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UCLA

Start-up Standout

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By Margaret MacDonald

Published Jul 1, 2012 8:00 PM


Startup UCLA helps get business ideas off the ground.

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Illustration by: John Ashcroft.

Technology entrepreneurship is the new black in career choices for recent grads. And now there's a new effort to help Bruins get their business ideas off the ground. Startup UCLA is a new campuswide initiative aimed at strengthening entrepreneurship—particularly in web and digital media companies—through networking, mentorship, a guest speaker series and a summer accelerator program.

A combined effort by faculty and alumni helped get the program off the ground. Tim Groeling, chair of the Department of Communication Studies, notes, "We have lots of experienced and enthusiastic alumni who want to mentor and guide our students, and this energy is driving the program forward. In fact, it was an alumna from Communication Studies who first encouraged us to launch Startup UCLA."

That alumna was Julia Lam '05, a former Facebook employee who now works on innovation projects. "When I was a student, I didn't really know it was an option to be an entrepreneur," says Lam. "I want to bring the startup 'think-outside-the-box' mentality to UCLA students and also help build the infrastructure to make it happen."

The new group wasted no time bringing expertise to would-be entrepreneurs. In March, more than 500 students and budding entrepreneurs packed UCLA's Schoenberg Hall to hear a talk by start-up guru Eric Ries, author of the best-seller The Lean Startup and the popular entrepreneurship blog Startup Lessons Learned. The event was hosted by Startup UCLA and LeanLA, a group of L.A.- based tech entrepreneurs.

UCLA alumnus and L.A. entrepreneur Robert Jadon '01 is leading the first Startup UCLA Summer Accelerator, which will provide workspace, guidance and mentors to early-stage companies comprised of teams of student-founders with bright ideas. At the end of the summer, the students will pitch their companies to local entrepreneurs and investors.

At the Schoenberg Hall event, Ries, whom Businessweek named one of "Tech's Best Young Entrepreneurs" in 2007, pointed out that "it's important to know that the movement we're all part of is much bigger than just a Silicon Valley phenomenon. There are more entrepreneurs practicing right now than in any time in history, and I believe that, right here in this room, there are people who will advance the 'state of the art' of entrepreneurship."

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