CSU Ventures serves creative on-campus innovators

Jeremy Podany, left, and Chris White collaborated to serve students better — and created a demand for their innovative product. CSU Photography

In the 21st century, not all technological innovations come from scientists working on grant-funded projects. More and more, innovation comes from people looking for a better way to do their everyday jobs – and technology makes it possible for them to share their new ideas.

Take Jeremy Podany, for example. The director of the Career Center at Colorado State University knew, from his decade and a half in career services, that there had to be a more efficient way for students to learn about and, more importantly, use the wealth of services offered by his center.

“Our website was, frankly, a mess,” he said. “We had 30 to 40 resources on our website that were hard to find and hard to define. There was no way for students to easily discern what resources were right for them.”

As a result, the Career Center wasn’t able to assist as many CSU students as it should have. So Podany brought an idea to the Career Center’s web and app developer Chris White that would rethink the entire process.

“As we talked about it, we realized we needed something like Cars.com,” he recalled. “Students should be able to type in what they were looking for and the site would search and sort according to those keywords. You should be able to enter as many keywords as you want and then be able to go directly to the resource once the results are returned.”

Redesign in demand

Sounds so simple now, but in 2012 there was nothing like that in university career advising, according to Podany. That year, the Career Center’s 40 online resources received a total of about 2,500 clicks, with some getting fewer than 10 clicks annually.

With the Career Tools redesign, the site now offers students 480 searchable and sortable resources – which receive 13,000+ page views annually.

In 2012, Podany and the Career Center staff entered the idea in the Mountain Pacific Association of Colleges and Employers innovation competition – and won.  He also began fielding a growing number of requests for the software behind the system from campuses across the country that wanted to implement Career Tools, too.

“Based on feedback from around the nation, we knew that Career Tools had some commercial potential, so in 2013 we built a version to export to other career centers,” Podany said. “We didn’t create it to make money, we just wanted to serve students better.”

While Podany had no desire to start running his own company to market Career Tools, he did want to make it available to others in his field – and making some money that could go back into the Career Center would be an extra bonus.

Support from CSU Ventures

So he turned to CSU Ventures, the technology transfer arm of CSU. CSU Ventures has helped researchers turn their work in science and engineering labs on campus into marketable products, resulting in 590 inventions, 115 patents, 196 licenses, 30 startup companies and $5.94 million in revenue to CSU in the past five years alone.

But Podany’s product was a different animal. In essence, the product was already developed, and it was selling itself to its own very important but narrow market. He and White created the site Campuscareerinnovations.com for other university career advising professionals, and CSU Ventures hosts it.

“This is a new way for us to go,” said Todd Headley, CEO of CSU Ventures. “This is just one way in which CSU Ventures has evolved to better serve Colorado State’s creative faculty and staff.”

Podany, who admits he’s probably an entrepreneur who just happens to be good at career services, is thrilled that Career Tools has been adopted by more than a dozen colleges and universities in its first six months, and is growing in popularity.

He has also worked with White and the Career Center team to launch another new project through campuscareerinnovations.com: the Career Fairs App, which lets students prepare for and navigate a career fair from their mobile device.