Red means go
Potential million-dollar ideas are born every day from the simplest situations but because of lack of necessary knowledge and support, they might never leave UH students’ imaginations.
It was with that in mind that clinical assistant professor Hesam Panahi at the C.T. Bauer College of Business created RED Labs, a new startup accelerator that seeks to transform entrepreneurial ideas into businesses.
Panahi said students work on projects in their classes and at the end of the semester, these ideas are abandoned and turned into a waste of effort. He realized UH didn’t provide students who want to start a company with space and support.
“We have the entrepreneurship major, but what about the other 40,000 students?” he said.
Accelerators are programs designed to support the development of entrepreneurial companies by providing different resources and services such as mentoring, training and events as well as networking for a three-month period, Panahi said.
“The mentors are one of the biggest things of the program,” he said. “They can instruct students in ways that textbooks can’t because they are real people with real-world experience.”
The program also helps students through sponsorship. The idea is for students to come in with a prototype for a product and develop from there through the resources provided.
RED Labs’ designated space at Melcher Hall is open 24/7 and is equipped with Wi-Fi, Ethernet, flat screens, storage lockers and unlimited coffee and ramen noodles.
The inaugural class is developing six potential businesses using innovative technologies and applications, and it consists of 12 students and one alumnus who work in teams. The only condition is that at least one of the team members is an actively enrolled UH student.
One of these projects is an e-commerce platform being developed by supply chain management juniors Hamza Amir and Timur Daudpota along with computer science alumnus Jesus Hernandez. The trio is working on their neon-colored skateboards called Kandy Kruisers.
“Our idea is to transform dark, sad-looking skateboards into something fun,” Amir said. “They are not just skateboards. They are a lifestyle.”
Their team consists of nine people who have been essential to their progress, which includes architects, industrial designers, photographers and graphic designers, among others.
“RED Labs provides us with talented people to help,” Daudpota said. “There are so many things behind starting a business, and they have the knowledge to instruct us. The space is also really important because it makes it more convenient for our team to meet.”
Panahi intended for RED Labs to be complementary to the 3 Day Startup, an entrepreneurship initiative hosted by the Wolff Center for Entrepreneurship in which students spend three days on campus working on tech companies that are pitched to a panel of judges on the third day.
“Our main goal is to give students firsthand experience at building a business,” Panahi said. “We want to give them the resources to deal with real issues like legal and financial and other questions that must be addressed.”
“Even if the ideas developed here don’t turn into the businesses that make these students successful, they will definitely be one step closer to their goal after this experience.”