Category Archives: Education

CSUF Entrepreneurship Students Pitch Concepts

CSUF Entrepreneurship students practicing their pitch to investors

CSUF Entrepreneurship students practicing their pitch to investors

At the end of every semester, our students pitch their business concepts to a group of judges comprised of investors, entrepreneurs, executives, bankers, and experts of all kinds. This semester, the concepts ran the gamut from a monthly book subscription box, a startup focusing on nanotechnology, to a safety app. These pitches are tremendous learning experiences as our panel of judges provides our students with excellent feedback as well as grades.

This panel happened a little over a week ago and since then the students have been hard at work incorporating their learning from their pitches into their plans and, for those who are actively launching their startups, into their actual operations.

Some of the feedback received centered on the students’ need to more fully analyze and project their financials, specifically the capital required to launch their startups. Other comments focused on the need to maintain eye contact with the audience and the need to create projections from the ground up.

For most students, these panels are not only great learning experiences but rather another step on their way to becoming better entrepreneurs.

Use Design Thinking to Have a Full Classroom

This one is for all the professors at Cal State Fullerton!

On April 18 and 19 (it’s one seminar that is being offered on both of these dates), SINC will be hosting a seminar on “How to Always Have a Full Classroom By Using Design Thinking to Create and Continuously Innovate Your Teaching Curriculum.” For more information, please go here (you may be asked to sign into your CSUF account).

SINC, Student Innovation Collective, was founded in 2016 by CSUF Students. They are a multidisciplinary group of students working together to tackle social issues that we all care about through design innovation. They have worked with companies and organizations like: Google, Stanford University, and the OC Register.

SINC Flyer

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CSUF Entrepreneurship Students Working on Philanthropic Startup Interviewed by VoyageLA

Alan Cerna and Branden Wells Apprentice Builds CSUF Startup Competition Semifinals

Branden Wells (left) and Alan Cerna at the CSUF Startup Competition Semifinals. They and their business, Apprentice Builds, were recently covered in VoyageLA and you can see them on Friday, April 6 at the CSUF Startup Competition Finals as they vie for a share of the more than $10,000 in scholarships and in-kind services.

We tell people this all the time: Entrepreneurship is rarely about raising millions of dollars and launching a tech company. Rather, entrepreneurship is about innovating and working on solutions that will make the world a better place and that is exactly why two of our Entrepreneurship students, Branden Wells and Alan Cerna, were recently interviewed by VoyageLA.

Pictured above, Branden and Alan have been working on the launch of their startup, Apprentice Builds, since last fall both in the classroom and at the CSUF Startup Incubator. Apprentice Builds’ mission is to teach teenagers the skills and responsibilities that come along with working on cars, especially hot rods. As you probably already know all too well, most schools have been dropping classes like the ones that Apprentice Builds are creating for decades now and that has left a hole in the educational fabric.

You can see Branden and Alan compete in the upcoming CSUF Startup Competition Finals on April 6 as they vie for a share in the more than $10,000 in scholarships and in-kind services available to the finalists.

Here’s a small bit from the article, I strongly recommend that you read the remainder on the VoyageLA website:

Apprentice Builds is a non-profit organization program that serves all high students in the low income or at-risk areas by providing knowledge and an opportunity to participate in an apprenticeship. Apprentice Builds works to reduce gang membership, drug use, and dropout rates by providing an outlet where the youth can learn valuable skills needed in today’s workforce. Students gain hands on skills building hot rods with experience mechanics and fabricators.

What makes the organization unique is not only the fact that students get to work on cool hot rods and cars but are taught responsibility taking the apprenticeship as a job and not a program anyone can be a part of. One of the biggest goals of the organization is to help these students leave the program with a second chance at knowing they’re better people than what they’re taught to be. With a mentor by their side, every student will have the proper guidance to stay on track with their life goals.

Branden and Alan continue to diligently work on Apprentice Builds and, as a reminder, you can see them at the CSUF Startup Competition Finals on Friday, April 6 from 1pm to 4pm at the Titan Student Union. There, they will be vying for a portion of the more than $10,000 in scholarships and in-kind services with their Apprentice Builds concept.

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6 Things Our Business School Teaches Students About Entrepreneurship

CSUF Startup Competition Semifinals Vanessa Ganaden and Rachel Herzog

Two CSUF Entrepreneurship students, Vanessa Ganaden (left) and Rachel Herzog (right), pitching their concept at the recent CSUF Startup Competition Semifinals. They are advancing to the Finals of the competition where they stand to win part of the more than $10,000 in scholarships and in-kind services!

We were recently sent an article titled 6 Things Business School Won’t Teach You About Entrepreneurship by Corey Ferreira that we largely agree with and completely disagree with at the same time. Mr. Ferreira’s contention is that business schools do not teach entrepreneurship in a way that is actionable for most people. He goes on to list six areas where business schools are deficient. We largely agree with his view of entrepreneurship and how for most of us entrepreneurship is about hustling and getting things done with limited resources.

But we have to disagree with his contention that business schools, especially the business school at Cal State Fullerton, do not prepare students well enough for this reality. At Cal State Fullerton we teach students many of the lessons Mr. Ferreira outlines in his article and we build on that through the CSUF Startup Incubator, entrepreneurial student clubs, and competitions like the upcoming CSUF Startup Competition. Below are my responses to the six areas Mr. Ferreira identified in his article.

A business can be scrappy

Our curriculum and our students embody scrappiness. We teach our students what it means to bootstrap a business and bolster those teachings with many guest speakers who have been there, done that. Mr. Ferreira rightly notes that many startups have to embrace a scrappy ethic in order to launch their business and we inculcate our students with hard won lessons on how to do that.

For example, central to much of our teaching is the need to create a minimum viable product (MVP) because that way you can test your hypothesis about what your customers want without having to create a finished product out of the gate. Buttressing the MVP is market research that involves actually getting out of the building and talking with potential customers. This process gives entrepreneurs with limited resources the best opportunity for success because they will inevitably find out so much valuable information from interviewing customers, launching an MVP, and iterating off of their results.

In a bygone era the formula was to come up with an idea, raise money, and launch at scale. Those days aren’t completely gone but for the vast majority of businesses those days aren’t around anymore. So, we agree on the necessity of launching with a lean business model but I cannot agree with his contention that business schools, at least ours, don’t teach realistic business practices.

Plans aren’t the most important thing

In the CSUF entrepreneurship program, we agree that plans aren’t the most important thing. They’re important as far as they go; they help to crystallize the entrepreneur’s vision and helps him think through the process of launching a business but, as we teach all of our students, plans should be written in pencil. Changes will inevitability happen when faced with results that do not meet the entrepreneur’s hypothesis about any facet of his business.

In the classroom, we give supremacy to the creation of a lean business model canvas, which is a one page document that succinctly lays out the nine most important factors that determine a business’ success. That’s right, a one page document. Yes, we do have the students go through the process of filling out those key hypotheses found in the lean model in a full business plan but we stress the necessity of creating a plan that must be updated frequently and having an entrepreneurial mindset that embraces nimbleness and the ability to change. As Mr. Ferreira notes, these are called pivots and this is a concept that is very familiar to all of our students.

How to set goals

Mr. Ferreira states that: “So many entrepreneurs know what they want to do, but they don’t really  know how to do it. Setting goals makes it easier to determine the path  since you can reverse-engineer from where you want to be.”

We can quibble on this. In the CSUF Entrepreneurship program we favor the ground up approach to planning and then setting goals that are hard to achieve but not impossible. Goal setting done right is a skill that must be learned by doing and we have a program that stresses doing. Every one of our entrepreneurship students works on a startup with the goal being to go from concept to launch. These businesses are incubated in the classroom over the course of two semesters with the guidance of faculty and mentors (our mentor pool of over 600 people includes professionals from all disciplines and many entrepreneurs).

Goal setting is also baked into our curriculum through the processes already discussed in this post as part of the process of iterating from MVP to a final product. We believe and teach our students that what isn’t measured doesn’t improve and it is goals that are measured.

Marketing in the 21st century

Mr. Ferreira accurately describes the ephemeral nature of marketing today. Social media, by design, is geared towards the creation of content that has a very short lifespan. Glance at a Tweet, move on. Read a Facebook post, move on. Watch a video on YouTube, move on. The staccato nature of today’s media is ever changing and keeping up with everything is impossible.

And yet, we do teach how to thrive in this atmosphere by drawing on many of the same lessons that are applicable in other parts of our entrepreneurial curriculum. By discovering and knowing who your customers are and experimenting on how to effectively communicate with them you can set yourself up for success. All of our professors draw on their academic research or professional experiences to teach modern marketing techniques to our students.

How to be creative

The ineffable qualities of creativity are hard to teach, says Mr. Ferreira, and he’s pretty much right about that. But there are ways to teach students so that they can maximize the creative gifts that they already posses. At CSUF Entrepreneurship we view creativity as if it were a muscle, the more you work at it the stronger your creative muscle becomes.

While there isn’t a formula for creativity we have developed our curriculum so that our students have many opportunities to work out their creative muscles. All students majoring in entrepreneurship at Cal State Fullerton get the opportunity to do consulting working for actual businesses. Our CSUF Consulting program enables students to put into practice the lessons that they have learned in the classroom and that is an extremely creative process. Figuring out ways to create winning strategies for clients in a wide range of areas (including: marketing, operations, leadership, and finance) is a fantastic way to develop a student’s creativity.


The CSUF Entrepreneurship program has a somewhat more nuanced view of risk taking than Mr. Ferreira has. The way we see it, all risks are not equal. Spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to build an app that you think the market wants is certainly a risk but it is not a good risk.

We teach our students to take small, containable risks that can be used as stepping stones towards creating products and services that the market actually wants. At its core, entrepreneurship is about trailblazing but it’s not about the kind of Leroy Jenkins-style trailblazing that almost always ends in doom and despair.

In the classroom, we do teach our students that failure is a fundamentally healthy part of entrepreneurship. This can be seen in everything that we teach: every decision is not carved in stone but, rather, an experiment to see what works and what doesn’t. Our whole lean startup approach is predicated on this belief.

If Mr. Ferreira is game, we would happily extend him the offer to sit in on some of our classes because we’re confident that he will see that the CSUF Entrepreneurship program is not like the business schools he describes in his article.

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Get Better, Network – CSUF Entrepreneurship Insider

Networks are everywhere and they help determine how a lot of the things that get done happen, especially today. In this edition of the CSUF Entrepreneurship Insider Director Jackson discusses the importance of networking as a way to increase opportunities all around and provides links to a few events that are a good way to increase your network.

One thing of interest to note is that a couple of the events listed are not hosted by Cal State Fullerton, one of them is actually hosted by Cal Poly. Expanding your network or, more accurately, your involvement with many different networks is a key way for you to dramatically increase your opportunities.

Briefly, networking is about creating more opportunities for yourself and for others as well. This is the case because the more people you meet and the more people you develop close bonds with the more opportunities you will have and, by extension, others will have as well. If you are an entrepreneur you need to view networking as part of your job and that means becoming an active member in your community; examples of communities are the CSUF Entrepreneurship community and your local bowling league.

Don’t mistake this for a call to go to events with your mind on selling. And networking is not all about going to events either, not by a long shot. The key part in that last paragraph was really about developing close bonds with people. These are people that you collaborate with on projects, have lunch with from time to time, or in some way communicate with on a consistent basis.

But it all starts with getting out there and meeting people. To that end, here are a mixture of four upcoming events for you that are potentially network expanding:

From Fear to Courage by American Idol’s William Hung is this Wednesday at 6pm at the CSUF Startup Incubator (Irvine) and his talk will delve into his seven steps for achieving your goals.

The Cal Poly Alumni OC Scholarship Fundraiser is this Thursday starting at 6pm and it is a great way to support bright students and to start expanding your network to people from another university.

After months of work on the part of our students, the CSUF Startup Competition Finals will be on April 6 starting at 1pm in the Titan Student Union. Come to hear the creative startup concepts that our students have come up with and to meet other entrepreneurially-minded members of the community.

On April 12 is Ignite 22, a tech showcase that is being hosted by CSUF Entrepreneurship Ambassador Jim Cooper and his company, Braid Theory. At this event you will get to meet with and learn from some of the shining lights in the tech industry.

Networking is a fascinating subject and while there are a lot of books on how to network, you have probably read at least a couple of them, there are two recent books that delve into how networks work that I think you should read. One is by CSUF Entrepreneurship Professor David Obstfeld called Getting New Things Done and the other is The Square and the Tower by Niall Ferguson. You can learn a lot from these books and they can make for good conversation starters at the next event you attend.

John Bradley Jackson
Director and Professor
CSUF Center for Entrepreneurship, CSUF Consulting, & CSUF Startup Incubator

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Want to Learn Google-Tested Strategies to Enhance Your Teaching?

This one is for all the professors at Cal State Fullerton!

On March 21 and 22 (it’s one seminar that is being offered on both of these dates), SINC will be hosting a seminar on “How to use what you already have to design high-performance environments and increase student engagement through design thinking.” For more information, please go here (you may be asked to sign into your CSUF account).

SINC, Student Innovation Collective, was founded in 2016 by CSUF Students. They are a multidisciplinary group of students working together to tackle social issues that we all care about through design innovation. They have worked with companies and organizations like: Google, Stanford University, and the OC Register.

SINC Flyer


For more details on CSUF Entrepreneurship:

For more details on how we help people become entrepreneurs:

For more details on how CSUF Consulting can help businesses thrive:

Attend one of our events for entrepreneurs or sign up for a free mentoring session:

Knowledge @ CSUF Entrepreneurship:

Funding Your Big Idea – CSUF Entrepreneurship Insider

Funding your idea is hard to do, especially if you are in one of the STEM fields and your concept has never been done before. How do you fund your idea then? In this edition of the CSUF Entrepreneurship Insider you will find an event we are hosting this Wednesday that will answer your questions.

As I reviewed the submissions from our CSUF Startup Competition I was pleasantly surprised to see a good number of the concepts were in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math). There are so many emergent opportunities in those fields and I know that our students are up for the challenge.

Part of that challenge is funding. And that isn’t a small challenge either, especially when you are working in a field where you will probably need a decent amount of research and development before you even launch. That’s one of the reasons why we’re very happy to have an expert in the STEM funding field in to speak at the CSUF Startup Incubator in Placentia this Wednesday.

Jim Cooper, said expert, will give the talk Funding Moonshots this Wednesday at 6pm. In this talk, Jim will cover the funding options available to STEM entrepreneurs and how they can effectively raise funds for their groundbreaking concepts.

We hope to see you there!

John Bradley Jackson
Director and Professor
CSUF Center for Entrepreneurship, CSUF Consulting, & CSUF Startup Incubator

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