Turning big ideas into viable business


By Gracie Mullan

Have an idea or invention that is poised to change the world? Unless it answers one giant question, there’s not a very big chance of success, according to Roger Dagen. Dagen is the Executive in Residence for Transformation Business Services Network (TBSN) at Ben Franklin Technology Partners, which is widely considered one of Pennsylvania’s greatest business and development programs. But before the TBSN dream team jumps in to handle the technical side of starting a business, it directs entrepreneurs to ask a hard question about their product.

“You need to get out of the lab and talk to people who you believe are your customers,” Dagen said. “Don’t talk about your product — talk about their problem. Ask them, if you would do something different, what would you do?”

“And then, once you have a broader understanding of the problems that your customers are facing, only then can you understand the nuances of how your product can solve those problems.”

He said that customer discovery — a requirement in Ben Franklin TechCelerator — is a game-changer for startup founders. “It often results in a pivot because how founders thought their product would be needed isn’t close to being true.”

Dagen has over 40 years of business experience, including serving as the Director of Penn State’s MBA Program at the Smeal College of Business, and today utilizes his expertise to help give small, medium and large business operations a critical boost to jumpstart profitability.

Roger Dagen, Executive-in-Residence for Transformation Business Services Network (TBSN) at Ben Franklin Technology Partners.

Along with the rest of the Transformation Business Services Network team, he helps company founders with resources for accounting, sales, human resources, operations, production management, financial planning and market research.

“We focus on helping transition the startup companies from an idea to a solid plan to start and grow their business. We utilize the Business Model Canvas conceptual framework, which helps them engage in customer discovery, leading to a point where they can achieve the all important product-market fit.”

Dagen’s own business journey started in Minneapolis and took him all over the United States. But when he got to State College, he put down roots.

“It’s just such a great place to live!” he said. “From the climate to the small town atmosphere to healthcare — it really has all the elements to be one of the top 10 places to live.”

Beyond the livability, he said that Happy Valley is perfectly positioned for entrepreneurs, and has tremendous potential in the business sector.

“We have a very robust networking and support system for startup companies. Organizations like Invent Penn State, Happy Valley Launchbox, Penn State Small Business Development Center, Ben Franklin and so many more are there for entrepreneurs to utilize to meet their goals.”

“There are just so many opportunities here,” he said.


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