Category: Silicon Valley Experience

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.


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.”

– – –

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. 


Apply Now for the Spring Break 2020 Michigan Tech Silicon Valley Experience

Aspiring student entrepreneurs and innovators are invited to apply for the Michigan Technological University Silicon Valley Experience, an immersive tour during spring break 2020 of California Bay Area companies that includes meetings with entrepreneurs and Michigan Tech alumni who are leaders in their field. The deadline to apply for the experience co-hosted by Husky Innovate, a collaboration between the Pavlis Honors College, the College of Business, and the Office of Innovation and Commercialization, is February 10, 2020.

student standing in Facebook headquarters

Silicon Valley is known for its technology breakthroughs, high-tech startups, innovative companies, and Fortune 1000 companies. Its innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem including culture, policies, talent, resources, and networks serve as inspiration for students.

The Silicon Valley Experience will showcase multiple perspectives of a day-in-the-life of successful entrepreneurs, innovators, engineers, and business leaders. This tour will provide an interactive opportunity for students to discover more about a variety of industry settings, to sample various innovative corporate cultures through tours and presentations, and to meet and talk with successful alumni entrepreneurs.

Up to 15 students will be guaranteed a slot on the trip. Lodging, ground transportation to and from toured companies, and some food will be covered. Students will be responsible for arranging and paying for their own air travel. Students who have a demonstrated financial need can apply for a limited travel scholarship.

Students who apply and are accepted will have the opportunity to:

  • Tour companies like Google, Netflix, Hewlett Packard, Facebook, Ford, Clari, BYTON, Twilio, Autodesk, Waymo, the Porter Vineyard, as well as recent Michigan Tech-alumnus startup company Handshake
  • Meet with entrepreneurs and innovators
  • Talk with Michigan Tech alumni who are leaders in their field
  • Get answers to your real-world business, innovation, and leadership questions
  • Gain firsthand knowledge of the enterprises that are revolutionizing global business

As part of the application, students will create a two-minute video describing how they will share their experience with the Michigan Tech community upon completion of their travel in order to positively contribute to our entrepreneurial ecosystem. Apple here: SVE Experience 2020 Application.

Major funding for the trip is provided by the 14 Floors alumni group.


Business Huskies Travel to Silicon Valley for Spring Break

Image of bicycle outside Google headquarters
This spring break (March 11-15), the School of Business and Economics (SBE) is sending five undergraduate Huskies to the hub of innovation—Silicon Valley. Sarah Anderson (accounting and finance dual major), Hannah Badger (engineering management), Jacob Mihelich (accounting and finance dual major), Kalli Hooper (engineering management and marketing dual major), and Haley Hall (engineering management and marketing dual major) applied and were accepted to the Silicon Valley Experience (SVE), an annual trip.
As part of the application process, students created a two-minute video describing how they will share what they learned with the Michigan Tech community to contribute to the on-campus entrepreneurial ecosystem.

“I had been wanting to go on this trip since my first year on campus,” says Hannah Badger, who along with other business students, will also be sharing their travels live via the School of Business and Economics’ Instagram account (follow at @mtubusiness). She adds that her parents are proud of the professional experience she’s getting. 

Aerial view of Silicon Valley
The trip offers emerging business leaders an opportunity to go inside some of the world’s largest corporations including Netflix, Google, Facebook, Ford, Byton, Hewlett Packard, Twilio, and Capella, as well as Handshake, a Michigan Tech alumni startup. The tour showcases perspectives of a day-in-the-life of successful entrepreneurs, innovators, engineers, and business leaders. It is an interactive opportunity for students to discover more about a variety of industry settings, to sample innovative corporate cultures through tours and presentations, and to meet and network with successful Bay Area-based alumni entrepreneurs.

In total, 15 students across campus were accepted. Lodging, some food, and ground transportation to and from toured companies is provided. Students arranged and paid for their own air travel, although some limited scholarships were made available.

“The Silicon Valley Experience is Michigan Tech’s unique learning opportunity that helps students realize the formula of success = technology + business. Michigan Tech alumni currently working at companies in Silicon Valley escalate our students’ passions as entrepreneurial thinkers,” says Junhong Min, professor of marketing and SVE chaperone.

The opportunity is made possible in part through major gifts from alumni Rick Berquest, Tom Porter, and Kanwal Rekhi, and is a collaborative effort between SBE, Pavlis Honors College, the Innovation Center for Entrepreneurship, and the 14 Floors initiative.


Spend Your Spring Break in Silicon Valley

Aerial view of Silicon Valley

Aspiring student entrepreneurs and innovators are invited to apply for the Michigan Technological University Silicon Valley Experience, a spring break tour of California Bay Area companies that includes meetings with entrepreneurs and Michigan Tech alumni who are leaders in their field. The deadline to apply is February 10, 2019; the application form can be found at SVE Experience 2019 Application. Up to 15 students will be selected for this experience. Major funding for the trip is provided by Michigan Tech alumnus Kanwal Rekhi, as well as the Pavlis Honors College Innovation Center for Entrepreneurship and the School of Business and Economics in collaboration with 14 Floors.

Silicon Valley is known for its software giants, high-tech startups, Fortune 1000 companies, innovative culture, and entrepreneurial ecosystem–the environment that affects local/regional entrepreneurship, such as culture, policies, talent, entrepreneurial organizations, regional resources, and networks.

The Silicon Valley Experience will showcase multiple perspectives of a day-in-the-life of successful entrepreneurs, innovators, engineers, and business leaders. This tour provides an interactive opportunity for students to discover more about a variety of industry settings, to sample innovative corporate cultures through tours and presentations, and to meet and talk with successful alumni entrepreneurs.

Image of bicycle outside Google headquarters

Students who apply and are accepted will have the opportunity to:

  • Tour companies like Google, Netflix, Hewlett Packard, Facebook, Ford, Clari, BYTON, Twilio, Autodesk, Waymo, the Porter Vineyard, as well as recent Michigan Tech startup, Handshake
  • Meet with entrepreneurs and innovators
  • Talk with Michigan Tech alumni who are leaders in their field
  • Get answers to your real-world business, innovation, and leadership questions
  • Gain firsthand knowledge of the enterprises that are revolutionizing global business

Lodging, some food, and ground transportation to and from toured companies will be covered. Students will be responsible for arranging and paying for their own air travel. As part of the student application, students will create a two-minute video describing how they will share their experience with the Michigan Technological University community upon completion of their travel in order to positively contribute to our entrepreneurial ecosystem. Students who have a demonstrated financial need can apply for a limited travel scholarship. If you have any questions, please contact Lisa Casper (lcasper@mtu.edu).