Jackie Lu, Yem Innovation

Jackie Lu (MBA ’12) is the founder and CEO of Yem Innovation, located in Shanghai, China. Yem Innovation is a SaaS cloud platform that encourages employee innovation. Jackie shared how his Rady MBA contributed to his journey of success with Yem Innovation.

What impact has Rady had on your career progression?

After years in a multinational and local stock listed company, I found the most important resources executives ignored is their own employees. There are huge opportunities to leverage employee talents and boost corporate profits by motivating employees. During my study and life at the Rady School of Management at UC San Diego, I learned about Marketing, Operations, Human Resources, Innovation & Technology and Lab to Market. All of these courses prepared me for launching my own business: Yem Innovation, which is a human resources SaaS cloud platform. The Yem Innovation platform can be used to stimulate, manage and monetize employee ideas, or simply put, it is a cloud platform for corporate internal innovations. The results of using our platform are three fold: to improve corporate revenues, boost employee engagement and lead a bottom-up management revolution.

Has your Rady MBA enabled you to change industries or functional areas? 

Before I joined the Rady MBA program, I had years of marketing and corporate communications experience. With the help from the Rady School’s Innovation & Technology and HR & Leadership courses, I made the pivot from marketing to human resources. Now with Yem, I am dealing with ABC technology leveraging AI, Big Data, and Cloud Computing to monetize employee ideas.

How did the Rady School help you create and launch your company YEM Innovation? The Rady School is not just about business; it is also about management. From here, I learned more about the problems of modern management. After some solid research, we found that there are six bottlenecks for corporate internal innovations, which are caused by a traditional management style. By tackling these problems, we built a human resources SaaS cloud platform to simulate, manage and monetize employee ideas. Using our product, employees can submit ideas on the Yem Innovation cloud platform, which is both compatible for PC and smart devices. Meanwhile we provide professional service and help to make the ideas happen, with the ultimate goal of creating innovative revenues to the client. Yem Innovation has been referred to as an internal incubator. Under the new era of uncertainty, we truly believe the power of enabling, and the power to unlock each employee’s potential. What makes us special is that those staff who submitted ideas are responsible to implement the ideas. When finishing the idea, employees will get 30% profit sharing, and the other 70% goes to the company. It is a win-win-win solution to drive new business revenues and to initiate a new management style of bottom up. So far, we have had a very successful case in a manufacturing industry. Our client used our platform to encourage employees to submit ideas and to implement their ideas. One idea saved 400,000 Chinese Yuan for the company. My Rady experience has helped every aspect of my business, especially when starting the new business. I needed to go through a business plan, and every class I attended during the school helped me a lot to make the business plan more reasonable, more practical and more convincing for the investors.

What event or realization served as a ‘turning point’ for you during your Rady School and/or professional career? Honestly, I would say there is no turning point for me, but a continuous adaption for change. Nothing changes overnight. By learning and adapting, I found my way to start a business that is unique and innovative. All of my clients and potential investors think it is new, special, and the right time to help companies to drive innovation. Currently, we are working with Fortune 500 companies and also middle to large size local companies. We are working with manufacturing, medical devices, hospitality, and consumer goods industry companies to help their product innovation, service innovation and process innovation. We even made our own turning point by creating a feature called Inno-Cube, which is a tool to stimulate employee ideas. This set us apart from competitors. With the whole platform innovation, we were awarded the Best SaaS Provider 2018 and a Top Digital 100 Award.

Why did you decide to come to the Rady School? What attracted me to the Rady School is its young, vibrant spirit and entrepreneurship. It is located in San Diego, which is indeed American’s Finest City. It  gave me the chance to walk along the beautiful beaches, and I met various people to talk about Random Act of Kindness. That inspired me to create China’s First Random Act of Kindness Happiness platform: Happiness100. Happiness100 is an non-government organization (NGO), open innovation platform to collect ideas. We have only one criteria for the idea, which is to make people feel happy, and we will provide funds to make the idea happen. I feel proud to have a charity and I include this as part of Yem Innovation’s corporate social responsibility. More than 10 creative projects have been carried out, and Happiness100 itself also got honorable mentions by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, and Overseas Young Chinese Forum.

What was your favorite class and why? My favorite classes are Consumer Behavior with Wendy Liu, Innovation & Technology with Kevin Zhu and Lab to Market with Del Foit. What’s funny is that because they were my favorites, I found they were also very easy to learn.

How did your view of entrepreneurship/innovation change throughout your time at the Rady School? I had a much larger view of the world because my classmates were from different backgrounds and different countries. It was a small class so we had the chance to know more about each other. My peers in the class were willing to share, to help and to inspire. In my point of view, the Rady School is a perfect school to get connected to an unexpected and surprising world. The entrepreneurship and innovation atmosphere there is like a soil that inspires people to grow new ideas and create their own business.

What was the most valuable thing you learned while at the Rady School? I remember the slogan years ago of our school is “From innovation to impact.” The most valuable thing is to impact, to do something to change the status quo. The goal of Yem Innovation is to change the status quo of traditional management styles, empower staff from the bottom up, and drive innovation. Instead of managing people, we change to empower people. Actually, scalability is another critical thing I learned in school. It is quite important for a business, especially for a mobile internet company like Yem Innovation. Because of our scalability, we got investment from an angel investor and also from SOSV last year for nearly one million Chinese Yuan. SOSV is an accelerator VC that manages $500 million USD worldwide. Another benefit of the Rady School is the ability to network and collaborate. For example, alum Jason Qi (MBA ‘16) is our COO, because we knew each other as alumni. He was also the vice president of the Rady Student Board at that time. Without the Rady School, I would not have found a brilliant alum and team member like Jason.

How have you applied your studies to your career? I applied human resource and technology, especially cloud technology, to create my new business. In some ways, I would say innovation is not that hard. Innovation is just a new arrangement of two old elements, which is how we created the one-of-its-kind Inno-Cube feature to stimulate employee ideas. I believe newcomers at the Rady School can also apply any two-field knowledge to create their own new business after they graduate.

What is the best thing about being a Rady alumni? Since the Rady School is a young school, there are advantages of being young. I feel strongly being part of the growth and I could witness its growth every single day. Thus I feel more engaged with the school and more engaged with the university alumni too, since UC San Diego is also a young university established in 1960. I always feel proud to say Go Tritons!

Yem Innovation is compatible for PC and smart devices (pictured above)

Yem Innovation was awarded the TopDigital 100 in 2018

Jackie is pitching on Chinaccelerator Demo Day

Jason is doing two live streamings for thousands of audience

April 22, 2019 0 comment
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Immersion Trip to Cambodia

Eye opening, exuberant, unique, were all words Lauren Murphy and Andrew Engram used to describe their recent Rady School immersion trip to Cambodia. Engram and Murphy, along with a team of six students from the Rady School were chosen to support the Cambodian company, Hydro-logic. Hydrologic is working to help provide water filters to those who have little to no access to clean water.

During this immersion trip, they got a chance to put everything they have learned at the Rady School into action. The students used their business acumen to find out what challenges Hydro-logic is facing, how the company can increase revenue, and how to help the company discover the best plan of action possible.

Getting There

Andrew Engram

The trip was extensive, but enjoyable. Getting to travel together as a team, made us closer friends and we enjoyed our time together. We (six of us and Professor Finney), took a shuttle up to LAX, then we took a plane from Los Angeles to Taiwan, which was 14 hours long. After another plane ride and a bus ride later, we finally arrived. When we arrived, our main source of transportation, was a tuk-tuk, which is a small, three wheeled, motorized vehicle. Getting there, took 19 hours total, and when we arrived, we were in immediate culture shock. We realized how much of a developing country this really was, and how much of the country was living in poverty. We were also very excited to begin working on our project as a team, and to do everything we could to help improve the water shortage problem with Hydro-logic.

Why were you interested in the Cambodia Immersion Trip?


I thought it was a great opportunity to learn more about consulting. Also, knowing how beneficial Professor Finney’s courses have been gave me that extra motivation because he is a great teacher and I wanted to learn from him more on the trip.


It was an opportunity to travel internationally, and get in the weeds with different cultures by working in an international environment. This trip was different because it wasn’t so much having an outline of things to get done, but a learning experience to put into action. It was great to understand how rural Cambodians live, and their access to drinking water. The client in Cambodia was trying to improve the livelihood by improving the amount of people who have access to clean water. Professor Finney was also an amazing counselor and guide for the trip. This is by far the best experience I’ve had at Rady. Every second was a learning experience and research. I was grateful to be able to use all I’ve learned and put those thoughts into action, rather than reading a textbook.

What did the work consist of?


Our tasks included reporting to the social enterprise, Hydro-logic. We learned about their needs and built a relationship with their team. We also got to go into the field and bring interpreters to chat with rural Cambodians who were getting the water piped directly to their homes. About 40 percent of the country gets piped water, and Hydro-logic sells water filters for those who don’t have easy access to clean water. One of Hydro-logic’s goals is to bring social impact, but also increase revenue. We were able to help them do that.


Once we understood what we needed to do, we met with the Chief Financial Officer, marketing team and private water operators. We also got to meet with rural customers, how they cleaned and obtained their water, and what they did to drink it.

Did the trip meet your expectations?


The trip exceeded my expectations, though I didn’t know what to expect. The quality of engagement and work we were able to do, as well as our exposure to a beautiful international culture and building great relationships, made the trip a huge highlight of my time at the Rady School.


Yes. Getting positive feedback from the client was wonderful. Seeing the client believe in what we were helping them understand made me feel like all my hard work at the Rady School was paying off. It was good knowing the MBA program can make an impact and have a lot of value. We both gained confidence and were grateful for the courses we have taken.

Did the trip change your perspective of doing business in Cambodia?


Yes. This trip inspired me to want to work more in an international, complex environment.. I grew a lot professionally and personally.


It was such an immersive learning experience and everything I see is now through a filter of what was learned in Cambodia. I hadn’t worked in a country with an emerging market. It was eye opening to see people need things we take for granted on a daily basis. It was also an opportunity to make a difference in the world.

What lasting impressions did the culture reveal to you?


We explored Siem Reap, a city in northern Cambodia. It was full of aesthetic temples including Angkor Wat. The details, art and decorations were beautiful and breathtaking. Seeing the beauty of Cambodia and its historical city structures inhabited by people, opened our minds and gave us greater context to our work. It helped with our project to take a couple days to rest and process our thoughts and expanded our creativity in greater ways.

The Food


The food was interesting as there was food from all over Asia in one country. Some of the peculiar foods included bugs, frogs … ants. There was a lot of Thai food, as well as a twist on a kind of noodles and stir fry. Their delicacies, which included tarantulas and scorpions, were very different from America’s.

Any Last Words?


Thank you to Rady Moxie who provided the funds for the trip and, had a stipend for expenses. Thank you to the Center for Social Innovation and Impact for the grant and Professor Finney for taking the time to do this. We want to be an example of what is possible and we think the Rady School should do more of these trips.



While we were in Cambodia, the team, with the help of Professor. Finney, was able to help solve revenue challenges, recommend a manual washing machine, improve a system to collect rainwater and analyze how the company could best increase their current product awareness and online presence. The client Hyro-logic, even let Professor Finney know afterwards how impressed the company was with the team and the amount of knowledge they gained from the students. The students would recommend this trip to anyone who can go. They said it was more than another school project, it was a truly life-changing process they will never forget.

April 17, 2019 0 comment
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Rady’s First Ever Start-Up Career Day

Career Fair Day – A day full of new opportunities, insightful conversations, and potential job offers on the horizon. Here at the Rady School of Management, there have been dozens of doors open for students at career fairs, from internships, to long-term jobs for the graduate students who have participated in Rady’s career fairs.  

Each career fair typically consists of employers from corporate companies that have 250 employees or more. This one, however, consisted of not only large corporate companies but also smaller start-ups. This was an exciting, unique event for Rady because it is the first career day to ever have start-ups verses only corporations.

The Rady School of Management not only champions, but raises up entrepreneurs, so having startups present was an encouraging factor for the students who attended the career fair. Some of the start-ups who came to the career fair included founders from Rady School of Management such as, LabFellows.

Some of the startup companies who attended were:

  • Leadcrunch – B2B Sales and Marketing
  • Sendlane – An intelligence-driven email automation service
  • LabFellows – An integrated lab management platform
  • Offer1
  • GoSite – A web platform for businesses
  • Launch Factory – A creative co working space

The List of new companies who attended were:

  • Booz Allen Hamilton – Strategy, technology, and engineering
  • AT&T – Communications, media, entertainment, and technology
  • Tealium —  A universal data hub

Some of the other companies that were present included, Trust&will, Artevist, and Prudential.

Here at Rady, we are happy to host career fairs and have found them to be very successful for students looking for job leads and internships.

April 12, 2019 0 comment
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StartR Demo-Day on a Whole New Level

StartR, founded by a group of Rady students in 2013, is a non-profit six-month accelerator program homed on the Rady campus. The program includes a workshop, mentoring, advice and access to other resources for early-stage companies. StartR has been highly successful and currently has one hundred and thirty-seven teams who have gone through the program. Eight of these teams have also been accepted into EvoNexus. There are fifty-five unduplicated companies that are active, and $63.8 million has been raised so far.

Along with the 6-month accelerator program, StartR also encourages students to partake in the StartR demo day, where entrepreneurs pitch their business ideas to students, faculty, investors, and professors. Nine companies chose to participate this year in the StartR DemoDay. In the past, the only StartR group to partake in the demo day are Rady MBA students and alumni, but this year was a little different. This is the first Demo Day event where teams from multiple StartRPrograms were invited, rather than only MBA students. All of the teams under StartR Accelerator include Rady, Inclusion, Impact, Veteran, and Teen. This was a monumental step, and highlights Rady’s commitment to champion and spotlight entrepreneurs of all styles!

At  Demo Day, the teams dressed in slacks, polished shoes, and newly pressed blazers, lined up one by one, while they anticipated putting their best foot forward in hopes to win a prize, or attract the attention of a potential investor or partner. As they shared their pitch, they stood in front of the audience with refined power points, apps, and even a real, live business prop itself, including a sleeping pod! The audience listened to each hopeful entrepreneur, all while cheering on their family and friends.

The StartR programs spotlighted this year, and the ones highlighted below with their company pitches, include: StartR Rady, Inclusion, and Impact.

StartR Rady – The premier StartR accelerator, the Rady track is exclusively for our MBA students and alums.  The teams who presented are as follows:

AngioX: – AngioX Therapeutics is an early stage biopharmaceutical company that develops novel therapies for patients with rare Cerebral Cavernous Malformations (CCMs). 

Freightracker: – This Company is bringing IOT solutions to the transportation industry in order to streamline operations and reduce costs bycreating a device which allows users to track their freight anywhere in the world.

SurfUp – An automated surfboard rental station that is paired with a smartphone application to make the surfboard rental process convenient for beginner surfers and tourists on the beach, in-front of stores, resorts, restaurants, and much more.

bou: Bou is a small device that can save, transfer, and emit smells instantly in various circumstances to enhance consumers’ daily experiences in different settings including while watching movies, playing video games, shopping, online shopping, relaxing, etc. 

Virtual Sleep Environment: A virtual sleeping pod which increases human performance, entraining a natural sleep-wake circadian rhythm. This makes it easy to sleep anywhere, at any time!

Visionful: An app that provides fully automated parking guidance and enforcement, making parking simpler than ever before.V

Inclusion: Open to students across UC San Diego and designed to highlight diversity, teams    must have at least one leader from a traditionally underrepresented population.

Felicity CBT – Aims to better the mental well-being of users by providing cognitive behavioral therapy at the convenience of a mobile application.

Impact: The StartR Impact accelerator is open to startups and ideas from across campus aiming to make a societal impact. The teams from Impact, that performed at demo day included:

Athlete Initiative: A sexual violence prevention program and app for college student-athletes, helping to prevent sexual violence on campuses, where one in five students are currently affected.

Family Proud – Connecting patients and families to the technological resources necessary to effectively maximize their quality of care.

It was a competitive battle at Demo Day, and each entrepreneur deserved a prize, but, there are only two awards—a judges choice, and an audience choice.

The team who presented the most polished, well thought out idea according to the judges this year, was Thomas Fontes from Freightracker. Thomas walked up to the stage with excitement, as he won a $1,000 prize towards his business. Thomas is working on creating a custom device with AT&T, in hopes to have a freight tracker on the market by 2020! Rady School is excited to see where Thomas’s business will take him in the future! You can contact Thomas at Thomas.fontes@rady.ucsd.edu.

The team who won the audience choice award was Robert Sweetman with Virtual Sleep Environment. Robert brought a real, live sleeping pod to his presentation that tracked the brain waves of the sleeper, revealing to the sleeper if their brain was active, calm, or busy. This would allow the sleeper to find peace and calmness and fall asleep at any time! Robert is working on getting the sleeping pod in airports, and creating stations for consumers to sleep anywhere, anytime, and especially before or after a long flight! You can contact Robert at Rob@existech.us for questions or thoughts.

Rady School of Management is proud to house and educate students and alumni, who are passionate about entrepreneurship.  Building on the success of their startups, all of the teams who presented will be continuing to pursue their business ideas in hopes to continue to succeed in pioneering a new, innovative way to solve and better our world!

April 10, 2019 0 comment
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For Joseph Engelberg, the decision to pursue a career in finance was an easy one to make – it meant he would be continuing the “family business.” A native of San Diego, the Rady School professor of finance’s father worked as an accountant and introduced him to finance early on in his childhood, sparking an interest in business and leading him to earn a B.A. in mathematics and a B.S. in business administration at the University of Southern California (USC).

While academia was not Engelberg’s initial field of interest in college, he developed a curiosity for it when he worked as a research specialist under one of his USC professors at the Securities and Exchange Commission.

“It was eye-opening professionally and personally,” Engelberg said. “I’m thankful for the experiences that I was able to have because of that opportunity.”

After being exposed to the world of academia, Engleberg decided to embrace his newfound interest in research by pursuing a Ph.D. in Finance at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. While there, he became interested in observing the behavior of individuals within the stock market, later publishing a paper with fellow students on the effect of Jim Cramer’s show “Mad Money” had on stock pricing. His research has been referenced in national publications such as the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, Los Angeles Times, , and the Chicago Sun Times.

Engleberg’s first teaching position was as an assistant professor at the University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flager Business School, where he taught finance for three years. Engelberg would later return to San Diego and commit to a teaching position at the Rady School of Management because he enjoyed the school’s startup environment.

“I’ve had a chance to really influence the direction of things with the school,” Engelberg said. “It was a unique opportunity to merge my interests in finance with the exciting world of entrepreneurship.”

Engelberg’s main area of research is behavioral finance, which combines finance with insights about individual behavior from psychology. Traditionally, finance academics have thought investors act rationally when making financial decisions. Behavioral finance researchers like Engelberg think that investors are not completely rational and make mistakes which are predicted in the psychology literature. Engelberg and other behavioralists believe these mistakes can affect trading and prices in the stock market.

For anyone interested in behavioral finance or behavioral economics more generally, Engelberg recommends reading the books, “Thinking Fast and Slow,” by Daniel Kahneman, and “Misbehaving,” by Richard Thaler, as they introduce the topic and describe ways in which the research has been applied to real life.

Other fields of interest Engelberg enjoys pursuing include financial media, information processing, and financial networks.

March 20, 2019 0 comment
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Rady School of Management students compete in a number of pitch competitions, presenting their startup companies to panels of entrepreneurial experts with the hopes of securing funding for their venture. But a recent competition had Rady students on the other side of the table, serving as venture capitalists looking to invest in the next big thing.

The Venture Capital Investment Competition challenges business school students with evaluating startup companies and determining their feasibility, scalability and profitability. Teams are given a pitch deck to review prior to the competition, and are tasked with completing their due diligence, including evaluating the market potential, business model and funds raised to date. On the day of the competition, companies pitch to the panel, who are judged on their ability to assemble a team of experts and on how they evaluate the companies.

Inspired by a desire to learn more about the world of investing, Andrew Engram (MBA ’19) created the Venture Capital Club to prepare for the competition and create a network of venture capitalist-hopefuls at the Rady School.

 “We’ve covered the concepts related to venture capitalists in our courses here at Rady, but a better way to learn about a concept is to apply it to real-world situations,” he said.

The team – composed of Engram, Ehsan Amozegar, Joseph Baini, Sairam Chitneni, Adam Stallings and Jerry Skefos — was the first-ever contingency from Rady to compete in the Venture Capital Investment Competition.

With help from Rady School entrepreneurial experts Kimberley King and Lada Rasochova, the team devised a strategy on how to approach pitch sessions from the other side of the table.

“Kim and Lada were instrumental to our success,” Skefos said. “They came to our practice sessions and gave us insight on how we can improve and how to ask more effective questions. This was extremely helpful, because we were able to get a better understanding of how to set up market term sheets.”

Assuming the role

The team traveled to the University of Southern California to compete against five leading California MBA programs. They were tasked with assigning each member of the team with a role that would be represented in a typical venture capitalist firm, so each member assumed a persona for the day – a biotechnology expert, a lawyer, an angel investor and more.

“Our team was dubbed Elm Capital, and our task was to develop fund metrics and a fund profile,” Engram said. “We had to show the entrepreneur how we could bring value to them by investing in them and by our connections.”

The company Elm Capital evaluated was Voluware, a cloud-based workflow optimization and automation solution for administrative healthcare transactions. Using this knowledge, the team adjusted their strategy to include new personas to fit the needs of the company.

“Oddly enough, that was one of the most difficult parts of the competition, because we had to really think about the company holistically to determine what the ideal investment firm would look like,” Baini said. “Right when you walk into the room, you introduce yourself as an expert in an industry with tons of industry contacts, even if it isn’t true. You have to be confident in your presentation. In the first round, we lost points because we didn’t come up with a strong fictional team, so in the second round we really thought about it and worked on improving our ability to compile a team of experts.”

“We had a 14 minute segment to interview the startup teams, and each person on the team has their own questions that they’ve identified to ask,” Amozegar said. “We were judged during that evaluation based on the insight we had into the venture capitalist process and what questions we were asking.”

In addition to understanding venture capitalist-affiliated terms, the team was judged on their ability to command the room.

“Considering the amount of questions that we should be asking, it’s extremely tough to accomplish everything in just 14 minutes, so the judges graded us oncontrol in the sense of being able to get the necessary information out of the entrepreneurs while also moving on to the next topic without being too aggressive,” Stallings said. “It’s a difficult balance because you’re building a real relationship when you’re going to become business partners.”.”

The Rady team was able to ask questions after the pitch and the judges – a group of celebrated venture capitalists, lawyers and angel investors – grilled the team on their knowledge of the process.

“They asked us  questions to intentionally throw us off — so even if we asked the right question or had insight into the company that was correct, they’ll question it and make is sound like it’s completely wrong just to test to see if we actually knew what we were talking about,” said Stallings with a smile. “We had to walk in with some nerve, otherwise they just break that down. It was a great learning experience, because that’s likely how that scenario plays out in the real world.”

Valuable insights

Although the team did not advance to the next round, they believe the experience was worthwhile.

“This was a great opportunity to get positive exposure for the Rady School in the venture capital world,” Skefos said. “Rady students have a lot to offer in terms of our connections to technology and science, from our esteemed cohort, versus traditional venture capitalist companies that are typically heavily finance-based. Companies are starting to realize they need to have at least an expertise in a lot more than before. They are trying to hire scientists and people with a science background so, this school is unique in that way.”

The development of a new Rady School club was also a positive attribute of competing in the Venture Capital Investment Competition.

“Rady is an entrepreneurial school, and part of the entrepreneurial ecosystem is venture capital,” Engram said. “That’s a big reason why I started the Rady Venture Capital Club and going forward, it’s a great opportunity for students to get real-world experience in this field.”

March 15, 2019 0 comment
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Join leaders from prominent technology companies, including Amazon, Qualcomm and Illumina at the annual RadyX Conference – a conference completely run by Rady School students.

Now in its fifth year, the RadyX Conference is committed to bringing innovative and disruptive companies to campus to share the ways they are shaking up their industries and changing the business landscape.

A keynote address will be delivered by Durga Malladi, Senior Vice President and General Manager, of 4G/5G at Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. His talk will center on the development and implementation of 5G – the fastest high-data transfer rate that will enhance broadband services and mobile networks.

In addition to Malladi’s address, speakers will focus on the development of genomics, the direction of gaming services, self-driving robot artificial intelligence and more.

RadyX is hosted by the Rady Tech Club. The conference brings together a diverse community: faculty and students, the business and engineering campuses, entrepreneurs, investors and corporate professionals. The theme of the 2019 conference is “Trends in Tech,” which will explore a number of topics ranging from subtle to prominent trends in technology.

“This event celebrates the collaborative and innovative nature of the Rady School of Management, as well as the strong ties we have to the local technology, biotechnology and innovative businesses here in San Diego,” said Joey Talia, president of the Rady Tech Club. “We are looking forward to introducing Rady students, the UC San Diego and greater San Diego community to the exciting innovations happening right here in our city.”

Event details

The conference is open to the public. Tickets can be purchased here. The event will run from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on April 12 at the Rady School of Management.

About Malladi

Durga Malladi joined Qualcomm in 1998 as a Senior Engineer. Over the past 20 years, he has worked on 3G and 4G technologies, and was the Project Engineer of 4G LTE-Advanced in Qualcomm Research from 2008-15, responsible for features such as mobile broadband, Carrier Aggregation, HetNets, Relays, Dual Connectivity, Licensed Assisted Access (LAA), Internet of Things (eMTC, NB-IoT) and Cellular V2X.

As SVP & GM 4G/5G, he is responsible for cellular modem and location businesses, baseband and transceiver modem technology roadmap, features, software products, and infrastructure and operator commercial engagements.

He is the recipient of Qualcomm’s IP Excellence Award, Qualcomm Distinguished Contributor Award for Project Leadership and Upendra Patel Achievement Awards for Outstanding Contributions to HSPA and LTE.

Durga holds a B.Tech from Indian Institute of Technology, Madras, and an M.S and Ph.D. from UCLA. His research interests include Signal Processing, Communication Theory and Artificial Intelligence. He is a member of IEEE and holds 420 U.S. patents.

March 13, 2019 0 comment
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A team of Rady School of Management Master of Finance students recently headed to Irvine to compete in the ACG Cup – a case study competition hosted by the Association for Corporate Growth.

Nine teams from leading business schools across Southern California gathered to compete for the $10,000 prize awarded to the team with the best business plan. The task? To present valuation, capital markets, and merger and acquisition strategic advice to a panel of seasoned industry professionals affiliated with the ACG.

The Rady School team was comprised of Sairam Chitneni, Ishaan Khanna and Jason Kleideris, all members of the 2019 Master of Finance cohort. In order to qualify for the competition, the students competed against three other Rady School teams to see which team had the best presentation for solving a complex investment banking strategy. Local ACG members judged the four teams based on the strategy, implementation plan and presentation, selecting Chitneni, Khanna and Klederis as the finalists.

Once the finalists were selected, they were given a case study to complete in one week.

“This competition is unique because participants are able to assume the roles of investment bankers,” Chitneni said. “We were given a scenario for a fictitious company, then had to create a plan that described whether the company should divest some of its assets or buy another company based on the information we were given.”

The real-world relevance of the competition is what inspired Khanna to get involved with a team.

“I thought this would be an interesting opportunity to take what I’ve been learning in class and apply it to a situation I’ll be dealing with in my future career,” he said. “I was interested in the idea of building a complex plan from scratch. We learn these things theoretically, but building them, applying them practically and especially getting in front of people who actually do this kind of work for a living – I thought that this would be an amazing opportunity.”

Getting prepared

To prepare for the finals, the team members enlisted the help of members of the Rady community.

Professor William Mullins helped guide the team in the right direction, providing invaluable insight into empirical banking and corporate finance. Professor Jeremy Bertomeu also supported the team by helping with some of the harder theoretical problems in the case.

In the first part of the competition, the team had a pristine report, but lacked the presentation skills to deliver a clear and concise report of their findings. Robert Schmidt, a lecturer at the Rady School, helped the team fine-tune their presentation skills.

“Professor Schmidt’s expertise in business communication helped us develop new ways to present our data,” Kleideris said. “We put together a comprehensive and clear plan, but we initially had some trouble presenting it in a way that was easy to understand. The goal of this competition was to be able to take complex information and present it in a way that is effective and cohesive, and Schmidt was extremely helpful when it came to developing our team’s communication skills.”

The final showdown

Armed with the knowledge and confidence, the Rady School team of financial experts donned their investment banker personas and headed to Chapman University to face Southern California’s finest business graduate teams in the ACG Cup Finals.

After the initial presentation, the Rady School team advanced to the final round, knocking out powerhouse teams including the USC Marshall School of Business and the UCLA Anderson School of Business. Pepperdine University and UC Irvine faced off against the Rady School team in the final round. The team was tasked with expanding on their presentation and were asked rapid-fire questions from a panel of ACG chapter member professionals.

Although the team placed second to UC Irvine, judges mentioned that the final score margins were razor-thin.

“We were very pleased with the outcome,” Chitneni said. “We were the only team comprised of Master of Finance students. All other teams were from either MBA or Executive MBA programs, and a lot of those students were older professionals who currently work in the relevant fields.”

A worthwhile experience

Each member of the team emphasized the value of participating in the competition.

“We spent hours working on our presentation, but the experience and relevance to our future careers was invaluable,” Khanna said. “If we enter this field professionally, this is similar to the projects we’ll have every day in our careers.”

Chitneni echoed these statements, adding that he gained valuable personal and professional skills through his involvement with the competition.

“This experience really challenged me to improve my presentation skills – I really improved from the first time we presented in the Rady competition, to when we were presenting in front of an entire room filled with professionals at the final event,” he said. “I also think participating in this event improved my evaluation skills. We have studied these concepts theoretically, but applying them in real-world scenarios helped me understand the importance of those assumptions.”

The ACG Rady veterans hope that their success will inspire more Rady School students to participate in next year’s competition.

“I’m definitely interested in helping out next year’s team in the competition – I feel that all Rady graduate students would enjoy the experience,” Kleideris said. “Since we’ve been through it, we understand what the judges are looking for and how to develop a compelling presentation. I think we could be valuable resources for future Rady School teams, and we would be happy to stay involved and help them out.”

With these experts backing the next generation of Rady ACG Cup participants, the school can expect the trophy case located in the Student Services office to grow in the near future.

About ACG

Founded in 1954, the Association for Corporate Growth has chapters worldwide representing 14,500 members. ACG serves 90,000 investors, executives, lenders and advisers to growing middle-market companies. ACG’s mission is to drive middle-market growth.

March 11, 2019 0 comment
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University Avenue serves as an artery for San Diego proper, connecting more than 11 miles of hyper-local and proud neighborhoods. From the affluent urban district of Mission Hills to the sleepy family-friendly suburban La Mesa, the neighborhoods scattered along University Avenue serve a diverse array of San Diego residents. Smack dab in the middle of the thoroughfare sits City Heights, a longtime haven for refugees from all across the globe.

The community of City Heights is as bustling as it is diverse – a large number of local businesses launched and supported by refugees from Middle Eastern, Northeast African, Southeast Asian and Latin American origin. The community is proud of its global roots, celebrating the varying backgrounds and cultures.

The vitality and pride of the City Heights neighborhood inspired resident and Rady School of Management graduate David Tran (MBA ’15) to create a hub for the community to gather, while catering to the local interests and tastes. Along with his wife Sterling Tran and colleague Lonny Cheuk, City Heights Coffee House was born – a multi-cultural space for residents to gather over a cup of coffee or tea sourced from the countries that make up the neighborhood.

City Heights Coffee House  sits right in the center of University Avenue surrounded by local businesses and nonprofit organizations – from Vietnamese, Somali, and Ethiopian restaurants to Lao, Mexican, and Ugandan community centers – all interspersed – and just a stone’s throw away from organizations that assist refugee resettlement and integration.

The complex ecosystem comprised of low-income households, challenges with affordable housing, gentrification, and a diverse population inspired Tran and his partners to create a social enterprise that focuses on workforce development. City Heights Coffee House offers jobs to opportunity youth in San Diego, including refugee and justice-involved youth. Opportunity youth are classified as youth between ages 16-24 who don’t have a job and aren’t in school. A crucial element of the Life Development Program is to provide on-the-job retail training, basic skills such as budgeting and managing a schedule, conflict-resolution tools, and career development courses such as resume and job-search prep.  

“During my time at Rady, I took Professor Ayelet Gneezy’s class that focused on social entrepreneurship,” he said. “This class was pivotal for me because it exposed me to a different entrepreneurial path – one that isn’t traditional and focused solely on profit. One specific concept that she was teaching in the class was around root cause analysis. When we see a problem in any community – globally, nationally, or locally or regionally, anywhere or in the workplace -you have to ask yourself, ‘What’s the problem, and what’s causing that problem? And what’s the problem beneath that problem?’”

Over 41,000 youth in San Diego face barriers to employment opportunities (or lack thereof) and lack support structures to identify and perform successfully in education. The mission of City Heights Coffee House isn’t solely to provide a quality cup of coffee – it extends a hand to the community, offering jobs to underserved youth. Through job training and providing career and personal development opportunities, Tran and his team are dedicated to paving the way for their youth to succeed.

A space to serve

A longtime resident of City Heights, Tran was inspired to create a space after noticing a need in the community.

“The inspiration for City Heights Coffee House came from my experience a few years ago volunteering for a nonprofit organization called Bridge of Hope here in City Heights,” he said. “We were delivering clothes, donations, furniture and food to refugee families and I remember meeting this Afghani family that had just moved here to San Diego. When I met them, I realized that they were given all this food, but didn’t even have a fridge or a kitchen table. Moreover, they didn’t have jobs and were expected to assimilate into American society with limited help and support.”

With an idea in place, Tran decided to attend the Rady School to gain the business acumen to create and launch his dream – a community hub that helped local refugees and at-risk residents obtain marketable skills and knowledge to succeed in the workplace and community.

“My time at Rady was invaluable to the development and execution of the City Heights Coffee House,” Tran said. “The Lab to Market class in the second year of my MBA program taught me to take a concept and transform it into an actual business plan. I conducted market research and it taught me how to think — how to take a social enterprise concept that was going to solve problems for our community and transform it into an actual plan that we could work with and had action steps to it.”

Taking an idea and transforming it into a functioning business is no easy undertaking, but with the skills and tools Tran developed during his MBA, he was able to create a functioning business prototype before crossing the Commencement stage.

“Through countless hours of brainstorming, primary and secondary research and feedback from classmates and alumni, City Heights Coffee House was able to incorporate in April 2015,” he said. “Shortly after in August 2015 with a stroke of divine favor, we received our 501(c)3 status.”

A growing venture

Since 2015, City Heights Coffee House has continued to grow, moving from a Farmers Market stand to a small cart behind a thrift store to now a storefront on one on San Diego’s most popular streets. The new space has been conducive to providing a hub for the community to gather, hosting mental health discussions, cultural celebrations, art shows, open mics, and local council meetings.

“It’s so exciting to see how far we’ve come – our social venture has grown so much and we’re continuing to grow,” Tran said. “We want to continue to expand so we can provide more career opportunities for youth who want a hand-up, not a handout. We’re in the mission of second chances.”

Sitting in the shop with a cup of coffee (sourced from Ethiopia – a large population of Ethiopian residents reside in City Heights), the energy is palpable. Local residents filter in and out throughout our conversation, admiring the local art on the wall while waiting for coffee prepared by college students who live in the area. One barista, Betel Mulugheta from Eritrea, is eager to share how City Heights Coffee House has helped her in her career.

“My time at City Heights Coffee House has been extremely helpful for my career,” she said. “I work as a manager and barista, so I have experience with both making drinks and running operations behind the scenes. It’s given me the opportunity to learn more about business and I feel confident in my abilities.”

Mulugheta’s testimony brings a smile to Tran’s face – seeing his team’s goals for the business and community materialize in real time only reinforces why City Heights Coffee House was created in the first place.

“I’m so thankful for my time at Rady, because without Rady this wouldn’t have been possible,” he said. “I hope other MBA students realize that social ventures and enterprises can be profitable while changing the world for the better.”

March 7, 2019 0 comment
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A healthy beverage startup company found at the Rady School of Management placed first in the Ignite UC San Diego startup pitch battle, earning a cash prize of $5,000 and being named best product.

The company, headed by CEO Kabir Gambhir (MBA ’10), produces the drink Cascaraa, made from the sun dried coffee fruit of the same name, which hopes to provide a healthy alternative to naturally caffeinated beverages for younger audiences. Gambhir said he was inspired to create the drink after facing health problems with traditional caffeine, and applied his past experience within the medical field in creating the drink.

“Discovery was a big part of maintaining health and wellness,” Gambhir said. “ It’s something that I’ve really been inspired to share with as many people as possible.”

 The restructured Ignite Startup battle format now features a rap battle as a part of its competition, incentivizing companies to find a creative alternative in pitching their ideas.

Gambhir, alongside fellow team member Renan Iwayama (MBA ’19) and a few members of the company, did just that, showcasing their rapping skills with their original song, “Drink Cascaraa,” a parody of Snoop Dog’s iconic, “Drop it Like it’s Hot.”

“It was a fun and amazing way to challenge ourselves in writing the lyrics for the song from a pitch standpoint,” Iwayama said, “I’d definitely approve of them doing something like this again next year.”

Gambhir says he plans to use the prize money in reinforcing the company’s marketing strategies by partnering with Hello Advisor, a promotions and marketing firm, in order to continue expanding their product across San Diego, with the eventual goal of reaching all of California.

“We’re thrilled to be working with them, and in using their guidance in looking for new strategies and expand,” Gambhir said.

March 6, 2019 0 comment
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