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.”

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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.”

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Startup Feature: Cropsticks


Cropsticks

Interview with co-founder Jay Chang


WHAT THEY DO

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

CROP PRIMARY

c2HOW CROPSTICKS WAS BORN

“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.”

MOST REWARDING STARTUP EXPERIENCE

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

OVERCOMING OBSTACLES

“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.”

ADVICE TO ENTREPRENEURS

“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.”

c1SUCCESS STORIES

 

 

– 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 

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Global Recon Lecture 1: Swim in the Deep Water

If you didn’t surf today, you’re not the best surfer. Global Recon, Machine Shop Ventures’ 5-week lecture series at USC, kicked off with this wisdom from brand strategist Josh Madden. Madden has colored the brand histories of some of the biggest names in business and media, and on Tuesday night he offered students a one-of-a-kind crash course in the craft of building big ideas.

Here were Madden’s pro tips:

Tip #1: “If you Didn’t Surf Today, you’re Not the Best Surfer”

Madden made it clear: if you’re not working diligently at your craft every day, you’re not the best in the business today. He said, “If you do business every day, you know what business is.” The key to success in any venture is to actively pursue success and practice your craft daily. There are competitors around every corner, and the best barrier to their entry is competitive diligence. Madden says, “swim in the deep water.”

Business diligence also sustains the heartbeat of your network. “All the time you spend working on your company is how you become the person who knows everyone. That’s how you become linked. Because you’re surfing.” Persistence and repetition are key.

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Tip #2: Support the Newcomers

You should network with creators before they get big. Madden said, “if you like something and you think it’s going to be huge, invest yourself in it.” This applies to your own venture, but also to the ideas of others in the startup ecosystem. It’s important to “support people that are new in business,” Madden said. You never know whose idea will take off; make connections early and invest in your long-term network.

Tip #3: “Apathy is Bad for Business”

There’s no value in working without passion. Madden talked about today’s bummer of business: “It’s a hand-me-down of bum-outs in business right now.” He called out the sunken disinterest of creators who’ve grown too comfortable and detached from the energy of creativity.

Tip #4: Curiosity is Key

Be a curious entrepreneur. Madden said, “It’s usually free to discover stuff. Go out there and meet people. Network, get in early and make friendships with people who are successful.” There’s value in expanding your friendships and channeling new perspectives. The experiences of those around you will only broaden your own. “Find something you like and do it all the time. Do something a lot and do it well. Do it often and build a job for yourself.”

Tip #5: Understand Social Media  

Your social media use must have purpose and context. Madden commented, “social media: if it’s not social, and it’s not media… what are you doing?” It’s important to understand the dynamics of social networks in order to post relevant and meaningful content. There’s a desperate attempt by brands to break through the noise, and posting memes isn’t an end-all social strategy. Madden asks an important question: “what are memes even for?”

Tip #6: Insights, Insights, Insights

Every idea should be rooted in insight. Madden said, “strategies come from insights. If you can present a strategy built on insights, you can convince anyone of anything. Giving insights is the way you get to where you want to go.” You can’t force an idea if it’s not intuitive. Find reasons for why you want to build your idea, and “make sure your idea satisfies those reasons.”

Startup Feature: Stunt Players


Stunt Players

Interview with CEO Hunter Crowder


WHAT THEY DO

“Stunt Players allows stunt performers to promote themselves to coordinators, directors, and producers to be hired for work in the film and television industry.  By signing up for the service, members are placed in an online database made easily accessible and searchable by industry professionals.  Many of the stunt performers seen in films like Fast and the Furious and Pirates of the Caribbean have been hired through Stunt Players.”INC

HOW STUNT PLAYERS WAS BORN

“My father, Wally Crowder, a stunt coordinator and director, originally founded the company two decades ago.  He helped advance the stunt industry by providing coordinators with a hardcopy directory allowing them to browse through stunt performers and hire them based on stats and abilities.

This altered the way stunt people would go about getting work – typically crashing sets and hustling coordinators with their headshots and resumes.  However, due to the work my father was taking on as a coordinator, he decided to shut down the business.  As an actor, I was lucky enough to score a national commercial campaign and purchase the company from him.  I took over as CEO to revitalize Stunt Players as a contemporary web platform.”

MOST REWARDING STARTUP EXPERIENCESPD_STICKER

“Contributing to an industry that has become my life.  I am obsessed with the film industry and find it my duty to give back in any way I can.  I grew up around stunt people and it only made sense that I help build something useful for those I believe to be the hardest working, most under-appreciated heroes in entertainment.”

OVERCOMING OBSTACLES

“I am a film-lover and cinephile more so than I am an entrepreneur.  While I have a sharp focus on what Stunt Players must innovate and execute, the biggest obstacles are technical ones.  Fortunately, I work with an incredible development team that has become my “pit crew.”  No production succeeds without a reliable cast and crew, even behind the scenes.”

ADVICE TO ENTREPRENEURS

Build something that you are passionate about, something that you are obsessed with.  If you aren’t obsessed, don’t waste the time.  And then you must love it more than anything else.  I get to work with performers who crash cars, light themselves on fire, and jump from buildings.  It’s full throttle… but I love it.

stunt_players_shareSTARTUP VICTORIES

“The launch of our new website: stuntplayers.com
I won 1st Place in the Regional Los Angeles GSEA (Global Student Entrepreneur Awards) Competition.  We are also proud to have hosted two events in the past year that have brought together a total of over one-thousand stunt performers to mix, mingle, and make connections with working coordinators.  Many of which have gone on to book work on movies and television shows.”

Startup Feature: ElemenTerra


ElemenTerra

Interview with CEO Max Pittsley and CCO Camille Kanengiser


What they do: 

“ElemenTerra is a virtual reality game that empowers the imagination. Using the Oculus Rift, users are immersed into a universe
where they play as nature spirits who create matter and fly through a planet of their own.” ElemenTerra

How ElemenTerra was born: 

Pittsley: “It definitely was a long process, and it evolved very slowly over time. It really started out with a client of mine that I did web development for. He was sort of an eccentric guy, so he bought himself an Oculus DK1 just to check it out and said, “hey, you know how to program. You should do something with this.”

I was super skeptical about VR. I thought it was a gimmick, but I all of a sudden had this kit that was super hard to come by. We started brainstorming what could be done in VR that could not have been done without VR. We realized that feeling like you’re somewhere else is really significant, so how do we take advantage of that?”

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Best Advice to Entrepreneurs: 
Pittsley: “I think it comes down to life advice and maintaining relationships in general, which is to be honest and to be able to accept criticism.”

Kanengiser: “Yes, being able to take critique about what you’ve done or an idea that you have objectively. You have to be able to logically justify it’s not just about feelings. I know a lot of business is about the feeling, be it with title, or with the direction of the product, or the direction of the company, but being able to take a step back and cool down and really look at where it’s going is super important.”

ElemenTerra_share

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Startup Feature: KrafftIT

 


KrafftIT

Interview with CEO Fredrik Krafft 


WHO THEY ARE

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.

Screen Shot 2016-02-03 at 2.36.33 PM

WHAT THEY DO

“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.”

HOW KRAFFTIT WAS BORN

“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. ’”

MOST REWARDING STARTUP EXPERIENCE

“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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