Last spring, Joseph (“JD”) Brannock, MBA ’13, tested the waters of global entrepreneurship as part of a four-member Entrepreneurial Multidisciplinary Action Project (E-MAP) team assigned to work with JP AquaKnit Ltd., an Israel-based clean-tech company that has developed innovative proprietary technology for wastewater treatment. The team’s mission was to assess the U.S. market and develop a market-entry strategy for the start-up firm. During their investigation, the MBA students examined a variety of business issues, including regulatory requirements, risk aversion to the adoption of unknown technologies, and capital expenditures needed for new installations.
“We discovered that it takes a long time – generally, five to 10 years – and can be costly to introduce new technologies in the wastewater-treatment industry,” Brannock reports. “Based on our analysis, we presented AquaKnit with a long-term strategic plan for entering the U.S. market.”
E-MAP assignments are selected by first-year MBA students as part of a course requirement that places teams with start-up companies in global entrepreneurial settings. Over a seven-week period, students complete various projects, such as developing business plans, identifying new product opportunities, and formulating strategies for market entry.
The real value of the E-MAP experience for Brannock was learning, through first-hand experience, what major hurdles start-up companies must overcome when establishing new markets overseas and pushing for the adoption of disruptive technologies in well-entrenched industries. “I plan to parlay what I’ve learned into an entrepreneurial career by starting or working for a renewable-energy company, and I see a lot of parallels to this E-MAP,” he remarks. “The U.S. utility industry is slow-moving and risk-adverse, so I would face many of the same challenges along the path to commercialization of a new technology.”
In addition to E-MAP, Brannock has expanded his entrepreneurial knowledge and skills through his work with the Clean Tech team on the Frankel Commercialization Fund, which engages students in the very beginning stages of research commercialization. “Before coming to the Ross School, I worked at MegaWatt Solar, an early-stage solar company, but I had no idea what venture-capital investors look for,” he says. “The fund has provided valuable insight into the clean-tech industry from the investor’s perspective.”
Brannock interned over the summer in the General Electric Renewable Energy Leadership Program. He has been accepted as a Fellow in the McGowan Fellows Program, which offers full-tuition scholarships to second-year MBA students who demonstrate high academic achievement and leadership. The program encourages future business leaders to recognize the value of ethical business practices and to advance efforts to improve societal conditions for the less-fortunate.