Engineering Entrepreneurship | UCLA Samueli School of Engineering

Miles Lim started his entrepreneurial adventure by hitting the ski slopes.

“For years we wanted to buy mini-skis, but we found the brands unattractive and expensive,” said Lim, a third-year doctoral student. mechanical engineering student at UCLA. “As a team of engineers and designers, we decided to create our own. “

Lim found a way to combine engineering and entrepreneurship, using his technical skills to design plastic mini-skis with the goal of making skiing more accessible and fun. He and his business partner created the Banana Blades company based on the product created by Lim.

Banana Blades skis (Credit: Miles Lim)

Lim isn’t the only Bruin to be both a student and a business leader. UCLA offers a myriad of avenues and resources for engineering students interested in entrepreneurship to take their ideas to the next level.

For example, undergraduate engineering students must meet a technical scope requirement designed to provide them with a working knowledge of an area outside of their major. One option is the Scope of Technology Management, which includes courses in decision-making in startups, initial public offerings (IPOs) funded by venture capital, and multinational corporations.

“When you’re at a club that’s mostly made up of business majors, you have to be able to speak their language,” said Prithvi Kannan, a fourth-year computer science student and chief technology officer for the Undergraduate Business Society (UBS) at UCLA. “The technical breadth of technology management has helped me develop this skill set. ”

As part of the scope of technology management, students can take a range of courses listed in the engineering and management departments. These courses allow students to gain a better understanding of the intersection of business and engineering.

“Thanks to ENGR 111 [Introduction to Finance and Marketing for Engineers], I learned the basics of finance and economics, ”Kannan said. “And through ENGR 163 [Entrepreneurship and New Product Development for Engineers], I learned to create products and businesses.

General engineering courses can also help students in their entrepreneurial endeavors by providing the technical skills needed to successfully invent a product.

Zing team meeting
Zing team meeting (Credit: Tristan Que)

Third-year computer science student Tristan Que uses his computer skills as the technical lead at startup Zing, a no-registration online discussion tool with a range of unique features.

“During the development of Zing, we encountered many problems and the solutions to these problems required a good computer background to be understood,” Que said. “Overall, the computer science programs at UCLA have prepared me well in terms of both theory and practice.”

In addition to the technical breadth requirement for engineering students, UCLA offers a minor in entrepreneurship for undergraduates, as well as a master’s program in engineering management.

There are also a number of entrepreneurship and business clubs and organizations at UCLA that engineering students can get involved with, including Bruins Contractors, Bruin Ventures, UBS and Startup UCLA. Clubs like these tend to have a technical or engineering element alongside the typical business or entrepreneurial focus.

“Traditionally, UBS has focused on industries such as investment banking, consulting and other professional services, but as the world changes, UCLA students also want resources for industries focused on technology, ”Kannan said. “Coming from an experience in the South Campus and the tech world, I was interested in helping to build this final division of the organization. “

“Entrepreneurship is about charting new territory, so don’t be afraid to join traditional North Campus organizations,” said Prithvi Kannan.

While not exclusively designed for those majoring in engineering or computer science, campus business and entrepreneurship organizations can help students network and find new opportunities, especially because students with a more technical background can provide a unique perspective that makes them a valuable asset.

“Entrepreneurship is about charting new territory, so don’t be afraid to join the traditionally North Campus organizations,” Kannan said. “The mindset and the engineering process are surprisingly applicable to their types of problems, and the skills we have are invaluable even outside of our majors. “

Last year, Lim and Que participated in the Startup UCLA Summer Accelerator, a 10-week program that provides workspace, legal services, advice, and mentorship to start-ups started by UCLA students. Throughout the program, students prepare to present their business to local entrepreneurs and investors at the end of the summer.

Some summer accelerator companies have been very successful, like Duffl, a grocery delivery service that raised over $ 13 million in funding and was started by Brian Le, who studied electrical engineering at UCLA, and former economics and philosophy student David Lin ’21. Yash Moondhra ’21, who recently graduated with a bachelor’s degree in computer science, developed the company’s software and performed data analytics as the company’s chief technology officer.

While not all business endeavors are successful, UCLA’s academic and extracurricular environment is conducive to entrepreneurship.

“Building a startup takes a lot of hard work, and sometimes you can’t see any results even after months of struggle,” Que said. “Knowing what to expect and dealing with it properly is very important. It takes a good mindset and knowing your current limit.

While the process can be difficult, it can also be rewarding on its own, as entrepreneurship enables engineering students to turn their passions into careers.

“Listen to that whisper of curiosity,” Lim said. “Know what makes you happy and do it.”

Chloe Slayter contributed to this story.


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