Active Desk: Part Desk, Part Stationary Bike

While business schools across the country teach case studies from a book, students at the University of Utah are getting a completely different experience through the Lassonde New Venture Development Center — they are developing their own case studies.

Graduate students in the Lassonde New Venture Development Center are paired with faculty inventors. The students, who come from departments across campus, receive scholarships to spend a school year researching the invention and writing a business plan.

“This is what makes the MBA worth it,” Stuart Wooley says. “If you just want to go to class, read a book.”

Wooley is an MBA student working with classmates Josh Dunford and Dane Timmons to help launch a new exercise technology developed by Jim Martin, a professor of exercise and sport science. Martin is the inventor of ActiveDesk, a workstation that combines a custom desk with a stationary recumbent bicycle.

Martin’s goal is simple: “I want to save the world from obesity,” he says. “Thirty-five percent of the U.S. is obese.” But he can’t do it alone. “I can’t do everything,” he says. “There’s not enough of me. Not only that but I don’t know business.”

Students in the Lassonde New Venture Development Center fill this gap. They help inventors like Martin do market research and create financial models necessary to run a successful company. Along the way, they gain one of the most meaningful experiences of their educations.

“Working on a real business, there is so much more you can learn than in a classroom,” Dunford says.

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