Community News

Launch|CMU Connects Research and Entrepreneurship to Investment and Alumni Communities

When Carnegie Mellon’s Project Olympus, an initiative in the School of Computer Science, began hosting its entrepreneurship “Show & Tell” events the response from the community both on and off campus was overwhelmingly positive. The popular program provided an engaging, high-level overview of the ideas coming out of the university - allowing businesses, investors and the public to get a glimpse of what was happening on campus.

Looking to capture the spirit of these events and to expand the audience, the Research and Technology Commercialization Committee of the Carnegie Mellon Board of Trustees came together with the leadership of the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) to create a new biannual entrepreneurial showcase:  Launch|CMU. This event champions innovation, research and startup companies from across the CMU campus and connects students, faculty and alumni with venture capitalists and other investors in entrepreneurial hotbeds such as Silicon Valley, Boston and New York. By introducing research into a showcase environment, Launch|CMU gives attendees a valuable inside look at emerging ideas and the next wave of potential commercialization.

At the helm of Launch|CMU are the co-directors of the CIE, Lenore Blum, Distinguished Career Professor of Computer Science and Founding Director of Project Olympus, and Dave Mawhinney, Executive Director of the Donald H. Jones Center for Entrepreneurship. As a signature event for the CIE, Launch|CMU demonstrates how the university is a destination of choice for entrepreneurship and utilizes an “inside-out” approach for accelerating the process of introducing university research into the commercial sector.  The program also strengthens the university’s entrepreneurial network, boosting an alumni network that fosters mentorship, enables connections among alums and provides links to suppliers and customers.

“Launch|CMU highlights research that can become a company–a ‘peek under the hood’ at the new and innovative ideas coming out of Carnegie Mellon,” said Dave Mawhinney. “Great things are happening at CMU, and this is a way to let the outside investment world know what’s in the pipeline.”

The inaugural Launch|CMU event, centered on the theme of Big Data and Machine Learning, was held in late Spring 2013 at the Computer History Museum in Palo Alto, Calif. Opening remarks were given by Bruce McWilliams, President and CEO of SuVolta and member of CMU Board of Trustees, and Patrick Pohlen, Partner & Global Co-Chair of the Emerging Companies Practice Group from event sponsor Latham & Watkins LLP, followed by Paul Wellener, Lead University Principal at Deloitte, another event sponsor.

Research innovations were presented by Carnegie Mellon faculty members Zico Kolter, assistant professor of computer science, Noah Smith, professor of language technologies and machine learning, Ian Lane, assistant research professor at CMU’s Silicon Valley Campus, and Adrien Treuille, assistant professor of computer science.

“CMU is considered a ‘premium brand’ of the highest order within elite science and technology circles, but we have to work hard to tell that story outside of these groups," said Adrien Treuille, Assistant Professor of computer science and robotics. “Launch|CMU is an important venue for us to have these kinds of conversations, especially within Silicon Valley, which is the premier locus of the intersection of technology and business.”

Five CMU startups–Lumator, 3Gear Systems, Peekabuy, Solvvy, and Fliptop–demonstrated new technologies and participated in breakout sessions. A networking reception wrapped up the day.

The Fall 2013 Launch|CMU event will take place on the Pittsburgh campus on November 13, 2013, and will feature a broad blend of research and ideas spanning the fields of computer science, health, engineering, and transportation research. Guided tours of research labs and an interactive poster session will also be on the agenda, as well as workshops for faculty interested in commercializing their research.

“The research represented at the fall event will have a close connection with regional innovation,” said Lenore Blum. “Pittsburgh is a model for reinvention for other metropolitan areas of the country. We see many students staying in the region after graduation, which was part of Project Olympus’ purpose. Now the trend can continue through Launch|CMU.”