Category Archives: Business Concepts

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.

Risk-taking

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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CSUF Startup Featured in OC Register

In this edition of the CSUF Entrepreneurship Insider Director John Bradley Jackson highlights the progress that a startup two of our students founded a year ago has made and how the first step to becoming an entrepreneur is telling people about your idea (A great place to do that for current university and high school students is at the Titan Fast Pitch competition on October 21!).

Last week, the OC Register featured a startup founded by two of our recent graduates. The startup, Wecademi, was founded by Brent Maxinoski ’17 and Cayman Elkin ’17 in our CSUF Entrepreneurship classes. Their mission is to help students pass the most difficult classes they will take. To learn more about these two I urge you to read the OC Register article and watch the interview that we did with them over the summer.
These are still early days for Wecademi and I expect there are many chapters yet to be written about this business. But their journey is underway and I am hopeful that it will have a good ending for Brent and Cayman.
Entrepreneurship is interesting because there is no obvious path to for an entrepreneur to follow. Every entrepreneur has to figure things out as they go but, as we teach in class and the CSUF Startup Incubator, there is a process for figuring out that path.
But entrepreneurs must still take that first uncertain step into the unknown and a good first step to take is to tell people about your idea. For current university and high school students that first step can be the Titan Fast Pitch competition that we are hosting on October 21. Or that first step could be simply talking to people you already know and trust. Whatever the case, I have found that openly discussing your ideas give them nourishment and help them grow.
If you have an idea for a business I would welcome the opportunity to discuss it with you.
Sincerely,

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

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Trade Secret Protection – Key Points for Entrepreneurs to Know

Stephen LaCount Intellectual Property Talk Trade Secrets CSUF Startup Incubator IrvineDuring Stephen LaCount’s talk titled Intellectual Property and the Entrepreneur at the CSUF Irvine campus Stephen went over a lot of interesting topics; topics that are immediately valuable to the entrepreneurs that were there. One of the parts of his talk that I liked in particular was his information on trade secret protection.

Here are some key takeaways that I had:

  • If you do it right, a trade secret can last forever (i.e. Coca Cola)
  • “Trade Secret” means information, including a formula, pattern, compilation, program, device, method, technique, or process that: 1. Derives independent economic value… from not being generally known to, and not being readily ascertainable by proper means by other persons… and 2. Is the subject of efforts that are reasonable under the circumstances to maintain its secrecy.
    • This is from the Model Trade Secrets Act
  • One example that Stephen gave was how Texas Instruments successfully sued someone who flew a plane over a factory that they were building so that he could get pictures of how they were doing things, which violated their trade secrets
    • (I tried finding this story but, alas, couldn’t find it)
  • If the company or person with a trade secret doesn’t properly maintain it’s trade secrets then they will go to the public domain
    • That is, obviously, not good, so you have to work to protect your trade secrets
  • How to protect your Trade Secrets:
    • Restrict visitors to your work site – control or deny access to sensitive areas
    • Limit disclosure – implement strict “need to know” standard
    • Internal procedures and safeguards – you will need to create these, train your people on how to properly follow them, and have a system that ensures employee fidelity to your procedures and safeguards
    • Explicit written agreements: what is being disclosed and for what purpose?
      • Any relationship of importance should have a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) attached to it
    • Stamp and legend documents: such as “Confidential and Proprietary”; “Do Not Duplicate or Distribute”
  • Even though there is a lot that goes into protecting a trade secret there is no paperwork that you have to file with the government and a trade secret theoretically will never expire
  • What about past employees? Do they have to protect trade secrets from their former employer?
    • The answer is, of course, yes. Past employees do have a duty to protect the trade secrets of their former employees

The part about trade secrets was only a small fraction of Stephen’s overall talk and we will be working on putting together video segments of this talk for our Knowledge @ CSUF Entrepreneurship video series and Stephen’s segments will be published over the next couple of months.

So make sure to check back in frequently so you won’t miss any of the videos or, better yet, become a CSUF Entrepreneurship Insider. Insiders get a weekly update featuring the ideas, news, events, and success stories that are coming out of the CSUF Entrepreneurship community.


#CSUF

For more details on CSUF Entrepreneurship:
http://business.fullerton.edu/Center/Entrepreneurship/

For more details on how we help people become entrepreneurs:
http://business.fullerton.edu/Center/Entrepreneurship/Incubator

For more details on how CSUF Consulting can help businesses thrive:
http://business.fullerton.edu/Center/Entrepreneurship/Consulting

Attend one of our events for entrepreneurs or sign up for a free mentoring session:
http://bit.ly/CSUFEntrepreneurEvents

Knowledge @ CSUF Entrepreneurship video series:
http://bit.ly/csufknowledge

The Biggest Mistake Entrepreneurs Make in Product Development – Knowledge @ CSUF Entrepreneurship

The Biggest Mistake that Entrepreneurs can make when Developing a Product

Having reviewed thousands of businesses and investing in multiple startups, Tech Coast Works Managing Director Jeff Greenberg knows a thing or two about product development. In this video in the Knowledge @ CSUF Entrepreneurship series taken at the CSUF Startup Incubator, Jeff goes into detail about the product development process and explains what the biggest mistake is that entrepreneurs can make when developing a new product.

Jeff details how smart entrepreneurs avoid this common pitfall by using the lean startup methodology. It all starts with the minimum viable product (MVP) and continues on with multiple iterations and A/B testing resulting in a much better product, a product that customers actually want.

Jeff Greenberg: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jeffreyrgreenberg/


#CSUF

For more details on CSUF Entrepreneurship: http://business.fullerton.edu/Center/Entrepreneurship/

For more details on how we help people become entrepreneurs: http://business.fullerton.edu/Center/Entrepreneurship/Incubator

For more details on how CSUF Consulting can help businesses thrive: http://business.fullerton.edu/Center/Entrepreneurship/Consulting

Attend one of our events for entrepreneurs or sign up for a free mentoring session: http://bit.ly/CSUFEntrepreneurEvents

Find Your Entrepreneurial Fit

Every week in the CSUF Entrepreneurship Insider you can learn important things to help you start your business. This week is no different.

I frequently have conversations with entrepreneurs, many of them are first time entrepreneurs, who are enthusiastic about an idea but don’t know where to start. Sometimes they just need a little bit of help and then they are on their way to making a successful launch. But then there are those times when the entrepreneur I am talking to just doesn’t fit their idea.

They don’t fit their idea for any number of reasons but one of the main reoccurring reasons is that they don’t have the necessary skills to make their idea into a business. It’s a tough situation because I can see the obvious passion they have for their idea but it just doesn’t make sense for them to pursue that idea the way they are thinking they should.

For any entrepreneur considering the launch of a new business a good exercise to do is to sit down and honestly assess your skills. After you have written down your skills go back to your idea, or concept, and determine how good of a fit you are for your idea. If there is a mismatch you can tweak your idea to make it a better fit or you can add people with the skills you are lacking onto your startup team.

Perusing through the Success Stories from the CSUF Entrepreneurship community you can quickly see that those entrepreneurs have successfully leveraged their skills to start their businesses. And I have to thank Damon Brown for bringing this topic up at his recent talk. This is a simple but important lesson that many people don’t consider before starting a business.

Sincerely,

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

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Entrepreneur Mentor Office Hours: Startup Expert Jim Cooper @ CSUF Startup Incubator

This Friday from 10am to 4pm startup expert Jim Cooper will be hosting office hours at the CSUF Startup Incubator. For more details and to reserve some time with Jim please go here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/entrepreneur-mentor-startup-expert-jim-cooper-csuf-startup-incubator-tickets-31190267931?aff=blog

jim-cooper

This Friday from 10am to 4pm startup expert Jim Cooper will be holding office hours at the CSUF Startup Incubator to help you figure out how to launch your business.

Launching a business can be an extremely difficult thing to do, especially if you haven’t done something like it before. That’s why we are making office hours with CSUF Startup Incubator mentor and speaker Jim Cooper available.

During these office hours, entrepreneurs will have the chance to sit down with experienced startup mentor Jim Cooper for a half an hour to get help with their business. A half an hour may not seem like a long time but Jim is full of ideas and advice and we’re sure that he’ll be able to help your business.

To make an appointment, please click the registration button above and pick the half hour timeslot that works the best for you.

(One note of caution: Help provided during office hours is limited to the time available during office hours and to get the best results out of this time we strongly recommend that you have a more permanent mentor, like the ones that are attached to our Residents at the CSUF Startup Incubator.)

Jim Cooper is the founder of Conscientia Research. As the founder of Conscientia Research, his main mission can be described by the following:

“Our goals are to make your business successful and competitive by employing research to understand markets, manage risk through intelligence analysis, and provide you with recommendations for decision making, so you don’t have to rely on assumptions about how your market works.”

Jim is a mentor to some of our Residents at the CSUF Startup Incubator. Jim also runs Braid Theory, an Incubator and Accelerator for early stage tech startups. He is also mentor and pitching coach at PortTech Los Angeles, advisor at Lab Launch Inc., mentor and Lean Startup Panelist for the NSF’s i-Corps CSUPerb STEM program for the CSU system, he mentors and coaches energy and transport related startups at the Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator, an Entrepreneur in Residence at PortTech Los Angeles, and a Business Development Advisor at Lab Launch Inc.


#CSUF

Become a CSUF Entrepreneurship Insider to keep up-to-date on all the events, news, and everything else we do: http://bit.ly/CSUFStartupSignup

For more details on CSUF Entrepreneurship: http://bit.ly/CSUFEntrepreneurship

For more details on how we help people become entrepreneurs: http://bit.ly/csufstartup

Attend one of our entrepreneur events or sign up for a free mentoring session: http://bit.ly/CSUFEntrepreneurEvents