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USC Marshall and USC Leventhal students and alumni are always pushing the boundaries and looking to solve the next problem.
At USC Marshall’s Lloyd Greif Center for Entrepreneurial Studies, students learn a mindset that sets them apart and better positions them to make a positive difference in the world. This mindset is about much more than just founders and founding processes. It is about adaptable, flexible thinking; assessing and managing risk in dynamic, uncertain environments; and finding and pursuing new opportunities.
The Greif Center offers a portfolio of programs that help students get the real world skills and knowledge that support entrepreneurial success and the development of an entrepreneurial mindset. Students have access to mixers, student clubs, business pitch competitions, and speaker events and opportunities to receive mentoring and resources through the Blackstone LaunchPad, the USC Marshall Greif Incubator, the USC Marshall Venture Fund, New Venture Seed Competition, and more. These are supplemented by activities that connect students to additional entrepreneurship resources and programs across USC and Los Angeles.
The USC Marshall Greif Incubator takes founders from feasibility and development, through business model testing, distribution, founder team development, customers, potential funding, and access to legal resources, financial assistance, and more -- offering USC’s top student, alumni, faculty, and staff entrepreneurs the ability to do more, faster.
The USC Marshall Venture Fund invests in and receives equity from ventures led by USC students, alumni, faculty, and staff. The Fund’s mission is to bridge the funding gap for early-stage and amplify the impact for later-stage USC-related companies; train students to evaluate, make, and manage venture investments; and engage alumni, advisors, experts, and other stakeholders in helping build the entrepreneurial ecosystem at USC and in Southern California.
This spring, more than 200 teams of USC students, recent graduates, faculty and staff entered USC's biggest entrepreneurship event, the Greif Center’s New Venture Seed Competition. The entrepreneurs were able to learn and have the opportunity to receive a part of the $150,000 prize pool to help their idea become a reality. The 2021 winners will be announced soon.
Every fall, the Greif Center, the USC Marshall Master of Science in Entrepreneurship & Innovation and the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism bring together the ATHENA Women’s Entrepreneurship Summit. ATHENA is a program comprised of a pitch competition and a summit with a day-long conference that celebrates women business leaders and their entrepreneurial journeys. ATHENA aims to increase women founders, increase women investors, and provide access to funding capital and mentors.
The Blackstone LaunchPad at USC supports student ventures from the earliest stages of their business careers, helping provide them the resources and skills to launch startups or entrepreneurial careers. At USC, the Blackstone Launchpad offers mentoring, programming, and access to unique on and off-campus activities including an annual conference and fellowship opportunities.
For founders and their startups, early decisions about people – cofounders, employees, investors, and board members – are vital to long-term success. Despite the significance of these decisions, founders often operate without the benefit of a roadmap to help guide what matters most and soonest: when specific decisions should be made, which options to consider, and what long-term consequences can be anticipated. USC Marshall’s Founder Central addresses these topics with founders as well as contributes research to create and disseminate knowledge about the most important early decisions faced by founders and the other people who help build startups.
Having gained global distribution years ago, Marshall’s Case Program at the Greif Center provides business students all over the world the opportunity to learn from cases developed at USC. From the beginning, Jeremy Dann, an entrepreneurship lecturer and director of the Case Program, said the goal was to create a case collection that was very focused, but also world class. For example, students will soon learn about Barnana, the Los Angeles-based sustainable snack foods company, courtesy of a new case study developed by Dann for his “Green Entrepreneurship” course at the USC Marshall. Barnana: Adventures in Upcycling won the Outstanding Case Writer Competition: Hot Topic “UN Sustainable Development Goals” category at the Case Centre Awards and Competitions 2021. One of the judges commented: “This is an outstanding case that could become a classic go-to for classes in entrepreneurship, sustainability and marketing.” “We want to impact the experience of our students in the classroom, but we also want to help improve the learning experience and the timeliness in hundreds of classrooms around the world,” he said. “Now, getting this acknowledgment, in what is to my mind the top case writing competition, reinforces that we can have a major impact in the teaching of entrepreneurship, innovation, and social entrepreneurship all over the world.”
Entrepreneurial Students and Alumni
With a background in advertising, Scott Englar MBA ’21 knew there was a need for an aggregator like Showpa, a new app that provides a personalized list of where you can watch a show based on your subscriptions, and when you can plan to watch it. And he knew he could make his business idea a reality at USC Marshall. He said, “I needed the finance and entrepreneurship skill sets. That’s what drew me to USC.” Englar developed the business from the ground up in his classes and found two partners along the way: Josh Wolonick MBA ’21 and Chad Helou MS Computer Science ’21. They are preparing to launch Showpa right around the time they all graduate in May. Coming to USC was key in pulling Showpa together. “I don’t think this venture would have been do-able without this MBA program,” Englar said. “Marshall provides so many resources, and Viterbi has an extremely great engineering program. Couple that with the venture capital ecosystem in Los Angeles and Marshall’s connections in the entertainment industry. All of that came together for the perfect recipe for this venture.”
While the pandemic lockdown tested Brian Conyer’s MBA ’17 adaptability and leadership in a time of crisis, it also drove exponential revenue growth at the tech startup he launched with his co-founder, Jihye Shin MBA ’14, in 2016. When he was interviewed in early 2021, GIBLIB, a video-based education platform for practicing physicians, had grown subscription revenues five times since last January, doubled its team size, just raised an additional $2 million in capital (totaling $5.5M then-to-date), and boasted a 70% conversion rate on trial subscribers. “We have been super fortunate to be on the benefitting side of the ‘new normal,’” Conyer said. Conyer credits Marshall with giving him the confidence and frameworks necessary to not only launch his company but to guide it through the uncharted waters of the global pandemic.
USC Marshall alumnus and entrepreneur Daniel Rice ’19 knows more about face masks than most people. He’s the president and co-founder (along with Roger Zhang and Alan Bidgoli) of Upside Health Inc., a developer, importer and distributor of FDA 510(k) approved face masks to clients including first responders, health care organizations and the federal government. “Marshall is synonymous with entrepreneurship education,” he said. “And being half Chinese and bilingual, its partnerships and reach beyond the Pacific Rim were attractive to me.” Last summer, Rice realized that the USC community would benefit from its supply of its surplus masks and the company donated 200,000 masks to USC. "USC has always been a source of pride for the people of Los Angeles, and being able to give back to our local community means a lot to us," said Rice. "We wanted to not just make a small impact but a significant one.”
The Entrepreneurial Mindset
Through the Greif Center, Marshall students and alumni learn to develop and cultivate an entrepreneurial mindset in themselves and their teams. The Entrepreneurial Mindset is about so much more than just founders and founding processes. Having an Entrepreneurial Mindset means that one embraces – philosophically, emotionally, and intellectually – the notion that adaptable, flexible thinking is an essential skill; the notion that one must be willing to assess and take on reasonable amounts of risk, in a variety of organizational settings; the notion that one must grow comfortable with making decisions in environments where surprises can and do occur, where structure might not always be present, and where complete data are often unavailable; and the notion that one must be attentive, always, to new opportunities.
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