Partnership with FOUNDER.org provides global entrepreneurship toolkit for Purdue students

February 6, 2015  


FOUNDER Rostami

Purdue MBA student Jennifer Rostami, at left, who serves as a FOUNDER.org associate at Purdue, talks with Anurag Garg, co-founder of DATTUS (formerly Bearing Analytics), which was one of three Purdue-based companies selected for FOUNDER.org's Class of 2015. The November event provided nearly 100 Purdue undergraduate and graduate students with tips on what it takes to launch and lead a successful startup company. (Purdue University photo/Vince Walter)
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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Prahasith Veluvolu is already applying what he's learned as a Purdue University computer sciences undergraduate by co-founding his first startup - Mimir LLC.

Mimir has developed a cloud-based technology that could make it easier and take less time for professors and students to grade coursework in computer sciences, but Veluvolu said he is always looking for additional guidance from successful entrepreneurs and business leaders.

Discovery Park's Burton D. Morgan Center for Entrepreneurship and FOUNDER.org, a global student entrepreneur investor and company-building program with offices in San Francisco and London, are partnering to help students like Veluvolu and others advance a business-savvy learning process for all university students.

"I love working with other startups. And the eight secrets to a successful startup developed by FOUNDER.org were interesting and extremely helpful to me, especially the concept of taking my thinking from the classroom to the real world," said Veluvolu, a sophomore from Indianapolis.

Tony Ayaz

Tony Ayaz
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Veluvolu was one of more than 100 students who attended a recent workshop organized by the Burton D. Morgan Center for Entrepreneurship and led by Tony Ayaz, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur and FOUNDER.org executive.

There, Purdue student entrepreneurs were encouraged to apply and participate in a live presentation event on campus on Thursday (Feb. 12). The deadline is April 15 to be among the 50 startups named to FOUNDER.org's Class of 2016, which will be selected to receive weekly training and other assistance from their mentors. They are also eligible for grants of $10,000 to $100,000.

The undergraduate and graduate students from across Purdue also discussed what it takes for a successful business startup and learned about the eight essential dimensions to building a hyper-growth company. And several students and former students made 60-second pitches of their business startup concepts to the group, gaining feedback from Ayaz.

A key takeaway, they also heard of Ayaz's epic triumphs and failures as a serial entrepreneur and lessons learned from panelists Anurag Garg and Matthew Tan Creti.

Garg co-founded DATTUS (formerly Bearing Analytics), while Tan Creti is chief technical officer of SensorHound Innovations LLC, two Purdue-based companies that were part of FOUNDER.org's Class of 2015. A third Purdue-based company, Medtric Biotech LLC, also was in that group, and DATTUS was one of 10 startups to receive a $100,000 grant from FOUNDER.org to commercialize its hardware/software solutions for industrial machinery monitoring.

"The proof of the value of Purdue's partnership with FOUNDER.org is what they're offering for our entrepreneurially minded students," said Cliff Wojtalewicz, managing director of the Burton Morgan Center. "This is another tool we're bringing to campus and we're already seeing the dividends of this partnership."

Helping lead efforts at Purdue for FOUNDER.org are associates Jennifer Rostami, who is completing her MBA studies at Krannert School of Management, and Yarkin Sakucoglu, a freshman in computer information at Purdue.

"Our goal is to open up for Purdue students the opportunity to network with FOUNDER.org and learn what it takes to launch a company, how to structure a business plan, scale it and gain financial support to make it successful," said Rostami, a member at Purdue startup Vibronix, which finished second at the 27th annual Burton D. Morgan Business Plan Competition in 2014.

"FOUNDER.org identified Purdue for its commitment to growing and advancing student entrepreneurs through its research and technology-transfer efforts. It's been a natural partnership."

FOUNDER workshop

Discovery Park's Burton D. Morgan Center for Entrepreneurship and FOUNDER.org hosted a workshop for nearly 100 Purdue undergraduate and graduate students to provide tips on what it takes to launch and lead a successful startup company. (Purdue University photo/Vince Walter) 
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These companies also benefited from support from Purdue Foundry and its entrepreneurial resources aimed at launching new ventures. The Purdue Foundry provides coaching, business advice and other guidance that has been invaluable for helping take these companies to the next level.

Ayaz, chief revenue officer at FOUNDER.org, has worked for 15 years with enterprise software and mobile applications development startups. So he knows what it take to be a successful venture, noting that just 39 venture-backed companies started since 2003 have annual revenue of $1 billion or more today. That's just 0.07 percent of all companies started in that period.

What they have in common: "They had well-educated founders with a history of success, there were three co-founders per company on average, and it took seven-plus years before a liquidity event," Ayaz said.

FOUNDER.org, he said, has developed an 8D Company Readiness Chart, outlining the eight key components to a successful startup:

* Idea: Understand and tell the story of the alternate future you create for your customers.

* Team: A holistic approach to building and managing a high-performance team of A players.

* Product: Developing the roadmap for the evolution of your technology and product.

* Business Planning: Disrupting your industry with your business model and building a comprehensive five-year plan across every dimension.

* Market Development: Building awareness, generating demand, nurturing adoption and creating a brand.

* Customer Development: Landing pilot, early-paying customers and "big-fish" customers.

* Operations: When and how much business process is required to effectively scale.

* Fundraising: Winning the ongoing challenge of funding your company.

"We lead seed and Series A round funding for student-led companies, investing from $250,000 to $3 million," Ayaz said. "We are industry and technology agnostic, and our investments are global. We are here to work with Purdue."

Mechanical engineering students Julia Hartig, a junior from Boulder, Colorado, and Alvaro Aguilar, a graduating senior from Chihuahua City, Mexico, appreciate the entrepreneurial culture for Purdue students, especially recently through efforts by President Mitch Daniels' administration.

"I came to the workshop because I think I could be an inventor and an entrepreneur, and this is giving me the insight as to what do when that day arrives," Hartig said. Added Aguilar: "I want to make sure that years from now when I look at this time in my life that I created or invented something that made a difference in the world."

About FOUNDER.org

FOUNDER.org is a global nonprofit started in 2012 by serial entrepreneur and former venture capitalist Michael Baum, the founding CEO of Splunk. Its goal is to significantly increase the number of student entrepreneurs by backing the brightest student founders and biggest ideas. 

Writer: Phillip Fiorini, 765-496-3133, pfiorini@purdue.edu

Sources: Cliff Wojtalewicz, 765-496-3961, cliffw@purdue.edu

Prahasith Veluvolu, pveluvol@purdue.edu

Jennifer Rostami, jrostami@purdue.edu

Julia Hartig, hartigj@purdue.edu

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