Category: Entrepreneurship

Innovators in Industry: Entrepreneurship, Startups, and Venture Capital

This fall, Michigan Technological University launched Innovators in Industry: a project connecting current Huskies with Tech alumni who are industry experts, leaders, and influencers.

The initial three-part series concludes at 7 p.m. (Eastern) on Monday, November 8 with a session titled, “Entrepreneurship, Startups, and Venture Capital.”

Featured alumni for the session are Kanwal Rekhi ’69, managing director of Inventus Capital Partners, John Rockwell ’79, president, CEO, and director of Accelergy Corp., Chang Park ’73, president, CEO, and founder of Universal Remote Control, Inc., and Rebecca Ufkes ’87, president of Ufkes Holdings.

Dean Johnson, dean of the College of Business, will moderate the session, which will welcome virtual and in-person attendees. Featured alumni will make short presentations with time for Q&A from the audience.

Organized by the Office of Advancement and Alumni Engagement, Innovators in Industry aims to give students direct access to industry leaders to help shape their paths. Future plans for the program include on-location student visits to industry hubs.

All Michigan Tech students, faculty, and staff are invited to join on Zoom (no advance registration required).

Kanwal Rekhi

Kanwal Rekhi is the managing director of California-based firm Inventus Capital Partners. He earned an MS in Electrical Engineering from Michigan Tech in 1969 before achieving honorary doctor of engineering status from the University in 1997. During his undergraduate years, Rekhi studied electrical engineering at IIT-Bombay.

Kanwal Rekhi jumped from engineering to business startups in 1980 by co-founding Excelan, becoming the first Silicon Valley Indo-American founder and CEO to take a venture-backed company public on the NASDAQ in 1987.

Rekhi then became a high-profile Venture Angel while co-founding and leading The Indus Entrepreneurs into the largest global mentoring network for Indian entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley and around the world.

He co-invested in and founded Inventus in 2007 to institutionalize high-conviction, early-stage help to build category-defining companies. At Inventus, Rekhi has led the investments or been on the boards of Poshmark, StatX, Sierra Atlantic, Intellivision, GenWi, Espresso Logic, and has actively mentored the founders of redBus. 

He was also the first investor behind both Raju and BV as they founded and built their successful enterprises in the Bay Area.

Michigan Tech Awards, Achievements, and Involvement:

  • Melvin Calvin Award of Distinction 
  • Rekhi Innovation Challenge Founder
  • Distinguished Alumni Award 
  • Board of Control Silver Medal

“The first step is the hardest.”

John Rockwell

John Rockwell is the president, CEO, and director of Accelergy Corporation, producer of low-carbon synthetic transportation fuels, headquartered in Houston, Texas. After earning a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Michigan Tech in 1979, Rockwell was selected as a member of the US Junior National Hockey Team and the US Select Team that won the Spengler Cup. Rockwell went on to earn his MBA from the University of Minnesota in 1982.

It wasn’t until after he joined 3M’s business development wing that Rockwell discovered his talent for building companies and commercializing technology. He has spent a quarter-century funding, developing, and managing more than 20 companies across clean-tech sectors, including fuels, materials, supply chain, storage, solar, and smart-grid technologies.

Rockwell previously served as founder and managing director of Element Partners, an $800 million venture-capital and private-equity firm focused on “cleantech” investments. Prior to Element, he was a partner for nearly a decade at Advent International Corporation, now a $30 billion global private-equity firm.

Before Advent, Rockwell spent seven years at Materia Ventures Associates, investing in and managing early-stage companies focused on commercializing applications of advanced materials technologies. Before their successful mergers, he also served as CEO of Luxar Corporation, a manufacturer of CO2 lasers for the medical market, and as president of SSC, Inc., a manufacturer of high-performance ceramic-oxide materials used in superconductors, fuel cells, and catalysts. 

Michigan Tech Awards, Achievements, and Involvement:

  • Distinguished Alumni Award
  • College of Business Academy
  • College of Business External Advisory Board
  • Sports Hall of Fame

“I spend my time on the things that are important to me; family first, then business, then community.”

Chang Park

Chang Park is the president, CEO, and founder of Universal Remote Control, Inc., based in New York. Park came to the United States as a teenager with just $200 to his name. He earned bachelor’s degrees in electrical engineering and business administration from Michigan Tech in 1973 and a master’s in business administration from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania in 1979. 

In his first job after graduation, Park worked for an engineering consulting firm in Philadelphia, designing and reviewing mass-transit systems. He later joined J.P. Morgan, working in international finance.

Guided by his entrepreneurial spirit, Park started a business in his sister’s garage that provided jobs for impoverished youth in Korea. He steadily expanded the organization, and has been developing and marketing remote controls and home-automation products for more than two decades.

He chairs the Chang K. Park Foundation, an organization that supports human rights, the elimination of poverty and hunger, the implementation of political reform, and economic justice. Park is also a member of the national governing board of Common Cause, a public-interest organization in Washington DC; the board at the Union Theological Seminary in New York; and Bread for the World.

Michigan Tech Awards, Achievements, and Involvement:

  • Electrical and Computer Engineering Academy
  • Commencement Speaker (2011)
  • Honorary Doctorate of Philosophy
  • CEDIA Lifetime Achievement Award
  • Society of Women Engineers

“We live in an extraordinary time that offers great opportunities.”

Rebecca Ufkes

Rebecca Ufkes is the president of Ufkes Holdings. Ufkes earned a BS in Mechanical Engineering from Michigan Tech in 1987 and her MBA from The Citadel in 1994. Currently residing in Sullivans Island, South Carolina, Ufkes co-founded UEC Electronics with her husband in 1995. The company began with five other employees in a warehouse. As engineers with abilities to improve design and processes, the team quickly increased their client base while applying principles of efficiency and innovation to their strategic management and growth.

By 2001, UEC’s work was being well-rooted in the commercial/industrial sector, and the partners set their sights on opportunities within the Department of Defense. Through their diligence and vision, UEC won a lucrative client providing the US Marines with a portable power system called GREENS (Ground Renewable Expeditionary Network System), which gave troops operational-power generation without the vulnerabilities of diesel dependability.

Ufkes and UEC were recognized by Inc. Magazine as being the fastest-growing manufacturer in South Carolina. She was awarded as “Champion of Change” by President Obama’s administration for creating jobs while saving resources.

Michigan Tech Awards, Achievements, and Involvement:

  • Presidential Council of Alumnae
  • Society of Women Engineers
  • Alpha Delta Alpha

About the College of Business

The Michigan Tech College of Business offers undergraduate majors in accounting, construction management, economics, engineering management, finance, management, management information systems, and marketing, as well as a general business option. Graduate degrees include the TechMBA®, a Master of Engineering Management, a Master of Science in Accounting, and a Master of Science in Applied Natural Resource Economics.

Scholarship Spotlight: Global Elite Bridge Scholarship

The Michigan Tech College of Business (COB) boasts more than 50 donor- and industry-sponsored scholarships reserved exclusively for new and returning business students. These awards are offered in addition to competitive, merit-, and need-based aid. For 2020-21, total scholarships and grants awarded to undergraduate students in the College of Business exceeded $4.6 million.

This month we highlight the Global Elite Bridge Scholarship.

For donor Peipei Zhao ’09, giving back to his alma mater was an easy decision, particularly when it helps students make connections. The Global Elite Bridge Scholarship, founded in 2020, is allocated for both undergraduates and graduate COB students with a global or international focus. Both domestic and international students are eligible for this renewable award. The inaugural recipient was Asriel Haines (management major with entrepreneurship concentration), who says it was an important factor in making MTU possible.
Asriel Haines
“Because of the Global Elite Bridge Scholarship I’ve been able to focus more on what I want to do for myself and my career. I’m going to be able to go far—not only because I want to—but because of all the support I’m getting,” says Haines.

The MTU esports competitor is also looking forward to taking on the broomball rink and the slopes of Mont Ripley.

Undergraduate recipients of the Global Elite Bridge Scholarship must earn a minimum 2.75 GPA, while graduate recipients must earn at least a 3.0. Questions related to the Global Elite Bridge Scholarship may be directed to

About the College of Business
The Michigan Tech College of Business offers undergraduate majors in accounting, construction management, economics, engineering management, finance, management, management information systems, and marketing, as well as a general business option. Graduate degrees include the TechMBA®, a Master of Engineering Management, a Master of Science in Accounting, and a Master of Science in Applied Natural Resource Economics.

Branding Expert, Alumna Monica Hahn Visits Tech Marketing Students

Students members of the Michigan Tech chapter of the American Marketing Association (AMA) this week spent time with College of Business alumna, brand management expert, and entrepreneur Monica Hahn. After a successful career in marketing for well-known global brands, Hahn is now thriving as a franchisee with Elements MassageTM. Elements Massage is one of the largest retail massage franchises in North America. Hahn owns and operates two studios in the San Francisco Bay Area. 

Before joining the Elements family, Hahn spent several years as a brand strategy consultant and career coach, focused on inspiring brands and individuals to reach their potential. Before beginning her own practice, she was a respected senior executive for a number of large companies, including ARAMARK, Einstein Noah Restaurant Group, Burger King Corporation, and Whirlpool.  

Junhong “Jun” Min, faculty advisor to the AMA group, says that learning real-world marketing stories and examples is an essential feature of Marketing at Michigan Tech.

Monica’s passion for education and leadership development reaches outside her day job. For a decade, she was a board member for The Leadership Investment, a Denver-based nonprofit focused on advancing the collaborative power of women and men leading together. Since 2012, she has served on the Board of Directors for Asante Africa Foundation, a nonprofit working in East Africa to educate and empower the next generation of change agents, whose dreams and actions are transforming the future for Africa and the world. And through her work in Africa, she connected with the Michigan Tech Pavlis Honors College, and is a member of their External Advisory Board. Hahn has been a member of Michigan Tech’s Presidential Council of Alumnae since 2007. 

Vice president of AMA, Ryan Calkins, says that a key takeaway following Hahn’s presentation was that connecting with people is one of the most important aspects of brand management. And Jaxon Verhoff, president of AMA, adds: “It was really fulfilling to hear Monica discuss her experiences in marketing. Listening to her validated my decision to choose marketing as my major.”

In addition to the Bachelor of Science in Business Administration she earned at Michigan Tech, Hahn holds an MBA in marketing from Western Michigan University. She is passionate about food, travel, education and a healthy outdoor lifestyle, and resides in northern California with her husband.

About the College of Business
The Michigan Tech College of Business offers undergraduate majors in accounting, construction management, economics, engineering management, finance, management, management information systems, and marketing, as well as a general business option. Graduate degrees include the TechMBA®, a Master of Engineering Management, a Master of Science in Accounting, and a Master of Science in Applied Natural Resource Economics.

Elham Asgari Named Michigan Tech College of Business Gates Professor

The Professor of Management and Entrepreneurship in the College of Business is the 2020-21 Gates Professor.

The Gates Family Foundation partners with communities to address long-term quality-of-life challenges and opportunities. At Michigan Technological University, the position will support student engagement in entrepreneurial activities and contribute to the regional entrepreneurial ecosystem. 

Elham (Ellie) Asgari joined the faculty of the Michigan Tech College of Business after earning her PhD in business management from Virginia Tech. Her research is at the intersection between entrepreneurship and innovation, and primarily focuses on the impact of upper echelons, star employees, and human resources on technological innovation. She has presented at the Academy of Management Annual Meetings and Strategic Management Society conference, among many others, and is published in top-tier journals such as Journal of Management, Entrepreneurship: Theory and Practice, and Expert Systems with Applications.

Her most recent paper titled, “Red Giants or Black Holes? The Antecedent Conditions and Multi-Level Impacts of Star Performers” was accepted for publication in the Academy of Management Annals in fall 2020.

Prior to entering her doctoral program, Asgari worked in industry, specializing in human resource management. She holds an MBA and a bachelor’s degree in engineering.

“With her advanced business and technical background, Dr. Asgari is well-matched for Michigan Tech. The College of Business looks forward to Dr. Asgari leveraging her Gates Professor role in support of the entrepreneurial ecosystem of Michigan Tech, the Keweenaw Peninsula, and across Michigan,” says Dean Johnson, dean of the Michigan Tech College of Business.

In particular, Asgari will promote two of Michigan Tech’s flagship student-based entrepreneurial activities, the immersive Silicon Valley Experience, and the Bob Mark Business Model Competition, in addition to supporting faculty and research in the entrepreneurial area. 

Of the appointment, Asgari says: “I am very excited about this opportunity and look forward to using the capacity of the position to enhance the entrepreneurship program at MTU.”

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The Michigan Tech College of Business is large enough to lead and small enough to care. Our faculty are active in research, yet build close relationships with students. Professors understand Huskies’ career goals and provide them with the knowledge, tools, and experiences to create the future. 

My First Year at MTU: Marco Marquez

MTU student Marco Marquez stands at a podium
Having grown up in Detroit, Michigan, Marco Marquez felt ready for the natural, rugged beauty of the Keweenaw Peninsula. The unique location, along with Michigan Tech’s STEM focus, led him to enroll in engineering management.

Since starting at Michigan Tech in the fall of 2019, Marco has adjusted and loves his second home. At first, he wasn’t sure what to expect and found it difficult to leave behind access to shopping, family, and friends. However, he says that meeting new friends and exploring the Upper Peninsula made the transition to college easier than expected. 

Marco has enjoyed getting to know students from other cultures and connecting through language. As a bilingual student, Marco finds language to be a starting point in learning about other people. Of his new connections, meeting a fellow Husky from Spain in Intro to Finance has been one of the most rewarding. He finds that collaborating on homework in Spanish to be a helpful way to continue using his second language.

Joining student organizations has also helped Marco gain new perspectives. One impactful experience was visiting Chicago with the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers to speak with pre-college students in primarily Hispanic schools. The group encouraged students to think about their lives after high school and the opportunities that are available to them in STEM and college. Marco also traveled to Minneapolis with the Accounting Club, which prompted his decision to switch majors to accounting and finance. He is also a member of the Society of African-American Men, which participates in community service activities on campus. 

In his first year at Michigan Tech, Marco’s vision for his future has evolved. Initially, his goal was to get a degree and a well-paying job to help support his family. Since then, he has learned to aim even higher. Marco now aspires to create his own company in the automotive industry, where he will work to make travel easier, faster, and more affordable. He would also love to use his passion for language to connect with others while undertaking this journey.

Marco credits his growth to the encouraging culture at MTU, and wants to let other students know that stepping outside their comfort zone just might change their perspective for life.