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Accelerator Update:
Building Ties across Campus and across L.A.

The latest in entrepreneurship at UCLA Anderson

Trish Halamandaris (’92), director of the UCLA Anderson Venture Accelerator, and Elaine Hagan (’91), UCLA Anderson’s
associate dean of entrepreneurial initiatives

UCLA Anderson has been teaching entrepreneurship for more than 40 years but, increasingly, it serves as the academic hub of entrepreneurship for the UCLA campus. With the UCLA Anderson Venture Accelerator serving as the physical manifestation of this broader role, the business school offers MBA students and others in the UCLA community opportunities to explore and develop innovative businesses. UCLA students can avail themselves of Anderson’s undergraduate minor in entrepreneurship, taking classes with faculty whose research, more and more, studies the role of entrepreneurship in the global economy.

Elaine Hagan (’91), UCLA Anderson’s associate dean of entrepreneurial initiatives, and Trish Halamandaris (’92), director of the UCLA Anderson Venture Accelerator, shared their updates about the latest in entrepreneurship at Anderson:

Q: What impact has the UCLA Anderson Venture Accelerator had on the entrepreneurial environment at Anderson?

Elaine Hagan: The accelerator is a tangible representation of Anderson’s commitment to entrepreneurship. It’s an alternative classroom: an active learning space in which students can launch their businesses while receiving assistance from the resources that Trish and her team have assembled — mentors, entrepreneurs-in-residence, alumni and subject matter experts. The accelerator also offers a place where student founders can collaborate; their willingness to share ideas is truly inspiring.

The accelerator builds upon the resources of the Price Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation, which has been the focal point of entrepreneurship at Anderson for 30 years. It has strengthened UCLA’s entrepreneurial ecosystem, and is definitely a selling point for entrepreneurially minded MBAs. They see the work of our students, our investment in entrepreneurial education, the strength of the community, the value of being in Los Angeles right now — all of the pieces are coming together.

Q: What’s going on right now in the accelerator?

Trish Halamandaris: L.A. is the fastest growing venture capital market, and the accelerator ties us to the L.A. business community. Among our goals is creating strategic partnerships. One example is our upcoming AR/VR conference with TechCrunch, which provides relevancy and connects the academic community to real-world technology advancements.

We also have our showcase event on November 7. The accelerator hosts two six-month cohorts (of student entrepreneurs) each year; their efforts culminate with pitches at the showcase. What’s great is that the Anderson Venture Accelerator is industry-agnostic, allowing us to present the diversity of thought and students here, as well as the strength of the concepts that they develop as a result of that diversity.

UCLA has a strong history of health care innovation, which is continuing in the accelerator. About 35 percent of the companies in the past two cohorts have been health care-related, so that UCLA tradition continues. We also have several consumer products companies, continuing the UCLA Anderson tradition of companies and founders such as The Bouqs, an online florist founded by John Tabis (’06), Sugarfina (a gourmet candy retailer co-founded by Rosie O’Neill (B.A. ’00, ’05) and DogVacay (a pet sitting venture founded by Aaron Hirschorn (’12). We also have teams launching startups using applications of blockchain, machine learning and AI. We’ve facilitated discussions of these disruptive new technologies between students and local venture capitalists, giving us a platform to personalize our relationship to the venture capital market.

Venture capital markets differ. Silicon Valley has a lot of enabling technology for e-commerce and B2C plays. Los Angeles (and Anderson students) have a tradition of producing successful, consumer-facing tech startups. These firms often use the enabling technology that Bay Area startups have created, while developing new types of products, services and content for consumers.

Q: How might the entrepreneurial environment at Anderson evolve during the coming years?

EH: As Los Angeles continues to emerge as an entrepreneurial hub, our access to early-stage companies, investors and serial entrepreneurs grows. Their activities, exits and outcomes provide rich data sets and fertile areas of entrepreneurial research by our faculty and Ph.D. students.

As the UCLA entrepreneurial ecosystem evolves, Anderson’s expertise is being called upon by innovators across campus. Intellectual property, market sizing, pricing and positioning strategies are just some of the areas in which our students and faculty can add value in the technology commercialization process.

Similarly, while Anderson is the academic home of entrepreneurship at UCLA, we are partnering increasingly with other professional schools on campus and the College of Letters and Sciences to offer interdisciplinary electives. These courses allow students and faculty from different disciplines to collaborate as they explore disruptive technologies and solutions to societal challenges. Our undergraduates are launching mission-based companies, using innovations such as online learning and crowdfunding that democratize access to education and sources of capital, providing first generation students and their families with a means to climb the economic ladder of success. The classroom of the future may look different, but we will continue to create a learning environment that allows our students to pursue their entrepreneurial dreams.

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