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.



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.



(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.


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.



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.


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


“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.”


“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.”


“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.”


“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.”


“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.”


“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.”

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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/


SoGal Marketing Special: Your Startup Deserves More Traction

Are you an early-stage startup? Do you need a low-cost marketing plan? SoGal will help you overcome these obstacles and more during their panel, mixer and workshop event this weekend that aims to support budding entrepreneurs with crucial marketing insights. You’ll learn how to build traffic, foster brand awareness and acquire customers.
Speakers will include:
  • Julie Thorne Engels, Founder and CEO of Tribement (a creative marketing company)
  • Linsey Heisser, Partner and Managing Director of Tribement
  • Audrey Bellis, Founder of Worthy Women and StartupDTLA
  • Eric Rice, CEO Of TrepScore
  • Ann Wang, CEO & Co-Founder Of Enrou
  • Ron Miller, Partner At StartEngine and CEO Of Disability Group, Inc.

When: Saturday, March 26th from 1-5PM

Where: Waite Philips Hall at USC

More about speaker lineup and event website: https://sogalmarketing.splashthat.com/

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!

RECESS Music & Ideas Festival 2016 $250k CASH Prize Pitch Competition

RECESS Music & Ideas Festival

Do you have a brilliant startup idea? Want the chance to take it to the next level and live out your startup dreams? RECESS Music + Ideas Festival is here to help you take your business from dorm room to boardroom! Get your shot at winning a $250k CASH PRIZE!

RECESS Music & Ideas Festival is the world’s only experience that combines the most innovative new startup ideas and the hottest acts in music. This Spring, we are throwing a “March Madness”-style Pitch Competition, powered by Southwest Airlines, followed by an After Party with some of the biggest acts in music. We want to get YOU in on the action!

The tour will hit-up 18 of the country’s top colleges & universities- spanning 6 cities (3 campuses in each city) to host the first round of the Pitch competition- the Campus Qualifiers.

USC students can apply here for the opportunity to be selected to compete in the Campus Qualifiers and pitch their startup ideas to a panel of distinguished judges.

The winner from each of the 18 Campus Qualifiers will advance to the Pitch Regional Semifinals where they will pitch on stage at Club Bahia to a panel of elite judges before celebrating with a FREE CONCERT at the After Party, featuring performances by TBA.

Campus Qualifiers National Bracket

RECESS Bracket Post- Facebook

The winner of the Pitch Regionals will receive an all-expenses paid trip to the RECESS Field Trip in Los Angeles, CA (June 8-9th). There, they will join 10 of the winning student startups from the other regions to compete for the chance to pitch some of the biggest VC’s and Investors in the world and have a shot at winning a $250k CASH PRIZE, courtesy of partner, the Capital Championship!

Don’t miss out on the chance to turn your startup dream into a viable business and start living the #startuplife!

****APPLY BY MARCH 28TH at www.RECESSPITCH.com ***

Not A College Student?

No problem, we’ve got you! We’ve partnered with The Capital Championship to provide an opportunity for more established startups to give their pitches and a shot at winning a $250k prize!

Apply at www.capitalchampionship.com

April 13th | Annenber (ASC) West Lobby

Networking: 5pm-6pm
Live Pitches: 6pm-7pm

(5) Top USC Teams will pitch to judges

(1) Winner will be announced and advance to the Pitch Regional Semifinals

*Students that attend the Campus Qualifier will receive a guaranteed entry ticket to the Pitch Regional Semifinals (until 11:00pm)*

April 28th | Club Bahia

Startups pitch on stage before a free concert

feat: TBA
Doors: 7pm
RSVP: www.recess.is
**RSVP doesn’t guarantee entry and is available on a first come basis**

*Open to Public

*College Students with Valid College ID will have priority access entry.

*Students that attend the Campus Qualifier will receive a guaranteed entry ticket to the Regional Semifinals until 11:00pm*


Applications end March 28th
Apply at www.recesspitch.com


Quesitons? Email info@recess.is


Southwest Airlines
The Capital Championship

Building a Smarter Los Angeles: Annual Smart Cities Conference

Building a Smarter Los Angeles: Annual Smart Cities Conference
FRI, MAR 25 AT 9:00 AM, Radisson Hotel at USC
Get Tickets on Eventbrite

Today, 54% of the world population live in urban areas, where 80% of the world energy is consumed. By the year 2050, it is estimated that more than 70% of the world population will live in cities. Urbanization has become a major challenge to cities around the world. Are we ready to face the challenge?
On Friday, March 25th at the Radisson Hotel at USC, we here at Team SixThirty invite you to join our conference to hear about solutions to that challenge – Building a Smarter Los Angeles. This event will bring together industry professionals, government officials, and thought leaders on how open data and analytics can drive better outcomes in traffic management, energy, crime prevention, and other challenges here in LA.
With speakers from organizations like IBM and Los Angeles County, Building a Smarter Los Angeles will offer you a chance to network with like-minded data-driven individuals, find out about opportunities for emerging smart city technologies, and meet speakers such as:

  • Mark Dixon, Executive Architect at IBM Analytics
  • Steve Hamilton, Senior Manager at Deloitte
  • Gary Painter, Director at Sol Price Center for Social Innovation
  • Mark Vallianatos, Director at Urban and Environmental Policy Institute
  • Geoff Wardle, Director of Human Factors at Urban Systems Labs
  • Ali Farahani, Chief Data Officer at LA County
  • Joyce Edson, Deputy Chief Information Officer at LA City
  • Leah Lewis, Executive Director at Cisco

Our goals are to bring together current and future city leaders to facilitate conversations and inspirations of Smart Cities, to promote open data initiatives, and to share ideas and research that can benefits citizens of Los Angeles.
Main Topics

  • To promote the open data initiatives
  • To define “Smarter Los Angeles” and understand its current progress
  • To share ideas, best practices, and case studies of Smart Cities
  • This conference is sponsored by USC Marshall School of Business and IBM. We hope that you’ll join us for this one-of-a-kind event; for more information, please visit www.teamsixthirty.org/conference.

More on Team SixThirty (USC Trojan Founders!)
Organizer of Building a Smarter Los Angeles: Annual Smart Cities Conference
Team SixThirty is a nonprofit platform that connects the burgeoning data communities with civic and government leaders to build Smarter Cities through data analytics.
Our model connects talents, ideas, and tools together: we recruit data professionals and students who are interested in Smart Cities, work with city officials to identify areas where data analytics can be of most help, and equip our members with the knowledge and technical skills necessary to contribute to Smart Cities. Our website is www.teamsixthirty.org.

Tickets are On Sale at $55, but Blackstone Launchpad / IncubateUSC has a limited number (2) comped tickets available – Sign up Here to Request!

Startup Feature: Cropsticks


Interview with co-founder Jay Chang


“Cropsticks are eco-friendly, “mind-blowing” disposable chopsticks. It’s the utensil you’ve always known, made better.”



“Chopsticks were invented in ancient China as early as the Shang dynasty (1766-1122 BCE) and possibly even earlier during the Xia dynasty. In nearly 4000 years, no one has truly innovated the way we use chopsticks. The idea for Cropsticks first came to inventor Mylen Fe Yamamoto as she was on a flight to Asia in April 2015 and her chopsticks kept rolling off the dirty tray table. She thought that there must be an easier way to keep her chopsticks in place.

Then the horizontal breakaway holder was born! After doing more research, she found out that over 20 millions trees go into production to create the wooden disposable utensil. So it became a goal to produce it sustainably from fast growing bamboo. Mylen and Jay met in 2013 when Jay was producing the DiscoverMe conference. Jay’s family background has been in manufacturing bamboo housewares for the past 15+ years through TotallyBamboo.”


“Seeing thoughts become reality and it helps when you like the people you work with.”


“We’ve been working on Cropsticks since April last year. So when the chopstick meme of our similar idea went viral last month and challenged our product, we knew it was important to launch fast.”


“Don’t be afraid! Don’t be afraid to get out there and talk to your first customers. Don’t be afraid that people will steal your idea. Don’t be afraid someone else is better than you or will beat you to market. Be cognizant of all of those things and use them to your advantage to clearly articulate your unique value proposition, and build the best product you can to solve your customer’s pain.”




– Kickstarter at 40% in 5 days

– Interest from angel investors potential distribution partners and major restaurant chains

– Featured on NBC, NextShark, Hawaii Magazine, KITV4 ABC, Hawaii News Now and Folic Hawaii 

Download a PDF Version of this Feature

Startup Success Spotlight: HexCare CEO Alex Wormuth


alex2USC and Blackstone Launchpad alumnus Alex Wormuth, founder and CEO of HexCare, was one among a select group of top-tier finalists who made it to the closing rounds of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization’s Global Student Entrepreneur Awards (GSEA).

After winning the regional competition, HexCare advanced to the national finals in Miami, Florida.

Alex shared details about his experience at the GSEA. He said, “going through this process has taught me a lot about communicating my ideas and passions.”

The competition required business pitches from contending student founders and CEOs. While pitching is common practice at most startup competitions, the value of the exercise extends beyond its business utility.

Alex said, “pitching isn’t just about competition or money, it’s about sharing your ideas and passions with others. It’s a chance to connect others to your vision and excite them about it.”

Student entrepreneurs and startup founders enjoyed the opportunity to interact with one another throughout the course of the competition. Alex: “I was excited to meet other young entrepreneurs who are taking risks and making their ideas a reality.”

Congratulations to Alex and HexCare on their successful journey at the GSEA.