Tag: CELect course

How will we feed the world’s rapidly growing population? By 2050 the world population is projected to reach more than 9.6 billion, according to a UN report.  The Yield Lab, the first and leading agricultural technology (AgTech) business accelerator, has begun to answer this fundamental question.

Formed in 2014 by Thad Simons, former CEO of Novus International, and Cultivation Capital, the top St. Louis Venture Capital firm, The Yield Lab seeks to address the global food crisis by investing in AgTech start-up companies that have creative ideas and innovative solutions for increasing agricultural productivity. The start-up companies selected for the 9-month program receive $100,000 in funding as well as mentoring and networking opportunities.

Our group is excited to be consulting for The Yield Lab this semester and thankful that Washington University is giving us the opportunity to do so. Composed of one MBA student (Jonah Hanowitz), one PMBA student (Paul Dinkins), and two law students (Julia von Türk and Edward Brennan), we will be producing a marketing plan that builds The Yield Lab’s brand awareness as the first and leading AgTech business accelerator across the agricultural industry and among venture capital firms.

The entrepreneurial sector for AgTech is rapidly developing, and The Yield Lab is uniquely situated in the Midwest, which has some of the world’s best growing conditions and natural resources. In addition, St. Louis has some of the largest agricultural companies in the world, which are looked upon as the leaders in their field. One of the biggest differentiators over a typical business accelerator is that the companies chosen for the program benefit from The Yield Lab’s Managing Directors’ and Advisors’ expertise and long-term success in the agricultural industry. The Yield Lab’s portfolio companies are able to take advantage of the burgeoning St. Louis start-up scene by using the work spaces at the T-REx incubator and coworking space downtown. We were able to spend a day there and were impressed with the energy and opportunities available there.

We will be putting together a marketing plan that increases brand awareness and reputation among talent pools which we believe will have multiple benefits: First, it will lead to more–and more qualified–Yield Lab applicants, which in turn will lead to more successful Yield Lab companies, which will ultimately lead to more profitability, visibility, and investor interest.  Furthermore, increased brand awareness among talent will hopefully lead to applicants coming to The Yield Lab, as opposed to The Yield Lab having to seek out potential portfolio companies.  This will free up considerable time and energy to devote to other, more productive tasks—such as seeking out investors for the Growth Fund (who will, hopefully, be attracted by the level of talent that The Yield Lab attracts). Lastly, a talented, successful portfolio of companies will lead to a talented, successful network of alumni, which will only serve to attract more talented portfolio companies in the future.


Our client is APSE, an exciting agriculturally-based start-up working to decrease the production costs of topical Ribonucleic Acid Interference (RNAi). Topical RNAi is a biological process whereby RNA is applied directly to a plant or pest (usually by spraying) so that expression of certain genetic traits is suppressed, thereby modifying the characteristics of plants or the pests. (more…)

In the United States alone, 50% of antibiotic courses are improperly prescribed, and $35 billion is wasted, in large part because diagnostic exams for curable infections are not complete and returned to care providers until several days after initial testing occurs. In emergency care especially, this issue results in time and money wasted while putting together and prescribing unnecessary and potentially fatal drug regimens (more…)

A doctor’s new best friend, ePharmix exemplifies the vibrant spirit of the St. Louis startup scene. Founded by several Washu alumni*, ePharmix is a digital health intervention company that improves health outcomes through its short message service (SMS) products. Ranging from diabetes to depression, ePharmix’s products interact with patients via SMS messaging to monitor health benchmarks, regulate vital signs, and ensure treatment compliance.

epharmixHaving received clinical validation for its products (a feat unique in the industry), ePharmix has positioned itself to capture major parts of the market. The startup recently secured significant funding from investors and is looking to leverage its traction to become a market leader.

Enter the Center for Experiential Learning Entrepreneur Consulting Team (CELECT). My team and I are partnering with ePharmix to implement a strategy for becoming the market leader in the digital health intervention industry.

Epharmix has the vision, the enthusiasm, and the verified product necessary to situate itself at the front of the pack. All it needs now is a plan of action to become a change maker, a thought leader and the industry standard.

As the project progresses, the team and ePharmix are keeping their focus on the real objective: making patients healthier. ePharmix saves doctors time and money, yet according to Washu alum and CEO Blake Margraff, the motivation for the company’s founders is to improve the health outcomes of the marginalized patients in the health care system, many of whom are left behind when medical innovation takes place.

Future doctors and health professionals, pay attention: ePharmix will be your best friend when you need help managing your patients care.

*Founders include WashU alumni: Blake Marggraff (CEO); Avik Som (CMO); Evan Huang (CTO); and Joe McDonald (COO and CFO). Epharmix also has a team of advisors that includes Dr. Will Ross, a nephrologist and associate dean for diversity and assistant professor of medicine at WUSM.

Related Blog posts:
The Doctor will text you now
Meet Joe McDonald

TopOPPS is neither on the leading edge nor bringing a novel solution to an industry. Actually, they don’t fit into an industry at all. In fact, the landscape which they are driving toward full speed doesn’t even have a name yet (*it is coming soon, according to our sources). Their solution solves issues within a step of the selling process so underserved that TopOPPS has an opportunity to define their entire category –and our CELect team gets to help them get there!

TopOPPS satisfies an important missing link in the CRM value chain by streamlining the sales process. Most CRM software plug-ins focus on the marketing portions of the value chain – generating awareness lead generation, maximizing click-through rate, attracting and keeping people at company websites. TopOPPS focuses on the next steps after these marketing-focused services stop providing value. Their sales automation software uses predictability and performance analytics to drive sales rates and increase win percentages. Targeted toward sales team managers and vice presidents of sales, the TopOPPS CRM plug-in allows leaders to forecast more accurately, allocate sales resources effectively and spend more time strategizing how to close deals rather than going through the painstaking process of simple information gathering.

Working with a quickly growing organization like TopOPPS is an exhilarating experience. Upon entering their offices, the speed and excitement of a rapidly growing company is impossible to ignore. Team meetings take place throughout their spaces and ideas are written on white boards. Watching the interactions of their staff is also amazing – they have a culture of listening and learning from everyone’s ideas…and, of course, a lot of passion for the product.

This culture of posing problems and listening to smart people solve them was cemented from day one of the company, when its founder, Jim Eberlin, posed the sales process CRM problem – the concept for TopOPPS – to 200 programmers in the GlobalHack competition and came up with a great idea only 48 hours later. Additionally, he found his first group of talented programmers to hire into TopOPPS to build the product. Jim, who has previously founded and successfully grown Host Analytics and Gainsight, sees great opportunities for the rapidly expanding company, which just moved to new office spaces across the street from the T-REX spaces at the Lammert Building in downtown St. Louis.

On one end of their new office space is their customer sales team and, yes, they do use their own product to drive sales and adoption of TopOPPS. On the other end is their marketing team, a group which our CELect team is fortunate to work with to best define the category into which TopOPPS is boldly treading.

The TopOPPS product is so unique, we have the opportunity to determine how best to explain the product to customers. Working with TopOPPS marketing group is our CELect team consisting of Ben Evans, Shai Hatsor, Ty Holder and Ryan Plotkin – all 1st year MBAs at the Olin Business School. The team is evaluating their current marketing communications and identifying items which best resonate with sales managers and Vice Presidents of Sales. Using this data, we will then be able to focus TopOPPS messaging to effectively and efficiently create the greatest impact on its prospective customers.

By understanding the largest value drivers through surveying techniques, we will be able to identify which customers make the most sense to pitch which proposition and how to communicate those values to the target segments. Our goal to create a clear and concise message that resonates with TopOPPS target customers will be a key factor in the continued growth of TopOPPS. We cannot wait to see where this semester of investigating how to pique interest in a brand new market segment helps guide TopOPPS and we look forward to following how our recommendations continue to guide the positive long term trajectory of TopOPPS.

CELect TopOPPS team: Ben Evans, MBA; Shai Hatsor, MBA; Ty Holden, MBA; Ryan Plotkin, MBA.

As the number of social media users worldwide has entered the billions, a social media presence has become an important tool for companies to reach and interact with current and potential customers. As firms increase their social media activities, challenges arise that can undermine the value of a social media presence. For instance, managing accounts on multiple social media platforms and timing posts strategically can be time-consuming. In addition, businesses in regulated industries such as finance, insurance and healthcare face regulations regarding what they can say on social media and elsewhere. A tweet or Facebook post containing prohibited information can lead to fines and other penalties.

What Is the Solution?

The folks at Gremln recognize these challenges and are helping businesses and individuals streamline their social media efforts. Gremln’s social media management system allows users to optimize their social media activities by managing multiple accounts, creating scheduled posts, checking for impermissible disclosures, and more. Gremln offers multiple levels of its service to meet each customer’s needs and boasts generous free trials and outstanding customer service. And if the standard offerings are not enough, Gremln offers highly customized enterprise solutions that are tailored to a customer’s specific needs.

A central theme of the CELect program is that entrepreneurs are constantly looking to add value to their businesses. Gremln adds value for its customers by not only saving time with social media management, but also by catching prohibited posts before they become a costly mistake. Likewise, the Gremln CELect team seeks to add value to Gremln’s business by providing in-depth analysis of customer retention and upgrade behavior.

Our Interaction with Gremln

A week after the project kick-off presentation, we met back at T-Rex to sit down with Gremln’s founder, Ryan Bell, to determine where our efforts would best support Gremln’s goals. Throughout the meeting, we were all impressed by his dynamic disposition: welcoming, polished, approachable, informative, efficient, well-spoken—a perfect persona of the product. The following week we ran our plan of action by David Bell, Gremln’s Chief Marketing Officer. Together we refined our team’s objectives in terms of how we were going to collect our research, who we were researching, and the questions we will answer. Not only were we able to learn about Gremln from its architects, David and Ryan, but we were also able to observe, and in turn learn from their managerial styles, interpersonal skills, work ethics, and how they prioritize projects.

Our Project Objective

Gremln is interested in getting more basic users and trial users to subscribe to their paid solutions. Our goal is to improve this conversion rate.

How Will We Do It?

Our strategy for finding the holes in Gremln’s conversion tactics starts with interviews with current Gremln users, both free and premium. By sending out an email to Gremln’s current database of users we were able to easily access an audience that had an opinion on why or why not they decided to upgrade.

Our interviews consisted of questions ranging from uses of Gremln’s services, thoughts on their websites, and what uses Gremln does not include that could be of service to them. Compiling this data should lead to the holes in Gremln’s strategy. Plugging these holes then becomes the bulk of our strategy.

Post By: Mikey Parker, BSBA ’14, Ben Ryan, JD ‘14, Robin Schnitzer, BSBA ’15, and Marco Sotela, BSBA ’14, students in the CELect entrepreneurship course with Prof. Clifford Holekamp