Category: Entrepreneurship

Huskies Engage at Traverse City during Innovation Week


As part of Michigan Tech’s Grand Traverse region initiative, Huskies will be active in Traverse City this week (May 9-15) during a series of events to celebrate innovation and entrepreneurship.

Husky Innovate students Bayle Golden (master’s in engineering management) and Rourke Sylvain (biomedical engineering) will pitch their ideas during the TCNewTech University Idea Showcase tomorrow (May 12). On Sunday evening they will pitch again, competing for prizes.

College of Business alumnus and local business owner David McBride ‘82 will serve as a judge of the showcase. This event will be livestreamed via TCNewTech’s Facebook, YouTube and LinkedIn channels beginning at 6 p.m. Register to attend virtually or in person.

Golden and Sylvain have engaged in Husky Innovate events including the Bob Mark Business Model Pitch Competition and the New Venture Competition (NVC), where both took top prizes. At NVC, Golden won first place in the Social Mission category and received $10,000 pitching “SafeRow,” an innovative wearable device designed to keep children safe when every second counts. Together, Sylvain and Ali Dabas (biomedical engineering) won second place in the High Tech High Growth category, receiving $5,000. Their pitch, “imi (integrated molecular innovations),” is an electrochemical biosensor for T4 detection.

Husky Innovate is a collaboration between the Pavlis Honors College, the Office of Innovation and Commercialization, and the College of Business. 

About the College of Business

The Michigan Tech College of Business offers undergraduate majors in accounting, business analytics, 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.


Business Huskies Win at CMU’s 10th Annual New Venture Challenge

Bayle Golden holding check with other individuals at New Venture Challenge Competition
Michigan Tech teams brought home $21K in prizes for their innovative ideas.

Central Michigan University (CMU) and Michigan Tech have collaborated for a decade to offer Michigan Tech students a chance to compete in CMU’s New Venture Challenge (NVC). This showcase event provides an opportunity for students at both universities to present their businesses and network with prospective investors, mentors and partners. Student participants compete for a total of $60,000 in prizes and in-kind services.

On April 22, four Michigan Tech teams—three from the College of Business—pitched their ideas and businesses in person on CMU’s campus in Mount Pleasant. Students had an opportunity to compete in either the two-minute pitch competition or the seven-minute business model competition, as well as a gallery competition where teams had tables with individual displays and took questions from attendees.

New Venture Challenge winners from the College of Business are as follows:

Two-Minute Pitch Competition

Jakob Christiansen at the New Venture Challenge Competition
Michigan Tech construction management student Jakob Christiansen delivers his two-minute pitch for his new supply chain e-commerce platform, ProBoard.
  • Jakob Christiansen (construction management) won first place and received $4,000. Christiansen pitched “ProBoard,” an e-commerce platform to solve issues in the construction material supply chain.

Seven-Minute Pitch Competition

  • Bayle Golden (master’s in engineering management) won first place in the Social Mission category and received $10,000. Golden pitched “SafeRow,” an innovative wearable device designed to keep children safe when every second counts.
  • Jordan Craven (management information systems) won third place in the High Tech High Growth category and received $2,000. Craven pitched “Tall and Small Designs,” a technology company that provides software to online clothing retailers

“Your ideas have the potential to change the world.”

Lisa Casper, Michigan Tech Husky Innovate Program Manager

In preparing for the New Venture Challenge, Michigan Tech students participated in Husky Innovate workshops and review sessions. They also benefited from resources and expertise available within MTEC SmartZone, the local state-funded technology business incubator, and the Upper Peninsula Regional Small Business Development Center, which is hosted by Michigan Tech’s Office of Innovation and Commercialization in collaboration with the College of Business. Student mentors and sponsors include Pavlis Honors College, Office of Innovation and Commercialization, College of Business, College of Engineering, Biomedical Engineering, and Civil Engineering.

Golden, winner in the Social Mission category, has formed a Limited Liability Company (LLC) with her earnings, and will
begin production to segue into a full launch. In addition, on Thursday, May 12, as part of Northern Michigan Startup Week in Traverse City, the Michigan Tech graduate student will pitch to compete for a cash prize and startup resources amongst student-entrepreneurs from five other Michigan universities during the University Idea Showcase, hosted by TCNewTech in partnership with the Michigan Tech College of Business. Alumnus and local business owner, David McBride ‘82, will serve as a judge of the showcase.

“I am so thankful for the mentorship and support I have received from Michigan Tech for this venture. I look forward to being yet another success story from Tech!”

Bayle Golden, Michigan Tech Master’s in Engineering Management Student
Michigan Tech management information systems student Jordan Craven pitched “Tall and Small Designs,” a new kind of software for retailers who sell clothes online

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.


Nathan Sodini Named Outstanding Man in Business

Nathan Sodini, a student dual majoring in engineering management and finance, is the 2022 Sam Tidwell Outstanding Man in Business. Roger Woods, College of Business faculty member, says Sodini’s involvement in campus programs defines what it means to be a Michigan Tech business Husky. “This is a student who from day one has engaged in all opportunities Michigan Tech has to offer—and his involvement has paid off.”

Back in high school, Sodini launched a profitable entrepreneurial endeavor with his passion for classic and performance automobiles. During his first year on campus, the scholar-athlete landed a paid internship as a production supervisor at General Motors’ (GM) Heavy-Duty Truck Plant. In his second year, Sodini took on a co-op with GM as a quality-operations supervisor, tasked with controlling the daily quality of T1 HD trucks with his team of more than 40 employees.

Student Nathan Sodini standing in staircase
Nathan Sodini

Adding to his already impressive resume, Sodini obtained a motorsports internship with Hagerty back in his hometown of Traverse City, Michigan, and last fall was back at GM in the body shop, orchestrating the procurement of pre-assembled trucks to support the Oshawa launch. His leadership skills were further honed on campus, where he served for two years each as elected president of the Society of Automotive Engineers student chapter and as business manager of Advanced Motorsports Enterprise—Formula SAE. For his final college summer, Sodini heads south to General Motors Defense in North Carolina where, as a business manager/shift leader co-op, he will support the production management of the Infantry Squad Vehicle being produced for the United States Army.

Being able to blend the worlds of engineering and business has been a dream come true, Sodini says:

“A business degree from Michigan Tech is more than coursework. It’s an experience preparing strategic leaders for tomorrow’s challenges.” 

Nathan Sodini, Michigan Tech Outstanding Man in Business

The Sam Tidwell Outstanding Man and Woman in Business awards, valued at $250 each, are presented annually to two current College of Business students who embody a dedication to academics, leadership, and extracurricular involvement within the Michigan Tech community.

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.


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.”

Rekhi
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.”

Rockwell
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.”

Park
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 business@mtu.edu.

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.