Having founded and co-founded eight startups, one of which that became publicly traded, Mike Riedlinger can provide valuable mentorship as an I-Corps instructor. Riedlinger is the Managing Director of Scale for ClimateTech and the Executive Director of Technology Commercialization at NextCorps. Leveraging his entrepreneurial experience, he created NextCorps’ LaunchPad for web and mobile startups.
Mike earned his B.F.A from the Rochester Institute of Technology and his M.B.A from the University of Rochester, where he is a lecturer of Technical Entrepreneurship Management in the Ain Center for Entrepreneurship.
In addition to being an instructor for the UNY I-Corps node, Riedlinger serves as a teaching team member for the national I-Corps program. We recently chatted with Mike about his accomplishments through I-Corps.
What motivated you to become an I-Corps instructor?
My motivation comes from my own experiences — lows as well as highs — from my entrepreneurial journeys. I-Corps provides a great framework for aspiring entrepreneurs to learn about the breadth of connections needed for commercializing technologies, which took me many years to understand. Seeing a student’s energy shift when the moment of discovery hits them is my reward in being an I-Corps instructor.
What one piece of advice do you have for new entrepreneurs?
Starting a new venture takes an enormous amount of work that requires a dedicated team to share the load and work through the torrents of issues that face any startup. Prioritize solving vexing problems that have real significance to customers and be open to learning from the situations that will arise. Whenever possible, talk with others that have a lot of experience that is relevant to your startup. Having a mentor that can help guide you and your time will make a world of difference.
Of the startup teams you have instructed, are there any success stories that come to mind? Where is/are those team(s) now?
One of the teams that went through a UNY I-Corps node program was working on a device for non-intrusive collection of heart rate, body weight, blood pressure, etc. from cardiac patients in home care that would have high patient compliance. The device was essentially a toilet seat with lots of embedded sensors. The team ended up connecting with a cardiology group for clinical testing as well as a toilet seat manufacturer. Eventually, investors have provided on the order of $15 million in funding, and the startup is currently scaling up.
After learning about so many different customer markets, can you share a market or customer problem that still requires a solution/has great demand?
Creating new products that do not rely on the use of fossil fuels is a huge opportunity and touches a great many markets. There is also a rapidly growing need for mining materials used for energy generation and storage — like zinc, copper, cobalt and manganese, which has abundance in oceans. This gives rise to opportunities in technologies for efficient ocean mining as well as science to mitigate the impacts for that activity. There are also opportunities for improving the recovery of materials from products that too often become landfill.