Winston-Salem State University

Collaboration Leads to International Competition

What could Notis A. Pagiavlas, interim senior associate dean and professor of marketing in The College of Arts, Sciences, Business and Education at Winston-Salem State University, and David E. Smith, director of the sound design program in the School of Design and Production at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts possibly have in common?

Both of them recently participated in the Creative Business Cup, a world championship for creative entrepreneurs, and they participated as part of the team for the United States' representative company, 2ndLifeTech.  Smith is the founder and CEO of the company and Pagiavlas has served as senior advisor for marketing and accompanied Smith to the international competition in Denmark.

Smith's company and its product, Battery Vampire, won the 2014 USA Creative Business Cup in July 2014 which led to the opportunity to participate with representatives from 50 countries in the competition in November in Copenhagen.  Pagiavlas and Smith have been working together to develop the presentation that was given to competition judges and investors from around the world.

"David and I met when someone recommended he come to the S. G. Atkins CDC's Enterprise Center for marketing support," said Pagiavlas.  "He had a tremendous interest in how to market the Battery Vampire, but that was not his background or area of expertise.  We were able to have our WSSU students do market research that we then could use to predict potential sales for his product and develop marketing concepts."

According to Smith, there can be as much as half the energy left in AA alkaline batteries that appear to be dead and are discarded.  The Battery Vampire makes it possible to tap into all the remaining usable energy meaning a single battery alongside a Battery Vampire can run a device using all of its stored energy, rather than half of the energy from each of two batteries.

Pagiavlas and Smith met over the summer to prepare for the international competition and devise their presentations.  They needed to demonstrate the economic value of the Battery Vampire and also the positive impact it could have on the environment by reducing the number of batteries that end up in landfills each year.

Pagiavlas is a believer in the diffusion of innovations theory that seeks to explain how, why and at what rate new ideas and technology spread through cultures.  Using a diffusion of innovations model that can provide a conservative, a realistic and an optimistic estimate of revenue from a new product, Pagiavlas could help Smith better understand the value his product could offer investors.  Those calculations along with the research provided by the WSSU students became the foundation for 2ndLifeTech's presentation.

"The work we did on this project was important to help David understanding the worth of his invention and it was an extremely important opportunity for our students," Pagiavlas said.  "Battery Vampire provided a real life experience for the students and allowed them to see how the various pieces of market research and revenue projections can lead to business decisions ranging from where products should be manufactured to whether a product should be made at all."

"Notis Pagiavlas and his marketing students were invaluable in the preparation for the contest," said Margaret Collins, executive director of the Center for Creative Economy, a catalyst for the creative economy in the Triad and throughout the state.  "2ndLifeTech was the youngest business in the mix of 4,000 competitors.  Every other competitor presented final products that, in fact, were already on the market.  That 2ndLife could advance with a 'proof of concept' product is validation of the power of its idea and opportunity."

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