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An MBA Traded Silicon Valley for Silicon Beach to Launch her Startup

The UCLA Anderson Venture Accelerator provides tailored programming and industry connections that inspire entrepreneurship

Recent events — both local and global — have given me the opportunity to pause and reflect on my entrepreneurial journey during my time as a student at UCLA Anderson.

When I came to campus in 2018 for A-Days, I was still on the fence about leaving Silicon Valley for Silicon Beach. What fully cemented my decision was my visit to the Anderson Venture Accelerator. I vividly remember meeting Accelerator director Trish Halamandaris (’92), touring the 10,000 square feet of co-working space and learning about the tailored programming the Accelerator provides. I realized that, even though I did not have a fully formed idea yet, the Accelerator could give me the resources and support to try my hand as a first-time founder. I accepted my spot at Anderson the same day.

When classes started later that summer, my current team and I had just the beginnings of an idea. In fact, I was still working full-time in Silicon Valley. Trish and the Accelerator team adopted me anyway and gave our team the space and resources to grow that idea. With this support behind us, we took the plunge, and Lanikai Labs was formed.

Over my next two years at Anderson, the Accelerator advisors kept me accountable through hands-on office hours with Trish, Janet Chung (’18) and Will Freas. They provided connections to industry experts and entrepreneurs-in-residence while helping me hone skills like public speaking and pitching. The Accelerator helped me survive the stress of completing a full-time MBA program while launching a startup. With this support and what I learned through the program, Lanikai Labs went from ideation to exit in under 18 months.

By design, an MBA curriculum focuses mostly on theory. I found that the Anderson Venture Accelerator works in complement with the classroom by teaching students how to apply these theories to the private sector. For example, at UCLA Anderson, you can take classes on the importance of marketing and branding, then participate in Accelerator workshops that teach you how to actually launch a digital campaign. There are so many lessons to be learned from the principles of entrepreneurship, even if you never pursue it full-time. Unfortunately, many students at both Anderson and the greater UCLA community are neither exposed to nor given the opportunity to explore entrepreneurship. The Accelerator is instrumental in helping to change that.

In my mind, this is just the beginning for the Anderson Venture Accelerator. I hope that more resources will soon be dedicated to this program — to create more success stories and, in turn, augment UCLA Anderson’s status as a leader in the Los Angeles startup ecosystem. I am proud to be an alumna of UCLA Anderson and am optimistic that future classes will have even better opportunities to pursue entrepreneurship.

Nicole Gear is the co-founder of Lanikai Labs video telephony platform. As a student, she won UCLA Anderson’s 2020 Wolfen Entrepreneurial Spirit Award and earned a Student Investment Fund Fellowship.

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