Academia + Entrepreneurship: When Science Meets Great Business Ideas

November 18th, 2013 by under Internationals at Smith, People, Say What MBAs Say, The Smith Experience. No Comments.

Jorge Mejia is not your typical PhD student. He owns his own company and has just finished a six month research and entrepreneurial project abroad with the world’s largest incubator, Startup Chile. He’s working on his PhD in Information Systems at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business.

Mejia did his undergraduate and master degrees in computer science at Georgia Tech. Ever since his first internship he has been engaged in a number of R&D projects that have become successful business innovations in their respective industries.

In 2004, he took an internship with NCR and was assigned to a task as part of a product development project of the “live” interaction system between humans and automatic check-out machines, which you see regularly in major supermarkets across the country.

After graduating with his MS, Mejia worked in a consulting firm for more than three years and spent half of his time traveling to countries in Europe. He worked with a Swedish telecommunications company in 2006 in research on cable live streaming, which was exactly what Netflix was doing three years later.

Most recently, he and his company Rively are researching and developing an app to enable customers to check in “moving objects” – the first of its kind – on their smart phones. If Foursquare helps you find the perfect places that are stationary, this app allows you to check-in on a particular bus, train or flight and review your transportation experience, not limited to the carriers.

“I like research,” said Mejia, “and I always try to find research that is interesting and people have actual needs for it.”

In 2012, Mejia and his college friends formed a team to participate in Startup Chile, a six-month $50,000 budget accelerator program backed by the Chilean government, which selected 100 early-stage start-ups out of 600 applicants worldwide. Mejia conducted research for his PhD project within the incubator to see how the entrepreneurs were using their money and time.

“Six months and $50,000 – you can use them for product development, or traveling to raise money, or going to networking parties for mentorships or ideas,” said Mejia. “I wanted to measure the outcomes of these different approaches.” He analyzed the data he collected and found out that if teams didn’t know each other well, the probability of raising money was low.

“We screwed up a lot,” he said, noting that they lost a teammate in the beginning and they couldn’t find a developer. “It was also our first time meeting with an investor,” Mejia recalled. “It was all about real-world learning and I highly recommend this incubator program.”

Mejia appreciates the support he received from the Smith School. “[The level of support] is unconventional for a business school,” he said. “My professor was putting his neck out for me and the school was not afraid to take a chance on me.”

Now, Mejia is looking at areas that could combine his strengths in academia and entrepreneurship. “I love research and I want to find cool problems to solve,” he said.

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