The USC Career Center, in conjunction with Spark SC and the Marshall School of Business, hosted a panel discussion about startup companies in the Annenberg West lobby on Thursday evening. The event walked students through various facets of the entrepreneurial process, specifically discussing the nature of success and values.
Spark SC is a team of student innovators hosted by Career Fest, in part of the Explore@4 series, which connects students with top professionals and alumni in various career fields.
The discussion was moderated by Paul Orlando, a venture partner and adjunct professor at the Lloyd Greif Center for Entrepreneurial Studies. The panel consisted of a variety of startups, including Originate, a software product strategist company, and Flipagram, a video-creating startup that uses photos from smartphones to create stories.
Calvin Legassick, a member of the Spark SC planning committee, discussed how the concept of startups is often misconstrued.
“I think for most students, the idea of startups is this nebulous concept that some people do when they start companies like Facebook, and that dropouts don’t really happen to anybody,” Legassick said, “But that’s not really the right picture.”
During the discussion, the panelists spoke about what it was like for them to work at a startup for the first few years.
Tasha Choi, founder and chief executive officer of Tackl, discussed why her role as CEO does not define a specific set of duties. Tackl is an online platform that hosts innovation competitions to encourage up-and-coming innovators to solve problems and make change happen.
“We joked that CEO is the chief everything officer,” Choi said. “I literally do everything from management to being my own driver. We only have five people, so we’re ready to do anything and everything.”
Scott Sebelius, director of engineering at Originate, revealed how he at first didn’t realize that he needed to be invested in every aspect of his startup. Sebelius explained how the secret to a successful startup is to be proactive and to seek out the right mentor to make impactful changes.
David Ginchansky, senior career counselor at the USC Career Center, referred to startups as a booming industry.
“Startups are really big right now, people either want to know how to get into small business, or they want to be the entrepreneurs themselves,” Ginchansky said. “So being able to bring panelists to campus who do that type of work to share their experiences and advice is what Explore@4 is all about.”
Curran Mahowald, a senior majoring in French and linguistics, thought that the panelists gave helpful advice to students hoping to become entrepreneurs in the future.
“I really liked the quote, ‘If you’re looking for funding, ask for advice. If you’re looking for advice, ask for funding,’” Mahowald said. “I also liked their advice to go to a hackathon or a startup weekend because I had not been aware that startup weekends existed, and I didn’t even know it was a good idea for me to go to either of those things.”
The panelists also emphasized that passion is the driving force in startups.
“We really encourage students who are interested in being entrepreneurs to take advantage of the different resources available to them on campus. Whether it would be student organizations such as Spark SC or offices such as the USC Career Center,” Ginchansky said.
Jean Zhang, a senior majoring in psychology, commented on the importance of passion while creating a startup.
“The most interesting fact I learned today is that passion really stands out when you want to get involved. It really doesn’t matter what your background is, because you can build that, but you really do need the passion there,” said Zhang.
Legassick said that the panel is beneficial because it gives students interested in becoming entrepreneurs an idea of the process ahead.
“There is a lot to be done in Los Angeles; there are so many opportunities for students to get involved in the startup industry in L.A.,” Legassick said. “I think this event is important because it provides exposure to something I think students think is not tangible or have access to.”