Tag Archives: tips

Worth Reading 2/28/14

Can our Entrepreneurs-in-Residence have the same effect on professional football players that they have on student entrepreneurs? We’ll find out this Sunday when EIRs Harry Geller and John LaPides participate in a four-day entrepreneurship conference for current and former National Football League players.


Participants will include: NFL cornerback Phillip Buchanon who is creating a board game to teach money management and other life skills to kids;  Arizona Cardinals long snapper Mike Leach who is developing a product to help parents toilet train their toddlers; and Pittsburgh Steelers receiver Plaxico Burress who has introduced a line of colorful, luxury socks. Read this Baltimore Sun article for more details.

Now, here is what’s Worth Reading this week.

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Worth Reading 11/22/13

Global Entrepreneurship Week was a great success for the Dingman Center! From Tuesday’s Entrepreneurship Connector to Thursday’s Pitch Dingman Competition, check out some highlights in the below photo gallery. Thank you to those who celebrated Global Entrepreneurship Week with us.

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Now, let’s check out this week’s Worth Reading.

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Worth Reading 7/19/13

This week, the Dingman Center hosted a group of Chinese MBA students from Peking University and exposed them to innovation and entrepreneurship at the University of Maryland and throughout the region. Make sure you like the Dingman Center Facebook page so you can see photos from their visit when they are posted next week. Also this week, Elana Fine participated in another Live Chat with the Washington Post and we posted an interview with student entrepreneur, Ayana Cotton, discussing her startup Evlove. Now, here’s what’s worth reading this week.

At the Dingman Center, we believe that entrepreneurship can be taught. This is proven by the number of student entrepreneurs that come through our office every day. The average undergraduate entrepreneurship course doesn’t offer the kind of experiential learning opportunities that students get through programs offered by the Dingman Center, and Forbes agrees. Explore this controversial topic with 5 Reasons Why Undergrad Entrepreneurship Courses Aren’t Producing Entrepreneurs.

If you’re starting a company, where should you live? Washington, D.C., New York City and Boston are the top cities on the east coast. Here is an infographic of The 7 Hottest Startup Scenes in the U.S, with Austin, TX taking the #1 spot.

One of the hardest things about starting a new company is finding the perfect name. It should memorable, easy to say and hopefully not already taken. Check out these tips for naming your startup from The Wall Street Journal.

There are more resources for starting a business than ever before. From online resources to countless networks of entrepreneurial thinkers, the current generation of young-adults  are better equipped than the successful business leaders of our past. Here are 5 Reasons Why Millennials Are Born Entrepreneurs.

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Tips for pitching your business idea

A business pitch can make or break a startup. Delivering a successful pitch can grab the attention of potential investors, attract customers, and even win funding in a Pitch Dingman Competition! How can you tell if your pitch will be successful? Check out these tips from a few of our Dingman Center all-stars to get advice on pitching your new business idea.


Rudy Lamone, Dingman Center Founder

“Your opening statement must grab the attention of your listener or in most cases you have failed; so try again.”


Asher Epstein, Dingman Center Managing Director

“Focus first on what problem you are solving. Is this a vitamin or aspirin problem (must have vs. nice to have)? Second, concentrate on who specifically has this problem. The target market needs to be tight and focused. Finally, what is your solution and why is it better, faster or cheaper than current options?”


Elana Fine, Dingman Center Director of Venture Investments

“Know your customer. Pitching a business isn’t just about the product or technology you are creating, but about who you will sell it to, why they will buy it and how often/how much. Before you start a business, make sure you spend time talking to potential customers to confirm that you have identified a real market needs that people are willing to pay for versus other existing options.”


Alla Corey, Dingman Center Program Manager

“Show passion and commitment to your idea. Investors must believe that not only you possess skills necessary to carry out your plan, but are also dedicated and will not give up when challenges arise. “


Harry Geller, Dingman Center Entrepreneur-in-Residence

“Be brief. You should be able to clearly state your idea in two or three sentences. Practice this with some friends and see if they can comprehend the idea, if so then you are ready. Pitch Dingman sessions are limited to 10-15 minutes so you want to get the idea understood quickly so you have time to receive valuable feedback.”


Do you have a business idea still in the “back-of-the-napkin” stage? Come to a Pitch Dingman informal session held every Friday 11am-1pm in the Dingman Center for valuable feedback from one of our Entrepreneurs-in-Residence. Our team of veteran entrepreneurs are here to share their advice and expertise.

For more information, visit the Pitch Dingman Homepage

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How do I know if my idea is good?

By: Asher Epstein, Managing Director, Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship

The entrepreneurial process begins by identifying an unsolved need in the market. At the Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship we focus on answering five key questions to help determine whether an idea is a good one to pursue.

1) What problem are you trying to solve?
Is your problem an aspirin or a vitamin?  An aspirin is an acute problem that needs a real solution (ex: pounding headache).  A vitamin offers a nice to have solution but the pain isn’t as sharp. The pain caused by the problem being unsolved is the first step to identifying how many people and potential customers will value your solution.

2) How big is the problem?
Is the market large and identifiable enough to make a worthwhile solution? You may have only one customer but if the pain is very acute the solution may still be worth pursuing if the customer is large (ex: Department of Defense). The challenge with many smaller customers is to figure out how to reach them all cost effectively.  In either case, you need to make sure you know exactly who is going to open up their checkbook or wallet and buy a product or service from you and make sure that your effort and investment will pay off.

3) Who are your competitors?
Evaluate solutions in the context of “like” and “kind” competition. “Like” competition is Miller Lite vs. Hook and Ladder Golden Ale (a Dingman Center company). “Kind” competition is a cold soda at a ball game on a hot day. The soda might not be as good as a beer but it will solve the problem of thirst. Your solution needs to beat both sets of alternatives to be valuable.  The best way to assess an idea is to figure out how to get someone to pay for a pilot of the solution.  If you are truly solving someone’s problem, people will appreciate that a partial solution is better than no solution. The challenge is to adjust the risks of the “half” solution against the benefits. Figure out how to limit the downside if the product fails to deliver. Entrepreneurship is about managing risk on an ongoing basis.

4) Is the right team in place?
Do you have the right skills and resources to solve the problem that you have identified? Do you need additional team members to help you?  If you can’t convince other talented people to buy-in, it is probably a sign your idea is not strong. It is important to understand the daily role you will play in your business.  For example, as a start-up technology CEO a lot of your time will be spent with customers and investors, not developing software. As a food retailer, you need to be open at the hours when people eat not just 9-5. When you pursue a venture it can become all consuming. If you don’t want to do the work it may be a good idea, but not a good fit for you. Ideas alone won’t make you successful – the hard work is implementation.

5) Is your idea worthwhile?
Worthiness can be defined in a variety of ways.  A lifestyle idea allows you to spend time with your family and provides a stable, but limited income. A high-growth idea is a venture that focuses on providing high returns to investors.  Both ideas are worthwhile as long as investments and expectations are clearly defined.  Social ventures and double triple bottom lines (environment, social benefit, charities, etc.) are worthwhile as long as the proper metrics are utilized — a failed non-profit doesn’t do much for the world.

 Asher Epstein is the Managing Director of the Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship. He is responsible for overseeing the center’s strategy and operations including business incubation, technology commercialization, global programs and startup funding services.

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