This Wednesday, December 10, students will have the rare opportunity to hear about the entrepreneurship-related programs available through CSE and UC San Diego, all in one place, at one time. From noon to 1pm in Jacobs Hall's Qualcomm Conference Center, three groups will stage a combined Info Session. The NSF I-Corps program run by The von Liebig Center, the Jacobs School-based Moxie Center, and the student-run UC San Diego Entrepreneur Challenge will spell out how students can get involved in the process of taking a concept from the lab to the marketplace.
Representatives of these groups will talk about their respective programs. Moxie Center director Jay Kunin will talk about the Moxie Entrepreneur's Academy, scheduled for Wednesday evenings during the winter quarter from 6-8pm. The von Liebig Center's Jay Gilberg will spell out plans for the I-Corps programs on Tuesday and Thursday evenings 6-8pm. Nine startups developed in the Fall quarter will move to the second stage, and another 15 or so new student teams begin stage one..
The UC San Diego Entrepreneur Challenge's Michael Hayden will talk about several different competitions designed to help students develop and convey their best ideas for commercialization, with most activities scheduled for Monday evenings. The contests include the Best Elevator Pitch (pitches less than 60 seconds in length), the Best Business Plan competition, and hackathons, in addition to the E-Challenge itself, which singles out the best startups in life sciences and other technologies.
CSE students and alumni have taken advantage of such programs, in part due to the decision to locate the Moxie Center in the CSE Building. "We are very proud of current and former students who have taken an idea and turned it into a viable startup or licensing deal," says CSE chair Rajesh Gupta.
Gupta points to alumna Natalie Castellana (M.S. '09, Ph.D. '12), who is Chief Technology Officer at Digital Proteomics LLC (since May 2012, when she finished her doctorate under CSE Prof. Vineet Bafna, who co-founded the company with CSE professors Pavel Pevzner and Nuno Bandeira). Castellana (at left) developed algorithms and software for interrogating the proteome through mass spectrometry. She also developed a pipeline for automated gene finding. Digital Proteomics offers more than half a dozen toolkits to scientists who want to undertake monoclonal antibody sequencing, universal peptide identification, de novo peptide sequencing as well as spectral clustering and quality filtering. Among other deals with biotech companies, Digital Proteomics has worked closely with Genentech to develop Castellana's antibody sequencing tool called Valens.
CSE students can take advantage of new sources of funding, as well. These include crowdfunding platforms such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo. Currently one of the big success stories on Kickstarter is Hush Technology, whose campaign has already raised nearly $400,000 more than the original goal of $100,000. CSE senior Daniel (Chesong) Lee and his fellow co-founders have benefited from engagement with multiple entrepreneurship activities, including the Elevator Pitch contest, and later Hush began to develop what the company now calls "the world's first smart earplugs," with coaching from advisors at both the Moxie Center and the NSF I-Corps program. Hush was one of the seven winners at this week’s Plug and Play San Diego competition, each of which won $25,000 investments and admission to Plug and Play’s Sunnyvale-based accelerator program.
"CSE has been a source of talent, amplified by the Moxie Center with its ability to reach out to talent beyond computer science," said CSE's Gupta. "A good example is Hush Technology, which has been a great success in part because the computer science student co-founded the company with students from the structural engineering as well as mechanical and aerospace engineering departments."
Hush remains in the Moxie Center Incubator and it needs to do further development to fulfill its "stretch" goals as the Kickstarter funds outpaced even the team's wildest dreams. But Hush is a rarity in the Moxie Incubator; virtually all of the 16 other student startups remain cash-poor. Of all 17 startups in the incubator, seven have at least one CSE student on the management team. Two of the startups are in both the Moxie Incubator and the Fall I-Corps Program: Cocoon Cam (led by student Pavan Kumar Pavagada Nagaraja, who also took home the Most Practical Solution award at MedHack San Francisco in September); and Meego Tech (formerly USKey) which has designed and built a second-generation prototype of the device that CSE senior Jorge Landaverde and his colleagues call "the smartest motion-activated laptop theft prevention system." Other companies in the Moxie Incubator: Datalockr (Jake Pham and Kelly Lim), which is promoting the use of QR codes to help sell properties in the real estate market; and Aqua Design Innovations (Victor Wu), whose aquaponics filter EcoQube for home aquariums is now shipping (manufactured in China, air-shipped to the U.S.), and their second-generation product is on the drawing board.
Other startups in the Moxie Center Incubator feature systems and services specifically targeted at fellow students. They include Abdulhafiz (Omar) Itani (at left), who hopes to finish his B.S. in December, prior to launching CampusLessons as a web-based service to help students find a go-to point of contact on campus to engage with other students through activities and academics. Rajiv Pasricha, a Jacobs School Scholar who won the Audience Choice award at the Moxie Center PitchFest in April 2014, and CSE sophomore Ganesh Datta have a startup called Study Groups; it is a service to help students form... study groups. Finally, a team of three CSE students -- Dexin Qi, Yu Xia and Zijian Tao -- have a startup called CollegeTickr (formerly iPassStore), which provides a web platform for college and university students to share their secrets anonymously.
Other recent success stories include Tortuga Logic, co-founded in 2013 by CSE Prof. Ryan Kastner and Ph.D. student (as well as CEO) Jason Oberg (M.S. '12), and postdoctoral researcher Jonathan Valamehr (CFO/COO).