With the opening of the USC Village this fall, students were treated to new commercial spaces, a Hogwarts-style dining hall and increased housing opportunities.
For URB-E CEO Peter Lee, who just opened his second company location in the Village, it is a chance to reconnect with the school that set him on the path of innovation. Now, he seeks to inspire entrepreneurs and students to pursue their ideas through his success.
URB-E is a cross between a bike and a car — a vehicle design Lee hoped would cut travel time and eliminate the need for parking.
Lee graduated from the Marshall School of Business in 2009, earning his MBA through IBEAR, a one-year intensive program designed for mid-career professionals with a global business mindset.
As a native Californian, his experience in the L.A. area, with its traffic congestion and lack of parking, inspired him to found URB-E in 2014.
“As a student here, I had to pay for parking, which was a lot of money, but that didn’t necessarily mean that I got a parking space,” Lee said. “I spent a lot of time looking for parking, a lot of money paying for parking tickets, and when I had to go a micro-mile or short distance … it would take me 20 to 30 minutes to do that trip.”
When Lee was a student, time was something he never seemed to have enough of, as he struggled to fit in studying, hanging out with friends and getting involved with extracurricular activities.
“At USC, [time and opportunity] were two very valuable things that were invaluable [to me],” Lee said. “I couldn’t pay enough money for them.”
Because of that, Lee felt like he needed to put more time back into his day, while seeking to alleviate the parking and traffic problems around him. USC’s business program fostered the right environment for Lee to tackle these issues with innovation, an idea that he set into motion years later through his company.
“At USC, you really learn to push the limits of what is possible not only business-wise or academic-wise, but also in relationships, innovation and thinking outside the box,” Lee said. “This is what USC is all about.”
Lee set up URB-E operations in Pasadena, a location close enough to L.A. to help him focus on and understand urban traffic issues.
While continuing to build his company, Lee found that the greatest obstacle to his business’ growth was his ability to spread the word about URB-E and convince people to try the gadget.
“Part of being an entrepreneur, inventor and innovator is not settling for the status quo,” Lee said. “[It’s about] challenging the status quo, not only within yourself, but within your community to provide a better solution people will adopt.”
With URB-E’s location in the Village, Lee hopes to serve as an inspiration to USC students who aspire to challenge the status quo through innovation.
For Lee, being a member of the Trojan family means having roots in an institution with a student body focused on changing the world. Lee looks to the next generation of Trojans to solve issues like congestion in cities.
The new location at the Village is more than a tribute to his alma mater, Lee said, but a launching pad for future innovators. He aims to provide student innovators with the resources he wanted most when he was a student — time and opportunity — through an URB-E vehicle.
“That’s why we attend USC and why we’re so happy when we graduate — to … become part of this Trojan family,” Lee said. “It is because of the opportunities it affords us. We’re here for four years, [and] every second is super valuable.”