The chance to control the design of a business startup came as an offer to Ethan Paulson.
Paulson, a third-year Design | Media Arts student, worked with several of his friends to create their own business over the summer.
They are continuing to dedicate themselves to refining their product, a quiz that allows customers to learn what vitamins they need for their diet, this quarter.
Entrepreneurial-minded students like Paulson are exactly who the Student Entrepreneur Venture Competition hope to draw to compete. The new yearlong contest is hosted by the UCLA Engineering Institute for Technology Advancement and the Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science.
The teams entering the competition will be required to create a new piece of technology, designate who to sell the product to and make a realistic business plan, said Vijay Dhir, dean of the School of Engineering who is helping organize the competition.
The teams must consist of at least one engineering student and one business graduate student from the UCLA Anderson School of Management, Dhir said.
The competition will draw $50,000 from past donations by the namesake of the engineering school, Henry Samueli and the Kay Family Foundation. Using the funds, organizers hope to assist teams in the competition by providing them mentors and supplies, Dhir said. A portion of the money will be allotted for a cash prize, though an exact amount has not yet been determined, he said.
Paulson said a possible challenge for his team could be finding a student from Anderson to work with, which may keep them from entering in the competition.
Contest organizers hope to assist students who want to participate in the competition and are having trouble finding a business student to partner with, Dhir said.
“We designed this competition to encourage students to participate (in entrepreneurship) and make something tangible,” he said.
The contest underscores a latest movement at UCLA to increase student involvement in business startups, said William Ouchi, a professor in the UCLA Anderson School of Management.
UCLA has a variety of resources open to students interested in business ventures, such as the Price Center for Entrepreneurial Studies in the Anderson School of Management, which provides graduate students entrepreneurial classes ““ but it is only recently that UCLA renewed focus in expanding these types of programs and services, Ouchi said.
“There has been at UCLA the attitude that if you have entrepreneurial tendencies, you shouldn’t talk about them,” Ouchi said. “Entrepreneurs are (now) coming out … it’s a good thing and we want to help you.”
The Student Entrepreneur Venture Competition is not the only competition available to business-oriented students. The UCLA Business of Science Center also puts on an annual competition in the spring, but it is geared toward postdoctoral and graduate students rather than undergraduates, said Nathan Martin, student venture team coordinator for the center.
“The idea of (entrepreneurial competitions) is that all students can learn from each other,” Martin said. “We’re happy (to see the School of) Engineering come out with this competition for students and faculty.”
Ouchi said he hopes the expanding entrepreneurial environment at UCLA will inspire the surrounding community to change as well, such as a possible technology corridor growing in Westwood and Santa Monica.
“UCLA is a largely undiscovered gem in the world of invention,” Ouchi said. “The underlying quality of our students is the best.”
Applications for the venture competition will be available online through the Institute of Technology Advancement.
For the rest of the year, participating teams will work to create and refine a technology-oriented product receiving assistance from faculty, other entrepreneurs and business owners. The competition will conclude at the end of spring quarter, but the School of Engineering will continue to support the winning teams afterward, with resources such as work space and materials, Dhir said.
Students must form a team and apply by the end of fall quarter.
At the moment, Paulson and his teammates are unsure whether they will enter into the contest. Several members have taken the quarter off to just focus on their product, Paulson said.
“UCLA has made more of a push for startups and entrepreneurs,” Paulson said. “Especially with the lack of an undergrad business school, (this contest) makes up for that.”