How a quiet UD program is helping create jobs and launch startups - Technical.ly Delaware

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May 24, 2016 12:54 pm

How a quiet UD program is helping create jobs and launch startups

Spin In started a few years ago and is beginning to hit its stride.

A Spin In team working with Linne Industries demos a solar pond aeration system. The company now sells it and is ready to move to a larger facility.

(Photo courtesy of Cyndi McLaughlin)

Ever heard of Spin In?

If not, maybe you should.

“It’s a great program that has zero publicity,” said John Royer, who, as managing director at local startup InSiteHub, has enjoyed being a part of it.

Spin In was launched by the University of Delaware’s Office of Economic Innovation and Partnerships back in the spring of 2012, and since then, more than 100 students have participated, 16 local companies have been involved, four new Delaware startups have launched and as a result, eight UD students have been offered jobs.

So what is it, exactly? Spin In takes undergrad students from a bunch of disciplines, usually business, design, communications and some kind of science, and puts them on a team — or spins them in — to work for a local small business to help them develop new technology and business strategies. Then they spin out a successful business.

Cyndi McLaughlin, the program’s director, said Spin In has evolved to run four to six projects per semester with each team comprising four to six students. Just this year, projects have varied from a supplemental protein powder startup to a system for mounting saddlebags to sport motorcycles to commercializing QR codes on UD buses.

Amy Lalime, who graduated from UD a year ago, is one of Spin In’s student success stories.

“I loved it,” she said. “I really think it was very motivating to have the work we did be something that was going to impact the real world. You’re not doing this for a grade — you’re doing it for something that will hopefully turn into a marketable product.”

She began working with the program in the fall of 2014, and in the winter of 2015, joined the program’s mTrigger team. mTrigger is a startup whose device for personal biofeedback gamifies a person’s physical therapy experience. She began doing market research for the company, along with customer discovery and initial business planning. Upon graduation, she has continued working for them in a full-time capacity on mTrigger’s product management, business-plan writing and marketing strategy.

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Jordan Burchfield works on a Spin In project for mTrigger while others (including Amy Lalime and Cyndi McLaughlin) work in the background.

Jordan Burchfield works on a Spin In project for mTrigger while others (including Amy Lalime and Cyndi McLaughlin) work in the background. (Courtesy photo)

Lalime said the interdisciplinary aspect of Spin In helped prepare her for communicating in the real world. Fellow Spin In participant Jordan Burchfield, who earned his mechanical engineering associate’s degree from Delaware Tech last year and is entering UD as an undergrad this fall, agreed.

“I’m used to talking to a bunch of engineers,” he said. “I find myself explaining a bit more to the team, and I’m also learning their language as well.”

InSiteHub’s Royer, who has worked with 16 students since the fall of 2014, said being a part of the program has been beneficial both ways. “To me, it’s a pipeline,” he said, and he means it: This summer he’s hiring a computer science and a visual communications student, and he’s hoping to hire a third part-time as a business analyst. “It’s been a great experience, and the people over there are great to work with.”

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