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Monday, September 25, 2017

Academics & Research

Laboratory helps ideas mature into businesses


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The RED Labs space gives student entrepreneurs the chance to work together on their projects — all while making 3 credit hours. | Courtesy of C. T. Bauer College of Business

UH students are using RED Labs as an entrepreneurial space for innovative product and business start-up ideas to be grown and tested in a collaborative real-world trial environment.

Located inside the C. T. Bauer College of Business, RED Labs turn ideas and raw passion into marketable products and its students into even more marketable people.

Computer science alumnus Robert Dale Smith is a model for what RED Labs is all about.

He started with an idea, known as “flinger.co,” at the first three-day startup conference — which RED Labs calls 3DS — in 2012. It went through a three-month process as part of RED Labs, and currently has more than 10,000 users.

Collaboration is a large part of what goes on in the RED Labs workspace. RED Labs director Hesam Panahi, a management information systems professor, works with students to connect them to qualified mentors from outside the University and provide them with a workspace.

“I scout out who I believe are the best and most-qualified people in the city that have experience in the area or a skill set that will be useful for the students, and I connect them,” Panahi said.

These aspects of RED Labs are concentrated into 3DS, which students describe as a “tech adrenaline rush.”

At the beginning of the conference, the 40 accepted students organize themselves into teams and are guided by mentors to create a product prototype to be pitched by the end of the weekend.

“I come from an engineering background, so I know how to build things, but when I was going into 3DS, I didn’t know anything about the business side of things,” said biomedical engineering senior Zakariyya Mughal.

Panahi reached out to other areas through the Computer Science Entrepreneurship Workshop and Startup Lab last fall.

Mughal said he would like to see students from other majors involved, especially those from engineering, computer science or other technology-based backgrounds.

Projects ranging from math games to syllabus generators to wearable computers were part of the 2013 3DS event.

Management information systems alumnus Bryant Pham was a part of an education-oriented math game, similar to “Words With Friends,” called “Duel Academy.”

“Everything you need to make an idea come to life and create a prototype for a business is right at your fingertips,” Pham said.

Students like Pham and Mughal, who attended last year’s 3DS, say they have taken away many useful life skills.

“My 3DS experience became a very strong talking point in job interviews,” Pham said.

Mughai said he has a better understanding of how to give his products a competitive marketing advantage.

“This entire initiative is supported by the Wolff Center for Entrepreneurship,” Panahi said.

RED Labs and 3DS are growing, thanks to the work of Panahi.

“Panahi’s work is helping students become more business-minded and, most importantly, driving innovation,” Pham said. “He is a huge enabler of the tech entrepreneurship scene at UH, and Houston is really showing students a new career avenue.”

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