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/


Startup Feature: KrafftIT



Interview with CEO Fredrik Krafft 


Fredrik Krafft, 31, was born in Sweden and graduated with an M.S. in Mechanical Engineering from USC in 2015. He created the Swedish version of KrafftIT during his military service in 2004. He registered KrafftIT Inc. in Delware in 2014.

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“KrafftIT is a health tech company that wants to solve the obvious problems that haven’t been solved yet. For example, air quality. People don’t think about it because it’s not as tangible. We want to fix the problem, not just inform you that there is a problem. Our app “Inhale” makes predictions for air quality, for up to four days in advance, so you know when the best time to be outside is.

If you work out outside for one hour at five o’clock, how is that relative to all other times you could work out? We have pollen predictions too. Pollen predictions give a much higher value to people in the United States because of allergies. If you’re far away from the major cities, there’s still an issue with air quality, not because of pollution but because of pollen.”


“I was running around campus with one of the triathlon team members. He’s running full speed and it’s a short track on campus, but halfway through I’m dying. Sure, he’s a triathlon guy, but I should at least be able to get around campus. It was one of those really polluted summer days and there were cars all around us. It got me thinking, “when should I have been running? I wish I had an idea of when that should be,” but there was no solution out there. So I thought, ‘ok, I should do something about it. ’”


“Creating something new. Being your own creator of success. I don’t know if in America this is a common expression, but in Sweden, the saying is “you are your happiness blacksmith,” so you make your own happiness. By doing something on your own, well in a team of course, where you share a common goal with your teammates, what you do makes a huge difference for the success of the company. Everyone has a part in this and what they do will influence the success enormously.”

krafftit founders

Director of Business Development Matt Kasten said: “It’s very fun, it’s very chaotic, it’s very rewarding. It’s an experience that I think we’re all looking for coming out of school. Instead of going to work for perhaps a big company, we’re really looking to create something for ourselves, for communities, for Los Angeles, for the world, that’s going to be a really helpful tool going forward.”

“If you don’t have a bigger vision of why you want to do something, it doesn’t make sense to do it. Why are you putting in all this work if, ok you might have the vision to get rich, but money has no real value right? It’s nothingness.

Seeing people happy, solving a problem, helping someone. I strongly believe that everyone needs to do something where they feel like they’re making a difference, and that’s what makes you happy.”

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USC Incubator Call for Applications – Deadline November 24th

USC Incubator call for applications
The USC Incubator takes founders from feasibility and development work, on to customers, a tested business model, getting distribution, building a team, bootstrapping and investment preparation. We also provide access to other supporting resources, such as industry experts, investors and legal assistance. Incubator companies have gone on to raise investment, win competitions and build sustainable businesses.
The program is run by Paul Orlando, who is Incubator Venture Partner and an Adjunct Professor of Entrepreneurship.
Application deadline for the next cohort is November 24th.
More details and the application link is at: startUSC.com

You should expect to develop these skills in the Incubator.

  • Bootstrapping. The skills to get people to pay you and learning to build a sustainable business will carry you through any economic climate. Bootstrapping also allows you to get started immediately, rather than waiting to raise capital (often before it is a good use of your time). This is key for current students.
  • How to run experiments that help validate your business. This includes variations on tools like the Minimum Viable Product as a way to test hypotheses, collect primary data, draw conclusions and learn what to build.
  • Presenting and pitching. These skills are essential but take time to acquire, alongside someone who can give actionable feedback. We believe in giving feedback and then practicing again and again with the presenters. It takes months (at least) to become good.

What we look for in Incubator companies.

  • Coachability. This is good for the company as it shows that the founders will be engaged, will do the work required and will be flexible when required to change direction.
  • Capability to build. Capability is determined by the type of business being built. There are some businesses that have high technical requirements and others that are marketing-driven. Entering Incubatees should have the ability to build what their business requires, with small exceptions that fall outside the core of the business.
  • Commitment and Drive. Founders that are committed and driven — especially about a problem or target customer — will stick with and be creative and resourceful.
  • Those who will be engaged members of the Incubator. They will share with and help out Incubator companies. They will also engage with the opportunities offered by the Incubator.


Shark Mark Cuban Shares Insight with USC Audience & Student Startups

Three USC student startups got to swim with the sharks, as billionaire investor Mark Cuban agreed to hear a few impromptu pitches while talking entrepreneurship before a capacity crowd at Bovard Auditorium.

Hosted by the USC Marshall School of Business and the Lloyd Greif Center for Entrepreneurial Studies, the March 25 event “Tech, Sharks and Mavericks” was moderated by David Belasco, co-director of the Greif Center, as part of his class on the entrepreneurial mindset.

“It is a great time to be an entrepreneur,” Belasco said. “And in my opinion, USC is the best place in the world for students who want to launch their own businesses.”

Some of those students got a real leg up with Cuban, who, as a regular investor on the ABC series Shark Tank, is known for his keen interest in new business propositions – and for his blunt assessments of those not deemed worthy.

In the audience were teams from three student startups — EnvoyNow, Stasis Labs and TalentTrail — that were recently featured in an Inc. Magazine article on the coolest college startups of 2015. All three had experienced some level of fundraising success, but this was the big time.

Internet potential

Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks, Landmark Theatres and Magnolia Pictures, made his fortune by envisioning the potential of the World Wide Web before anyone else. In 1995, he and a partner started Audionet.com, which enabled people to listen to broadcasts over the internet.

“This thing we now call streaming didn’t exist back then,” Cuban told the audience, comprised largely of students who have never known a world without high-speed internet. “We thought, ‘This is going to take over cable!’ ” he said. “We knew it was going to be enormous. We just didn’t know how to build it.”

They figured it out, and it was enormous. In 1998 it changed its name to Broadcast.com and went public, making history at the time for the biggest one-day surge in stock price (it opened at $18 and closed at $62.75). In 1999 Yahoo! bought the company for $5.7 billion.

Cuban was joined onstage by Mark Burnett, who produces Shark Tank and who himself is a serial entrepreneur, first producing the game-changing Survivor series in 2000.

“In the end, every young American wants to start a business,” he said. “It’s the American dream.”

Feed the sharks

Belasco interjected: “Do you know what my dream is? My dream is to see a Shark Tank, college version, here at USC.”

He then asked if the two would be up for hearing some pitches from student startups in the audience. Cuban and Burnett agreed, and the crowd went wild.

The sharks were ready to be fed.

First up were Dinesh Seemakurty ’16 and Michael Maylahn of Stasis Labs, marketing a low-cost health monitoring system for hospitals in emerging markets. Although the team was awarded the Most Innovative Venture Award and the Trojan Family Choice award at the USC Stevens Innovator Showcase last year, Cuban wasn’t impressed. He peppered them with questions about their technology and then cut to the chase brutally. This product wasn’t ready for market. Thumbs down.

Next up were the four USC Marshall students behind EnvoyNow, a food delivery service specifically designed for the college market, who jumped onstage. Founder Anthony Zhang ’17 boldly took a seat in the chair next to Cuban, who eyed him incredulously.

“You think that’s gonna work?” he asked.

“Let’s see what happens,” said Zhang, who admitted later that it was mostly a tactic to calm his nerves after seeing the previous team get shaken up by the sharks.

While Cuban threw out questions, Burnett liked the idea straight off. And while another team member was explaining the money details to Cuban, Zhang walked over and shook Burnett’s hand. He had just been offered a $100,000 investment.

“Professor Belasco had told us to be prepared to pitch, but he couldn’t guarantee it. But I knew Mark Cuban being Mark Cuban, he wasn’t going to pass up the opportunity to hear some pitches,” Zhang said. “And I think he enjoyed ripping into us.”

Sydney Liu ’17, a USC Viterbi School of Engineering founder of TalentTrail, which links students with internships and companies with students seeking them, came next. Although a company Cuban has invested in, CyberDust, already advertises for interns via TalentTrail, Liu wanted the chance to pitch his company to Cuban personally.

“Mark’s worked with many early stage startups, and the questions he asked on stage help me understand what things are important in our business,” he said. “I wanted to hear his thoughts about our business and potentially work with more of his companies.”

He came away with a personal invitation to talk more behind the scenes. A victory for a young entrepreneur.

Entrepreneur of the Year     

At the end of a raucous evening celebrating entrepreneurship, there was a crowning moment yet to come. Lloyd Greif MBA ’79, came onstage and presented Cuban with the Greif Center’s 2015 Entrepreneur of the Year award.

“There’s nothing we treasure more than a serial entrepreneur,” he said. “And Mark fits that definition to a T. What we do at the Greif Center is what he does on Shark Tank and in life — and that is fostering entrepreneurship, inspiring entrepreneurship and funding entrepreneurship.”

Seemakurty and Maylahn of Stasis Labs, watched and nodded. Like good entrepreneurs, they believed completely in their product and had no intention of letting one ding sway them. “We have a complex system that can’t be explained in a short period of time,” said Maylahn.

Seemakurty agreed that they would continue working to launch their business. “I’d love to see him two years from now,” he said.