things Amazon Web Services, Internet of Things, and Mobile UX promises an exciting new chapter in the ESTEEM program.

BWB Rows

Beyond their own course-related material, each of the new classes this semester will help our cohort think critically about the market opportunities and implementation of our technology that we have been heavily researching and writing about for Chapter 2 of our theses, and explore the intellectual property involved with our projects in Chapter 3 due by the end of the semester. After spending the first half of the semester learning the biochemistry of type-2 diabetes and psychology of behavior change at the heart of my thesis work on Healthy Points®, a social media solution to chronic disease management, I finally got to look more at the business case for Healthy Points® for Chapter 2 last week, investigating the various potential applications and barriers to its integration with chronic disease management in the U.S.

Zhou Wu at BWB

Finally, just as we started learning about some new subjects in the classroom, we also got out of the building last Tuesday afternoon to learn more about the technological innovation happening in our backyard on a field trip to Better World Books (BWB), an inventive online bookstore worth at least $65 million in 2013 and headquartered in Mishawaka, IN. BWB is one of the most successful online social ventures to date, one of the top 100 social innovations according to Sustainia100, and a founding triple-bottom-line benefit or “B” Corporation, whose CEO Mike Miller made a point to personally welcome the ESTEEM Class of 2016 to a tour of their Mishawaka facilities. We had an opportunity to ask Mr. Miller and Dustin Holland, V.P. of Global Sales and Marketing, about the way BWB leverages its proprietary inventory management software to connect customers with the books they want, generate a revenue, and fund the efforts of strategic partners to increase literacy around the world.

Through our tour of BWB’s maze-like warehouse, we got to see first-hand how a successful, international corporation keeps track of its intake, shelving, and picking to fulfill 30,000+ orders through the online marketplace per day, all while raising millions of dollars to make education possible worldwide. It’s examples of the way entrepreneurship and innovation can serve the greater good like BWB that will keep me motivated to wrap up Chapter 2 and 3 of my thesis in the remainder of this semester, and finish out strong with the strategic plan and business modeling next semester. 2.5 months in, 6 more months of excellence to go.