Alumni from the Rady School of Management share how they used their degrees to disrupt their industries to bring innovative ideas, products and programs to the market. 

Jimmy Wu – Foreign Exchanges Made Easy

Sending money abroad? Prepare to spend an exorbitant amount, thanks to transaction fees and exchange rates. And don’t forget to provide confidential information, such as your bank statements, addresses and phone numbers. Rady School of Management alumnus Jimmy Wu (MBA ’17) recognized the currency exchange system was broken, and was costing him and his family a fortune, when transferring money to and from his home country of China– so he set out to disrupt the industry.

USYNO simplifies global currency exchange by connecting users who have different currencies rather than relying on banks to initiate transfers. Utilizing the free and real-time payment tools in different countries, people get the target currency they need without making costly international money transfers.

The USYNO system is also safer and more secure than using traditional forms of currency exchange. Rather than having access to an individual’s entire bank account, the system connects others to payment tools. USYNO does not hold the money and does not ask users to provide confidential information that banks require. All the features allow users to pay significantly less and transact much faster.

The innovative approach to currency exchange is disrupting the multibillion dollar industry, generating interest in the company. USYNO was recently accepted into the prestigious EvoNexus accelerator – a premier tech startup incubator in Southern California.

Wu was inspired to scale USYNO into a fully-fledged company after completing the coveted Lab to Market sequence housed in the Rady School of Management, which teaches students how to turn ideas into market opportunities. The company has also received investments from the well-known LA incubator MuckerLab.

The extraordinary entrepreneurial atmosphere at the Rady School motivated and encouraged me to start my own business,” Wu said. “The Lab to Market courses and accelerators gave me confidence that I can make my idea happen. Without the resources and connections I have access to at Rady, it would be much more difficult to achieve today’s milestones at USYNO.”

March 23, 2018 0 comment
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Christopher Russow graduated from the Rady School of Management’s FlexMBA in 2014.

“I actually started in the FlexEvening program, and during my second year at Rady I ended up switching to the FlexWeekend program for greater flexibility,” he said. “This is a perfect example of why the Rady FlexMBA was perfect for me, as it gave me the flexibility to manage my career, my personal life and my pursuit of an MBA degree all at the same time.”

After graduating in 2014, Russow’s MBA experience helped give him the confidence to leave his previous job to go out on his own and pursue a career as an independent consultant. After consulting for a few years both domestically and in Europe, an opportunity came his way in 2017 to start a business with a former boss and mentor Sean Marsh, who is now his business partner.

“Our startup, Tangello, is disrupting the mortgage industry by creating a mortgage-less solution to affordably finance and buy a home that you love,” Russow said. “Starting your own business isn’t what it looks like on TV, and the skills I learned at Rady, as well as the support of the Rady School and my cohort, have really been invaluable.”

Outside of his current role with Tangello, Russow enjoys spending time with his wife Gabi, investing in real estate and other startups, and tinkering with classic German cars.

Why did you decide to come to the Rady School?

I had been thinking about getting my MBA for several years, and shortly after moving to San Diego to start a new job, the desire to get my MBA bubbled to the surface once again. I weighed the options available to me locally, as well as what I could commute to (either by car or plane) and decided that the Rady School of Management FlexMBA program was the right one for me.

The first thing I thought about was the fact that UC San Diego is part of the California Public School System, and as a lifelong supporter of public education, this was very important to me. Second, there are a bunch of great aspects to Rady’s program offering; the faculty are outstanding, the program is flexible and perfect for people who are working full-time, and it’s centered around entrepreneurship and the idea of cultivating startups and helping its alumni to enter the startup world. Finally, you just can’t beat the location, both of the school (you can see the ocean from campus) and of San Diego itself.

What was the most valuable thing you learned while at the Rady School?

It’s hard to really pick one thing as the “Most Valuable” thing that I learned while at Rady. I could talk about the Business Model Canvas, which is an incredible tool that anyone starting a company should utilize. I could also talk about the Lab to Market program, which isn’t really “one thing” but was a critical part of my Rady education. But even more than what I mentioned above, the thing that really stood out to me was the overall shift in the way that I evaluated business opportunities before my MBA and how I evaluate them now.

Before Rady, any time one of my friends mentioned their “new innovative startup idea” I would share in their excitement and enthusiasm, but not really understand if that idea had strong potential or how it could become a real business. After Rady, I feel like I can comfortably evaluate (on the back of a napkin sometimes) the potential of new business ideas and can quickly assess the value of those ideas in real time. This skill, of being able to evaluate opportunities, is what eventually drove me to start a company, based on what I felt was an incredible opportunity in a market I had a competitive advantage in.

What advice do you have for prospective students?

Take your MBA program seriously. I know that should go without saying, but it’s easy to get caught up in work, life, etc. and let some of the deliverables from your MBA program fall by the wayside. The reality is that what you get out of your MBA program will be directly correlated with what you put into it. Attend events, lectures and social gatherings. Take classes that are outside of your comfort zone and that challenge you. The MBA experience is about filling any gaps in your skill-set, forging lifelong bonds with your cohort, and creating a solid foundation from which you can pursue your post-MBA goals, whatever they may be.

March 21, 2018 0 comment
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Alumni from the Rady School of Management share how they used their degrees to disrupt their industries to bring innovative ideas, products and programs to the market. 

Kian Salehizadeh – Bringing Sustainability to Charitable Organizations

 The shift to solar energy is sweeping the nation – but for the majority of Americans, adopting the energy efficient practice is not in their budget. Although solar panels can save money in the long run, acquisition and installation can cost up to $15,000. The high cost of energy bills is especially detrimental for small businesses and community charities while working with small budgets to make big societal changes.

Noticing the lack of access to a sustainable practice, Kian Salehizadeh (MBA ’11) co-founded Everybody Solar — a company that works to protect the environment and strengthen U.S. communities through solar energy projects.

“Everybody Solar raises funds to provide solar installations to local charities, helping them reduce electricity costs and direct their limited resources to the communities they serve,” Salehizadeh said. “We are promoting clean energy and environmental sustainability by raising funds for disruptive charities that are critical to their local communities, and in some cases, involved in national efforts and causes.”

The benefit of the company is two-fold – charities are able to install solar energy systems that save money so nonprofits are able to divert funds away from utility bills and back into their programs, while the sustainable energy efficient system benefits the environment.

I have always had a passion for entrepreneurship, and the Rady School emphasis on innovation was apparent from the start. The faculty constantly encourages thinking outside the box and the Lab to Market series serves as a foundational element of the program.”

March 21, 2018 0 comment
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The interview process is finally evolving.  A growth in entrepreneurism and technology is spearheading changes in how hiring managers interact and evaluate candidates. According to LinkedIn’s 2018 Global Recruiting Trends, the top five key evaluation tools adopted by employers are:

  • Soft Skills Assessments
  • Job Auditions
  • Meeting In Casual Settings
  • Virtual Reality Assessments
  • Video Interviews

What does this mean for candidates and those who support them?

New tools are making their way into the hiring process, but employer expectations remain the same. Employers still expect candidates to submit well-written resumes, have polished LinkedIn accounts, and know how to interview. General, behavioral, technical and case interviews will remain a core part to the hiring process.

Preparation is still the key to a successful interview. Preparation should now include time to learn more about these evaluation tools, how to perform at your best, and when to expect them within the hiring process. On the plus side, candidates will likely enjoy a speedier hiring process as more companies adopt one or more of these new tools.

Through the CareersRady system, Rady students and alumni can access online interview support technology such as Big Interview, Career Insider/Vault, Mock Interview, and GoinGlobal to help prepare and practice for interviews 24 hours a day/7 days a week.  Rady students can also find a list of workshops, networking events and panels hosting business professionals, hiring managers and experts on career topics, including interviewing success.

To ensure Rady School of Management students and alumni are prepared and comfortable with the interviewing process, the Rady Career Connections team provides individual coaching and mock interview practice. Specifically, alumni and students can meet with a career coach to help identify their applicable experience, strengths and skill sets to focus on, and identify areas that need improvement before an interview.




March 20, 2018 0 comment
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Alumni from the Rady School of Management share how they used their degrees to disrupt their industries to bring innovative ideas, products and programs to the market. 

Richard Castle – The Future of Hospitality Management

When booking a vacation or business trip, consumers want things to run smoothly. From check in to check out, hotel staff work tirelessly to ensure the needs of guests are not only met, but exceeded. But how do hotel operations ensure everything about a guest’s stay is as perfect as possible? Enter Cloudbeds, a company developed by Richard Castle (MBA ‘13) and Adam Harris.

Cloudbeds provides hospitality software that helps independent operators run their properties’ operations. The Cloudbeds system provides a variety of services, including the software the property uses to check people in, manage reservations, run important reports, distribute inventory and more.

Thanks to the internet, travelers have the technology at their fingertips to book accommodations anywhere in the world. Thanks to Cloudbeds, booking is easier for travelers and managing operations is easier for providers. The streamlined platform is making waves in the industry – Cloudbeds programs are used by tens of thousands of properties in more than 100 countries to help properties generate more reservations and provide a better guest experience.

“Powerful property management and channel management software was previously only available to the largest hotel brands in the world,” Castle said. “Cloudbeds provides a flexible, cost-effective software solution that helps independent properties navigate an ever-changing industry.”

Castle’s time at the Rady School of Management was integral to the creation of Cloudbeds. From an emphasis on innovation and creative thinking to courses dedicated to providing insight on starting a business, Castle credits the Rady School for helping his business interrupt the hospitality industry.

“As Cloudbeds grows, the skills that I acquired at Rady continue to apply and I feel that I’m continuously reflecting on all of my coursework, faculty lectures, and conversations with my fellow alumni.”


March 19, 2018 0 comment
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Alumni from the Rady School of Management share how they used their degrees to disrupt their industries to bring innovative ideas, products and programs to the market. 

Silvia Mah – Inspiring Diversity in Entrepreneurship

Have you noticed an influx of women raising their voices and taking their seats at the entrepreneurial table? It is women like Silvia Mah (MBA ’10) who are helping make that possible. Through her various organizations focused on supporting women in the startup world, she has helped with the launch of more than 120 female-led business endeavors.

Mah serves as the Executive Director of Hera Labs, a business accelerator dedicated to helping women-led businesses launch and grow. Hera Labs is not your typical accelerator. Founded on principles of innovation, support, community and collaboration, Hera Labs was created to encourage diversity in entrepreneurship by providing women access to mentors, education and capital to ignite female-led innovation.

With a background in biochemistry, Mah initially came to the Rady School to enhance her business acumen and expand her network. After a few courses highlighting entrepreneurship, Mah caught the entrepreneurial bug and worked to develop mystartupxx – an accelerator housed in the Rady School dedicated to helping women create and launch business ideas.

“My time at Rady transformed my business decision-making process, challenged me to think big and dream of a different world where funding opportunities are not dictated by our gender or color,” Mah said.

The success of Hera Labs has led to a number of additional resources for female entrepreneurs added to the lineup.  Hera Labs recently partnered with Seed San Diego and Product Rebels, to launch Ad Astra, a 12-week business accelerator for female founders with revenue-generating businesses. Throughout the program, participants gain access to funding and clarity on their product, customers, and market, so they leave with a compelling business case that leads to subsequent investments.

“Rady supported me tremendously in the launch and growth of a business accelerator made for female change-makers and innovators. I cannot begin to express my gratitude to Rady, the faculty and the students for creating a safe place to grow ideas for maximum impact.”

March 16, 2018 0 comment
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Alumni from the Rady School of Management share how they used their degrees to disrupt their industries to bring innovative ideas, products and programs to the market. 

Suman Kanuganti – Helping Others Navigate the World

When Suman Kanuganti (MBA ’14) arrived at the Rady School of Management, he knew he wanted to leave with an idea that would change the world – he just wasn’t sure where to start. A fateful course in entrepreneurship inspired Kanuganti to pull from his experience to address a societal need. The question was posed to the class – How can entrepreneurship inspire positive change in the lives of others? Inspired by a perseverant friend with deteriorating vision, Suman decided to use his engineering skills to help empower visually impaired individuals to achieve their full potential.

Launched in 2014, Aira was created to help visually impaired individuals navigate the world with more freedom and autonomy. By leveraging leading technologies, such as smart glasses and mobile devices, Aira connects users – or Explorers – with a network of trained remote human agents, to provide Explorers with instant access to information and assistance in the physical and digital world, when and where they want it.

“Aira is introducing disruptive technology to solve an age-old and often forgotten problem facing the low vision: how to go beyond the white cane, guide dog and limited assistive devices to help people who are blind gain enhanced mobility independence and quality of life,” Kanuganti said.

Powered by the latest in augmented reality artificial intelligence, Explorers are able to connect to agents who are able to see an Explorer’s location and surroundings, providing a clear, live auditory narrative of the user’s environment in virtually any daily activity.

Since its inception at the Rady School of Management, Aira has received countless awards, accolades, recognition from top publications and numbers of rave reviews from Explorers.

“After coming to the Rady School as an engineer with an interest in the business world, my time at Rady enabled me to gain the innovative and entrepreneurial skills I needed to establish a vision, launch my company and make a real impact on the lives of the visually impaired.”

March 14, 2018 0 comment
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One of the most important aspects of entrepreneurship is adaptability. Being able to shift focus to meet the needs of ever-changing market trends, cycles and consumer interests at the drop of a hat is crucial for succeeding in the marketplace. When UC San Diego students expressed interest in learning more about one of the most popular current business models – Social Innovation — experts at the Rady School of Management launched a unique accelerator designed to meet the needs of these social entrepreneur hopefuls.

The Social Venture Accelerator housed at the Rady School supports students interested in creating social impact through entrepreneurship through workshops, mentorship sessions, pitch practice and more. Born out of a need to create more socially-conscious companies, the Social Venture Accelerator helps students scale and develop innovative companies addressing important social issues. The pilot program recently wrapped up, launching six business endeavors with companies ranging from sustainable farming to technology that prevents senior citizens from falling.

From November through February, more than 20 students gathered at six workshops to learn about relevant topics. Topics included creating the perfect pitch, developing business models, crowdfunding, key traits of social entrepreneurs and more. The pool of participants was diverse – from nascent state ideas to emerging companies, each team had the opportunity to grow their venture guided by experts from the Rady School.

“The Social Venture Accelerator is a vital part of UC San Diego’s entrepreneurial blueprint because we see social impact ventures becoming a much bigger part of the start-up ecosystem,” said Kim Davis King, Co-Director of Accelerator Programs. “We cover different social impact corporate structures so participants get a comprehensive look at what it takes to launch a successful social venture.”

Although the accelerator is open to the entire campus, the majority of participants were Rady School students eager to bring their innovative ventures to life. Mauricio Varon (MBA ’19) developed a luxury bed and bath linens brand where for every bed sheet purchased, a recycle fiber blanket will be donated to Peruvian communities located in the Andes region.

“I chose to get involved with the Social Venture Accelerator because I believed it was a good idea to gain knowledge, network and exposure to my idea,” Varon said. “Throughout the process of the accelerator program I learned about social venture business models. I am planning to leverage my time with the Social Venture Accelerator and lessons learned in my MBA classes to make this company successful.”

The program also caught the eye of Scripps Institute of Oceanography Ph.D. candidate Brant Chlebowski, who was searching for programs on campus in support of student ventures. His company, California Seaweed Co., provides a sustainable approach to developing high quality native seaweeds for the culinary market while supporting scientific research and development of aquaculture technology.

“The Social Venture Accelerator stands out on campus, as it was uniquely focuses around the social transformative component,” Chlebowski said. “I learned there is a wide range of models and methods available for businesses to include a social and transformational component in their strategy. A company has opportunities to support positive social outcomes at every stage of the business model from human resources, full supply chain management, marketing and end user engagement.”

The accelerator culminated with a pitch presentation where six teams shared their companies to JoAnne Starr, the Rady School Assistant Dean, Strategy, Curriculum and Rankings, and Ayelet Gneezy, a professor at the Rady School. The teams received feedback on their presentation and business ideas.

Due to the success of the pilot program, the Social Venture Accelerator will launch another program in the fall.

“Our participants really enjoyed the program, but also provided some feedback on what they would have liked more of,” said Lada Rasochova, Executive Director of the California Institute for Innovation and Development, housed in the Rady School. “Participants mentioned they would have liked more time with mentors and a broader audience to pitch to at the final presentations, so we will be incorporating their suggestions into our curriculum for the next cohort.”

Moving forward, King and Rasochova are anticipating the growth of the accelerator.

“UC San Diego and the Rady School are committed to providing innovative and relevant approaches to entrepreneurship,” Starr said. “The Social Venture Accelerator meets the needs of our socially-conscious and entrepreneurially-minded campus community and supports their ideas that will change the world for the better.”

The Social Venture Accelerator is funded by the Center for Social Innovation and Impact – a center dedicated to inspire students and alumni to address the big issues and big challenges our society is facing. The development and launch of the accelerator is one of the actions that Rady is taking as part of our role in the broader Changemaker Campus plan at UC San Diego, which encourages the campus community to actively engage in serving the global community.

March 13, 2018 0 comment
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Alumni from the Rady School of Management share how they used their degrees to disrupt their industries to bring innovative ideas, products and programs to the market. 

Byron Myers – Changing the Face of Oxygen Delivery

More than 15 million Americans use oxygen therapy to assist with a range of health complications. But traditional oxygen therapy is cumbersome – patients have historically received their portable oxygen therapy from large and heavy oxygen tanks that deliver a limited supply. Inspired by a close relative struggling with the complications and restrictions of traditional oxygen therapy delivery systems, Byron Myers (MBA ’10) and his team developed Inogen, a company that aims to ensure mobility and freedom for oxygen therapy patients.

Inogen is innovation in oxygen therapy – we are a medical technology company that develops, manufactures and markets oxygen concentrators used to deliver supplemental long-term oxygen therapy to patients suffering from chronic respiratory conditions,” Myers said. “Inogen’s technology generates oxygen from room air so the patient never needs to worry about running out of oxygen in a tank.”

Gone are the days of lugging a hefty tank with a finite oxygen supply. Inogen’s disruptive design combines portability with recyclable air filtration technology to provide a constant supply of oxygen. But the technology is not the only disruptive aspect of Inogen – the unique business model is also shaking up the industry.

“As the only manufacturer in oxygen therapy with a true direct-to-consumer business model, Inogen is creating patient awareness of our technology and the benefits it can provide to increase freedom and independence,” Myers said. “Our technology innovations made us successful; the distribution strategy was a complete game changer.”

Lessons on innovation and challenging the status quo helped Myers establish the $2.5 billion company – lessons Myers credits the Rady School of Management for helping launch and sustain his flourishing business.

“My time at Rady helped me establish a mindset that there is no room in a competitive market for complacency, there is no other option than forward progress and it must be actively sought.”


March 12, 2018 0 comment
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Entrepreneurship and innovation are integral aspects of a Rady School of Management education. So when Ignite UC San Diego – the university’s conference celebrating entrepreneurial risk-takers and innovation change-makers – announced a call for startups and speakers, Rady School students, faculty and alumni eagerly answered the call.

Held on March 6 and 7, the second annual event connected campus and community for two days of jam-packed networking and entrepreneurial learning. More than 800 attendees gathered at the Price Center on the UC San Diego campus for a pitch competition, keynote addresses, mentorship sessions and industry updates.

The conference kicked off with a Startup Fair, with eight Rady led or co-led teams participating. Additionally, five Social Venture Accelerator and mystartupXX teams participated — both entrepreneurial accelerators housed in the Rady School.

After the fair, startup teams were invited to participate in the Elevator Pitch Competition for the chance to win cash prizes for top pitches. Thirty one teams gave 90-second pitches to an esteemed panel of judges. Among the six winners were CReATE, a company co-founded by David Dallas-Orr (MBA ’18) that is developing an algorithm used to predict accurate patient-specific outcomes to pacemaker-related heart surgeries, and Osteolux, a mystartupXX team led by bioengineering students implementing a bone cement curing device to improve operating room efficiency.

Later in the day a total of 25 teams from UC San Diego and other universities from across the country presented at the semi-finals for the Pitch @ Ignite competition for a chance to be one of six teams selected to compete for over $21,000 in cash prizes during the evening event. All three UC San Diego teams to make it to the final pitch had Rady ties.

CReATE won a second place prize of $6,000. The team is part of a joint partnership between the Rady School and Jacobs School of Engineering Institute for the Global Entrepreneur, as well as a current member of the StartR Accelerator.

The other two teams to make it to the top six were Navega, a Jacobs School of Engineering team that is currently participating in mystartupxx, and USYNO, a company founded by Jimmy Wu (MBA ’17) who  participated in both StartR and mystartupXX, and is currently in EvoNexus.

A new fun element this year was the evening Startup Rap Battle. Participating (and each winning their “battle”) were Rady alum Brett Blazys of Doggie Doo Don’t and mystartupXX participant Isaiah Weiss of Celeride.

In addition to a number startup participation, expert Rady alumni shared their knowledge and skills through keynote addresses focused on setting goals, San Diego-centric innovation and strategies for building entrepreneurial ventures. Lada Rasochova, executive director of the California Institute for Innovation and Development (CIID) at the Rady School, presented as part of a panel in the “SOS! The Entrepreneur’s Guide to San Diego” afternoon breakout session. Rady alumna Silvia Mah (Flex Weekend MBA ‘10) led a discussion on the value of creating vision boards to enhance creativity and direction. Current Rady student and CEO of the student-led Entrepreneur Challenge Alex Boone hosted the Elevator Pitch Competition and moderated a conversation with Kim Kovacs. Alumni Sean Haggerty (Flex Weekend MBA ‘17), founder of Protector Brewery, was a featured panelist in the “Leverage Your Fear, Kick Entrepreneurial A$$” session.

“In just its second year, the Ignite Conference is proving to be one of San Diego’s premiere events for entrepreneurs,” said Karen Jensen, program manager of CIID. “The opportunity it provides particularly for our students to pitch their ideas in front of an audience that includes potential investors or partners, whether through the competitions, Startup Fair, or conversation is unparralled.”



March 8, 2018 0 comment
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