Soothing Your Way Into a Healthy Future

Nature Soothie was founded three years ago by Sara Zolfaghari, who graduated from USC Pharmacy School with a Masters in Pharmaceutical Economics & Outcomes. The company’s mission is to deliver the soothing benefits of herbal extracts and natural ingredients without the usage of unnecessary and artificial ingredients. Before Nature Soothie, Sara worked in the pharmaceutical industry as a scientist and consultant.

“My inspiration for creating the company came when I had my daughter. I could not find a suitable delivery format for medicine and I was desperate to soothe my daughter” says Sara. “I was facing a problem many parents face: children hate taking medicine! So I decided to find a solution.”

From that experience, Sara began creating an innovative delivery formats for natural remedies and herbal supplements which was a variety of honey-flavored lollipops with different functions to address the common ailments in children such tummy discomfort, immune support and restlessness.

The company has been featured in Parents Magazine and Kiwi Magazine, and sets itself above and beyond its competitors not only through their innovative delivery format, but by staying committed to using only clean, natural, and organic ingredients.

While the company is based in Los Angeles and is distributed through several organic food stores in California, Nature Soothie plans to scale nationwide. The company also plans to continue developing new products and ideas that can be consumed and enjoyed by both children and adults.

For her team, Sara looks for partners who are highly qualified in managing and running a business, and individuals with good communication skills.
In terms of success, Sara credits having taken the leap as the precursor for her company.
“I would say taking the leap and taking your own business is one of the most courageous things I’ve done in my career and my life.” Says Zolfaghari. “ In the beginning, I made some mistakes and I partnered up with the wrong people, so I kind of fell behind but you learn from your mistakes and use those experiences with other partners and those that worked out really well.


The Suitcase of a Green New World

The latest up-and-coming USC startup product is the Cork Duffel Suitcase. Created by Mi Terro Global,  the Cork Duffel Suitcase is a lightweight, waterproof, scratch-proof accessory made entirely of high quality Portuguese cork, the same material that protects NASA’s space rockets from re-entry into the atmosphere, and recycled ocean plastics. 


“At Mi Terro, we believe that fashion doesn’t have to be fast, disposable, or temporary. We believe it should begin and end with a classic collection of well-designed essentials. And we’re starting that collection with a premium, simple duffle suitcase,” says Mi Terro CEO Robert Luo.

The suitcase’s main raw materials, cork, comes from the bark of cork oaks. Since it does from bark which is easily harvested, less trees are cut down in order to produce this bag. Due to the honeycomb cell structure of the cork, it is more durable, lighter and requires much less maintenance compared to a leather bag. The company also applies a waterproof coating to the bag, allowing it to better resist outdoor weather, unlike regular leather bags. 

Another important feature of the company and product is sustainability. Luo explains this, “We collect the plastic from the ocean and recycle them into usable material. First, we wash and sort them. Then we grind them into a powder and heat it up to pellets we can roll into a yarn. That yarn them ends up in your CDS as part of the zipper and inner lining. For each bag, we remove 2 pounds of plastic from our oceans and transform them into fashion pieces.”

The spacious design of the bar is complemented by several convenient features and utility pockets that allow for easy storage. “Whenever you are traveling for business or hitting the gym, Mi Terro CDS has enough room to hold laptops, spare clothes for 5 days, and your document.” 


Spend a quality afternoon with you Mi Terro Cork Duffel Suitcase and with your best friend 

Hype And Vice : The Best Game Day Gear You Will Find Next Season

This week’s featured company is Hype and Vice, a clothing brand that’s looking to change the way college students look at sportswear. The idea behind the company was developed by USC Alumni Kim Robles and Cecelia Gonzales. “Our goal is to fill the gap between the traditional style of Game Day clothing that you normally buy at the bookstore and self-made clothes created by girls who cropped, snipped, and printed their own outfit,” says Gonzales. 

This sportswear clothing brand is especially designed for the female segment of the market. “We see potential in the whole industry,” says Robles. “I was in a sorority and saw how many girls wanted something completely different. So what they did was buy clothes from the bookstore and either cut it up to fit their personal style right before Game Day or made their own from second-hand clothes. I saw an opportunity to change this problem”

The pair also want to create a powerful brand presence. In college bookstores, there is almost zero brand recognition. Most people only bought merchandise because of the college logo label. According to Robles, ” In this era,  people want to emotionally identify with the product, and so we’re creating a brand that can capture that via an edgy, innovative, modern style of clothing.”

The Market 

The pair’s main target are female college students. Furthermore, because the business in an online brand, Hype and Vice can connect with high school students and young alumni. “We’re actually extending the lifetime value of the customer, “ Gonzales explains. 

Robles and Gonzales estimate the sports merchandise licensing industry to be worth $14.5 billion in total. However for female college students alone, it is worth $2.6 billion nationally. The pair is highly optimistic about this market. “Aside from college students, we see opportunities in other license ports industries like the NCBA, NFL which we can potentially tap into.” explains Robles. 

The Team 

Robles and Gonzales are recent alumni of USC WITH Robles graduating with a degree in Business Entrepreneurship and Gonzales graduating with an Associate degree in Fashion Design from the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandise and a Bachelor Degree in Business from Marshall.

The pair were roommates for four years and were greatly involved in USC Greek Life before going into the Business together. Of the pair, Robles handles the Finance and Operation systems while Gonzales handles the Marketing and Design. “We are complete opposites but we work well together,” says Robles. 

The Product

With regards to how the process works, it is very simple. All you need to do is go on the website and build a unique outfit by mixing and matching the product lines. This includes tops, skirts, accessories, chokers, glasses, and once you click on the Shop button, you can see the products available for your purchase.

In terms of how the product stands out compared to competitors, the product stands out because of the brand.  “We’re trying to create a brand students will recognize and identify with. We use students to model the product. We spread it on social media etc” Robles explains. “Furthermore, since we started, we saw the whole industry has traditionally been very male-oriented with Jerseys, T-shirts, oversized sweats with little apparel for women”


The pair’s dream is to have an e-commerce website available to every University in every state across the country. Currently, the company has contract manufacturers in the Greater Los Angeles Area but as the business grows in scale, the pair plan to vertically integrate the supply chain.

For funding,  Gonzales explains the company is seeking more investments to expand and grow “We’ve been in business for three years and have money raised from self funding but we are now currently looking for angel investors in a pre-seed round.”




LoanBuddy Exhibits at 3rd Annual USC Demo Day


Los Angeles – The University of Southern California hosted  USC Troy Labs’ 3rd Annual Demo Day, on February 8th, 2019. The single day event provides student and alumni founded companies with the opportunity to participate in an exposition of technologies through speakers and networking. USC Demo Day has featured companies such as URB-E , Fund3 and Lucky Day App in the past two years and has had sponsors such as  HR Cloud.

LoanBuddy  Co-Founder, Alex Bottom Dornsife Economics 2003 and member of the Economics Leadership Council joined the day to support his brother James Bottom Dornsife International Relations 2004, the creator of Demo Day and Director of USC’s Blackstone Launchpad. The Launchpad, housed at USC’s  Marshall School of Business, is the leading program on campus that has advised Trojan Founded companies which have raised over $50,000,000 over the past several years.

“I appreciate any opportunity to be back on campus and was thrilled to be asked to come back to USC for this event.” said Alex Bottom “I personally take satisfaction in seeing all of the student-founded companies who are taking full advantage of their time here while in college. And at LoanBuddy we will always participate in a productive program that we can add value to.” “It’s also a pleasure to see the great work my brother (James Bottom) is doing here at USC, his dedication to the students at the University is inspiring.”

LoanBuddy, the Manhattan Beach-based technology maker with satellite development in Croatia, has been credited with formulating a scalable process for recent graduates to understand the effects of their student loans with the help of a financial planner.

Student loan debt is, unfortunately, the fastest growing form of debt in the United States, outpacing auto, credit and mortgage debt. The student loan debt conversation is quickly becoming the initial conversation a financial planner has with a client, as it is likely the biggest part of their financial plan. Tens of thousands of postgrads can easily accumulate over $500,000 of student loan debt, a problem that Trojans know all too well. High debt amounts require diligent planning to offset high interest rates to prevent delays in goals such as purchasing a home, negatively impacting savings and lifestyle.

LoanBuddy empowers Financial Planners with tools to help their clients manage, track and refinance their private and federal student loan debt. It automatically generates client-facing reports based on their NSLDS file. Also, its features include a calculator with repayment strategies and corresponding income-based federal repayment programs in addition to downstream tax implications. LoanBuddy is useful for planners who work with graduates of any amounts of student debt and helps their clients enrolled in public service loan forgiveness most commonly known as PSLF manage this process. Historically a major portion of financial advisors has been focused on selling products and spending 100% of their time with assets under management or retirement strategies. LoanBuddy is shifting this paradigm for younger financial planners who are building up their practices and looking for lifetime clients.

There is currently over $1.5 Trillion of federal student loan debt in the USA. Certified Financial Planners (CFP’s) are uniquely positioned to help borrowers manage their financial health with LoanBuddy tools. LoanBuddy now has over 200 Financial Planners utilizing their software to track over $80,000,000 of client student loan debt and growing.

LoanBuddy also offers ongoing education on student loans and helps independent financial planning firms grow by delivering new clients prospects that need help with their student debt. There are currently over 10,000 independent financial planners in the USA. LoanBuddy has partnered with Australia based Credible, Ohio based Maurer Law and San Diego based The College Investor and is Co-Founded by Ryan Inman at Physician Wealth Services & Financial Residency.. It was also a finalist in the XY Planning Network FinTech Competition, a network of over 800 Independent “Fee-Only” Financial Planners and works closely with the Financial Planning Association (FPA) . LoanBuddy offers financial technology as a monthly software as a service subscription for $60 with no annual contracts.

LoanBuddy was asked in 2018 to participate in the newly minted Rossier EdVentures Accelerator and has made market leading strides since its May 2018 founding.  “We are excited that LoanBuddy is part of the EdVentures cohort; its focus, among other things, on helping borrowers understand the ins and out of forgiveness for service is important to students in medicine, education, and other social services. Like our other cohort members, we believe that LoanBuddy will do good and do well! We are excited to watch them grow.” said Doug Lynch, one of the country’s leading experts in education technology and part of the faculty at Rossier School of Education at USC and a Co-Founder of USC EdVentures.

LoanBuddy is hiring, interested applicants can reach out on their career page here.

Innovators of USC: Doctors have an eye on GIBLIB, the ‘Netflix of medical education’

USC alums create an online library of studio-quality, on-demand educational videos in 4K or 360 virtual reality

By Emily Chu | January 4, 2019


GIBLIB founders aim to build the “Netflix of medical education.” Photos courtesy of Brian Conyer, GIBLIB

IMAGINE A SURGEON BEING ABLE TO WATCH multiple surgical procedures in 360 virtual reality in order to determine the best way to operate on their current patient. In the past, surgical videos were difficult to locate and often of poor quality, with many being filmed on a cellphone or through a surgical instrument’s video feed. Believing that medical professionals would be interested in studio-quality educational videos, USC alums Brian Conyer and co-founder Jihye Shin created GIBLIB, an online library of curated, on-demand educational videos in 4K or 360 virtual reality. Building the “Netflix of medical education”: Two initiatives GIBLIB is quickly establishing itself as the “Netflix of medical education.” GIBLIB is focused on two initiatives: to build the largest library of Continuing Medical Education (CME)-accredited medical lectures in the world, and to build the largest library of surgical procedures in 4K and 360VR in the world. The first initiative provides physicians a modern alternative to traveling to conferences around the world to earn their CMEs. Many medical professionals who used to struggle with finding the time and funding to fly to various conferences can now access videos of the conference from their phones or computers. The second initiative will help provide a resource for medical students, trainees, or even practicing surgeons.

Co-Founders Brian Conyer and Jihye Shin

GIBLIB founders believe that in the future, all medical students are going to wear a VR headset as part of their training; GIBLIB’s goal is to provide the content for that headset. Growing demand for the “Netflix of medical education” One of GIBLIB’s major challenges is to supply enough videos to keep up with the demands of its growing subscriber base. Its focus had primarily been on general surgery, but GIBLIB has received many requests for specialty procedures, including orthopedic surgeries and other specialties. To target one of these needs, GIBLIB announced a partnership with CedarsSinai Medical Center on a course called “Cedars-Sinai: The Essential GI Surgeries.” GIBLIB deliberately attempts to film the same procedures in different ways. For example, for gastrointestinal (GI) surgeries, they might film one performed through laparoscopy and another performed with the assistance of a robot. The small team works hard to balance producing quality videos with keeping up with the demands for videos. GIBLIB offers some advice to other startups. Conyer, co-founder and CEO, tells startups to “make sure your business model helps you generate cash.” “Don’t run out of cash,” Conyer says. “Cash flow matters. Cash is a real thing, so monitor that because without it you’re not a business and you can’t innovate and you can’t move forward.” The other advice that he offers is to find the right team. First, Conyer emphasizes the importance of finding a co-founder or partner that you have chemistry with and is dedicated and committed to the company. Then, he describes his team as fast, smart, and resilient. He describes how his team has “always been able to quickly reevaluate things and keep moving.” The team started out with many who were highly skilled in technology in order to build the streaming platform and all the features. However, after they realized that people were more interested in the content, their team shifted from focusing on innovation and technology to depth of content. Their leadership has also had to shift priorities in order to support and cultivate the creative environment of the team. USC: A great start for the “Netflix of medical education” Conyer emphasizes his good fortune that his alma mater, USC, was the first to take a chance on his company. To create its first video at USC, GIBLIB had to spend a full year getting everyone at the hospital on board, including executives, the legal department, the media department, and the department of surgery. After filming their first surgery at the USC Keck School of Medicine, they approached another hospital and asked them to partner with GIBLIB. This time, because they had tested the buy-in process already and because they had a successful video to show for it, the process only took two weeks. GIBLIB now films regularly with six of the top 10 hospitals in the United States. They don’t have to look for new partners; instead, new partners reach out them.

RateMyInvestor Tackles Transparency in the VC Landscape


Most students on USC’s campus have heard of RateMyProfessors. But for many student entrepreneurs, finding the right investor is just as important as finding the right professor. This is something that Anthony Zhang experienced first-hand in his time at USC. As a student, Zhang founded EnvoyNow, a food delivery startup that received over $1.5 million in funding ($100,000 of which came from Mark Cuban) and was later acquired. Now Chief Growth Officer at RateMyInvestor, Zhang is looking to use his experiences to help other entrepreneurs find the right investors.

Zhang joined founders Austin Stofer and Bennett Quintard to launch RateMyInvestor – a platform for founders to rate and discover investors. By providing honest information, RateMyInvestor celebrates ethical investors and helps entrepreneurs avoid those who may be less principled. The team hopes that this will give founders the tools to decide who they should trust with their business.

“My goal is to have RateMyInvestor be top of mind when entrepreneurs are looking for funding and have it be the first place they visit when starting their search,” explains Stofer, CEO. They believe due-diligence should be a two-way street. Quintard, COO, asks, “With so much focus on the investor’s due-diligence process, why aren’t founders doing the same? Performing your own due-diligence on an investor is just as important.”

This is a lesson that Stofer and Quintard learned the hard way, after having “the rug pulled out from under them” while seeking funding for another startup. After hearing similar stories from other founders, they realized the need for entrepreneurs to access honest information about investors. However, the team is quick to clarify that RateMyInvestor is intended to benefit both sides of the table. “This is not a revenge platform, but a place where founders and investors can come together to break down the fundraising barrier,” says Stofer.

The shared passion of using transparency to break the funding barrier is what originally brought Zhang, Stofer, and Quintard together. Zhang founded Know Your VC in the wake of the sexual harassment scandals that shook the VC community in 2017. He soon connected with Stofer and Quintard. All three officially joined forces earlier this year after RateMyInvestor acquired Know Your VC. “It became clear that we were a perfect match and that an acquisition would help both of us achieve our shared mission faster,” explained Zhang.

In the wake of RateMyInvestor’s launch, it seems that Zhang, Stofer, and Quintard are well on their way. Hopefully, student entrepreneurs will now be able to find investors just as easily as they choose professors.

To rate and discover investors, visit

Source: Katy Arkell

The Big Short: USC Marshall Alumna’s Startup Focuses on Fashion for Small Women, Wins National Grant

Every element of an e-commerce business, particularly in the close-margin world of retail fashion, must be leveraged to tell the right story to prospective customers.

In the case of women’s fashion startup Petitas Los Angeles, a retailer focusing on the needs of young, petite women, founder Chelsea LaFerla ’18, gets right to the “short” of it:

“Petitas Los Angeles is a clothing brand made by and for petite women,” said LaFerla. “The brand empowers petites to be clothed in confidence through uniquely tailored, high-end garments; our Signature Label is made ethically and sustainably in the USA using premium, hand-sourced fabrics.”

Petitas was selected in early December as part of the newly created Blackstone LaunchPad powered by Techstars”LaunchPad Lift” program.

“I’m so excited to be a part of LaunchPad Lift’s inaugural cohort. A huge thanks goes to USC’s Blackstone LaunchPad and its Director, James Bottom, for investing in me.” — Chelsea LaFerla ’18, founder of Petitas Los Angeles

According to Blackstone’s press release, LaunchPad Lift ventures will each receive a $10,000 grant from the Blackstone Charitable Foundation to support strategic efforts that grow and scale their ventures.

The seven selected ventures for the 2019 LaunchPad Lift cohort were selected from across the LaunchPad global network, representing seven schools in four states and two countries.

Petitas is hardly alone in the cohort as a woman-founded business; more than half of the chosen startups are run by women.

This new program is a continuation of Blackstone Charitable Foundation’s commitment to supporting the next generation of entrepreneurs, a mission that it has invested more than $25 million philanthropic dollars in to date.

The ventures accepted to the 2019 LaunchPad Lift Cohort include:

  • CALM, Temple University: CALM is a small device that uses vibration pulses to influence the brain and de-escalate rising stress levels and anxiety attacks.
  • Combplex, Cornell University: Combplex provides an IoT solution to beekeepers’ number one problem: eliminating the parasites killing their bees.
  • Lazarus, Texas A&M University: Lazarus is a specialty ammunition that can minimize blood lost post-penetration in order to preserve life.
  • MyWellBeing, New York University: MyWellBeing connects therapy-seekers to compatible therapist and coach matches in NYC.
  • Shower Stream, University of Texas at Austin: The Shower Stream is a smart shower head adapter that installs as easy as a light bulb, saves the waste, proves the savings via web and is completely unobtrusive to the user.
  • SteriCISION, National University of Ireland Galway: SteriCISION is developing a novel medical device to make caesarean delivery a safer experience.

Being among this group could prove a huge boost to Petitas.

“I’m so excited to be a part of LaunchPad Lift’s inaugural cohort,” said LaFerla. “A huge thanks goes to USC’s Blackstone LaunchPad and Director, James Bottom, for investing in me.”

LaFerla comes from a long line of Italian tailors and seamstresses, she said. “I grew up making clothes with my Grandma, a wedding dress designer. We spent hours shopping for fabric, trim and lining. I’d sew, she’d inspect, and I’d inevitably re-sew each garment several times. She taught me that every stitch mattered and showed me how to create quality garments that last. It’s that same care that we bring to Petitas Los Angeles.”

Source: USC Marshall

New Southern California Ed-Tech Accelerator Seeks Diverse, Global Reach

Senior Editor
A new program at the University of Southern California will bring together education and engineering faculty to support startup ed-tech companies–with a big focus on helping minority- and female-owned businesses.

The program, called USC Rossier EdVentures, bills itself as the “first ed-tech innovation hub in Southern California.”

The program has already announced the first cohort of companies it will support–see the full list below–which includes a mix of startup and early-stage businesses serving the K-12, postsecondary, and adult education markets.

The first cohort has a global makeup. It includes ed-tech providers and programs from not only the United States, but also Mexico, Indonesia, Taiwan, and Rwanda.

While the business focus of those ed-tech companies is all over the map, there’s a big focus on artificial intelligence, virtual reality, and augmented reality, said Doug Lynch, a senior fellow at USC’s Rossier School of Education, in an interview.

The program will provide the companies with mentoring and support from both USC’s Rossier School of Education and its Center for Engineering in Education. The engineering center focuses on applying “engineering thinking and learning” from pre-K through college. EdVentures is also backed by USC’s Marshall School of Business.

The program is being supported by a number of foundations and private entities, including the Michelson 20MM FoundationBisk Ventures; and Blackstone LaunchPad USC. The EdVentures program will also engage in “match-making,” or trying to connect the ed-tech startups with potential funders, said Lynch.

The program will not take an equity stake in the companies, he added.

In creating the EdVentures program, USC officials were well aware of the incubator and accelerator programs that dot the U.S. ed-tech landscape, said Lynch.

One way the USC program will distinguish itself is by offering “customized” mentoring and support, akin to what school aspire to offer students through personalized learning, he explained.

The program’s interest in supporting ed-tech companies run by minorities and women stems partly from the belief that doing so will bring new strategies into classrooms and product development.

EdVentures officials have sought to get the word out that they’re keen on supporting under-represented businesses, Lynch said, and the first cohort reflects that work.

“We need more, better ideas from everywhere,” Lynch said. “You come up with better solutions to problems when you have many people from different backgrounds noodling at the problem.”

The companies supported in EdVentures’ first cohort are:

  • Akilah, a Rwandan women’s college;
  • Ampligence, a 4G communication technology for math that aims to  help people do math with much more efficiency;
  • Class Calc, an AI-supported calculator meant to help students learn math;
  • Easy Teach, a customizable WordPress plug-in for creating & providing online courses;
  • Equally, an augmented reality social learning network designed to help students with math and science;
  • Giblib, a subscription service of videos of medical procedures for medical students;
  • Intervene, a data-driven adaptive intervention software to help close skill gaps among low performing students;
  • LoanBuddy, a student loan analysis software for financial advisers.
  • MandarinX, a Taiwanese-based organization offering MOOCs in Mandarin;
  • OctagonEDU, an Indonesian organization offering a visual science Wikipedia that uses augmented reality;
  • Reto, a Mexican-Based adaptive test preparation company focusing on Latin American Medical Education;
  • Studioso, a music education application for music teachers and students;
  • Ucroo, a web and mobile platform that integrates with existing college systems to provide a digital campus where students are better connected, supported and engaged.

Source: EdWeek MarketBrief

What VC Firms Want You To Know!


In the basement of Bridge Hall, future entrepreneurs of USC, graduate and undergraduate alike, learned tips and tricks from Manan Mehta, the founder of Unshackled and Netanel Bar Ilan, the CTO of Yobs.

1.“Brag about yourself, Don’t Be Humble”

VCs are in the business of buying businesses, so walk in with swagger because you are the customer as well. Mehta stressed the importance of knowing holding on to your superpower. Netanel Bar Ilan pointed out how most people often don’t even realize their potential and that they are eligible for the O1 visa.

2. “Your Advisors Shouldn’t Be The Reason Why I Invest In You”

Mentors and coaches are necessary and they will give you a head start, however, they are for you not for the company. Having big names as your advisors is not a sign of success as they probably won’t have real time for you. Find people who will invest time and effort into you. Additionally, giving the analogy of tennis coaches, Mehta, suggests that you shouldn’t be afraid to switch coaches because they need to evolve.

3.  “Three of My Investments have Changed Their Ideas”

VCs are investing in people. It’s easy to find good ideas but difficult to find good people to work with. Mehta suggests that you should start early and that when he invests, he does not necessarily need business progress.

 4. The 3 Questions

Manan Mehta says it takes him 3 Key Questions to decide whether he is going to invest in someone.

“How much Is your customer willing to pay you?”

“What is the most are they willing to pay you?”

“At what point do they tell you to fuck off?”

5. Customer knowledge: “It’s a motion picture, not a photograph”

Don’t think about the product, think about the problem. Customers buy you solving their top pain point. Follow the shortest pathway until you hit a set of customers who start asking for the same.

6. Learn the Language of VCs

Mehta says that something that takes about five hours to learn is what can set you apart from what most Entrepreneurs forget about. Also, it will prevent people from taking advantage of you.

7. “Fight yourself and take the opportunities”

From his personal startup experience, Ilan encourages entrepreneurs to not freak out if things don’t work. He recommends having more than one solution always. “Don’t think too much into the future”, he says, “focus on what you need right now, prioritize your tasks. “Scalability – you need to be accessible – that product is running 99% of times”

8. Stay in LA, Everything is still New, Companies Are Being Founded

Both Mehta and Ilan recommend that it is more important to build one’s name in Los Angeles rather than Silicon Valley or San Francisco.

9. Unknowns are Going To Hit You- like Hoodie and Piper from Silicon Valley

Watch the full event live on Troy Labs’ Facebook Page

Unshackled, a Silicon Valley-based pre-seed fund for immigrant founders and international students. Unshackled Ventures uses capital, a hands-on approach, a large engaged network, and an innovative funding model to help founders turn their ideas into reality. Unshackled Ventures was profiled in the 2016 Forbes 400 issue.

Since Unshackled Ventures began investing in 2015, it has helped its portfolio company founders, who hail from 16 countries, obtain seven different types of visas. Investors in

Unshackled’s first fund include First Round Capital, Emerson Collective, TYLT Ventures, Jerry Yang’s AME Cloud Ventures, Naval Ravikant, Brad Feld, and Joe Lonsdale, among others.

 Unshackled’s portfolio includes Starsky Robotics, Lily, and Pluto AI. Manan is the Founding Partner of Unshackled Ventures.

Netanel Ilan Bar – he’s an entrepreneur, ninja coder, and currently works at Yobs Technologies as their CTO. Yobs Technologies utilizes AI to assist hiring recruiters to narrow down their pool to only the best applicants for the job

Startup Feature: AIO Robotics

AIO Robotics

Interview with CEO Jens Windau


“We make the only stand alone 3D printing machine on the market — Zeus. If you think about Xerox copy machines, they’re completely standalone. They can scan, copy and print without being hooked up to a computer. We’re the only machine in the market that can do that in 3D and with a beautiful touchscreen and a powerful processor. There are machines that try to do the same thing but they’re not stand alone, so they’re not machines that you can put somewhere without an external computer. Since December 2014, we have shipped around 500 machines at about $2,500 each to customers worldwide.”


“We secured angel investment funding the year after and with that capital, we were able to finish the development process. At the end of 2014, we started manufacturing our machines with a huge team of engineers and a partner in Taiwan. We finally grew to a team of seven people and moved to an office in Santa Monica.”


“As an entrepreneur, you pretty much have to do everything by yourself first and then hand over tasks, and I think that’s one of the most rewarding things. Then the fun part in between was, for example, the Secret Service called and said “we need a machine.” The FBI called. Those kinds of things you don’t really expect.

We build prosthetic hands for kids and they’re incredible. It’s like $10 to print them and they’re super light. You can print them in 24 hours and kids can have instant prosthetic hands. We donate them to hospitals and kids here doing the special olympics. There was one little kid who came to our booth who was missing a few fingers, and the moment where you can help was very rewarding. It’s about opportunities to help people and give something back, and I think those moments are also moments when you realize it’s not always about competition or profit.”



“Be prepared for a roller coaster. When you’re in the field of tech, often your product development cycle takes a lot of patience. When you get your product up and running is not necessarily when it’s ready for the customer, so you definitely need a strong team that hauls together and sustains a long product development phase until it’s ready for the market.

You will still experience a lot of ups and downs, both financially as well as making sure the team gets along. You just have to be persistent, and think about what the end game is going to be and where you want to go.”

Click here for a PDF version of this feature.