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Southern Indiana Entrepreneurs Grow Businesses Through Purdue@WestGate Firestarter Program
Updated February 1, 2018 8:57 AM | Filed under: Business
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(ODON) - Several engineers, scientists and entrepreneurs advanced their ideas from concept to commercially viable businesses through Purdue@WestGate's Firestarter program, furthering regional development in Southwest Indiana.

"As an engineer, my focus is on the technical side of my idea," said Jeff Snow, Naval Surface Warfare Center Crane engineer retiree and inventor of over a dozen patents. "Going through Firestarter enabled me to gain insight into the marketing and finance side of my business."

Firestarter is a cohort-based program connecting entrepreneurs with resources to commercialize their innovations. The six-week program covers a wide variety of entrepreneurial topics including business plan development, value proposition, ideation, validation and market discovery.

"The great thing about the cohort-based program is the valuable feedback I received from the other entrepreneurs and inventors in the room," Snow said. "The pool of diverse professional expertise has proven to be an asset as I move forward."

AJ O'Reilly, founder of Adventure Field Guides and another Firestarter participant, is passionate about the outdoors. While traveling in Iceland, he noticed how difficult it is for people to plan trips.

"People don't always know enough to adequately prepare for an outdoor activity," O'Reilly said. "Whether it is hiking or biking, most people aren't outdoor professionals. Guidebooks can be outdated, and people don't always know what to search for online."

He noticed there was a market opportunity in outdoor travel planning.

"Adventure Field Guides provides pre-organized trips for people to choose from as well as gives users one-on-one access to a trip support specialist who then curates a customized trip."

O'Reilly learned about Firestarter through the Bloomington startup community. When he joined the cohort at WestGate, he was still in the beginning phases of ideation.

"Firestarter was a great place to solidify my idea," O'Reilly said. "Adventure Field Guides' mission is to get more people outside. We are going to do that by making the outdoors accessible to everyone by providing the needed resources and knowledge to enjoy nature."

This group is the second cohort to go through the program.

"We had a remarkable launch for our first Firestarter program at WestGate," said Jason Salstrom, the director of Purdue@WestGate. "From patented polymers to software solutions, the startups that converged at WestGate indicate the potential for a tech economy in Southwest Indiana."

"Bringing cohorts of engineers, scientists and entrepreneurs together in one room proved to be beneficial to all who attended the Firestarter," said Samantha Nelson, program manager for Purdue@WestGate. "To see discussions continuing outside the regular sessions with these same people, prove that this area is in need of this type of collaborative thinking."

About Purdue@WestGate

Purdue@WestGate is an economic development accelerator formed by the partnership between WestGate Authority, Naval Surface Warfare Center Crane Division (NSWC Crane), Purdue University and Purdue Research Foundation. The Indiana-based collaboration combines strengths to advance educational, research and development and technology commercialization across Indiana and elsewhere. Purdue@WestGate offers tools for startups, entrepreneurial experts, programs, educational opportunities and workforce development to help southern Indiana businesses grow and thrive. For more information about the resources available to businesses, visit Purdue@WestGate.

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