UNR Startup Connects Students with Businesses

By Alexandria Malone

Founded by alumni George Nicholas (B.S. Mechanical Engineering ‘15) and Frank Olson (B.S. Electrical Engineering ‘15), Dringo is an online platform dedicated to connecting students at the University of Nevada to business in the area.

After he graduated, George started the rounds of networking that often consume a recent graduate’s time.

He saw that businesses in the community were eager to work with students of the university, but didn’t always know where to start.

George said, “Outside of a couple of career fairs, businesses don’t know where to go to get in contact with students. By giving them an online resource, we have opened up that line of communication.”

Beyond internships and jobs, we tap into the projects that students are required to complete and connect them with needs of local businesses. This allows students to gain not only a grade, but also stronger connections in the community, opening up doors with potential employers. From a business’ perspective, this collaboration gives valuable insight as to how an intern or project partner fits in that business, which makes the process of hiring a student or recent Nevada grad smarter and more attractive.

Thanks to Mridul Gautam, vice president of innovation and research, we work out of the Applied Research Facility on campus, which allows us to meet with student groups and faculty members freely. We get invaluable advice and feedback from Matt Westfield, entrepreneurship faculty member, and Tod Colegrove, head of the DeLaMare Library.

This semester, we are focusing our efforts to marketing.

We want every student at Nevada to know what we do and use our site to further themselves and make themselves more competitive when they graduate.

We will speak in every class and club meeting we are welcome in. We want to be able to walk through campus and have students stop us and ask how we can help them.

We at Dringo share a common goal: to build something that solves a problem and helps others. We consider our education at Nevada to be our competitive advantage. We know how to navigate the university and are able to use our experiences to help others.

Find out more about Dringo here. 

Student Entrepreneurs Share Their Sontag Stories

By Liset Puentes

In 2011 alumnus Rick Sontag funded The College of Business at the University of Nevada, Reno with the Sontag Entrepreneurship Award, hoping to encourage students to become entrepreneurs. The yearlong competition begins in October and continues onto March where out of the top finalists, one winner receives $50,000 to fund their business venture.

This year the competition attracted 35 business idea submissions of which only four finalists remain. Three of the finalists spoke with the Ozmen Center about their Sontag experience.

“Every year since we’ve been freshmen we’ve been telling ourselves we’re going to do it,” said MacCallister Higgins, a University of Nevada, Reno senior and creator of Nevada Dynamics.

With graduation quickly approaching Higgins and his partner Eric Edgington, a University of Nevada, Reno senior, decided to compete for the Sontag award. Their company, Nevada Dynamics, provides air traffic control for drones.

They plan on integrating drones into the national airspace and provide companies a way to use command and control systems for drones using a satellite network. Currently, according to Higgins, a drone’s flight path can only be controlled manually or using preprogrammed flight paths.

Higgins, a computer science and mechanical engineering major, was exposed to drone technology by working with the autonomous systems innovation center, NAASIC, as well as Flirtey, an Australian drone delivery company.

What started as a senior project with a team of four has evolved into a team of fourteen individuals over the yearlong competition.

The rapid growth of the company was exciting for the team but it did not come without challenges. Higgins admits the team struggled early on when they made decisions before knowing they could secure the resources for their ideas or before doing the proper research.

Higgins has also learned that choosing the right people from the start is crucial to a company’s success. He attributes a large part of their growth to his partner, Erik Edgington, who has communicated the company’s vision effectively to others.

Higgins remarked on the supportive environment the University has provided to make the business possible and is excited to see the University moving towards encouraging an entrepreneurial mindset, an attitude he felt was missing when he first began his studies.

 “I’m just working really hard so I don’t have to make someone else money,” said Higgins.

Win or lose, the team will continue to develop their company.

“The ability to work on something that’s going to change the way we see the world now, that’s very motivating,” said Higgins.

For Meghan O’Neil, creator of Burn Ready and University of Nevada, Reno senior, entrepreneurship was a part of her life long before she could even know she would enter the Sontag competition.

The young figure skater created a product to prevent rusting on ice skates when she was fifteen. O’Neil knew nothing about business and although she received help from her mother the product never took off.

Years later O’Neil now is the creator of Burn Ready, a web based supply company that simplifies event preparation for extreme events. The idea came to O’Neil during a late night discussion with friends at the Wolf Den.

After receiving encouragement from her peers O’Neil presented at Pack Pitch and soon after began developing her business with the help from on campus resources such as the Nevada Small Business Development Center and the University of Nevada, Reno Entrepreneurship Club.

Her decision to compete for the Sontag award was driven by a deadline she had given herself to start her business.

 “With Sontag I was able to make it happen, not just have it be some dream someday,” O’Neil said.

Through Sontag, O’Neil said she was able to learn a lot outside of her management and economics major. She reflected on her growth in the areas of accounting, public speaking, and marketing, all of which she knew nothing of before Sontag.

O’Neil was hit hard by the recession and has worked her way through college. She feels the Sontag competition has changed her future because it has presented a new career path she had never considered.

Presenting for Pack Pitch, O’Neil was shaking as she shared her idea, something that had never happened to the practiced public speaker. She admitted that trusting her idea was challenging since she feared, like many who take risks, the possible rejection of a deeply personal project.

Now she advises entrepreneurs, “Believe in yourself and put in the work – constantly work on the business plan.”

O’Neil’s has seen her confidence surge over the past year and now feels secure choosing entrepreneurship as a path.

“I found a niche and I want to grow it.”

Steven Keim and Keith Szelagowski are both graduate students, their challenge was finding time for their business.

Their company, Adaption, seeks to give smart phone and tablet users the ability to manage and protect their homes with low energy, long-range sensors using Bluetooth technology.

Keim, a Ph.D. student at Arizona State University and UNR graduate, said the Sontag competition allowed the team  to refine their initial idea.

“It has turned a fledgling idea into a full blown business plan by forcing us to challenge the initial weaknesses in the business idea and our product,” Keim said.

What defines an entrepreneur according to Keim, is “Someone who sees an investment opportunity and then intelligently seizes that opportunity.”

Keim believes entrepreneurship can be encouraged with more competitions like Sontag where students are given significant cash awards that can actually provide students with enough capital to fund their company.

“I think most people who don’t choose entrepreneurship simply don’t know where to start,” Keim said.

The team utilized many on campus resources as well as the expertise from College of Business advisors to form their business plan and strategy. Finding partners in areas they felt they lacked experience was a challenge for the graduate students.

Marketing, unfamiliar to Keim, proved difficult because not only did he not understand the company’s marketing needs he also did not know what makes an effective marketer, making the decision of finding the right partner more difficult.

“It’s also important for an entrepreneur to see problems when they’re there, lest he or she make a poor investment decision,” said Keim.

The winning team will not only receive $50,000 but they will also be assisted in the development of their business including mentorship from community business leaders.

Liset Puentes is an intern at the Ozmen Center for Entrepreneurship. She can be reached at LinkedIn

Oxford Entrepreneur Joins Ozmen Center Faculty

By Jamie Schwarzbach

Kelly Northridge and I sat relaxed across from each other at one of the high-top tables in the Ozmen Center for Entrepreneurship. “Relaxed” is hard to obtain these days with Northridge doing her fieldwork in Reno while studying to receive her doctorate in business from the University of Oxford and also teaching a course at the University of Nevada, Reno called New Venture Creation in Biotechnology. Kelly is an exceptional entrepreneur who is researching gender lens investing and finance with a specific focus on developed countries, a rarely studied field.

Kelly has a plethora of educational experiences from International Business and Economics at the University of Nevada, Reno, to her MBA from Cornell University and Master of Public Health degree from UCLA.   Sprinkled between UNR and UCLA, Kelly worked in management consulting, venture capital and mergers and acquisitions.

After UCLA, with experience studying Asian, European, and African economies, Kelly transitioned her career to a startup — as their first official employee — where she focused on health economics and international strategy. From startups to big biotech, Kelly helped companies prepare the financial and economic dossiers needed to gain reimbursement for their drugs in nationalized healthcare systems worldwide. No small feat, as these companies need to, “provide enough extra benefits to justify bringing them on (to a national formulary).”

After completing a fellowship in angel investing and co-founding a women-led health tech company, she became passionate about the funding gap for women, and the impact of current financial models on women and girls.

Kelly took her next step and began studying at Oxford University. This was a clear choice because the school was exploring research topics in the women’s economy and social entrepreneurship. Kelly focuses on women and girls and how to use a “gender lens on any kind of investment to determine its impact on women and girls.” Kelly is really interested in developed countries (namely U.S. and Europe) and why this topic hasn’t been thoroughly researched in those countries. Kelly also questions, “how people in finance are addressing this need (for investing with a gender lens) that is becoming more and more vocal.”

During her schooling, Kelly was given the opportunity to perform fieldwork anywhere in the world and chose to come back to Reno.Kelly created a special topics course on New Venture Creation in Biotechnology offered in conjunction with the College of Agriculture, Biotechnology, and Natural Sciences.This undergrad/grad course analyzes University technology and determines whether the technology is a viable venture. The course also explores economic and financial analyses, and multiple funding sources (e.g., grants, private, crowd funding).

Kelly is doing exciting things connecting Oxford and the University of Nevada, Reno, increasing the awareness of the University internationally.

She moved back to Reno because University of Nevada, Reno is one of the few universities that is open to developing new curricula, and moving quickly to incorporate leading edge approaches and research into its entrepreneurship studies. The Ozmen Center for Entrepreneurship is excited to have Kelly as faculty and in-office to provide a point-of-view about women-led ventures, international economics and financial analyses and new venture creation.

Kelly will be available to provide a point-of-view during her office hours in the Ozmen Center on Mondays from 2:30 to 3:30pm.

Jamie Schwarzbach is a University of Nevada, Reno graduate student and creates the Ozmen Center Newsletter. She can be reached @JLSchwarzbach on Twitter. 

Improve the Microsoft Experience With Your Business Plan

MicroSoftBpostMicrosoft Reno is challenging UNR Students to improve the Microsoft experience for a chance to win an Xbox One and present their idea to Mircrosoft executives.

Every new business must manage and access their technological needs. The market is full of solutions for tech challenges including managing cloud storage, using operating systems, as well as fundamental services like email, word processing, and Word or Excel.

The competition concerns your business plan and how you plan on using Microsoft products, or other company’s products, to best serve your business.

Competitors must present their research and analysis behind their tech choices that coincide with their business service or product.

The top 5 contenders will present their idea to Microsoft Executives and the winning team will win an Xbox One for each member.

Send questions to unrcomp@microsoft.com

For more details attend the information session on February 10, 2015, in the Ansari Building Room 408A from 6:00 pm to 7:00pm.

Grammar Girl reflects on teaching debut

By Liset Puentes



Mignon Fogarty unknowingly launched her entrepreneurial career during college when her roommate encouraged her to sell the hair bows she had been quietly crafting in her dorm room. The two friends started paying their way through college when most students were deciding where they would find employment.

Years later, Fogarty considers those hair bows to be the beginning of an exciting path towards entrepreneurship. She now teaches Media Entrepreneurship as part of the graduate program coursework at the Reynolds School of Journalism at the University of Nevada, Reno.

An English major, Fogarty admits she had no idea what she would do after graduating. An interest in science eventually led her to study biology at Stanford University. Before she could finish her doctorate degree, she left academia to join her roommate’s software company as her first employee.

“It’s incredibly valuable for everyone to get out of their comfort zone especially when they are younger so that they can see what opportunities are available. Entrepreneurship is one of those opportunities that’s available that sometimes people don’t see,” Fogarty said.

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Inside the DeLaMare makerspace

Creating a prototype of a product can help entrepreneurs bring their ideas to life.

Nevada Media Alliance reporter Nate Eng takes us on a tour of the DeLaMare Science and Engineering Library at the University of Nevada, Reno. DeLaMare is recognized as one of the most interesting makerspaces in America. (Click the photos for a larger view.)



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OCE announces Startup Weekend ticket winners



Congratulations to University of Nevada, Reno students Jack Currie and Nolan Nicholson. The students won tickets to Startup Weekend Reno after entering a contest hosted by the Ozmen Center for Entrepreneurship. Participants were asked to explain how the OCE has helped them.

Check out excerpts from the winning entries:

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OCE Roundup, Nov. 12, 2014

Do you talk in hashtags?
If yes, this job is for you. The Ozmen Center for Entrepreneurship is hiring a communications intern. Applications are due by midnight on Nov. 26.

Want to protect your intellectual property?
The OCE–in collaboration with the Nevada Small Business Development Center and the City of Reno–is hosting Assess, License, Launch on Friday. This month’s focus is tech development and how to license your intellectual property. To register, visit the event page.

Startup Week/Weekend
Startup Week begins Monday and concludes with Startup Weekend. The OCE is giving two University of Nevada, Reno students tickets to the event. For contest details, check out this post.

Getting schooled in entrepreneurship
Are you looking for an elective for Spring 2015? Two classes have been added to the University’s entrepreneurship program. Courses are open to undergraduate and graduate students studying any discipline.

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University entrepreneurship program adds courses

The entrepreneurship program at the University of Nevada, Reno has added two courses for the Spring 2015 semester.

Mark Pingle

Mark Pingle

Rick Winfield, Ozmen Center for Entrepreneurship staff member, will teach Entrepreneurial Marketing from 7-9:45 p.m. on Tuesday. Alice Heiman will instruct Entrepreneurial Sales from 7-9:45 p.m. on Monday. Both courses are open to undergraduate and graduate students.

Mark Pingle, entrepreneurship and economics professor, told the OCE in an August interview that the University’s entrepreneurship program fosters “learning by doing” to spur business creation in Reno. The curriculum, spearheaded by Pingle in 2008, has been offered as an 18-credit minor for students studying any discipline. The classes are also available to MBA students completing an emphasis in entrepreneurship.

“The [Ozmen] Center will help support [those courses] and make them better,” Pingle added.

Popularity for the program has risen in recent years through the Sontag Business Competition and the Entrepreneurship Club, Pingle said. As a long term goal, he anticipates the OCE will help broaden curriculum to 100- and 200-level classes for undergraduates and more in-depth courses for graduate students.


Click the flier for a larger version

Sontag competition offers weekend workshops

Sontag Entrepreneurship Competition organizers will hold the first in a series of weekend workshops designed to prepare students for the contest.

The focus of the Saturday workshop — being held from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. in AB 110 — is the Business Model Canvas, or a blueprint of a business idea and the different aspects that will affect the venture.

The Intent to Compete stage for the Sontag Entrepreneurship Competition ended Oct. 17. Participants will be required to submit a BMC and a preliminary business plan by Nov. 30.

The weekend workshop schedule is below. All meetings will be held from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. in AB 109.

Nov. 1 – Business Model Canvas
Nov. 8 – Marketing
Nov. 15 – Sales
Nov. 22 – Financials

Thanks to Dave Croasdell for the tip.

Edited Nov. 8