USC’s Vice President of Research elected as Board Chair of the University-Industry Demonstration Partnership (UIDP)

Randolph Hall, Ph.D., Vice President of Research at USC, has been elected to be the incoming Board Chair for the University-Industry Demonstration Partnership (UIDP), a project-oriented, membership organization whose mission is to improve industry-university collaborations. His term begins July 1, 2016.

The UIDP has a singular focus – and that is to improve university-industry collaborations by convening leading experts and practitioners from academia and industry to identify practical approaches and solutions to common challenges. “The UIDP is composed of leading innovation firms and research intensive universities. We are fortunate to have Dr. Randolph Hall, a recognized academic leader from one of the world’s great universities, serve as our incoming Board Chair,” said Anthony Boccanfuso, President of UIDP.

Hall will serve on the UIDP Board’s Executive Committee and actively participate in setting the group’s agenda in areas such as finance, membership, outreach and projects. Following his one year term as incoming Chair, Dr. Hall will rotate to the Presiding Chair position, then a final year as Immediate Past Chair.

As Vice President of Research at USC, Hall is responsible for research advancement, ethics, and administration for USC’s nearly $700 million research portfolio. The USC Stevens Center for Innovation, USC’s center for technology transfer and corporate research relations, is one of the units that reports to him. Vasiliki Anest, Senior Director of Corporate Collaborations at USC Stevens serves as USC’s UIDP representative. “UIDP projects and publications help overcome challenges and provide opportunities to increase the success of university-industry collaborations. USC has been an active member and we look forward to working with UIDP to strengthen relationships between universities and industry,” said Hall.

Hall’s election marks the first time a USC representative has held the board Chair position at UIDP. The UIDP board currently is led by Karl F. Koster (Executive Director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Office of Corporate Relations) and will be followed by Debbie Radasch, Director, Strategic Universities for Boeing Research & Technology, on July 1st.

ABOUT RANDOLPH HALL: Hall is Vice President of Research at the University of Southern California, and is responsible for leading research initiatives across the university, overseeing research advancement, administration and ethics. As Vice President, Hall has led the creation of policies to catalyze collaborative research, including changes in promotions and tenure, research attribution, and shared repositories; creation of funding programs that support collaborative research and shared equipment; and infrastructure and events enabling digital scholarship. He has helped faculty create national research centers, built alliances with external research institutes, developed the Center for Excellence in Research, created the DC-based research advancement office, and built an integrated research office that encompasses contracts and grants, technology transfer, human subject protection, animal resources, clinical trial administration, research ethics, research training, research advancement and internal grant programs. Hall’s experience includes serving as the founder/principal investigator for two national research centers, the Center for Risk and Economic Analysis of Terrorism Events (CREATE), and the National Center for Metropolitan Transportation Research (METRANS). He also served as senior associate dean for research in the Viterbi School of Engineering for four years. Hall was chair of Industrial and Systems Engineering during a period when the faculty size grew by 50%, and when it became the first named academic department at the University of Southern California, upon receipt of a $10 million gift from Daniel J. Epstein. Hall received his Ph.D. (1982) and M.S. (1980) in civil engineering from U.C. Berkeley. He received his B.S. in industrial engineering and operations research from U.C. Berkeley in 1979.

ABOUT UIDP: The University Industry Demonstration Partnership was created by the National Academy of Sciences as a forum for representatives from universities and industry to find better ways to partner. Every year, companies spend billions of dollars on academic research. UIDP supports its members and their employees in finding better ways to use valuable research resources. The UIDP is a project-oriented organization where members identify issues impacting university-industry (U-I) relations and opportunities to develop new approaches to partnership and collaboration. UIDP members identify, create and test demonstrations and practical approaches to address both operational and strategic issues, resulting in proofs of concept and unique insights for U-I collaboration going forward.

For more information on USC Research and Innovation, please visit: http://research.usc.edu/innovation/

Start with a Problem not a Solution

Start with a Problem not a Solution – A trap that many products fall into. People don’t actually need what you’re building.

Original article by Mikael Cho of Crew published on Medium

A product in search of a problem.

A trap that many products fall into. People don’t actually need what you’re building.

If a product doesn’t solve a problem, no one cares.

This is why when we started Crew, the first thing we focused on was making sure we were solving a problem, even if our product was primitive and many things were done manually rather than with technology.

To help us gain insight into what’s working and what’s not, we look at 3 main signals:

1. Data — Numbers showing how people are using Crew
2. Customer input — Emails, phone calls, or suggestions from customers after using Crew
3. Intuition — How do we feel when we use Crew? What do we think needs to be improved?

One of the main focuses for us is looking at the repeat usage of Crew members posting projects.

We want our product to be so useful that our members don’t just use us once but every time they need creative work.

Experience = multiple “wow moments”

(not just one)

Think about the first time you used a great product.

It probably felt like it was designed for you. Every action you wanted to do felt right. Your senses (vision, touch, sound) were in tune with the product.

You might’ve said “wow” while using it.

That product touched you on an emotional level and you remember it. You shared it. And you want to use it again.

I know it might be a tired example, but I felt this type of positive emotion the first time I used Uber. Uber’s app connects you with drivers to get around your city.

At first, it may seem like using Uber would not be that much better than calling a cab. But, the trick to Uber’s stickiness is not just one, but multiple “wow moments” that make it substantially better than calling a cab.

The first time I used Uber, there were 4 distinct “wow moments”:

1. How do I know if a cab is available right now?

Uber shows you cabs around you on a map.

2. When will my driver show up?

Uber shows you a map of where your driver is with an estimated time of arrival

3. Will my driver take credit card or do I need cash?

Uber connects with your credit card.

4. What should I tip?

Uber automatically includes a tip you set.

The way Uber baked multiple “wow moments” into their product is one reason why their system is so strong.

With each additional “wow moment”, your chances of using Uber’s app increases compared to hailing a cab.

However, one of the challenges with creating multiple “wow moments” within your product is that they take time to construct. Uber took a year to build their first app and launched in one city.

You need to be patient and willing to go all-in on a problem to create an experience worthy of multiple “wow moments.” Creating the right experience is risky when you might not have all the signals to say what you’re building is the right thing. But that’s part of the road to building a differentiated product. You won’t have all the answers at the start.

To reduce risk, you can begin by focusing on the main one or two “wow moments”.

This may not be good enough to create the full experience you’re after but as you build more and seek to reach that same level of quality of that one “wow moment,” your product will get closer to what you’re after.

This is what we did.

The first “wow moment” we focused on was helping you find a vetted, qualified designer/developer within a day.

Finding the right designers and developers is hard even for the best technical companies like Facebook and Google. Because software is becoming a need for almost every business, the supply for software engineers and designers is throwing the demand curve for a loop.

In Crew, we’ve found that finding the right designer within a day creates a “wow moment” for about 25% of our customers. After matching a project with a designer/developer we help with things like managing the project and payment but not at the level of quality to create multiple “wow moments”. Yet.

To find the areas we need to improve we used our 3 signals (metrics, customer input, and our intuition) to make a long list of problems.

When defining what to build, it’s often best to start by picking out the right problems to focus on and not get too caught up in solutions yet.

How we solve each of these problems could be done thousands of different ways.

For now, getting problems down is the focus. We can define potential solutions later.

Before this meeting, we each took a week and made a long list of problems from different perspectives:

Angus — Engineering

Kirill — Design

Steph — Customer happiness

Mikael — High level

Angus broke down the problems from clearly defined and easy to do to undefined and needs to be discussed (Hard To Solve means needs to be discussed):

Our plan is Angus and our product team will start development on the bottom (the clearly defined tasks) while Kirill, Steph, and I tackle the higher order issues on top that need more refinement before development can start.

We’ll work toward the middle. As we define the hard to solve issues, and as what needs to be built becomes clearer, those items will drop down to obvious fixes and we can build them.

Hard problems aren’t bad. Hard problems can be the best opportunities for you to “wow” your customers if you build them right.

The bigger the problem, the bigger the opportunity.

Building Crew in Public

Privacy be damned. Building Crew in Public is a series of 6 short essays on product design philosophy and the struggles we faced designing our own product. You can read the original, On The Road-inspired version on the Crew Backstage blog.

1. We’re all selling experiences

2. You Are Here

3. Constraints, not barriers

4. Ask lots of questions

5. Anatomy of a homepage

6. The journey is more important than the destination: Designing the optimal onboarding flow

7 LA-Based Apps for Recent Grads (Built in LA)

A mobile marketplace for millennial renters, RadPad aims to take the pain out of finding and leasing an apartment. The LA-based company allows users to apply for leases easily, and to pay for all transactions (including rent) via a debit or credit card.

Third day of a hangover? It might actually be the flu. The problem is: no one wants to navigate LA traffic with the flu. Heal brings a pediatrician or family doctor to your residence for a flat $99 fee.

Given the amount of time Los Angelenos spend commuting, the odds of being stranded on the side of the road are pretty high. HONK’s aim is simple: they provide a simple app where users can indicate their situation, and the wait time for help is usually just 15-30 minutes.

Looking to make a little extra cash on the side? toot is an on-demand tutoring service that allows recent grads to offer their services to students in a cashless, easy-to-manage system.

 

There’s always a degree of unknown when heading to a bar on a given night, and Roo’s goal is to eliminate that. Users review a bar in real time so that potential customers can judge via their phone whether it’s worth a trip.

 

When it comes to fitness, motivation can be an issue for anyone. Fit’s app fights that, connecting like-minded individuals to exercise together. Whether it be yoga in the park or a pick-up basketball game, Fit brings together people who want to work out.

 

Santa Monica-based Wash.io is the on-demand laundry and dry cleaning service that we’ve all been dreaming of. Users specify a date, time and purpose of the pick-up (dry cleaning or bulk laundry), and a Wash.io driver comes and picks it up.

Startup Feature: 121C Boards

WHAT THEY DO

“121C collects waste carbon fiber from companies in the aerospace industry and upcycles the material to make the highest quality skateboards on the market. Our boards are light, incredibly strong and a blast to  ride.”

HOW 121C WAS BORN

“At first I wanted to make carbon fiber skateboards with the scrap that the rocket lab was generating, and when I realized how big of a problem carbon waste was for the industry, I knew I had to start a business.”

MOST REWARDING STARTUP EXPERIENCE

“We recently had a successful Kickstarter campaign for $44,000 and have been signing on new companies to collect material from. We’ve also been featured in articles on USC’s website.”

OVERCOMING OBSTACLES

“Half way through our kickstarter campaign, our manufacturer bailed on us and we had to lease a facility and bring everything in house. At first, this was a challenge, but it ended up being a blessing. “

ADVICE TO ENTREPRENEURS

“Be prepared to work a ton.”

Download a PDF version of this page

5 Trojan Startups Acquired by Major Tech Companies [by Trojan Family Magazine]

Original article from Trojan Family Magazine written by Katharine Gammon

FOR MANY STARTUPS, being acquired by a like-minded, well-respected large company is the ultimate payoff for years of hard work and planning. Here are just a few of the unique ventures from USC alumni that caught the attention of major tech companies.

200px-The_Wavii_logo

Wavii

Founder: Adrian Aoun ’05, MS ’05

Acquired by Google in 2013

Wavii offered users quick news updates, tailored to favorite topics such as celebrities or athletes, that could be accessed through an iPhone app. Its features were folded into Google.


blendspace-logo-dialog-1

Blendspace

(originally called EdCanvas)

Founder: Amy Lin ’08, MS ’09

Acquired by TES Global in 2014

The Blendspace app helps teachers organize digital content, giving them convenient access to YouTube videos, PDFs, pictures, Dropbox files and more. It also allows teachers to share their content with students and track student learning with built-in assessments.


virtual-tourist

VirtualTourist.com and Onetime.com

Founder: J.R. Johnson ’93

Acquired by TripAdvisor, a property of Expedia, in 2008

VirtualTourist.com is a free online community with user-generated travel guides, reviews and online forums for traveling. OneTime.com is a price comparison tool for booking flights and hotels.


embark-Twitter-icon

Embark

Founder: David Hodge ’11

Acquired by Apple in 2013

Embark makes free, fast and simple mobile apps for mass transit riders. It includes a unique transit map for 10 cities, allowing users to access the application without an Internet connection.


cappuccino-website-logo-333bd6a0

280 North

Founders: Tom Robinson ’07, MS ’07; Francisco Tolmasky ’06; Ross Boucher ’07, MS ’07

Acquired by Motorola in 2010

This Y Combinator startup developed tools such as the Cappuccino programming language, which allows developers to build rich Web applications with little programming knowledge though a proprietary framework and toolkit.

Apply for the USC Stevens Student Innovator Showcase 2016

Click Here to Apply Now!

Event Name: Call for Applications and Info Session: USC Stevens Student Innovator Showcase 2016

Sponsor: USC Stevens Center for Innovation

Info Session Dates: April 6, 2016, 12:00PM-12:50PM and April 13, 2016, 12:00PM-12:50PM

Location: University of Southern California, Taper Hall (THH 212)

Description: Are you a USC student with a startup idea or invention and would like to win funding to take your concept further? Come to a free USC Stevens informational session on April 6, 2016 or April 13, 2016 at Taper 212 (THH 212) from 12:00pm-12:50pm to learn more about the 10th Annual USC Stevens Student Innovator Showcase. The Student Innovator Showcase is USC Stevens’ annual flagship event where USC students present their inventions, startup ideas and prototypes (in all disciplines) to faculty and leaders from the local venture, entrepreneur and business community, competing for thousands of dollars in USC-sponsored prizes. Concepts can be anything with the potential for impact, from a smartphone app to a breakthrough medical device. The Student Innovator Showcase will take place Friday, October 7, 2016 at USC. Applications for the Showcase will be accepted online at http://stevens.usc.edu/events/student-innovator-showcase starting Wednesday, April 6, 2016 until Sunday, May 16, 2016. The competition is open to all USC undergraduate and graduate students.

Click Here to Apply Now!

Screenshot at Apr 01 13-34-57

Startup Feature: Y Athletics

WHAT THEY DO

“Y Athletics is a men’s premium activewear brand. We spend most of our time on developing new products by incorporating the latest technology and innovations in material sciences. Once we’re satisfied with our products, we usually kick off a crowdfunding campaign to bring the products to life. This helps us gauge the demand for the products and of course also provides us with the funding to manufacture them.”

HOW Y ATHLETICS WAS BORN

“My partner, Sam, who also happens to be a trojan alum, came up with the idea when he was trying to buy a new workout shirt. He was confused by all the options provided by the existing retailers and no single product seemed to stand out from the crowd in terms of quality and functionality. So, that’s what led him to start exploring different avenues to build the best workout shirt himself.”

RECENT SUCCESSES

“In our first crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter, we raised $250k in pre-orders for our shirts. Since then, we’ve launched our own online store and launched two more campaigns on Kickstarter. In total, we’ve sold about $1.3 million worth of activewear over the past 24 months.”

MOST REWARDING STARTUP EXPERIENCE

“The fact that people genuinely love the products we make. The satisfaction of running into someone wearing a Y Athletics product and talking about how much they love it… or a friend telling me how much his father loves his YA gear. Our core community of backers on Kickstarter usually write back to us to tell us how much they love our products. So that experience overall has been amazing.”

OVERCOMING OBSTACLES 

“We’ve faced obstacles in the past where larger manufacturers have tried to cut off our supply chain. That led to a few months of confusion, legal battles and of course letting our customers down since our shipments were delayed. Our current obstacles are mainly around trying to scale the current operations. Unlike something that’s purely software, it’s much harder to scale the physical infrastructure required to scale our operations.”

ADVICE TO ENTREPRENEURS

“Amongst students, you usually run into two types of people – people who think that they’d never be able to pull off starting their own business because “they’re just not the type,” and then those that are so in love with their ideas that they lose touch with reality and refuse to test out whether there’s actually a market, need or demand for the product they’re building. So, the only advice I would give is to think from a problem-first mentality, and then work backwards to figure out the best solution. Most of the time, people fall in love with a solution rather than a problem.”

Download a PDF version of this page

2016 Innovation Coast Competition

USC Marshall’s Innovation Coast Competition is seeking applicants to present their product or service innovations in consumer products, media, software and medical devices. Up to $45,000 in cash awards will be presented to the winners at this year’s competition, which will take place on May 17th on USC’s campus. Applications will be accepted through March 31st.

This is not an angel or venture capital pitch competition, so typical questions regarding financial forecasts and cash needs will not be asked. Judges will have deep product and service innovation track records from companies of all sizes.

Learn more about the competition: http://usccompetition2016.startupcompete.co/

USCM_Innov_Conf_Flyer

MentorMint Wins Startup of the Year at SXSW

Trojan startup MentorMint won ‘Startup of the Year’ at Tech.Co’s seventh annual SXSW pitch competition. MentorMint offers its users the opportunity to connect with expert mentors for career coaching in users’ fields of interest.

MentorMint was one among three winners that received an invitation to Tech.Co’s global startup competition, the Celebrate Conference. In addition to the invite, they’ll also receive the following prizes:

  • AA Business Extra Points from American Airlines;
  • Copies of Steve Case’s new book The Third Wave;
  • Hosting credits for 12 months from IBM;
  • Routers from Belkin; and
  • An invitation to join Salesforce’s Salesforce for Startups.

Congratulations to MentorMint on their success at SXSW!