Archive for the ‘Entrepreneurship’ Category

Former Cogswell Alumni Finds Success in the Solar Energy Industry

Tuesday, November 18th, 2014

Former Cogswell Alumni Dean Sala, 52,  has found success in the alternative energy industry. He is both the Founder and CEO of Suntactics, a company that specializes in producing portable Solar Chargers and Solar Panels. Dean’s company and products have been featured and covered by Forbes.com, Mother Earth News, NBC, ABC, CBS, The Mercury News and The San Francisco Chronicle. The following is an interview as it appeared in a November issue of the magazine Kiplinger, Personal Finances, and is credited to Patricia Mertz Esswein.

You worked in high tech?

Yes, for 23 years, 15 of them as a software engineer for Hewlett-Packard. In 2008, HP shut down my whole division, and I was out of a job. I didn’t see myself going back to software, so I returned to school to finish a second degree, in electrical engineering.

Why Suntactics?

Solar power has interested me since I was a kid. When I returned so school, I teamed up with a partner to power a full size glider with solar energy. We worked on other projects, and in 2009 we formed a general partnership to focus on making a portable yet powerful solar panel to charge a phone. In 2010 my partner said, “I don’t think this is going to work,” and left amicably. Since then, I’ve developed three products that can charge devices with a USB connection. I have provisional patents on my designs, and I’ve sold almost 10,000 units, mostly via our website (www.suntactics.com) and Amazon.com. Our chargers range in price from $140 to $240. They’ll charge an iPhone in two hours or less in direct sunlight, as fast as a wall outlet. They’re popular with outdoors enthusiasts, among others.

You made the panels yourself at first?

The cheapest solar panel laminator I could find cost $50,000 and was full size. I needed a pint-size one. So I built my first one out of parts from a pizza oven that  bought at Goodwill. I cranked out 2,000 panels in my garage.

Did you get any outside help?

To perfect my process, I picked the brains of a scientist and a couple of engineering PhDs. But in my previous career, I never saw the sales and marketing end, and now I was trying to run a business. So I appealed to Score [www.score.org a nonprofit group that mentors small businesses]. When I told them I couldn’t keep with with orders, that’s all they needed to hear. I have two counselors- one is an expert in manufacturing and the other in marketing. They helped me find a small manufacturer to produce more units under contract.

How did you finance your start up?

I took out a home-equity line of credit on my house and borrowed about $42,000. More recently, I got a line of credit that’s backed by the Small Business Administration.

Do you make a living?

In 2013, we did more than $500,000 in sales, and I paid myself about $65,000. That’s a lot less than the $100,000 I made at the peak of my career as a software engineer, but because I’m a sole proprietor I can write off a lot of stuff on my tax return.

What’s ahead?

Our next product will charge laptops. I’m gradually bringing production into my own facility because contracting it out is expensive. We need to get into retail outlets. Our products are sold in Batteries Plus stores, but it’s a struggle to get into sporting-goods and big-box stores.

Is your work rewarding?

I’d rather do this than anything else. My customers are my bosses, and I like to make them happy. Plus, I bought a company car: a Chevy Camaro that replaces the ’68 model I sold to go to college and the ’98 pickup I had been driving. It’s my dream car.

Dean’s story is proof that it’s never too late to go back to school or follow and pursue your dreams. All it takes is a bit of patience, hard work, and determination. Congratulations Dean!

Cogswell Presents: Nye Warburton

Thursday, November 6th, 2014
Cogswell College Presents: Nye Warburton
Cogswell Presents: Nye Warburton
Tuesday, November 11th
12:45 – 1:30
Dragon’s Den

Students!
Do you find yourself starting projects that never get finished, or find yourself swimming in awesome ideas and never do anything with them? Come see Nye on Tuesday to learn how to…

Finish it! How to take your creative ideas and finish the project.
Tips from the industry. How to go from idea to final film, or final game, or whatever you are building. A little bit of project management, a little bit of creative advice and a little bit about the business and how to get your work out there.

About Nye:
Nye Warburton is an animator, cartoonist, game designer and artist. His graduate thesis film, Magnetism, landed him in the Los Angeles animation industry in 2004. He spent a decade at studios like Electronic Arts, Sony Imageworks, Fox, Blur, Proof, Digital Domain and  The Third Floor. He has worked on 30+ high budget films including Monster House, Thor, Battleship, Men in Black III and Oblivion. He has had development deals with Fox Animation and Comedy Central, as well working on several independently funded animation and game projects.

Nye currently works as a creative director for start ups, out of his office space in downtown Los Angeles. Visit him online at http://nyewarburton.com

Cogswell College Launches ‘Immersion Experience’ Program

Wednesday, July 9th, 2014

SUNNYVALE, CA — Cogswell College (www.cogswell.edu), an institution that offers a unique curriculum fusing digital arts, engineering, and entrepreneurship, has launched a brand new program, “The Silicon Valley Immersion Experience” (www.entrepreneurship.cogswell.edu/immersion). Now available to entrepreneurs and students on a global scale, Cogswell’s Silicon Valley Immersion Experience program just hosted its first group of participants — a team of entrepreneurs from Turkey. The announcement was made by Dr. Deborah Snyder, president and chief academic officer, Cogswell College.

Spearheaded by John Duhring, Cogswell College’s education technology specialist, five entrepreneurs from the Turkey-based Sabanci University’s “SUCool” Pre-Incubator Program, very recently visited the Cogswell College campus. The group also attended a series of meetings, workshops, showcases, meetups and presentations, including trips to Stanford University, IDEO, and the Institute for the Future; such top Silicon Valley-based companies as Google, Skype, Flipboard, and Eventbrite; financiers and incubators including StartX, the Founder Institute, Hackers/Founders, and Hanhai Investments, and start-ups including Good Eggs, gThrive, NVT, Diya TV, and others.

Read more on Computer Graphics World.

Entrepreneurs: Born this Way

Thursday, April 3rd, 2014

3 Traits Ingrained in as Entrepreneurial DNA


The term “entrepreneur” has become quite the buzzword in recent years. What was once synonymous with starting and managing one’s own business, now has evolved to encompass traits of the trade such as risk-taking and business-savvy. One no longer needs to operate a brick and mortar business to be deemed “entrepreneurial”.

An entrepreneur identifies a need and quickly fulfills it. They are compelled to act without regard to habitual nay-sayers. They see a company or industry lacking in certain areas, and help them problem-solve the opportunities that business owners often times didn’t even know needed fixing.

While the traits necessary to be an entrepreneur can be cultured, the entrepreneurial spirit is more inherent. Classic entrepreneurs possess characteristics that set them apart from the Mark Cuban-wannabes. Here are three of those traits:

Ingenious Problem Solving

At the core, entrepreneurs are able to see a problem, or an area where a company is lacking, and creatively solve it. Creativity doesn’t always equate to iambic pentameter prose poetry. It’s a more of a process or mindset; How to cut off the crusts without using a knife. As much as we hate clichés, “Thinking outside the box” describes entrepreneurs perfectly.

Risks: Forget the Parachute

Risks may be calculable, but not to entrepreneurs. Though failure is not an option to entrepreneurs, it is a distinct possibility However, this doesn’t faze the true entrepreneur, even though the risks are not only monetary; sometimes the entrepreneur is risking reputation as well. Being your own boss means that you make tough decisions without benefit of a parachute.

Could Sell Ice to an Eskimo

Negotiating skills are essential for every business owner. Fear of rejection is not part of the entrepreneur’s genetics. They live by the mantra that “everything is negotiable” IE: leases, sales contracts and salaries, just to name a few. Effective and creative negotiation skills will help save money, and make money to keep businesses running at peak efficiency.

While all of these skills are essential to possess when starting a business venture, schooling helps young entrepreneurs hone in and learn to apply those skills in real life. Cogswell’s Master’s Degree in Entrepreneurship & Innovation teaches how to refine entrepreneurial skills needed to create, establish and grow their own ventures.

2014 NCIIA Papers Feature Cogswell Authorship

Friday, March 14th, 2014

The National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance (NCIIA) supports technology innovation and entrepreneurship in higher education, and has a membership of nearly 200 colleges and universities from across the country. This 17-year-old national nonprofit organization engages with over 5,000 student & faculty entrepreneurs each year, by helping them to commercialize their concepts.

The NCIIA is holding their 18th annual conference from March 21-22, 2014, right in Cogswell’s backyard in San Jose, California. It is an intensive two-day conference for practitioners of technology entrepreneurship in high education. Conference sessions explore policy, programs, funding and insights into what is happening in higher education today; and how that will impact tomorrow.

Cogswell Polytechnical College is proud to share the 2014 peer-reviewed papers written by our very own Christopher-John Cornell & John Duhring! Topics include Project-based Learning Kickstart Tips, The Metamophosis of Business Plan Competitions, and Crowdfunding: More Than Money Jumpstarting University Entrepreneurship. Follow the links for the full publications.

Visit our website for more information about Cogswell’s Master’s Degree Program in Entrepreneurship & Innovation, the Immersion Program for visiting students and entrepreneurs, or the Kauffman Fasttrac Program.

SuperGenius – One Company’s Journey into the World of Outsourcing

Wednesday, March 5th, 2014

SuperGenius is a new generation of game art studio. A full-spectrum art and animation support studio for video game developers.

SuperGenius started out like many small game companies – with a dream. They wanted to outsource their talent and work with the best game developers in the world. They quickly discovered that someone else would always work for less so had to figure out a way to compete that would allow them to earn a living.

In this article in Gamasutra, Paul Culp, talks about the studio’s first attempt at being an amazing art asset producer and the lessons that helped it become the company it is today. “By taking a more holistic approach to the art and animation, and making sure it worked properly was immensely valuable to our clients. We stopped focusing on mass asset production and instead focused on completion, wrote Culp.”

One of the first lessons they learned was who they did not want to be. Another lesson was, “if you are going to spend a huge chunk of your time doing something, it better be something you believe in. Any endeavor, no matter how profitable it is, will eat you alive if you don’t like who you are while doing it.”

If you have tried to sell your art assets, what lessons have you learned?

Get Your Fat Mobile Apps in Shape

Friday, February 28th, 2014

Some app developers may create their app for love but most also want to bring a little money into their lives as well. Dale Carr, founder and CEO of LeadBolt says with all of the changes that developers in the mobile app industry face, it may be time to get some of the lead out of your apps and make them leaner and meaner.

In this article in DevsBuildIt, he offers realistic and achievable fitness tips to help your app monetization strategy shape up to all it should be in 2014:

  • Trim the fat: Don’t overstuff your app with ads by placing banners in every conceivable place. Think of your user experience first and be more strategic about ad placement.
  • Exercise different muscles: Connecting with your user in different ways is like exercising different muscles. To achieve results and continue to convert energy consistently, switch up your routine and target more than one area. Evaluate the entire usage cycle of your app.
  • Pay attention to your vitals: Resolve to measure your app performance by paying attention to analytics. In the article he offers ideas for app analytics to help you achieve optimal results.

What app monetization ideas have worked for you?

5 Habits of Great Entrepreneurs

Thursday, February 27th, 2014

Entrepreneurs are a special breed – they see what could be and then put their heart and soul into making that happen. They are dreamers who use controlled risk to build their venture. In this article in Inc., Tom Asacker author of the book ‘The Business of Belief,’ talks about characteristics that he thinks great entrepreneurs share. They:

  1. Believe:  Great entrepreneurs believe in themselves keep pushing to achieve their goals instead of going out and getting that ‘safe’ job.
  2. Empathize:  Great entrepreneurs have the uncanny ability to see the world from the perspective of their customers.
  3. Observe:  Great entrepreneurs are observers of human nature and human behavior.
  4. Obsess:  Great entrepreneurs never rest on their laurels or think merely in terms of incremental improvement.
  5. Win:  Great entrepreneurs have a laser focus on winning.

What other characteristics do you think great entrepreneurs possess?

So You Don’t Want to be Rich and Famous?

Tuesday, February 25th, 2014

If you don’t want to be rich and famous, then we guess you should not follow in the footsteps of Dong Nguyen, developer of the popular mobile game, “Flappy Birds.” He pulled the game down on Sunday, February 16, and walked away from advertising revenue estimated to be $50,000 each day. According to an exclusive interview published in Forbes, the reason he removed the game was:

“Flappy Bird was designed to play in a few minutes when you are relaxed, but it happened to become an addictive product. I think it has become a problem. To solve that problem, it’s best to take down ‘Flappy Bird.’ It’s gone forever.”

But according to another article in Forbes by Paul Tassi, there is a deeper issue at play here – the fact that there are a myriad of clones hoping to ride the wave of success of “Flappy Bird” and this cloning tendency is dragging down the creativity and originality of the mobile game market.

Tassi says, “I’ve always spoken out against the prominence of cloning in the mobile scene, but it’s usually been against companies like Zynga or King ripping off their most famous games from smaller developers or already established hits. Now we have a rise of ‘the little guy’ trying to rip-off fellow little guys, and the wake of this Flappy Bird drama, it’s the worst I’ve ever seen it.”

Do you agree with Mr. Tassi’s assessment of the mobile game industry?

Student Entrepreneurs Open Student Store

Friday, February 21st, 2014

Dashiell Sarnoff and Jeffrey Efting talk about their student store project.

While Cogswell makes sure our students understand the theory and fundamentals behind what they are doing, its main focus is on giving students the opportunity to put that theory into practice through project-based learning. Dashiell Sarnoff took the “Basic Building Blocks of Entrepreneurship” class and decided his class project would be to open a student store called, “The Cogswell Armory.” After Jeffrey Efting took the class and became a partner in the project.

From its humble beginnings in a corner of the Associated Student Office, then relocated to a storage closet, the store now has its own room. Listen in to this short video as Dashiell and Jeffrey share what they learned in the process in this short video. Listen in as they talk about the decisions they made to take the store from a tiny corner in the ASB office to a room of its own and the things they needed to consider to make it work.

Check out the Armory’s Facebook page for the latest news.