Category Archives: CSUF Startup Incubator

Turning Your Passion Into a Business @ CSUF Startup [EVENT]

CSUF Startup Incubator Jonny May and Phillip Stinis

Come see Jonny May at the CSUF Startup Incubator in Irvine on Wednesday, June 20 at 6pm! (Jonny is the one on the right)

It’s not every day that you get the opportunity to listen to a piano virtuoso and learn the secrets to entrepreneurial success but on Wednesday, June 20 you will get that opportunity! If you have followed this blog in the last couple of years you will know who I am talking about but for those of you who are uninitiated the piano playing entrepreneur I am talking about is Jonny May ’17. We will be welcoming Jonny in at 6pm at our Irvine location. Details are below and if you plan on attending please register at our Eventbrite page.

Why not make a business out of your passion?

That is exactly what CSUF Entrepreneurship graduate Jonny May has done. He has created a thriving subscription-based business out of his passion for piano playing called Piano with Jonny. On his site he has created an extensive library of lessons and educational materials for all levels of learners but it all started from his passion for playing the piano.

When Jonny was young, he took to playing the piano. He would practice for hours on end and as he grew older he became a very good pianist. So good, in fact, that he became Disneyland’s youngest pianist and he has been featured in venues as diverse as Carnegie Hall and American Idol. But Jonny, like I expect is the case with you, wanted more.

Along the way Jonny also developed a passion for teaching others how to play the piano. He had many students but Jonny is only one person. In entrepreneur lingo, that meant he was not scalable. So Jonny decided to take the leap into becoming an entrepreneur and searched for ways to teach more people and help them develop the same passion for the ivories that he has.

That’s why Jonny created Piano with Jonny: to help others turn their passion for the piano into something more. And at this talk at the CSUF Startup Incubator in Irvine, Jonny will go over the many lessons he has learned at Cal State Fullerton and through entrepreneurial trial and error and help you learn how you can turn your passion into a scalable business.

And Jonny will also treat attendees to his piano playing as well! This is a can’t miss event at the CSUF Startup Incubator and we hope to see you there!

Directions and Parking

Parking is available on the Irvine campus for a fee. For more information about parking on the CSUF Irvine campus, please go here:


For more details on CSUF Entrepreneurship:

For more details on how we help people become entrepreneurs: 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 video series:

If you want to be an Entrepreneur LEARN how to Pitch your Concept

CSUF Startup Incubator Resident Ben Yip Presenting to Investors

CSUF Startup Incubator Resident Ben Yip pitching his startup at the CSUF Startup Incubator last week. Ben’s startup helps nonprofits raise funds through couponing.

Pitching your business concept is not just about raising money. It can be about that, of course, and some of our students and residents at the CSUF Startup Incubator have raised money in part because they were good at pitching their concepts. But the reality is that the vast majority of startups do not receive funding from investors outside of their family and friends.

There are many reasons for that and while I won’t go into all of them here let it suffice to be said that investors are looking for tremendous gains not because they are greedy but, rather, because of the startups that do end up receiving funding many of those end up failing so investors have to focus only on those startups with a tremendous upside so that they can potentially make a profit. The startup business is tough but I shudder at thinking what our economy would be if not for intrepid entrepreneurs willing to take that chance at starting something great.

And by “great” I do not mean that you have to create the next Amazon. What I mean by great is a startup, it could be a business or a nonprofit, that makes a positive impact on the community. This could be through the mission of the startup, the number of people it employs, by bringing a product or service to the market that wasn’t there before, or any other of a host of things that can improve a community.

Why should you learn how to pitch your startup?

First, the obvious answer. Even if you aren’t going after investment you need to know how to pitch your startup to customers, potential employees, partners, bankers, and other stakeholders. Each pitch will be a different, potentially substantially different in terms of length and content, but they will all focus on what the core of your business is: why you are doing what you are doing and why it should matter to the people you are talking to.

The less obvious reason is so that you can sharpen your own idea of what it is that your business is about, how it is progressing, and where you want to take the business in the future. These are complicated topics to cover but the thing to keep in mind is that you won’t have a pitch that will work in perpetuity. A pitch is something that should change over time to reflect the current reality and prospects for your business.

How do you give a good pitch?

At the bottom of the page is a deck by Center for Entrepreneurship and CSUF Startup Incubator Director John Bradley Jackson on how to give a great pitch to investors. It’s comprehensive and while it’s meant for entrepreneurs who are readying themselves to pitch to investors it can absolutely be modified to fit any pitch situation you find yourself in.

If you are a tl;dr kind of reader, the basics are that:

  • Know what your goal is going in
  • Know your audience
  • Be friendly, treat your audience well
  • Focus on the big picture first and then, if the situation calls for it, drill down on specifics
  • Do not clutter your slides with too many words
  • Practice

For a pitch to investors, Director Jackson recommends using the following twelve slides:

  1. Introduction
  2. Problem
  3. Solution
  4. Market
  5. Competitive Landscape
  6. Customers and Partners
  7. Business Model
  8. Current Status
  9. Financial Projections
  10. Management Team
  11. Funding/ROI
  12. Summary

Pitches to different audience will obviously require a different set of slides or maybe no slides at all. It all depends on the situation. For example, if you are a nonprofit that is looking to sign up a business as a donor then you should have a deck that does not include the Funding/ROI slide or you could get creative and showcase what your social ROI is. If you are starting a flower shop and you need some seed money from a rich aunt you might be able to dispense with the deck and opt for a personal conversation that focuses on some of the big picture key points.

As is the case with life in general, no advice is applicable to all situations but if you understand and master the building blocks then you will be better prepared to take on different situations. The same is true with pitching.

Personally, I prefer pitches that focus more on numbers but I have found that is not the norm outside of pitches to investors (even then, emotion oftentimes plays a key role with many investors). My best recommendation is to figure out what kind of presenter you are and showcase those skills.

The corollary to that is that you should focus on the upside or good parts about your business when pitching. By no means try to hide negatives about your business or nonprofit. Instead, you should acknowledge any shortcomings that you have because sophisticated people (investors, partners, etc.) will ferret out your weaknesses. By acknowledging your weaknesses and addressing how you will make them into strengths or convincingly explaining why they are of less importance will signal to the people you are pitching to that you are a serious person who has thought things through.

What can you do to be a better pitcher?

Practice is always a good thing. There’s nothing worse than watching someone fumble through their pitch.

Directed practice is even better. One of the many things that we help residents at the CSUF Startup Incubator with is developing their pitches. Knowing the basics is a must and you can learn that anywhere but having a team of experts guiding you through the process of refining your pitch is a value beyond belief.

At the CSUF Startup Incubator, as is the case with every other incubator that I know of, we have experts who have been on both sides of the pitch. This kind of insight is critical to developing a strong pitch and if you are ready to learn how to become the entrepreneur that you were meant to be then send us an email to to find out how the CSUF Startup Incubator can help make that happen.


Keep in touch with the weekly CSUF Entrepreneurship Insider:

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:

To connect with the CSUF Entrepreneurship team:

What I Wish I Knew When I Started Up my 1st Company – CSUF Startup Event

CSUF Startup Talk

[This event is on Wednesday, June 6 at the CSUF Irvine campus. For information about reserving your seat and on how to park please make sure to visit the event page.]

You don’t know what you don’t know – that’s just the fact when it’s your first time starting anything new, let alone a startup. Avoid costly mistakes and set yourself up for success by learning from our mentors who have been there and done that. In this complimentary event, you will be learning from entrepreneurs, and afterwards, you will be able to network with our staff and resident mentors who can help coach you in starting your business.

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Choosing the Optimal Go-To-Market Strategy for your Startup – CSUF Startup Event this Wednesday

The Road to SalesThe number one metric for just about every entrepreneur should be sales. Without sales, your startup will not amount to much in the long run. So, how do you start getting sales? Attend this free seminar this Wednesday at 6pm at the CSUF Startup Incubator in Irvine. To register for this event and to get parking instructions and directions please go to our event page.

Sell! Sell! Sell!


You’ve got a great product or service idea. You know the customers are going to love it! But how are you going to get in in the hands of the buyers? Do you need a salesforce, marketing budgets to drive web traffic, brand awareness campaigns or a combination of it all? In this discussion we will lay out the parameters that will help you make the proper go to market decision.

Discussion topics with relevant examples:

Are you replacing an existing solution or creating a new market?

What is your ICP and what do you say to them to make them act?

How much up-front investment will you need to generate awareness?

Are there platforms you can leverage for sales/distribution?

What is the typical sales cycle?

Who is involved in the buying process?

Is there a partner eco-system you can utilize?

Andrew Meyer will be leading this far reaching discussion by drawing on decades of experience as an entrepreneur and executive. From LinkedIn: High-impact, results-driven business leader with a proven history of leading software and tech companies through explosive growth leading to high profile exits including IPOs. Transformations have included start-ups through mature businesses in security, SaaS, CRM and mobile. Key skills in general management, marketing and sales, talent recruitment and refinement, and public relations.

We hope to see you there!

Directions and Parking

You will need to purchase a parking permit to park on this campus. Our office is located in the building at 1 Banting, which is the main building for Western State Law School. You cannot park in their parking lot, you will need to park on the Cal State Fullerton side. Information for parking, including how to purchase a parking pass for your meeting, can be found here:

CSUF Startup Incubator Resident Launches!

Ayisha Fareed and Nick Panhwar, the founders of Team Knit, a CSUF Startup Incubator Resident

Ayisha Fareed and Nick Panhwar, the founders of Team Knit, a CSUF Startup Incubator Resident

In this edition of the CSUF Entrepreneurship Insider (if you haven’t already subscribed you should!) Director Jackson talks about CSUF Startup Incubator resident TeamKnit’s launch, remembering Steve Forell, a rundown of all the events and office hours we will be hosting in the coming weeks, and links to other posts.

Let me tell you about TeamKnit, a startup that is being launched out of the CSUF Startup Incubator today.

Founded by the husband and wife team of Nick Panwhar and Ayisha Fareed, TeamKnit’s mission is to revolutionize the way that teams collaborate. Their critical insight into team communications that I think separates their offering from all the rest on the market is that they bring together all the components of collaboration into a single, seamless solution. These components are: communication, execution, engagement, and knowledge.

We go into greater detail about their startup in a post we recently published but the key takeaway for me in regards to the success they have been able to achieve so far is that they have a strong team of founders and engineers working on TeamKnit. Nick has a strong background in sales, Ayisha is a fantastic engineer, and they both have experience managing and running companies. Looking at it this way, it’s no surprise that this strong team has created a product that will help build stronger teams.

This exciting news is tempered by the fact that last week a dear friend of mine since high school and a member of our CSUF Entrepreneurship community, Steve Forell, passed away unexpectedly. Steve is survived by his wife, Sheri, and three children: Megan Forell, Randy Forell, and Crystal Tousignant.

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

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TeamKnit: CSUF Startup Resident Launches Business Collaboration Software

Ayisha Fareed and Nick Panhwar, the founders of Team Knit, a CSUF Startup Incubator Resident

Ayisha Fareed and Nick Panhwar, the founders of Team Knit, a CSUF Startup Incubator Resident

Late last year while we were in the process of launching the Irvine location for the CSUF Startup Incubator we met a husband and wife team with an innovative concept for revolutionizing the way that teams get work done. Nick Panhwar, the husband and CEO, and his CTO wife, Ayisha Fareed had impressive backgrounds in tech and sales and their product, TeamKnit, looked like a combination of all the best features of the various productivity and collaboration tools that we all use on a daily basis. So it was a very easy decision to accept them in the first group of Residents at the CSUF Startup Incubator (Irvine).

Since then they have been hard at work developing their product, running through a beta test, and working on the public launch of their product, TeamKnit. Along the way, they have benefited from mentors like Director John Bradley Jackson, CSUF Startup Incubator Manager Phillip Stinis, Professor Scott Sorrell, and their Startup Coach Jeff Greenberg.

What is Team Knit? “TeamKnit is an all-in-one team productivity tool that helps simplify and create a stress free workplace for all,” says Mr. Panwhar. “TeamKnit combines the best features of popular productivity tools into one powerful yet easy to use solution. TeamKnit helps teams talk to each other, work with each other, get to know each other, and share information with each other. TeamKnit cultivates a more productive workforce through focusing on improving and integrating four specific areas: Communication, Execution, Engagement, and Knowledge. We call this the CEEK Philosophy.”

CEEK, pronounced “seek”, is the sine qua non of collaboration and something that Nick says isn’t being done well by competitors like Slack, Asana, and Basecamp. And we agree. Every available solution is missing at least one, usually two or three, of the CEEK components.

Here’s a powerful example of how TeamKnit can benefit a team: Continue reading

How Entrepreneurs Can Raise Money from Banks

There are many recurring themes to the posts on this blog and to our CSUF Entrepreneurship Insider. There are so many things that entrepreneurs need to have some fluency in and fundraising, whether for a business or a nonprofit, is one of the important ones. There are no easy answers to how entrepreneurs should raise money to fund their startup but, as is I feel is the case with everything in business and life, knowing what your options are is important.

Banks can be a good way to raise money for your startup. Getting funding from a bank won’t be easy, especially if you’re in the earliest stages of launching your startup and have no track record to speak of, but it certainly is an option that entrepreneurs need to understand. This Wednesday at 6pm at the CSUF Startup Incubator in Irvine we welcome Charlie Phillips, the AVP of South County Bank in so that he can explain how entrepreneurs should approach raising funds from a bank. Register now!

Nearly every entrepreneur that I talk with has questions about raising money to fund their startup. These conversations usually start out with exhortations to bootstrap until they start to get some traction. But bootstrapping usually isn’t enough, especially for startups that have aggressive growth plans.

One form of funding that I think entrepreneurs should give more thought to is also one of the more traditional forms of funding (at least for established businesses) and that is your local bank.

This Wednesday at our office in Irvine we welcome the AVP of South County Bank, Charlie Phillips, to walk us through the game plan that entrepreneurs should follow when approaching a bank. Debt financing is, obviously, substantially different from equity financing and there are good ways and bad ways to go about trying to secure loans from banks. Charlie will present a strategy entrepreneurs should follow in order to get their best result possible.

The talk is this Wednesday at 6pm in Irvine. Please register for this event by going to the event page.

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

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