USC’s Venture Incubation Program teamed up with Startup Equinox to host Pulse, an opportunity to network and learn how to leverage resources to bring budding startups and promising ideas to life in Seeley G. Mudd Hall on Tuesday.
The agenda for the night included a discussion with Michael Jones, the former CEO of MySpace, as well as a networking fair featuring a series of USC startups. The discussion was led by Sanket Chauhan, president of Venture Incubation.
Jones is an internet entrepreneur who specializes in building software and internet businesses. Prior to his position at MySpace, Jones began angel investing in multiple startups such as Tinder, Wealthfront, Klout and Dollar Shave Club. Currently, he serves as the CEO of Science, an incubator in Los Angeles that turns potential into profit under professional guidance.
During the discussion and Q&A, Jones told students about his personal experiences as an entrepreneur. Just like many of the students in attendance, Jones’ passion for bringing new ideas to life began during his college years at the University of Oregon, where he and his friends crafted a niche magazine called Elixir that eventually received national attention. His college experiences, Jones said, shaped not only his early ventures, but also his future career.
“Luckily, my university was flexible enough to allow me to build companies and work while I was going to school,” Jones said. “The university, like [USC], was a very big university. It had a lot of variability in what I focused on, and I just started building businesses.”
Jones also described the importance of networking in college as a way to create lasting relationships that transcend the work environment.
“I teamed up with great people I met at college,” Jones said. “Frankly, a lot of the people I work with today … I actually found in my college setting.”
Jones encouraged students to stay patient and open-minded as they discover their convictions and interests. He praised taking risks, and insisted that college is the best time to fail. Above all, he encouraged students to follow their passions.
“Great entrepreneurs just find a way to do stuff, and they find ways to rally resources, and cut corners, or whatever they need to do to pursue their vision,” Jones said. “I find the best entrepreneurs are just relentless at going after what they want to do, and they’re typically going after a segment that they’re personally connected to.”
The startup fair that followed the discussion included social platforms such as Pack Up + Go, Shelf and Fae App, as well as health and wellness related platforms such as Ignite, O2 Max Fitness, Team Roots and KrafftIT. Fourteen startups were in attendance, according to Milan Goyal, director of operations for Venture Incubation.
“It’s an opportunity for [these startups] to showcase what they’re working on,” Goyal said. “If they’re looking for help they’ll find that, [and] other people will network. It’s a way to bring the community together.”
Venture Incubation is a student-run organization that originated from the Viterbi Student Institute for Innovation, which was founded by Ashish Soni, a professor in the Viterbi School of Engineering. The goal of the organization is to provide college entrepreneurs with greater access to resources, learning opportunities and professional connections in an area of interest that many consider to be “do-it-yourself.”
“The problem with the USC entrepreneurship community is that it’s not consolidated,” Chauhan said. “[This] leads to a problem where a lot of teams are always looking for people to hire or work with … but they aren’t able to find the right talent. But I know that the talent is there, it’s just a matter of connecting those two ends.”