Sometimes, Research Can Be Profitable

By Edo Steinberg

Sean Connolly, who is pursuing a dual degree in Telecommunications and Informatics, designed a new search engine as part of his studies. Together with Brent Kievit-Kylar of the Cognitive Science Program, he created Daedalus, which uses semantic associations to improve search results. Sean describes it as an “interface that should make searching through data more like searching through your own thoughts as opposed to filling out forms and getting form results back.”

When you search for a term, a map of semantically related terms appears, together with search results. Terms can be dragged closer or further from the center, depending on their relevance. This immediately changes the search results, increasing their relevance.

When Sean showed his new innovation to Harmeet Sawhney, Harmeet encouraged him to bring it to the IU Research and Technology Corporation, which helps to protect and commercialize inventions born out of research conducted at the university. The university owns the fruits of faculty members’ labor, but gives them and their labs a certain percentage of revenues. As it turned out, undergraduate and graduate students, on the other hand, fully own their inventions. However, the IURTC is dedicated to faculty research only. Sean turned to the organization dedicated to helping IU students commercialize their research projects, Innovate Indiana, a fund established by successful IU graduates.

Sean and Brent are also competing in the Kelley School of Business’s Building Entrepreneurs in Software and Technology (BEST) competition this week. They have reached the final round. The winners will receive $200,000. Even those who will not win money will have learned how to present their ideas to potential investors. Daedalus has also earned Sean a scholarship to attend IU’s Velocity Conference, a venture capital conference geared for MBA students.

Sean hopes to use the money to get to clients. Then, as people start using Daedalus, he will be able to further build and tweak it.

Sean isn’t used to the world of business. “It has been a learning experience,” he says. “I feel that I know so much about start-ups now, but it isn’t my skill-set.”

He has noticed a big difference between presenting projects before businesspeople and academics. Sean and Brent were criticized for spending too much time explaining how their new search engine works rather than presenting its market opportunities and revenue potential.

Good luck, Sean!

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