Introducing Lucid

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Team Name: Lucid LLC


Andrew Ashur ’18

David Danielson ’19

Adrian Mayans ’19


How We Got Here:

Back in the fall, we had an idea of a way to more efficiently and safely clean skyscrapers by using drone technology. Since then we have been off to the races, as we have obtained a provisional patent, developed a functional prototype, incorporated as an LLC in North Carolina, passed the FAA remote pilot license exam for commercial drone operation, and have begun earning revenue.

What We Do:

Currently, we are operating as an all encompassing pressure washing company for houses and we wash vinyl siding, brick, driveways, front stoops, fences, patios, etc. Additionally, we are continuing to further improve upon our prototype to enhance its efficiency and cleaning capabilities. Our prototype allows us to clean tall, hard to reach surfaces that had previously been dangerous to clean by combining the versatility of a flying drone with the cleaning capabilities of a pressure washer..

Where we’re going/what’s to come:

Lucid LLC has three big steps in the near future, with the first one being to add a new feature to our prototype that will allow us to easily clean windows with our drone. Secondly, we are applying to various accelerator programs and funding competitions to allow us to further develop our idea on a larger scale. Lastly, we will be working diligently with our lawyer to file our nonprovisional patent.

Liz StevensIntroducing Lucid
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Final Update

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I would like to start by saying how grateful I am to Innovation & Entrepreneurship for allowing me to do this project. Through the Failure Fund I have been able to:

1. Buy my own domain name

2. Use managed wordpress hosting to build my site,

3. Subscribe to the New York Times to make sure I always had access to trustworthy sources

4. Purchase a kindle, a stylus and drawing app to make eye-catching images to go with my writing

5. Follow through on a project I’ve been wanting to pursue since my sophomore year

I cannot believe how quickly time has moved on this project, how much I have accomplished, and how much I have left to do. When I started this process, I was overwhelmed, to say the least. Every decision felt enormous, and I had no idea how to gauge whether or not a spending decision would be the right one. What if I bought a theme and it turned out not to work? What if I got a tablet and it turned out the drawings were awful? What if I promote the site and no one reads it anyway? Eventually, I kept reminding myself, and having Liz remind me, why I was given the funds in the first place: to take a risk.

A few things I know for certain have paid off:

  1. I love the writing. I’ve turned in blog posts for my independent study that have been longer than anything else I’ve written at Davidson except one semester long paper. I’ve spent ages digging into topics because I am determined to think everything through carefully and from as many angles as possible. I’m definitely going to keep writing post-graduation, and I’m really looking forward to it.
  2. The kindle-drawings work. Am I the best artist? Absolutely not. But I’ve decided that the look I ended up with, which I refer to as my “snarky kindergartener aesthetic,” works for the mood and tone of the blog, and I think will definitely grab people’s attention. I definitely plan to continue that as well.
  3. I pushed myself. Deciding to take on this project was scary in its own way, and new things are cropping up to frighten me in new ways. I had to get past second-guessing everything I wrote, and wondering if I had the authority to be speaking to these concepts. Yes, I do. I had to get past feeling like I needed to be certain about everything before trying anything. I remain certain about nothing, and I’ve accepted it. Now I’m working on the fear of backlash on my posts. Anything controversial on social media can get so ugly, and the more attention I bring to this website the more criticism I invite on my writing and my self. The old doubts about whether I am smart enough, educated enough, knowledgeable enough, are creeping in, and I’m afraid of what people will say. But I started this blog with a mission to educate and I won’t let fear get in the way of that either.

Moving forward, I will be using the remaining funds to advertise on social media and to pay people to edit posts and help create images as I split my focus a little more between generating content and attracting readers. I am really excited to see where this blog can go.

Liz StevensFinal Update
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Name: Ellie Rifkin,

Team Name:

How I Got Here: I was driven to start this blog by the level of toxicity in today’s politics, and the level of sensationalism: the conversations we have are so explosive and partisan that we ignore the major underpinnings. I initially started blogging about economics in English 201, but without the time or framework to continue, I put the project aside. Even though I’ve had this idea in the back of my mind for a long time, and have had encouragement from friends who say they appreciate when I take the time to explain things about economics to them–even though what they call “explaining things” I call “ranting.” Discovering that the Failure Fund program could provide me an opportunity to really develop the site, gain readership, and even attempt to turn it into a source of revenue, gave me the final push I needed.

What I Do: I blog about economic topics–theory, concepts, and current events– in a way intended to be accessible, understandable, and approachable to anyone with or without formal economics education. The topic ideas come from weekly econversations sessions, informal economics discussions with students lead by professor Shyam Gouri Suresh, who also provides guidance and feedback on the posts themselves as part of an independent study course that satisfies the writing requirement for the economics major.

Where I’m going/what’s to come: Now that the site is up and running and the content, with images, has been posted, I am ready to start in on building the site’s social media presence. From there, I can focus on drawing readership to the blog and getting to the point where I can begin to set up the blog for ad revenues.

Liz StevensIntroducing
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Failure Fund Reflection Post

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NXT LVL performing at Davidson College Battle of the Bands

NXT LVL performing at Davidson College Battle of the Bands

next level ent team in logo shirts

Our Failure Fund experience has been an invaluable learning experience and huge first step for our company. We have grown so much from this experience. With our first installment of funds from the Failure Fund grant we were able to do many things. First, we successfully opened up a joint account with Wells Fargo. Second, We ordered 50 NXT LVL shirts and publicly announced the launch of our clothing line to the Davidson student body. Third, we set up a PayPal account for mobile transactions. Finally, we applied for and got approved as an LLC through the LegalZoom website.

While we were waiting for Phase 2 funds we had the privilege of connecting with Davidson Alumni. We spoke with lawyer, Doug Kim, to discuss the legal implications of starting a business and managing a clothing line. We also spoke with Matt Loftus and Kevin Hubbard, Davidson alumni and founders of the clothing company Rhoback. We had a really good conversation about what mistakes we need to avoid as young entrepreneurs, how to generate interest for our merchandise and stay competitive in this business. These men became our mentors for legal matters and for running a clothing business.  

During this process we learned about the tough side of business as well. Our lawyer, Lyle informed us that our company/group name NXT LVL ENT was already being used by other companies, specifically BET. As a result, our brand was no longer secure and we would have to change our name. It was unexpected but something we had to accept. After brainstorming and researching we came up with a new name for our company and group, Trilla G ENT. We used the Phase 2 money to help us pay for the trademark fees. We’ll announce our new name officially at the beginning of our senior year.

We ended this experience on a high note however. We were able to recruit nine other artists into NXT LVL ENT. These new members will help us grow as a brand and help us fulfill our goal of becoming a successful artist collective. We were also able to sell all 50 our Nxt Lvl shirts to people of all ages, colors, creeds and races. We’ve been able to establish ourselves as a force on campus and we’ve gained more fans since the start of this experience. We owe a lot of our recent success to the Failure Fund team and we’re all very grateful. We’re confident that with all of the knowledge, connections and experience we’ve gained we’ll be able to effectively and efficiently tackle new challenges that will come our way. We just want to say thank you to everyone on the Failure Fund Team!

Liz StevensFailure Fund Reflection Post
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Blog Post 5

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A lot has happened these past two weeks. The biggest thing was the revelation made to us by our lawyer, Lyle. He informed us that our company/group name NXT LVL ENT was already being used by other companies, specifically BET. As a result, our brand was no longer secure and we would have to change our name. It was unexpected but something we should’ve seen coming. After brainstorming and researching we came up with a new name for our company and group, Trilla G ENT. We talked to Lyle and he told us that this name was safe to use so we’ll be pooling our resources together to pay for the trademark fees. We’ll announce our new name officially at the beginning of our senior year.

We had our big artist meeting with the potential prospects during Easter Break and it went great. Everyone was excited and they respected our vision. After talking with them individually and addressing their concerns we got them to agree to join our collective; so now our team is 10 members strong. We’ve finalized our budget and now the Phase 2 money from the Failure Fund is on the way and we’ll be allocating that money towards paying for the trademark fees. Last but not least, we’ve sold the majority of our Nxt Lvl Inventory. We only have a handful of shirts left and we aim to sell the rest within these next two weeks.

Liz StevensBlog Post 5
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Blog Post 5

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We’re on facebook! And instagram! I’m still in a little bit of an editing backlog on posts but I have a few more that are just about ready and a few more in the works. To make sure staying up to date on social media is manageable I’m going to carve out time to come up with a bunch of posts to archive: some witty tweets, images to share, etc, and take the time to write a really thoughtful instagram bio and introductory post. I realized that even though I have my “about page” on the site, translating to social media is different and will take time.

One of my biggest concerns right now is consistency. I am spending a lot of time on each individual post (as, I think, I should be), and there is no way I’m going to be able to generate new content quickly, as much as I might like to. I don’t want to get people to my page and then have them forget about it because the gaps between posts are too long, so I’m working on ideas to fill the gaps.

Liz StevensBlog Post 5
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Z Spools Reflection 9

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Although this week included Easter Break, it feels busier than any other. Considering my

dedication to Dance Ensemble — with me performing in four pieces, three of which I am

choreographing myself — I have not been able to dedicate all of the time I wished to Z Spools.

Now that I am reflecting on my work, I realize that I greatly overburdened myself with other

activities that I care much about but play no role in my academic pursuits. It also did not help

that my laptop got a virus this week and, for this reason, was out of commission. Next semester, I

will have to pay more attention to this tendency of mine as to avoid any unnecessary stress.


This is not to say that I did not accomplish anything this week. I was able to do a bit of

reflection regarding my work with Z Spools. Such reflection focused mainly on how I will use

my remaining Avinger Funds. While I do need to use funding for filament testing (mainly

transparency and strength testing) such services are quite expensive — upwards of $2,000. My

utility patent will already cost me approximately $3,000, so I will need to be a bit frugal with my

spending. While I do have the option of seeking angel funding — more particularly angel

funding or sponsorship from Filabot — I risk loosing 100% ownership of Z Spools and its

intellectual property.


Not just this, but to be completely honest, I feel as if I am loosing excitement with my

work with Z Spools. Do I want to invest much more money into a project that I am not as excited

about? I think talking to Filabot may help with this decrease in Z Spools charisma. During our

interview for a blog post, I foresee our conversation reigniting my curiosity for 3D printing. I

look forward to this as I further this relationship with Z Spools.

Liz StevensZ Spools Reflection 9
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Blog Post 4

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The past couple of weeks have been super productive. We received our order of 50 shirts from UTEES. Before we started selling them, we applied for and got approved as an LLC through the LegalZoom website. We announced that we were selling shirts to the campus and over the past 4 days we have sold over half of our inventory. Our customers have paid with cash and venmo and we’ve kept a record of all of our transactions. We found a website domain provider through GoDaddy that we will launch once we’ve received the Phase 2 funds. We’ve also set up a PayPal account for mobile transactions and a Twitter account.

We’ve also done research on other brand items. We’ve been looking into new shirts and stickers to help increase the spread of our brand. We’ll have the exact prices from our Utees rep soon. Our artists are also currently working on new designs for future merchandise. The budget has been updated save for the exact prices of the stickers and transportation costs. Finally, we were able to successfully apply for the Davidson Venture Fund Competition and will find out tomorrow if we’ve been accepted as finalists. Things are moving smoothly and we’re confident we’ll be able to sell all 50 shirts and create more buzz for future products.

Liz StevensBlog Post 4
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Z Spools Reflection 8

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Having received correspondence from Filabot and Davidson’s Venture Pitch Fund, this

was quite an eventful week. The good news first: I received a signed Non-Disclosure Agreement

from Filabot. Not just this, but through LinkedIn, I was able to contact and speak with Tyler

McNaney, the CEO of Filabot and a Forbes 30 under 30! I was able to introduce myself in the

following message:

3D Printing with Invasive Species

Dear Mr. McNaney,

My name is Lorena James, and I am the founder of Z Spools. My early stage

startup manufactures 3D printing filament out of invasive species found in the

Great Lakes.

This startup arose out of a senior thesis project completed at my high school in

Buffalo, NY. This project involved competing in Erie Hack, a pitch competition in

Cleveland, OH centered around the theme, “innovation around Lake Erie.” As a

native of Buffalo NY, I have grown up around this body of water and have

experienced both its beauty and its negative qualities, many of which involve

invasive species.

At Erie Hack, I pitched a business plan that would lessen the detrimental affects

of zebra and quagga mussels (two of the most prominent invasive species in Lake

Erie) and provide a new type of biodegradable 3D printing filament. I won this

competition with Z Spools and, as a result, gained financial support and

mentorship from the Cleveland Water Alliance, Ohio State University, the

University at Buffalo, 43 North, and Davidson College.

I would not have been able to accomplish much of this work without the services

and materials provided by Filabot. I have experience working with your PLA

pellets, EX2 Extruder, Spooler, and Airpath; I have nothing but good things to say.

I look forward to continuing this relationship with Filabot as I continue with my

3D printing, environmental, and business endeavors; by the end of the month, I

will send some Z Spools materials to Filabot as to take advantage of your Plastic

Extrusion Testing Services.

Thank you for such exceptional and supportive services; I anticipate what is to

come with Filabot and Z Spools!


Lorena James

Davidson College 2021

Z Spools, Founder

In response, Mr. McNaney expressed interest in writing a Filabot blog post about Z Spools! In

the upcoming weeks, I will move forward with this relationship along with filament testing with



In other news, unfortunately, I was not chosen as a Finalist for the Venture Fund Pitch

Competition. While this competition was worked into my syllabus, as always, I must change and

adapt. So, I now plan to organize a final presentation in May as to showcase my work with Z

Spools at Davidson. This presentation will allow me to not just provide a business pitch, but a

more cumulative view of Z Spools and my work thus far.

Liz StevensZ Spools Reflection 8
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Blog Post 4

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The site is up and running with images! After getting feedback from a friend on what worked and didn’t work, I have fine-tuned what I’m calling my “snarky kindergartener aesthetic.” While I’ll keep honing the image style as I hone the content style, I am happy with the current images and I now feel that the site is strong enough to begin actively recruiting readership. I am still facing some technical difficulties (such as getting the featured images to format the way I want them, rather than taking up more than a screen length in size), but these are small bumps in the road that can be worked out smoothly and with time. Early last week, I had the honor of being invited to speak to Dr. Shireen Campbell’s professional writing class, which is the course in which I initially started blogging about economics. I spoke to them both about developing the blog and the process of applying for grants and writing proposals. In the coming weeks, I’m looking toward shifting my focus away from content and web development and toward more general web presence: facebook, twitter, instagram, SEO and etc.

Liz StevensBlog Post 4
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