By Andy Tillman
Imagine crossing the bridge of time and bringing together Henry Ford’s efficiency, Thomas Edison’s brilliance, Benjamin Franklin’s practicality and Steve Jobs’ imagination into one room, putting all of the necessary accoutrements within arm’s reach … Oh, what might have been.
The launch of UCLA’s Anderson Venture Accelerator doesn’t get us any closer to time travel — yet — but it does, most profoundly, make it a place where future Franklins, Jobses, Fords and Edisons can think and talk and grow ideas that just might change the world.
The Anderson Venture Accelerator is a 10,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art facility designed in association with the UCLA Library, for collaboration among aspiring Anderson entrepreneurs, students in the undergraduate minor in entrepreneurship and campus researchers, with mentoring from alumni, entrepreneurs and the business community. Part living room, part laboratory, part conference center, the accelerator is a center where the various disciplines that make up the UCLA community can come together to bring new ideas and opportunities to life.
The accelerator’s launch was celebrated on UCLA Anderson’s Alumni Plaza, where an impressive roster of entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, faculty, students and alumni gathered for an official opening. Dean Judy Olian led the inauguration, referring to the accelerator as a “living lab offering students and researchers an environment that triggers innovation and breakthrough ventures. It brings together students and faculty from across UCLA, including health and computer sciences, engineering and humanities, to develop new ventures, share success, think fearlessly and drive change.”
Cadillac, whose current Dare Greatly campaign celebrates risk-takers who have dared to change the world, sponsored the launch party, presenting Dare Greatly Awards of $10,000 to three outstanding entrepreneurial ventures founded by members of the UCLA community:
- Leo Petrossian (’14), Dan Hanchey (’13) and Robert Hamilton (Ph.D. ’13, Biomedical Engineering) for Neural Analytics
- Rob Douk (GEMBA ’16) for Behavioral Healthworks Inc.
- Layne Haber (B.S. ’16) and Mykolas Marcinkevicius (B.S. ’16) for Arctica
“It is important to foster young minds to think differently, carve their own path and provide them the resources to move the world forward,” said Melody Lee, Cadillac’s director of brand strategy and planning. “Our partnership with UCLA’s Anderson Venture Accelerator is a terrific way to recognize those who will change the world for future generations.”
UCLA Anderson student Sheldon Fields (’16) spun the tunes for launch party guests, who mixed and mingled over food and drinks provided by Wood Ranch BBQ & Grill, owned by Eric Anders (’91); Golden Road Brewing (recently purchased by Anheuser-Busch), founded by Tony Yanow, Amy Yanow (MBA ’12) and Meg Gill; Sugarfina, owned by Rosie O’Neill (B.A. ’00, ’05); Coolhaus Gourmet Desserts, owned by Natasha Case (M.Arch. ’08); Fiji Water owned by Stewart Resnick (B.S. ’59); and T.K. Pillan (’96), founder of Veggie Grill. A video featuring past and present UCLA and UCLA Anderson entrepreneurs played throughout, the sheer number of subjects highlighting the inspiration behind the accelerator.
Following Olian’s speech, UCLA Anderson Senior Associate Dean Alfred E. Osborne, Jr., founder and faculty advisor for the Harold and Pauline Price Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation addressed the crowd. “The active learning environment of the UCLA Anderson Venture Accelerator will allow entrepreneurial members of the UCLA campus community to put lean startup principles to work in order to accelerate the launch of their business ventures,” he said. Osborne went on to thank UCLA University Librarian Ginny Steel, who was in attendance who was instrumental in bringing the Anderson Venture Accelerator together with her “vision of a new library system as a seamless network evolved to become a place of actionable learning.”
Osborne also acknowledged Olian as his “angel investor” in the project, supporting it with the necessary resources as well as visionary confidence.
Elaine Hagan (’91), executive director of the Price Center, echoed the benefits of the new accelerator, stating that “With the growing interest in UCLA’s entrepreneurial ecosystem, we saw a significant need for on-campus space where UCLA startups could work and meet with advisors.”
Asked to provide a then-and-now perspective of how he thought the accelerator would benefit students, Veggie Grill’s Pillan said, “This program has always been great. The difference is that in the 90s the path was less defined; we had alumni resources but you had to be committed to your vision and seek out direction. The accelerator will provide the right ecosystem, students will have a more defined path.”
Alumnus Kelly Perdew (J.D./MBA ’96), who now has seven startups under his belt, reinforced Pillan’s comments, saying, “When you’re doing something that hasn’t been done before, you’re kind of making the rules. Back then you ran around asking people, but now with this framework you have the resources to guide you.”
Following the speakers’ remarks, Price Center teams conducted tours of the new incubator, which features meeting rooms, big-screen monitors for conference calling, seating for 45 and a kitchen. The initial teams using the accelerator will be students participating in the Business Creation Option of Anderson’s Applied Management Research requirement. Following this pilot period, the accelerator will open to a broader audience of entrepreneurial-minded, multidisciplinary ventures from across campus.