<p>Students in the C.V. Starr Program in Business, Entrepreneurship and Organizations were able to choose capstone projects in three different tracks. (<a href="http://news.brown.edu/pressreleases/2013/12/capstone">Return to capstone projects feature</a>)</p>

Entrepreneurship and Technology Projects

“Like night and day”:
Each team works with a mentor company to create a start-up venture that will bring a technology to market. Fall semester focuses on becoming expert in a technology, identifying potential markets and defining a product or service. The spring semester involves prototype development and crafting a business plan to bring the product or service to customers.

  • HydroFlex works with John Duke, a Rhode Island-based inventor and past president of WaterRower Inc., to design and manufacture an exercise machine that uses a proprietary water-resistance technology to strengthen core muscle groups. The new venture will target seniors who are interested in the preventative benefits of the machine as well as those who need specific rehabilitative regimens as they recover from falls and fractures. Key fall semester deliverables have been of the analysis of intellectual property, target markets, competitors, and early stage design options.
  • FabSnap is developing software that will allow digital photographs to be translated into custom designs for the jewelry business. This project has required the team to become expert in 3-D printing, metal and plastic coatings, and digital photography software. Capitalizing on the trend of personalized designs at affordable prices, the FabSnap team is combining Rhode Island’s jewelry design and manufacturing expertise with digital photography technologies and 3-D printing.
  • Modif[eyes] is a start-up that will produce durable, interchangeable parts to allow highly customized fashion eyewear. Inspired and advised by an ophthalmologist and researcher at a local design firm, Modif[eyes] targets fashion-conscious adults who want to frequently change the colors and shapes of prescription eyewear. The team is in the process of developing prototypes to test with customers and anticipates a price point that is highly competitive with current fashion eyewear.
  • Cappie Toys is responding to a request from Hasbro’s Advanced Technology and Innovation (ATI) group to find opportunities to leverage existing technologies in new markets. The team has created an innovative product that hopes to marry Hasbro’s Nerf launcher features with a toy that fires pet treats. Capitalizing on the growing pet toy and food markets, Cappie aims to be a full service design firm that will work with Hasbro and pet food manufacturers. Conceptual drawings have been produced and soon the team will complete prototype launchers for testing with pets and owners.

Social Innovation/Social Entrepreneurship Projects
Students typically act as members of the mentor organization or in a “consultant” role to tackle critical issues for the sponsor organization. Most projects are full-year commitments with the fall semester focused on research design and data gathering and the spring devoted to research analysis and recommendations.

  • SpeakYourMind Foundation is a Rhode Island-based nonprofit start-up that provides technology-based communication solutions for people with various levels of paralysis. Students have become integral members of the SpeakYourMind team, providing recommendations on revenue models, organizational planning, and branding. A key accomplishment of the fall semester has been the research, planning, and execution of SpeakYourMind’s launch and crowd-funding campaign which will raise funds to support an eye-tracking solution for a young woman who suffered a brain-stem stroke and had been unable to communicate.
  • Boys and Girls Clubs of Rhode Island – worked with a capstone team to analyze extensive national and local survey data with the goal of finding best practices and performance metrics for its clubs. The capstone team parsed survey results to develop a series of hypotheses for improving the club effectiveness and youth participation. Augmenting the clubs’ limited resources, the capstone team has become a valued asset to help directors think strategically about the quality of programs and services and how to increase youth engagement.
  • Farm Fresh RI – partners with a BEO team to find ways to extend its strengths as a leader in the food hub movement. Farm Fresh reduces the separation between local farmers and local eaters to help renovate the local food system. Seeing that Farm Fresh leaders are frequently tapped by new and existing food hubs as industry experts, the student team is working to develop a suite of consulting services and best practices that can be shared in the industry and perhaps be an additional source of Farm Fresh revenue.
  • The Initiative for Nonprofit Excellence at the Rhode Island Foundation builds the capacity of nonprofit organizations so they can better achieve their missions. The Foundation has partnered with a BEO team to research and better understand the challenges of management turnover and leadership development in nonprofits. The capstone project requires the students to design an approach to assess the potential level of need in Rhode Island nonprofits: the numbers of executive directors who anticipating retiring or moving on, their succession plans, and opportunities for working with the next wave of nonprofit leaders.
  • Social Enterprise Greenhouse creates positive social and economic impacts by supporting social entrepreneurs and enterprises with the tools and networks they need to thrive. Social Enterprise Greenhouse has tasked the BEO team to help it scale its reach to Massachusetts and Connecticut over the coming year. The BEO team is helping SEG to better understand the landscape, needs of social ventures, and how to best serve these ventures through existing incubation and other services. The goal of the capstone will be to make recommendations to the board of directors on SEG’s strategic direction.
  • Fio Partners is a consulting firm that focuses on strategic planning and building collaborative models for the nonprofit sector. Fio’s methodology is highly data driven and employs best practices. This capstone is working with a Fio mentor to design of a management services organization with specific emphasis on helping clients deliver quality services to their constituents. The BEO team is concentrating its research this semester on best practices and performance metrics related to the delivery of daycare and out-of-school program services.

Business/Consulting/Finance Projects
Projects are designed as one-semester commitments. Students typically act as members of the mentor organization or in a “consultant” role to tackle critical issues for the sponsor organization. Students must collect data, analyze information, and make recommendations all within the fall term.

  • Traction Software Inc. challenged a BEO team to conduct research, make recommendations and outline a plan for a market pivot. Traction, a provider of collaborative work software, tasked the BEO team to build a business-case analysis and choice of new specific addressable markets — vertical segment and industry — that make attractive points of entry. Students immersed themselves in the product, surveyed customers and recommended two promising markets.
  • Textron Inc. is an international diversified holding company based in Rhode Island that owns companies in aerospace, financial services, commercial lawn/golf equipment, and defense-related systems. The capstone project involved assisting senior corporate executives with quantitative and qualitative analysis relating to changes in their Corporate Pension Plan on parent company financials. Of particular interest was the need to understand the impact on company profitability related to funding the pension program in bear markets.
  • Philips Healthcare, a global healthcare products firm, tapped a BEO capstone team to conduct a competitive analysis of their Lifeline products. As the competition expands in the field of medical alert systems, Philips engaged the students to identify competitors, key product attributes, user experiences, and pricing options. The student team designed, administered and analyzed a customer survey to help inform their final recommendations.
  • The Retail Project is a one-year-old, pre-profit startup (winner of the Rhode Island Foundation Innovation Fellowship) aimed at creating, launching, and testing new retail brands. The capstone project was designed by the students to evaluate a set of growth scenarios and the attendant financial and organizational structures as the Project scales. The final product, a “road map for growth”, includes a flexible, assumption-based Excel model to conduct pro forma budgets for human and financial resources. The model easily quantifies the cost of alternative structures and organizational priorities at different phases of brand growth.
  • RI Treasurers Office-529 Plan - oversees the CollegeBoundfund, a Section 529 qualified tuition program to encourage saving and investing for a child’s future higher-education expenses. The capstone project assisted the Office of the Rhode Island Treasurer and the Rhode Island Higher Education Assistance Authority by providing quantitative and qualitative analysis to optimize the impact of this program including an identification and assessment of customers and product features, account utilization rates, and demographic trends. The final recommendation included suggestions for reaching and enrolling better suited participants.
  • Rhode Island Treasurer’s Office/Hedge Fund is responsible for strategies and asset allocations for the state’s pension system. The capstone team acted as a consultant for the chief investment officer of the State of Rhode Island regarding the use of hedge fund replication strategies in the pension’s investment portfolio. The team’s work included in-depth analysis of costs, efficiency, and effectiveness of replication strategies. Additionally, the BEO team researched and identified appropriate benchmark indices to compare performance over one-, three-and five-year periods.