Petitas Los Angeles – Selected For Inaugural Blackstone LaunchPad Techstars Lift Accelerator

This morning, Petitas, an LA clothing brand founded by USC Marshall 2018 alumna Chelsea LaFerla, was selected as part of the newly created Blackstone LaunchPad powered by Techstars “LaunchPad Lift” program.

Chelsea LaFerla is the CEO & Founder of Petitas Los Angeles

According to LaFerla, “Petitas Los Angeles is a clothing brand made by and for petite, professional women. The brand empowers petite women to be #clothedinconfidence through uniquely-tailored, high-end garments; their Signature Label is made in the USA using premium, hand-sourced fabrics.”

USC Marshall School of Business prepares small businesses for large contracts

Kimberly Kelly-Rolfe, a Locke High School graduate, teaches the Certified Business Enterprise Supplier Training at USC’s Marshall School of Business. Photo by Jason Lewis

BUSINESS

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 the 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

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/

USCM_Innov_Conf_Flyer

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.”

Download a PDF version of this feature

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.

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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.