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From Concept to Company: Law School’s IP Venture Clinic helps launch nationally recognized student startup

Thursday, August 24, 2017  /  Rate this article:
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CWRU Senior Matt Campagna, CEO and cofounder of Reflexion Interactive Technologies.
CWRU Senior Matt Campagna, CEO and cofounder of Reflexion Interactive Technologies.

In a field of more than 200 entries from college startups from around the country, a company co-founded by a Case Western Reserve University student stood out. Reflexion Interactive Technologies placed third in the national Student Startup Madness Competition’s final round at South by Southwest Interactive in March 2017.

Success during the competition was an important next step in taking Reflexion from concept to commercialization, a long and challenging path that is being paved with the help of a unique third-year law clinic focused on removing economic and legal barriers for Ohio inventors.

Reflexion Interactive Technologies was founded by three college students in August, 2015, with an idea that emerged from the personal experience of co-founder and CMO Matthew Roda.

While playing ice hockey in high school, Roda was injured while sliding head first into the boards. Without any technology available to help understand the complex symptoms of a concussion, Roda was asked three simple questions- where are you, what year is it, and who is the president? Roda passed the test and finished the game, but couldn’t remember any of it. He had suffered a concussion so severe, he was unable to attend school of the next two months.

From youth sports teams to professional sports leagues, awareness of the short and long term implications of concussions has come a long way as new research and technology has been dedicated to studying their effects. But the ability to quickly and accurately diagnose concussions has, for many, shown little progress. Players and coaches around the world are often relying on the same overly simplistic test questions that have been asked of athletes from decades ago.

Roda, a junior at Penn State, along with Cornell University senior Patrick Walsh (CIO) and CWRU junior Matt Campagna (CEO), are pushing a new innovation to the market that combines today’s technology with the modern medical understanding of concussion’s immediate effects on an athlete’s neurological function, spatial awareness, depth perception and peripheral vision.

The Reflexion Edge is a portable, collapsible, LED touchscreen that resembles an ultra-wide Light Brite. The equipment is designed to give athletes a weekly 30 second test where they quickly touch the individual lights as they turn on in order to establish a baseline of their motor skills. Following any collision where a possible concussion is suspected, teams can quickly compare an athlete’s performance against their regular test results and better determine if they should be allowed to return to the field.

With the concept and technology in place, Reflexion took the next step forward in Fall 2016, when they were taken on as a client of the Intellectual Property Venture Clinic (IPVC), part of Case Western Reserve University School of Law’s Spangenberg Center for Law, Technology & the Arts.

The IPVC launched in 2013 with the help of a $679,400 grant from the Burton D. Morgan Foundation as part of a large scale effort to foster innovation and spur economic development in northeast Ohio. The grant allows the law school to not only provide one-of-a-kind training for law students in the business world, but also offer free legal and business expertise to student inventors and local startup companies as they enter the market. Reflexion is just one of more than 40 IPVC clients being handled by the clinic’s 11 law students, with several more startups in waiting for consideration.

“On one side, you have a great new idea, but it doesn’t have the resources to take the next step,” said Professor Ted Theofrastous, manager of the IPVC. “On the other, you have investors looking for opportunities in a market where significant barriers are preventing many startups from ever reaching the stage of being a commercial property. We’re working to bridge that gap, give our students strong experience in the broad spectrum of corporate law, and help these startups bring great new economic opportunities to the region.”

“The work we are doing with Reflexion is a perfect example of the service our clinic provides,” said Theofrastous. “We’re creating a strategy to protect the broad spectrum of their potential intellectual property including patents, trademarks, trade secrets and copyright, while also providing pro bono counsel on corporate, tax, contract and all other law that goes into developing a business from scratch.”

What makes the IPVC unique is the blend of business, intellectual property law, venture capitalization, and corporate counseling experience and training the clinic provides for law students, where the work they are exposed to is uncommon not just for students, but for early-career legal professionals.

“We take them to the deep end of the pool and teach them to swim fast,” said Theofrastous. “We have every student working to form companies, get the kind of face time with clients that usually comes much later in a career and perform the work they learned in class out in the real world. When they graduate, they will have the people skills, confidence and tangible experience to showcase themselves to employers.”

For Reflexion’s Matt Campagna, the work done in the clinic was an indispensable asset to the company.

“The clinic really became part of the team, and I find myself going to them more and more for general advice because they became so knowledgeable about the company. Frankly, we wouldn’t have been able to do a lot of what we have without them because it wouldn’t have been in the budget.”

“We would have needed to raise more money or give up more control of the company. Having the clinic there to help structure things the way they need to be and do things right the first time has given us a lot of protection for ourselves, our employees, and our intellectual property,” said Campagna. “We would have been stretched to find other ways to do it because it cost so much.”

To date, Reflexion has raised more than $150,000 from angel investors, grants, and the Ben Franklin Technology Partners. In May 2017, they took first place in The Investment, a Shark Tank inspired competition for Penn State University student inventors for an additional $15,000. The company also completed phase one of its clinical study in the same month.

The IPVC’s work with Reflexion will continue through series A financing, the company’s first significant round of venture capital financing, when they will have enough resources to afford their own legal services. When that happens, the clinic’s mission will be accomplished.

“You can’t buy ideas or force creativity. There is an organic factor to it, so we’re working to foster an innovative and lucrative marketplace here where the best minds and best ideas can thrive,” said Theofrastous. “I’m very proud of the work our students have done across all of our clients, and we look forward to being a part of launching the next generation of Ohio businesses.”

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Comments on article "Remembering Saif Alameri"

Saeed Al Ali

12/16/2016 4:53 PM

Saif studied law at United Arab Emirates University, the university that I and most UAE LLM and SJD students studied in. He is older than me and began studying in UAEU before me, I saw him there several times, but because the age and classes are different, I didn’t interact with him there in UAE.

On the first day in Cleveland, I saw him. I remember him saying his name, my name is Saif, S … A … I… F. He was funny, even in a very serious situation. Saif helped me many times and acted as brother to all of us, even though we didn’t know each other before July 11. Saif is very kind. He smiles, and says hello to everyone. I visited him in his apartment, and actually lived there for a couple of days before my apartment was ready. That was the first week of law school. He didn’t know me well but he refused to make me live in hotel and he said, "your brother is here." I noticed also that he has a good relationship with his neighbors. He knows all of them and always says hello to them and asks them if they need any help. He was a special person.

At the end, we lost one of our brothers. We know that we can’t return him back to life again, but we have hope and confidence that our embassy attorneys will make every possible effort to get his right to punish his killer. My last final exam is on Friday and my flight is on the same day. The first thing I will do after I arrive and see my family is to visit my brother's family.


Jihanne (Jane) Flegeau

12/17/2016 2:07 PM

Saif is the first person I met when I arrived at Case Law School. I had been dreaming of this day for the past few months, yet I was stressed and anxious. On my way to the first LLM meeting, I stumbled upon Saif. He was sitting on the bench, the one we all love. The perfect spot when it's sunny. We talked a little, he made me laugh, smile and realize that everything will be all right.

This is how I will remember him. As a bright and kind man.

Saif was about to have a glorious life, filled with joy, friends and love.

I still find it difficult to acknowledge that it really happened. I'm heartbroken and traumatized, as we all are. But I made myself the promise that I will never forget Saif, his kindness and this terrible and unfair end. I will carry him in my heart from now on. I will be thinking of him on our graduation day because he was going to be with us, celebrating our American degrees. I will take his memories with me when I will go back to France. I'll talk about him with my friends and family so no one will ever forget that nothing in life is granted.

All my thoughts are going to his family and close friends. I know how hard it is trying to find a sense to something that just doesn't make any sense...

Please be strong and take care.


Arsalan Alvi

12/19/2016 11:47 AM

I met Saif, along with many other friends from UAE and all over the world, during the orientation week when I was struggling to find an accommodation. Saif was one of those few friends who first reached out to me and tried to help me. Over time, our friendship grew in school and outside as we met everyday and shared many beautiful memorable laughters that I shall remember him by and cherish forever.

I remember the last time we met after a class. We were both on our way home and when he caught me worried about my exams (my natural reaction to exams), he said, "You will get honors, wait and see. You are smart."

Things will not be the same again without his shining smiles and valuable insights in our conversations, but I am certain that he will be looking down on us and smiling on graduation day when all his friends in LLM will make him proud.


Ali Alblooshi

12/20/2016 3:30 AM

I have had the privilege of knowing Saif since May 2015. We have a scholarship from ADNOC. We were supposed to join together in the national service and then work in the same company. But his death was closer than all of that.

I miss his humor, and the beautiful smile, which greeted us every morning and evening.

It's hard merely to think that we will not meet again with our friend, but Saif's memories will live on in our hearts, our prayers, our conversation and in every corner and place we met with him.

Saeed and I met with Saif's family yesterday, and we transfered these condolences to them. They thanked us for our feelings about Saif's death.

At the end, I can only mention as I believe: "We surely belong to Allah and to Him we shall return."

May Allah have mercy on him.


Hamad Aleissaee

12/20/2016 5:36 PM

Saif and I took most classes together in law school in the UAE, but I never had the chance to talk with him. Last year, we studied English in the same university in PA. We had been communicating a lot every day and hanging out because he was my roommate for one semester. Saif was very very kind and friendly to me and to anybody he met with. So, that is why Saif had a lot of friends in PA. Saif liked to help his friends any time they asked him for help. Saif and I and his friends had amazing moments together even when we moved to Cleveland. He had many friends as he had a wonderful personality.

Actually, sometimes I feel that I'm in a dream. I could not believe his death. It is hard to forget all the memories we had together. Saif will be in my mind as long as I study in Cleveland, especially at CWRU, as I really considered Saif one of my brothers.

May Allah (god) have mercy on him.


Ernesto Biternas

12/21/2016 1:50 AM

I can just say that I loved Saif, and that I hope he is in that better place that he believed to be real... Rest in peace my beloved friend...you left my heart in mourning.


Ernesto Biternas

12/21/2016 2:26 AM

I don't know if this was Saif's favorite song, but he sure listened to it a lot.

https://youtu.be/_dujteZgI54


Elizabeth Hornberger

12/21/2016 11:51 PM

This past summer, I had the privilege of teaching a small group of incoming LLM students. I was lucky enough to have a great group of individuals (Group #1!), and lucky for all of us, Saif was a part of our group. Teaching over the summer was terrific. Every single one of my students brought a different background, perspective, personality, and understanding of American law, and each student was intelligent in his/her own way.

Saif always stuck out in my mind because of a particular class during the second week of the summer semester. Prior to class, I ran into him in the hallway. Due to our lucky encounter, I told on him that I was going to call on him first. He became flustered and explained that he was not wholly prepared and begged on me not to call on him.

When we started class that day we began covering one of our Property Law cases, Pierson v. Post. That case was between two parties-- one who began chasing a fox and one who saw the other chasing the fox and took the opportunity to kill and take away the fox before he did. The entire issue in the case was determining whether the fox was the property of the "chaser" or of the party that killed it.

I did not call on Saif for the beginning of the class as we went over the majority ("winning") opinion. But after reviewing why the majority ruled as it did, I asked the students who they would have decided for. The entire class agreed with the majority- Saif was particularly sold by the majority's reasoning. I remember him breaking down the analysis into "you capture it, you win."

With the lopsided vote in place, we then reviewed the dissenting ("losing") opinion and its reasons. I began trying to play devil's advocate, asking questions from the chaser's side (i.e. "But I put in all the work! Why does someone else get what I worked so hard for?!"). The students sat there quiet for about 30 seconds and I noticed that Saif sat in the back grasping his head while he thought. Then his eyes lit up and he immediately raised his hand. When I called on him, he said, "I agree with the dissent!" When I pushed him on why he changed his mind, he explained some great policy considerations to the class.

While that day does not seem like a great big deal or is not a particularly funny story, it stuck with me because Saif did not come prepared to class that day. Yet, he still caught on quickly and broke down the arguments into his own words. He was brilliant and always exhibited that brilliance with humility and charm.

I only taught the LLM students for four weeks, but my students continue to say "hello" and keep me updated about their lives and schooling. Saif was a particularly bright spot in the law school and my day because he was so personable and always made me laugh. The Arabic luncheon that he and other LLM students hosted a few weeks ago was one of the coolest moments during this past semester for me. The food was terrific, but the best part was how excited all of the hosting students were to show off their cultures and backgrounds. Saif had a huge smile on his face during the luncheon and it was so cool to see all of the LLM students enjoying themselves and teaching me things about their lives back home.

I am so thankful for the short time I had to get to know Saif. I continue to read and hear things about him that make me laugh and smile. All of the stories are so "Saif-like" because they are funny and bring a smile to my face.

I wish Saif's family and friends warm thoughts during this difficult time and want them to know that Saif was a meaningful member of the CWRU law community.


GuzeI Sаkаevа

1/4/2017 10:57 AM

There’s no word that can express how sorry we are to hear about the death of your friend Saif. We were very stunned to hear this news and still can’t believe that it really happened.

Saif was a person who was always ready to help.

I remember these moments when I am coming late, running into a classroom or trying to find a vacant seat. Saif always gave his place to me. When I forgot my books, he always lent me his books.

Last time I saw him studying in the Coffeehouse, he told me: "Good luck on your exams; enjoy this wonderful time!"

I will miss his warmth and humor. My thoughts and prayers are always with him.


Siyuan Yu

2/21/2017 9:26 AM

We are with you. We are here for you.


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