Venturing Into the Real World: From Invention to Business
When Mikhail Maiorov and his classmate Blair Linville (both EMTM '05) began
thinking about the application of laser technology in industrial materials processing, they knew they were on
to something. "We saw that there were some limitations in current technology and we wanted to try to expand
the platform of laser devices on the market," says Maiorov, a senior researcher at Princeton Lightwave who
holds a PhD in physical electronics. "But when you first have a big idea, you're absorbed and sometimes
blinded. What you need are a few well rounded consultants to help you think about how it will work and whether
there is a place for it in the market."
With the help of Wharton's Venture Initiation Program (VIP) and three outside partners, Maiorov and Linville
have been able to test their theory by developing a real business, Advanced Welding Technologies. An initiative
of the Wharton Small Business Center and Wharton Entrepreneurial programs, VIP supports and encourages University
of Pennsylvania students developing business plans for new products and services by offering structured guidance
from professional advisers and other small business resources. Maiorov and Linville have been collaborating since
their first semester Decision Models class in Fall 2003. "Right away we found we really complemented each other
in terms of our working styles," says Linville, who has an undergraduate degree in engineering, and is now leader
of quality, process and integration at GE's Global Infrastructure Services. As a team they were able to leverage
their combined operations and technology experience to approach a range of classroom assignments.
A year into the EMTM program, Maiorov and Linville became interested, through their coursework, in the business
possibilities of photonic technologies. "Once we looked into it, we found that what we thought might be a purely
technological invention would actually have enough application to be a viable product," says Linville. Encouraged,
they drew up a skeleton business plan and applied for the VIP program.
The team came to VIP in 2004 with a prototype design and the intention to use the laser technology for processing
of specific organic compounds. Their advisors, Dan Gomez, president of Bell Atlantic Graphics and CEO of H.W. Sams,
and Lesley Mitts, founding managing director of Phoenician Ventures, suggested they look more closely at other
revenue-generating models. "What we realized, based on the VIP meetings, was that we could go much broader,"
For Linville and Maiorov, VIP is a logical extension of the EMTM curriculum a way to directly apply marketing,
accounting, corporate finance and operations theory. At the same time, they've been able to draw on the additional
support of their advisors and fellow student entrepreneurs as they've built their company. "It's a great way to
put our lessons into practice," says Maiorov. "We've been very lucky to have this opportunity."
Mikhail Maiorov (L) and Blair Linville (R)
“When you first have a big idea, you're absorbed and sometimes blinded. What you
need are a few well rounded consultants to help you think about how it will work and whether there is a place for
it in the market.”
Mikhail Maiorov (EMTM ’05)