The Wire

  • Rep. Byrne to Hold 12 Town Hall Meetings

    From a Congressman Bradley Byrne news release:

    Congressman Bradley Byrne (R-AL) announced today that he will hold twelve town hall meetings during the August District Work Period.

    Known as the “Better Off Now” Town Hall Tour, Congressman Byrne will hold public town halls in each of the counties that make up Alabama’s First Congressional District. Byrne will discuss how the American people are better off now thanks to a booming economy, stronger military, and safer communities.

    Byrne ranks among the top of all Members of Congress for the number of town hall meetings held. Since assuming office in late 2013, Byrne has held over 100 town hall meetings, including meetings over the phone and through Facebook.

    All the town hall meetings are open to the public and free to attend. All the information can be found online below.

  • HudsonAlpha technology director to present at Google Cloud conference

    Excerpt from a HudsonAlpha news release:

    HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology Technology Director Katreena Mullican has been invited to present at the Google Next ‘18 conference in San Francisco, Calif, July 24-26.

    Google Next is an international conference where more than 10,000 developers, technology leaders, and entrepreneurs come together to have a collaborative discussion about the Google Cloud Platform.

    Mullican has more than 20 years of experience in architecting Linux, virtualization and hybrid cloud solutions. As HudsonAlpha’s Cloud Whisperer, Mullican brings her expertise in automation of on-prem composable and public cloud infrastructure for scientific applications and workflows to the Institute.

    “HudsonAlpha is one of the top sequencing centers in the world, so it’s my job to think outside the box to design hybrid platforms appropriate for our sequencing and research workloads,” said Mullican.

    Mullican will participate in a Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) Cloud Talk Tuesday at 1:00 pm in the South Hall to discuss how HudsonAlpha uses the composable HPE Synergy platform for an on-premises Kubernetes cluster that can scale to Google Cloud Platform.

  • Tabitha Isner claims Russia hacked campaign website — ‘Russian meddling in U.S. elections continues to be a real and immediate threat’


    Late Thursday afternoon, Democratic congressional hopeful Tabitha Isner issued a press release claiming “incidents of ‘brute force attacks’ on her campaign’s main webpage.”

    “When investigating the source of these attacks, the website administrator discovered over 1,400 attempts to login to the website as an administrator in the past week,” the release from campaign manager Megan Skipper said. “Of those 1,400 attempts, 1,100 came from Russian I.P. addresses. Russian meddling in U.S. elections continues to be a real and immediate threat.”

1 month ago

Tiger Cage Accelerator helps turn new business concepts into business startups

(Auburn University)

“It’s a tour guide into the business world.”

That’s how Matthew Hanks, a doctoral candidate in kinesiology, described the new Tiger Cage Summer Accelerator Program for Auburn University student-led startups. “It’s assuming you know very little about starting your own business, then guiding you through it,” said Hanks, one of 12 students from eight business startups involved in the first-year program.

The Tiger Cage Accelerator and Incubator — located in the Auburn University Research Park — is operated and managed by the Harbert College of Business. The eight-week crash course welcomes students into the world of startups by teaching:


–How to protect intellectual properties
–Pricing strategies
–Marketing and sales strategies
–Competitor analysis
–Product development
–Communications skills
–And, of course, how to make the perfect pitch to investors

“The purpose is to accelerate their business ideas and turn them into business startups,” said Harbert College Director of Entrepreneurship Strategy Lou Bifano, former vice president for business development at IBM. “In eight weeks, we compress the amount of time it takes to provide them with a set of learning experiences to try to minimize the mistakes they might make and to increase the probability that they are going to be successful in launching a business.”

Bifano isn’t alone in this adventure. The Tiger Cage Accelerator has brought on three long-time business professionals as Entrepreneurs in Residence who serve as mentors for student startups.

“What’s so exciting is the infrastructure of this program is really coming into place and this is not just a Harbert College of Business initiative,” said Entrepreneur in Residence Scott McGlon, who has helped build and manage startups for the past 20 years. “This a university-wide initiative to build an entrepreneurship ecosystem.”

McGlon joins Kevin Sandlin, who specializes in helping startups in the Atlanta area, and Zilliant CFO Phil Fraher, who brings venture capital expertise.

“We bring in the real-life scenarios that these startups will go through,” McGlon added. “We are trying to prepare them for what’s going to be taking place and keep them on track with milestones we outlined for them. Really, it’s all the way through execution. Whether it’s a marketing plan, a social media plan, customer discovery – everything that you could imagine that a startup is going to go through.”

The summer program received a boost from a $1 million permanent endowment established by 1982 Harbert College alum Benny M. LaRussa and his wife, Lynn.

“We piloted the program last summer. It is great to have the resources and assistance to scale it up,” said LaKami Baker, Managing Director of the Lowder Center for Family Business and Entrepreneurship.

The program format is a set of interactive lectures each morning with periods in the afternoons for business plan and communications skills work. “A cornerstone is being able to communicate verbally, communicate in writing, and being able to inspire people that this is a great business idea,” Bifano said.

For example, Michael Knotts, a doctoral student in industrial engineering, credited the accelerator for vastly improving his communications skills with would-be clients. “We’re learning to conduct what we call problem interviews,” said Knotts, who claimed his method of metal-additive manufacturing is less expensive and faster than existing products. “We’ve already gone out to different industries where we think that there’s a problem, or a need, where our product fits. We’ve gotten fantastic feedback.”

McGlon is excited to see the fruits of the accelerator already beginning to pay off. “Three businesses have a high probability of securing patents,” he said. “We’ve discovered that over the past few months, one has already generated revenue and has great momentum.”

Three of this year’s Tiger Cage business pitch competition finalists received spots in the accelerator. ESCAPE Therapy, a specially-fitted electrotherapy garment, won the Tiger Cage competition and $50,000 in funding and services to help launch the business. Hanks, a member of the ESCAPE Therapy team, is already seeing the benefits.

“None of us were business-minded individuals as our concept was founded on our passions,” he said. “The next hurdle for us was trying to figure out the nuances into getting this thing to actually take off.”

Dawn Michaelson, a doctoral student in consumer and design sciences and fellow ESCAPE Therapy team member, explained how that happened. “We’ve been taken through the process of making sure that our experiences and the people that we have talked to for our product are actually part of a larger customer segment,” she said. “There really are a lot of injured patients with the same experiences (need), so we know that our product will be viable in the marketplace.

“The Accelerator has shown us what we need to plan for next. On Fridays, we are asked, ‘Where are you with your company?’ ‘How are you progressing?’ ‘Where do you need help?’ The program is helping us structure our company with our product, but it’s also helping us with the company formation. We’re getting help on both angles.”

Olivia Cook, doctoral student in public administration and public policy, and co-founder of Snippety-Snap, a camera phone stand and integrated mobile app, said, “We are getting a better understanding of how to go out there and figure out who our customers are. With this – it’s helping us fine-tune our ideas and our product that we’re trying to bring into this big world.”

(Courtesy of Auburn University)

3 months ago

Auburn students win $50K toward electrotherapy garment to aid injury rehabilitation

Team members include doctoral students, from left, Dawn Michaelson, consumer and design services, Matt Hanks, kinesiology, and Sarah Gascon, kinesiology. (AU/Flickr)

Auburn University students who developed a personalized electrotherapy garment to aid injury rehabilitation earned $50,000 in funding and services as winners of the fourth annual Tiger Cage student business pitch competition.

Presented by Auburn University’s Harbert College of Business, Tiger Cage identifies and rewards the best early-stage products, services and business concepts that emerge from Auburn students.

ESCAPE Therapy — the business concept of doctoral students Sarah Gascon, kinesiology; Matt Hanks, kinesiology; and Dawn Michaelson, consumer and design services — walked away with the grand prize, edging three other finalists on April 6 at The Hotel at Auburn University and Dixon Conference Center.


Teams presented their ideas to a panel of industry judges in a manner similar to “Shark Tank.” Judges included Delphinus Medical Technologies CEO Mark Forchette, River Bank & Trust CEO Jimmy Stubbs, Frontier Labs co-founder Sean Cook, Tara Wilson Agency CEO Tara Wilson and MartinFederal Consulting CEO Corey Martin.

Wilson, a 1997 Harbert College finance graduate, said the judges had a “tough decision” choosing the winner.

“The team that won has an innovative idea and product that has the ability to be scalable and I think that was a big differentiator,” she said. “This team can continue to go on in these competitions and their product will be viable to a larger group of people in the end.

“Tiger Cage certainly shows me that Auburn has put together a great group of intelligent students who are thinking about innovation and entrepreneurship. I was very impressed with all four teams.”

ESCAPE Therapy’s prize rundown included the $25,000 cash grand prize, $15,000 in donated services from Allegiance Merchant Services and $10,000 in legal services from Bradley Boult Cummings. Gascon, ESCAPE Therapy’s CEO, certainly understands the potential market for her concept — athletic trainers and physical therapists. She is an aspiring 2020 Summer Olympic Games competitor, training at Auburn University with Team USA Handball.

“Usually, physical therapists require you to do some physical therapy at home and they give you instructions,” Gascon explained. “What happens is the patient says that they are going to do the rehab, but they don’t. They are really visiting the therapist only seven to 10 sessions. In reality, to receive a full recovery they need more than that. Our garment works in conjunction with the physical therapist. The patient can take it home and they can use it while they are also doing the rehab exercises.

“We are bridging the gap between a physical therapist and a patient.”

Winning second place was Snippety Snap — public administration and public policy doctoral candidates Olivia Cook and Courtney Haun — which developed a public cellphone stand and integrated mobile app that allows users to take photographs in popular locations. The team took second place, winning $10,000 in prize money, $10,000 in donated services and another $1,000 by earning the People’s Choice Award.

Enki Engineering took third place and $6,000 for its idea to produce a spiral engineering calculation notebook. Team members were junior supply chain management major Terran Ray, junior software engineering major Garrett Raab and sophomore marketing major Jackie Litschewski.

Finishing fourth and winning $4,000 was Savor, a mobile app concept focusing on the reduction of food waste. The team consisted of junior business major Evan Walker, senior software and aerospace engineering major Rain Li and computer science graduate student Abhishek Jariwala.

Gascon described ESCAPE Therapy’s Tiger Cage journey from a business idea in September to the 2018 champion as “very long.”

“At the start of it, it was just an idea that we wrote on paper,” she said. “We didn’t know how to write an executive summary and we didn’t know what a business model was. We knew nothing in terms of how to operate a true business.”

Then Gascon smiled and said, “But we are doctoral students and are very high achievers. We had to learn all of the different aspects of how to build and develop a business — and we perfected our craft. It’s remarkable that we were here [in the finals] because we think about the first few months and it was just an idea and we didn’t know what we were doing. Now, we have business people coming up and talking to us. We received a lot of mentoring from Dr. [Lakami] Baker. That really helped direct what we wanted to say, how we wanted to say it and what we want to think about in terms of having a successful business. This is our next adventure after school and we’re looking forward to hitting the ground running.”

ESCAPE Therapy already has a list of potential customers.

“A lot of my Team USA teammates are saying, “When will this come out? We want it right now!” Gascon said.