Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Cocoon Cam, the first Wellness Video Baby Monitor

Congratulations to the von Liebig Entrepreneurism Center Cocoon Cam team for graduating the NSF I-Corps Program in Washington DC!

(From left to right) Dr. Nadir Weibel (Mentor from UCSD CSE Department), Rubi Sanchez,
Pavan Kumar and Dennis Abremski (Mentor from von Liebig Entrepreneurism Center)

Recognizing that there was a need for smarter baby monitoring, team founders Pavan Kumar, Siva Nattamai and Rubi Sanchez developed Cocoon Cam to make baby parenting less worrisome through continuous tracking of heart rate, respiratory rate and temperature.

"Siva had a baby about 2 years ago," explained Pavan Kumar, one of the founders of Cocoon Cam. "He started looking for a baby monitor that could tell that his baby is okay when he is away, but was not able to find any product in the market that met his needs."

Using machine vision to measure heart and respiratory rate and infrared sensors to detect skin temperature, Cocoon Cam allows parents to view videos and receive alerts on their smartphone when their baby needs attention.

During the von Liebig I-Corps program, the team identified the market size for the baby monitor industry as well as stakeholders and channels for bringing Cocoon Cam to market. Throughout the program, the team was mentored by entrepreneur Dennis Abremski and Computer Science and Engineering research scientist and lecturer Dr. Nadir Weibel. With their help, the team was able to start building relationships with potential partners and customers. After over 100 customer interviews, the team realized that Cocoon Cam would be viable as both a consumer product and tool in the medical field. To those who want to start their own companies, the team urges startup founders to get out of the building.

"It is important for startup founders to talk to as many potential customers as possible to understand the real customer need for your product or service," Pavan explained.

Not long after completing the von Liebig I-Corps program, the team was accepted into the NSF I-Corps Program in Washington DC in April and graduated from the program in June. Since then, the Cocoon Cam team has continued working at full speed. Within the last few months, the team took home a prize at the Moxie Center's Zahn Prize Competition, launched their website, completed prototype development and began testing Cocoon Cam with customers in San Diego.

Congratulations again to this team for all their success! We know it won't be long until Cocoon Cam hits the market!

Want to know more?
See more on their website, "like" Cocoon Cam on Facebook and keep up with the Cocoon Cam team's updates on Twitter.

The Moxie Center Closes On a High Note

The Moxie Center for Student Entrepreneurship capped its 2 ½-year life by winning the “Excellence in Entrepreneur Mentorship” Award from San Diego Startup Week 2015. Created with a gift from the Moxie Foundation, the Moxie Center opened its doors in January 2013 as an entrepreneurial space, education program and resource for all UC San Diego students. The Center developed and delivered programs to teach students how to turn their ideas into businesses in the Entrepreneur’s Academy, to advise and mentor student startup teams in the Incubator program, and to provide opportunities to practice pitching their business ideas through quarterly Pitchfest prize competitions.

Without further philanthropic support to fund its operations, the Moxie Center officially closed on June 30, 2015, and its student teams have now transitioned into The Basement, a new student incubator space managed by Alumni and Community Engagement. Moxie Center Executive Director Jay Kunin, PhD, will continue to teach entrepreneurship and commercialization classes as a Lecturer in the Jacobs School of Engineering and in the von Liebig Entrepreneurism Center.

Dr. Jay Kunin, Executive Director of the Moxie Center, receives
the Award for Excellence in Entrepreneur Mentorship from
Austin Neudecker, Co-Founder of San Diego Startup Week, June 19, 2015

During his time at the Moxie Center, Kunin introduced entrepreneurship and commercialization to over 500 students in multiple classes in several Engineering departments, as well as the Social Innovation classes offered by the Center for Student Involvement, and numerous student professional groups. He also developed and taught the Center’s Entrepreneur’s Academy, and managed a corps of over 20 volunteer advisors and mentors from the San Diego business, investment and entrepreneur community.

“Dr. Jay Kunin and advisor Dr. Jay Gilberg are rare gems who helped foster and empower the students in the Moxie Center and Moxie Incubator,” said Joyce Sunday (Chemistry ‘15). “They taught us to not only be dreamers, but doers and innovators.” Joyce’s startup, Wastelights, began as a Moxie Center Incubator Team and is now providing power to underserved communities by converting sewage into electricity and turning kitchen waste into biofuel and biochar.

zahn prize (1).jpg
Moxie Center students pose for a celebratory photo after
the 2014 Zahn Prize Competition.

Since opening in 2013, the Moxie Teaching Incubator Program admitted 46 teams, including over 150 students from across the campus.  Students came to the Moxie Center with majors from all six departments in the Jacobs School of Engineering (Bioengineering, Computer Science & Engineering, Electrical & Computer Engineering, Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering, NanoEngineering, and Structural Engineering), as well as from Biology, Chemistry, Economics, Psychology, Cognitive Science, Music, Urban Studies & Planning, Communication, the Rady School of Management and the School of Medicine.

Moxie Center startup Autoponics at work in one
of the Center labs.

“The Moxie Center welcomed students from all departments and provided anyone interested in innovation with tremendous, genuinely motivated resources,” said Jane Henderson. “I am a Physical Chemistry PhD student and admit I was lured to my first Moxie Center Pitchfest competition on account of the free pizza. Jay Kunin welcomed me to the event and was a great host, encouraging all of the students in attendance to stand in front of the audience and share their ideas.”

Entrepreneur’s Academy is the open, non-credit experiential class that was offered by the Moxie Center to teach entrepreneurial thinking.

In Spring Quarter 2015, Jane also took part in the Moxie Center’s Entrepreneur’s Academy, an open, non-credit experiential class to teach students how to turn an idea into a business. The Moxie Center offered the course every quarter since Spring 2014, introducing entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial thinking to over 160 students.  “As a scientist, I greatly appreciated the instruction of the scientific method of innovation taught by Jay Kunin and Jay Gilberg,” said Jane. “It was an exceptional opportunity to listen to and learn from their experience as both entrepreneurs and investors. The Academy's inherent value to the students of UCSD is exceptional and I am very grateful for the experience.”

The Moxie Center hosted Bill Aulet - managing director of the Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship and senior lecturer at MIT - for a Distinguished Lecture in November 2014.

The Moxie Center also sponsored Distinguished Lectures by leading entrepreneur educators including Bill Aulet (MIT) and Steve Blank (Stanford). Though each lecture was presented to standing-room audiences of over 200 students, staff and faculty, many students were able to personally meet and connect with the lecturers after each session.

The Moxie Center helped inspire many student entrepreneurs, but was also able to help jumpstart some of their careers. Many of these successful students are already well on their way to commercializing the very products they incubated at the Moxie Center. 

Uzair Mohammad (Bioengineering ‘16) saw the Moxie Center as “the perfect first step” and the key to accessing UC San Diego’s numerous resources as a freshman. “In my experience at UCSD, the Moxie Center was exactly what I needed to move forward and turn my idea into an ongoing serious venture. UCSD has a lot of resources available to its engineers and entrepreneurial students, but understanding where to start proved to be one of the most difficult portions of the process,” Uzair said. “In addition to the many services it provided (advice, work space, fabrication workshops, computers, etc), it made it easy to find and approach other resources, both on and off campus.”  Uzair’s startup, Saaf Engineering, is creating innovative bacterial water filters, using fibers created through bacterial metabolism.

Uzair Mohammad (BE ‘16) receives a Zahn Prize award at the Moxie Center’s grand opening in 2013.

“The Moxie Center's overall purpose was to act as an incubator for undergraduate entrepreneurial ventures, and it accomplished this and much more by presenting us with extremely useful tools and spaces, and by acting as a hub for all other resources we could reach out to,” said Uzair.

Daniel Lee, co-founder of Hush Technology, pitches Hush smart earplugs at the EvoNexus incubator Demo Day, which he won.

Hush Technology, founded by a group of UC San Diego students known for creating the world’s first smart earplugs, also began as a Moxie Center team and utilized its resources to create their company. “The Moxie Center was one of the fantastic UCSD entrepreneurship programs that were critical for Hush to get started in the first place,” said Hush Technology Co-founder Daniel Lee. “The infrastructure and programming that they set in place was very important for learning how to create a startup, and I'm truly grateful for the groundwork that they helped lay for me to become an entrepreneur.”  Hush graduated from the Moxie Center to the EvoNexus incubator in San Diego.

In only a few short years, the Moxie Center became an invaluable student resource and innovation space for interdisciplinary collaboration, and at its close, Kunin is glad to see the Center’s students and teams continue their work and transition into The Basement.

Winning Moxie Center teams with the judges at the 2015 Zahn Prize Competition

“The Moxie Center provided a wonderful opportunity to introduce entrepreneurial thinking to UC San Diego students and to mentor students in starting up their businesses,” said Kunin.  “It’s been a great joy for me to work with the next generation of entrepreneurs – I learn so much from each of them, and believe we’ve been a useful resource for them. I think the Moxie Center has greatly enhanced entrepreneurial education and opportunities for UC San Diego students, and I’m hopeful that The Basement will be able to expand on the Moxie Center’s success.”


The gift from the Moxie Foundation that created and sustained the Center for three years has run its course. Entrepreneurship, however, is alive and well at the Jacobs School of Engineering. It is a key part of the Jacobs School’s mission to transfer discoveries for the benefit of society. 

The Moxie Center has been a tremendous resource for students at the Jacobs School of Engineering and for the campus as a whole. The Moxie Foundation made a significant investment in entrepreneurship at the Jacobs School of Engineering, for which the Jacobs School is sincerely grateful.

The UC San Diego entrepreneurship ecosystem includes the following:

*entrepreneurship classes 
*entrepreneurship mentoring
* Innovation Corps (I-Corps) at UC San Diego (funded by the NSF and administered by the von Liebig Entrepreneurism Center). Read a story about the NSF I-Corps program at the on Liebig Entrepreneurism Center.

Gordon Engineering Leadership Center at the Jacobs School of Engineering

The Gordon Center offers a novel, end-to-end set of leadership and training curricula for students at the high school, undergraduate and graduate levels, as well as for professionals working in technology fields.
The Basement at UC San Diego In February 2015, UC San Diego opened The Basement, a co-working space for all UC San Diego students. The Basement serves as a resource and meeting place for entrepreneurial students from across all of UC San Diego. 

*administered by the UC San Diego Rady School of Management
*open to engineering undergraduates (and all other UC San Diego undergraduates)

*venture capital focused on innovations coming out of UC San Diego

*student-run organization that organizes entrepreneurship events and competitions throughout each academic year. Each year’s events culminate in high-profile business plan competitions.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

UC San Diego Researchers Launch Startup and Secure VC Investment

Congratulations to MANTA Instruments Inc. for recently securing seed funding investment from the Triton Technology Fund for their breakthrough technology to effectively characterize nanoparticles! Read the press release here.

With decades of fieldwork and experience studying nanoparticles in seawater, MANTA founders Dr. Dariusz Stramski, Dr. Kuba Tatakiewicz and Dr. Rick Reynolds of the Ocean Optics Research Lab at the Scripps Institute of Oceanography (SIO) experienced firsthand the difficulty of getting good characterization data from nanoparticle samples. Even with the best technologies and scientific instruments on the market, methods were tedious and inaccurate results were often not usable for their scientific papers. Their experience inspired them to solve this core problem for measuring nanoparticle size and concentration. Stramski, Tatakiewicz and Reynolds developed their initial idea in 2010 and conducted research and development for 36 months at SIO. In 2014, the MANTA team connected with Rosibel Ochoa, Executive Director of the von Liebig Entrepreneurism Center, and received mentorship from von Liebig mentor Rick Cooper. Cooper helped the team develop a business plan and financing strategy, and launch MANTA in September 2014.

Though only a little over a year old, the Triton Technology Fund has already funded four exciting new startup companies based on UC San Diego affiliated technology. Since its launch in April 2014, the Triton Technology Fund has drawn interest from UC San Diego undergraduate and graduate students, faculty and alumni, receiving over 64 diverse applications from 17 different UC San Diego departments – including the Rady School of Management, Economics, the School of Medicine and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography alongside several departments within the Jacobs School of Engineering.

The Triton Technology Fund was created to support UC San Diego students, faculty and affiliates by helping them accelerate the commercialization of their discoveries and technologies. The Fund’s goal is to leverage UC San Diego breakthroughs that will ultimately benefit society and is actively looking to fund software, communications, electronics, materials and medical devices and support those that have innovative business-to-business solutions. If you’ve got a concept that you’ve been working on, swing by the von Liebig Entrepreneurism Center. They’ll point you in the right direction.

The Gordon Engineering Leadership Center's Think Tank on Digital Health

This year, the Gordon Engineering Leadership Center held its annual Think Tank on the Future of Digital Health on Friday May 15th and Saturday May 16th. The goal of the Think Tank was to bring together students, industry professionals, healthcare workers, and faculty to discuss the problems in medicine and how technology can make an impact. This year’s Think Tank was a success with approximately 50 researchers, faculty, industry experts and graduate students in attendance working on current challenges at the intersection of medicine and technology.

CEO of Cambridge Life Sciences, Dr. Cleland Landolt, MD kicked off the event as this year’s keynote speaker. Dr. Landolt’s talk was titled “Digital Diagnostics – Identify the Killer You Never Saw Coming”. His background as a cardiac surgeon and experience in the biotechnology industry gave unique perspective into how new diagnostic technology detecting metabolic indicators could make a significant difference in predicting onset of cardiovascular disease. Dr. Landolt emphasized that while statistics developed via “Big Data” and diagnostics are interesting, focus has to be on making statistics clinically useful and applied in a preventive model of healthcare.

Following Dr. Landolt’s talk, Gioia Messinger, MS, MBA, gave insight on the intersection of engineering and technology commercialization in healthcare. Messinger is a serial entrepreneur, who has served as Chief Judge of Qualcomm Tricorder XPRIZE, Founder/CEO of MedSmart, and participated in the development of the endoscopic PillCam.. In her talk titled “Why Digital Health, Now!”, Messinger introduced the audience to trends in entrepreneurship, funding, and startup companies while highlighting key characteristics of companies that caused them to succeed.

Dr. Jacob Aptekar, PhD, CEO/Co-founder of Helynx, introduced the audience to the world of Electronic Health Records (EHR). In his talk “Data Driven Medicine in the EHR Age”, Dr. Aptekar spoke about how his company utilizes the data available in hospitals to effectively visualize trends that are clinically actionable, making an immediate impact on patients’ lives. Dr. Aptekar also described his journey of how he combined his medical and graduate education at UCLA to start an entrepreneurial venture, giving sound advice to all the students in the audience who were interested in pursuing a startup in the healthcare space.

Dr. Daniel Calac. MD, finished off the morning session with his talk “Hacking the Rez”. Dr. Calac serves as the Chief Medical Officer of the Indian Health Council, where he actively treats the Native American population. As a practicing physician embedded in an underserved community, Dr. Calac educated the participants on the challenges, the mentality, and lack of resources available to these communities. At the same time, he also posed a framework to innovate so that many of the talented participants in the room could develop ideas still being cognizant of the cultural and financial sensitivities.

After lunch, UC San Diego alum Dr. Wilson To, PhD highlighted how to impact patients personally and on a population level in his talk “Innovation Across the Healthcare Spectrum.” Dr. To emphasized how the healthcare system today is ripe for destruction, and explained why the business model of medicine is changing and how do we holistically allocate resources to the right patients and ultimately improve clinical outcomes. Dr. To argued how it is important not only to utilize analytics and data, but also programs that keep the patients engaged with their own health.

Next, Moxie Center for Student Entrepreneurship Executive Director Dr. Jay Kunin, PhD moderated the Future of Digital Health panel consisting of Dr. Cleland Landolt, Dr. Wilson To, and Dr. Rob Matthews, PhD. An experienced engineer, Dr. Matthews has worked in the industry at large companies and startups is currently starting companies focused on health technology. The panel focused on answering questions regarding three different topics: Remote Monitoring, Big Data Analytics, and Lifestyle Medicine.

Following the panel, the participants received informational material on these topics in order to form teams and brainstorm potential solutions to the affected areas in healthcare. Great discussions began at this point and were continued the following day.

Nursing Innovation Leader at Kaiser Permanente Dr. Dan Weberg, PhD, RN finished off Friday with his talk titled “Imaging Care Anywhere: Future of Healthcare Technology.” Dr. Weberg focused on innovation within Kaiser Permanente and how emerging technology is evaluated and tested in clinical situations. As the final speaker of the day, he gave key advice for product developers on how to integrate within the healthcare system, keeping in mind the electronic systems and the workflow.

Gordon Engineering Leadership Center Executive Director Dr. Ebonee Williams PhD and von Liebig Entrepreneurism Center Executive Director Dr. Rosibel Ochoa PhD welcomed participants back on Saturday with a quick recap of Friday’s talks and an introduction of the day’s first speaker, Dr. Erik Viirre, MD, PhD. A UCSD Professor and Director of the Qualcomm Tricorder XPRIZE, Dr. Viirre gave a phenomenal overview of the XPRIZE competitions and in particular how people can be empowered to change healthcare. He emphasized how the competition evaluates the devices not only based on functionality but also consumer appeal and understandability.

Next up, Dr. Royan Kamyar, MD, MBA, CEO of OWaves, explained his insight into the intersection of lifestyle medicine and entrepreneurship in this talk “New Vitals Signs and Opportunities in Mobile Health”. He emphasized how lifestyle changes including diet, exercise, sleep, meditation, and social connections are essential to living healthy. Dr. Kamyar now wants to empower patients with his app-based company OWaves which offers a method to track the time spent in various lifestyle facets.

After Dr. Kamyar’s talk, the participants split into three groups in order to tackling the issues in remote monitoring, big data analytics, and lifestyle medicine. The group focusing on lifestyle medicine came up with an idea to create a financially or academically motivated incentive system within university targeted at both undergraduate and graduate students. The Big Data Analytics team came up with a solution to use analytics to triage students with mental health issues in university settings. The remote monitoring group presented a solution to use a single lead EKG to monitor patients at risk for health failure. Dr. Mike Krupp, PhD, a Business and Technology Advisor to the von Liebig Entrepreneurism Center, moderated the presentations.

Dr. Todd Coleman, PhD, Associate Professor of Bioengineering finished the day off with his talk titled “Three Paintbrushes.” Dr. Coleman spoke about utilizing technology, analytics, and medicine together to make a real-world impact. He focuses on wearable, unobtrusive technologies paired with clever machine learning algorithms as well as direct patient engagement in underserved communities.

Overall, the event had great speaker and participant engagement and fulfilled its goal of sharing different industries’ perspectives on healthcare.

Article by Neil Gandhi

Vinculin protein boosts function in the aging heart

Drosophila heart tube and associated structures.
Credit: Anthony Cammarato, Johns Hopkins University
A team of researchers led by bioengineers at the University of California, San Diego provides new insights on how hearts “stay young” and keep functioning over a lifetime despite the fact that most organisms generate few new heart cells. Identifying key gene expression changes that promote heart function as organisms age could lead to new therapy targets that address age-related heart failure.

The researchers found that the contractile function of the hearts of fruit flies is greatly improved in flies that overexpress the protein vinculin, which also accumulates at higher levels in the hearts of aging rats, monkeys and humans. In addition, flies genetically programmed to express elevated levels of vinculin lived significantly longer than normal fruit flies. The new study attributes the longer life of the flies to the improved contractile function of the heart due to the presence of more vinculin, which helps with the structure of the heart and connects heart muscle cells.

This work is published in the June 17 issue of Science Translational Medicine.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death globally and advanced age is a primary risk factor.

“With the average age being projected to increase dramatically in the coming decades, it is more important than ever that we understand and develop therapies for age-related heart failure,” said Adam Engler, a bioengineering professor at UC San Diego and senior author on the paper. “The results of this study implicate vinculin as a future candidate for therapy for people at risk of age-related heart failure.”

For example, if additional research supports these new findings, targeted gene or drug therapies related to vinculin and its network of proteins could be developed to strengthen the hearts of patients suffering from age-related heart failure.

“More than 80 percent of protein groups found in flies, including vinculin network proteins, are similar to those found in rats and monkeys,” said Gaurav Kaushik, lead author on the study. He worked on this project as a bioengineering Ph.D. student in Engler’s lab at UC San Diego and is now a postdoctoral researcher at Harvard Medical School. “We chose to focus on the proteins that naturally increase in expression in the aging hearts of flies, rats and monkeys. Since deletion or mutation of these proteins can lead to cardiomyopathy in patients, we wondered if their age-related upregulation was beneficial to the heart. Moreover, would overexpressing them improve heart function?”

Kaushik and colleagues genetically modified fruit flies to overexpress proteins, including vinculin.

Image of the heart (center) running along the abdomen.
Credit: Gaurav Kaushik and Ayla O. Sessions
Remodeling the heart

The human heart is capable of functioning for decades despite the fact that few new heart cells are generated over the course of a lifetime, indicating that alterations in gene expression, known as “remodeling events” help to maintain heart function with age.

“Because renewal of heart cells is limited, maintenance of the heart may depend on remodeling events over time,” said Engler. “Identifying which events are conserved within and between organisms and which result in improved heart function is difficult but could be incredibly valuable.” That’s one of the tasks the researchers set out for themselves. Engler continues, “Within any muscle, the contractile structures become more disordered with age. In heart muscle, vinculin is needed to preserve that structure by holding it together. By performing a kind of open-heart surgery on the flies that overexpressed the protein, we were able to see that the longer life of these flies was due to improved heart muscle function.”

In the study, 50 percent of vinculin-overexpressing flies lived past 11 weeks, to a maximum of 13 weeks. In contrast, 50 percent of control flies only made it to 4 weeks old and none lived past 8 weeks.

“Fruit flies only live for a few weeks which makes them an ideal model for studying aging,” Engler explained.

Check out this video of a beating fly heart:


High school students play a role

Near the beginning of the study, Kaushik and Engler began an outreach effort with a local high school class in San Diego, CA. Kaushik tasked the students with a small pilot study in which they monitored the genetically modified fruit flies over a period of six weeks. Jesse Robinson is a biology teacher at Gary and Jerri-Ann Jacobs High Tech High Charter School. Each year, Robinson’s junior-level biology class works with local scientists on a project.

“Project based learning is part of the philosophy of the school,” said Robinson. “The goal is to immerse students in authentic learning experiences with adult professionals to prepare them for college and career.”

From left to right: Stephen To, Amy Callahan (math teacher), Hannah Goodwin, Jesse Wade-Robinson, Adam Engler, Madison Clark, and Carl Shefcik

Carl Shefcik, Madison Clark, Hannah Goodwin and Stephen To, now graduating seniors, were all part of Robinson’s class in the Fall of 2013 when the project was assigned.

“We were divided into pairs and assigned two groups of fruit flies – a control group, and a second strain containing one of the mutations that Dr. Engler’s group identified,” said To.

“We didn’t know which group was the control group, and which had the mutation,” recalls Sheficik. “Because of that, we needed to make sure that we kept careful track of which flies died a natural death over a period of six weeks. We found that the group that overexpressed the protein vinculin were outliving the control group by about seven weeks – that’s three times the normal lifespan of a fruit fly!”

The outcome was surprising to Engler and Kaushik, who as a result decided to expand the experiments to focus on vinculin for the study being published in Science Translational Medicine.

“As a teacher, it was neat to see the students tell a story with the data they collected,” said Robinson, who added that this is the first time one of these collaborations was associated with an academic paper. “Dr. Engler was able to ask ‘why’ as a result of the students’ explanation of the data.”

“The project drove my interest in a career in biology,” said Clark, who will attend Cal Poly Pomona in the Fall for biology with an emphasis in microbiology. “It’s really incredible to have participated as a high school student, and even more so to know that the research being done on vinculin could one day change lives. After all, that’s what science is all about.”

Discoveries that change lives increasingly involve engineers.

“Life is complex, and everyone approaches it from a different viewpoint,” said Kaushik. “Engineers may take notice of problems or solutions that a medical doctor may not. We’re needed to accelerate healthcare solutions because we see them with a different set of eyes.”

Friday, June 12, 2015

A Conversation with Pierre Sleiman: Reimagining Farming through Sustainable Frontiers

UC San Diego held its annual Alumni Weekend June 6-7, 2015 and featured a talk by Pierre Sleiman, graduate of Rady School of Business Class of 2013 and UC San Diego Alumni Honoree of 2015. Sleiman is the founder and CEO of Go Green Agriculture, a company dedicated to local farming and sustainability through hydroponic technology with strong family values. 

The event was held in The Basement, a shared campus-wide enterprise operated by Alumni & Community Engagement with a mission to stimulate, encourage and serve the entrepreneurial spirit of UC San Diego undergraduate students by educating them in the startup business process whether it’s evaluating an opportunity, starting a company or joining an existing startup.

Sleiman spoke of his initial entrepreneurial endeavors, from starting his first business to brainstorming in his college dorm room. Because he had to support himself financially in college, Sleiman wanted to create his own company that combined agriculture and technology.

“I always admired successful people and hearing about their stories," said Sleiman. "However, I would always want to know all the nitty-gritty stuff, which people often chose not to speak of. But really, all that stuff is critical to success.” 

So, Sleiman shared some of his own struggles. Though he was regarded as the "networking assassin" by his graduating class, Sleiman strongly disliked public speaking as a kid - imagine a nervous student with heart pounding, palms sweating, terrified. He wanted to improve himself, so he worked hard at becoming more comfortable with public speaking. It wasn't easy - he went through many rejections and moments of embarrassment before he found confidence within himself. Slowly, public speaking became somewhat of an adrenaline rush, and he now encourages everyone to practice as much as possible.

Pierre Sleiman and his father

According to Sleiman, networking is like dating.

"You have to have a purpose, and your entry and exit should be executed with good timing and style," said Sleiman. "More importantly, you have to sell your personality and connect on a human level." 

For example, Sleiman says he focuses on creating a relationship with his customer - whether that be a buyer, investor, or someone just trying to learn more about his company - rather than the selling the business. 

"You're not investing in Go Green," said Sleiman. "You're not investing in this product. You're investing in me."

Beyond networking, the entrepreneur says he loves helping others find their motivations. He suggests looking at what is important to you and what you are willing to lose. 

"Sometimes you find that you have nothing that is important, but that's perfectly okay," said Sleiman. "Many people are still looking for the formula."

The search for that formula can be short for some, such as Zeke Bottorff, a current fifth year transfer and one of the CEOs of the Entrepreneur Challenge. Having grown up in a poor family with his earliest memories taking place in a trailer park where he lived, Bottorff took on his first job at the age of five. 

Bottorff is heavily involved with The Basement, which he describes as a new space for entrepreneurs, a "student-to-student organization serving to help businesses grow and expand." 

Rady School student Mike Hayden is also involved in the organization and describes The Basement as an "inclusive workspace for students to collaborate" that "provides resources for students who are active entrepreneurs." 

Hayden describes Sleiman as a phenomenal leader who can energize just about any situation or any person. "It's no wonder that all he has to do is sell himself," said Hayden.

Friday, June 5, 2015

ECE graduate student presents as finalist at international research competition

UC San Diego Graduate Student Arman Fazeli and Broadcom Co-Founder, Chairman of the Board and Chief Technical Officer Henry Samueli.

University of California, San Diego graduate student Arman Fazeli from the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering presented as a finalist at the fourth annual Broadcom Foundation University Research Competition. Fazeli, a graduate student in ECE professor Alexander Vardy's research group, presented his projected titled “Polar Codes: From Theory to Practice. 

Fazeli was among student finalists from 12 universities around the world competing at Broadcom Corporation’s annual Technical Conference held in Irvine, California on June 4. Selected by Broadcom Foundation’s Selection Committee comprised of preeminent engineers, finalists shared insights into their engineering research projects and how their future applications will contribute to advancement of society. In the final round, more than 400 distinguished Broadcom engineers judged the finalists on a three minute presentation with a single slide and in a four hour poster session where they demonstrate the scientific rigor, technology sophistication, innovation of their work. The event is sponsored by Broadcom Foundation, a non-profit funded by Broadcom Corporation (NASDAQ: BRCM). 

More information on the competition can be found at: