Looking back

Nov 17 2015

Pitch Day quickly snuck up on us, and it’s hard to believe the semester is almost over. The past three months have been a blur of brainstorming, researching, attempting to come up with ideas and then repeating the process. While the time has flown by, the Reese News Lab has been a great window into the world of start-ups.

The Flashbulb team pitches the prototype during a Lab workshop. (Photo taken by Amulya Uppalapati.)

The Flashbulb team pitches the prototype during a Lab workshop. (Photo taken by Amulya Uppalapati.)

Previous to the Lab, I interned at a small start-up company in Durham called Dognition. Located in the American Tobacco Campus, which has slowly grown into a small hub of start-ups, Dognition is a company where users play interactive games with their dog and then receive analysis on their dogs’ personality. While working at Dognition, I started to see the works of a start-up in the very early stages. At that point two summers ago, the company had a solid user base. My first week, “60 minutes” and Anderson Cooper were in Durham filming a segment on Dognition and its creator, Brian Hare, and his research. I briefly saw the camera crew, but sadly no Anderson Cooper, but check out the segment here.

It was interesting to come into the Lab and start from nothing, whereas Dognition was a semi-established start-up. I worked backwards — starting originally working with a company to starting with nothing and attempting to come up with an idea for a product. For weeks in the Lab, it was us, a blank piece of paper on the wall and a vague question.

Looking back, my group and I spent a lot of time brainstorming for an idea. It took us a while to come up with the idea for Flashbulb, and it was extremely frustrating in the beginning to work so long on an idea and then throw it away. But we quickly learned that those weeks weren’t a waste. Where we are today is because of where we came from. We were learning how to think outside the box, while also learning when to ditch an idea and move on, an equally important skill.

One big lesson I’ve taken away from Reese is that sometimes things aren’t worth pursuing. Some ideas will originally seem great. But once you start peeling back the layers, it’s easy to realize that idea isn’t as great as you originally thought, and that it’s OK to move on and try again.

I also learned it’s important to be passionate about your idea. A couple times during the semester, we played around with ideas that would have been great. We thought about how could we eliminate waste or help companies better recycle their waste. There are companies that do this already, but, more importantly, none of us were excited about the idea. We quickly realized there was no point pursing an idea if it didn’t spark any of our passions.

While I wouldn’t declare graduation gifts my greatest passion, the pieces definitely came together quicker and easier than any of our other ideas. Maybe because we had gone through the process a few times or maybe because we all were genuinely interested in preserving history and college memories. Either way, we made it to the end with a decent idea that hopefully our Pitch Day guests will like.

It’s been really fun to play entrepreneur the last three months, and I know we’ll all miss coming into the Lab each day unsure of what the day would bring. This experience has taught me a lot about being creative, asking questions and pursuing an idea without being afraid to ditch it and move on to something better.


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