Reuters Ranks USC #20 Most Innovative University

USC judged to be 20th most innovative university in the nation.

A private research university based in Los Angeles, USC has strong ties to Hollywood and significant expertise in the area of digital entertainment, though the university says it also boasts the largest computer science research program of any university in the nation, as well as the largest engineering and health programs of any private university. The university’s Institute for Creative Technologies studies how people engage with technology through virtual characters and simulations, and collaborates with studios including Warner Bros and Sony Pictures Entertainment to develop ever more realistic computer-generated characters in movies. USC’s Robert Zemeckis Center for Digital Arts is the country’s only entirely digital filmmaking training facility. And USC’s technology transfer center, the Stevens Center for Innovation, has spun out a number of entertainment startups, including LightStage LLC, which has created visual effects for films including ‘Avatar’ and ‘King Kong.’

Read our bio from Reuters here!

ASU Innovation Open

Dear entrepreneurship colleagues,

Thanks again for engaging with us last year as we kicked off the inaugural ASU Innovation Open.

Here’s a recap.

With another $100K grand prize up for grabs, plus another $95K earmarked for semi-finalists and runners-up, we hope that you’ll share the following opportunity with your best undergrad and grad-led tech startups:

 ASU Innovation Open

Who: All top student-led startup founders are encouraged to apply.

What: An opportunity to win $100K+ and bragging rights, along with other  prizes – including VIP experiences at the Phoenix Open.

Where: Apply here. Travel to Phoenix/ Scottsdale is not required for applicants.

When: Apply by Sunday, October 29, 2017 at 11:59 pm PST.

Questions: Email

As always, we appreciate your collaboration. As we push toward the October 29 deadline, please feel free to update your contact information on our collaborator contact sheet here.

After receiving some stellar student applications from California Institute of Technology, Cal Lutheran, Cuesta College, George Washington, Loyola Marymount, Oregon State, University of Arizona, UC Irvine, UCLA, USC, University of Denver, and University of Utah last year, we hope to engage further this year.

If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to call or text me directly at 480-353-8132.

Yours in service,


Brent Sebold, Ed.D.

Arizona State University

Contrary Capital is your Startup’s Newest Asset for Funding and Beyond

Here at USC, we all know someone who is working on a startup. Irrespective of degree or department, students and faculty at USC are working everyday to develop solutions to a multitude of relevant problems. Perhaps you may be working on one yourself.

The truth is, the Trojan entrepreneurial ecosystem is incredibly strong, and students all across our campus are building businesses with truly amazing potential. But as each of you knows, building a business is hard.

That’s why I’m happy to announce an incredible new resource to add to your toolbelt. Contrary Capital brings the best in business to help scale the challenges that hinder your business’s growth.

Contrary Capital is a fully independent, university focused venture fund driven by student investors at 40+ colleges across the nation. Backed by founders such as Dan Macklin of SoFi, Martin Eberhard of Tesla and Emmett Shear of Twitch, 80%  of our limited partners have started $1B+ tech companies over the past decade.

Contrary announced their official public launch on Monday September 18th with an inaugural fund size projected to fall between $5 million and $7 million

Here are a few quick bullets to summarize our value:

  • We’re totally independent and returns-focused. If funded, we’ll connect you with top-tier VCs that fit you best.
  • We have an expansive network you can tap into for diverse talent, customers, and advice.
  • With a check size ranging between $50k-$200k in YC style standardized valuation buckets, we have the flexibility to accommodate you at a crucial stage in your growth.

Feel free to contact us any time at We would love to meet with you to see what you’re working on or answer any questions you may have.


Fight on!

Zach Sullens and Rishi Thomas

Stevens Student Innovator Showcase

Info from:

Join us Friday, October 13, 2017, 9AM-3PM at USC’s University Park Campus (AHF building) for the 11th Annual USC Stevens Student Innovator Showcase. Everyone is welcome to attend and watch the competition, talk to the startup teams, hear the keynote address, and vote for their favorite project to win the Trojan Family Choice Award. No pre-registration is required to attend our event.

During the daylong event held at USC’s University Park Campus, student teams present and pitch their startup ideas and prototypes to expert judges from the entrepreneur and investment communities as well as Trojan Family Weekend attendees to compete for cash awards that can help to develop their ideas further. The most promising innovative student teams are selected as finalists to participate in an afternoon fast pitch round featuring 3 minute business pitches by each team to a panel of esteemed  judges, and an awards ceremony for the winners.

Showcase schedule (subject to change):
October 13, 2017 

9AM-11AM: Student Innovator Showcase (24 teams)
11AM-12PM: Lunch provided to the competing teams
12PM-12:45PM: Keynote guest speaker (name to be announced)
12:45PM-2:30PM: Finalists announced & Finalist Fast Pitch Round (10 teams)
2:30PM-3PM: Announcement of Winners and Awards Ceremony

QUESTIONS? Contact Peijean Tsai, USC Stevens Marketing Coordinator at

Startup Career Fair – Hosted by SparkSC

Our mission is to connect talent on campus with the hottest startups in Los Angeles and beyond.

  • 25+ Startups
  • Full-Time and Internship Positions
  • Tuesday, October 3rd, 10 AM – 2 PM in Pardee Lawn

At the Startup Career Fair, you will:

  • Recruit efficiently – just by showing up you will have access to top tier engineering, business, and design students.

  • Save thousands of dollars- our entrance fee is only $300 (the money goes to covering our set up costs).

  • Build a relationship with the USC community by distributing swag, promoting your product, and showing students why your company is a great place to work.

  • Hire for both internship and full-time positions.

Come see us on October 3rd from 10AM to 2PM!

SXSW Accelerator Pitch Event

The SXSW Accelerator Pitch Event just opened its submission site for entries (through November 10).

Z Holly is on the Advisory Board and posted the following “Top 5 Tips for Entry Success”:

  • Meet the minimum – review the SXSW Accelerator Eligibility Criteria:…
  • Nominate a startup that is innovative and disruptive
  • Share a video – there’s no better way to convey a thorough sense of your project than through a demo video
  • Showcase what makes you different in the market (i.e. What is your market differentiator? What is unique about your project? Why should people be excited about it?)
  • Highlight key members from your team and/or those supporting your startup (Staff, Advisory Board, Board Members, Mentors, Funders, Accelerator and/or Incubator involvement, etc.)

On the Go in LA: 121C

Startup 121C looks to get leg up with skateboards made with salvaged carbon fiber.

Originally published September 25, 2017 in the Los Angeles Business Journal.

The aerospace industry throws away thousands of pounds of expensive carbon fiber each year.

That seems like a missed business opportunity to recent USC graduate Ryan Olliges.

His startup, 121C Inc., was founded to exploit the market inefficiency, and has signed multiyear contracts with undisclosed local rocket manufactures to buy carbon scrap and recycle the material into skateboards and longboards.

“We recycle from new space companies, from the production lines of modern rockets,” he said. “Sometimes it’s too small of pieces for them to use, sometimes its dated material which is beyond the spec of aerospace parts but still perfectly fine to make skateboards with.”

121C of Gardena buys about 2,500 pounds of carbon fiber a month – enough to press out 450 skateboard decks that sell for anywhere from $100 to $275. The decks are the main component of a skateboard. The company sells some standalone decks without mounts and wheels, and also offers some fully assembled products.

Sales are strong, said Olliges, with 121C generating about $100,000 a month in revenue, mostly through online retail. He expects a boost as the year-end holiday’s approach.

“We’ve been selling through (inventory) pretty much as fast as we can make,” he said. “We keep ramping up production and our sales keep increasing.”

121C was co-founded in 2015, and the name refers to 121 degrees Celsius, the temperature required to harden the epoxy that binds carbon fiber.

Olliges is a 2016 aerospace engineering graduate of USC, while one co-founder, Jaysen Harris, formerly worked as a health care IT specialist, and another, Greg Autry, is an assistant professor at USC’s Marshall School of Business.

The company has raised more than $174,000 over three Kickstarter crowdfunding campaigns, $60,000 from its founding team, and is nearing the closure of a $1 million seed round, Olliges said. The startup plans to use money raised from Kickstarter preorders and investments to buy equipment to create tooling for future products.

The company’s least-expensive carbon-fiber skateboard deck is around average for the industry at about $100, while its most expensive is on the upper end of the market for longboards at $275, said Richard Pyles, president of Hacienda Heights-based skateboard manufacturer Made in Mars Inc.

“It’s toward the upper end, but it’s not unheard of,” he said. “There’s a market, it just becomes more and more niche as you move up in price.”

Olliges said his company aims to manufacturer more than just longboards, including consumer products such as ceiling fan blades, standing desks and conference tables.

“The real reason we are raising a lot of money is to expand past longboards,” Olliges said.

Competition Information Session

All Viterbi and Marshall undergraduates and graduate students are invited to an information session at 4:30pm on Wednesday, September 27th in EEB 132.  Come learn about our competitions and how to win cash for your startup!

  • Maseeh Entrepreneurship Prize Competition:  Take classes on customer discovery, work with industry mentors, and compete for a $50,000 Grand Prize!
  • Min Family Challenge:  Students can offer engineering solutions for disaster relief.  Top teams will travel to a stricken area for problem discovery and will get prototyping funds.  Work with industry mentors and learn about sustainable enterprises! =
  • ABC (Atoms, Bits and Cells) Undergraduate Prize:  Apply for $1,000 for top innovations in three technology categories!

Where: RTH 526

When: Wednesday, September 27th at 4:30pm

Refreshments will be provided!

USC Joins New Biotech College alliance

Terry Nguyen, The Daily Trojan

USC has joined the Alliance for Southern California Innovation, a non-profit collaboration between universities, research institutes and businesses to expand the biotech entrepreneurial space of the Southern California region.

Steve Poizner, a serial tech entrepreneur and former California insurance commissioner, is leading the alliance, with plans to grow the region’s start-ups to the level of that of Silicon Valley’s by 2025.

“Southern California has the right building blocks to become the next leading technology and innovation hub in the United States,” Poizner said in a press release. “Through a collaborative effort, the region has the potential to bring a trillion-dollar economic impact to the state and country.”

Randolph Hall, USC Vice President of Research and a professor of industrial and systems engineering, will represent the university in the alliance, alongside other administrators from Southern California universities.

“This is a region that educates a huge number of engineers and scientists,” Hall said in an interview with USC News.

In 2017, USC had over 950 undergraduates and 3,100 graduate students who completed degrees in engineering and computer science, according to Hall.

The alliance would be an opportunity for the University to contribute to the biotechnology industry’s growth and also help students find roles in the field, Hall said.

President C.L. Max Nikias declared his vision for a biotech community in the Health Sciences campus in June at an event at the Keck School of Medicine.

“We are hoping that this new consortium will bring more power through the weight of collaboration,” Hall said.

(Originally posted on August 25, 2017 on the Daily Trojan)

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: