Startups

Engineer CEOs
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Who runs the (business) world? With all due respect to Beyoncé, it’s increasingly engineers. According to The Wall Street Journal, in a study of 36 million Facebook profiles, 3,337 company founders and CEOs across all industries hold an advanced degree in engineering, while 1,016 have advanced business degrees. Thirty-three percent of S&P 500 CEOs were engineering majors, compared to 11 percent in business administration.

In 2016, many of the most profitable companies — including Apple, Facebook, Exxon Mobil and Microsoft — are run by former engineers. In the realm of Silicon Beach, here are some Trojan engineers turned CEO, looking to launch the next great company here in Los Angeles.

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Harsh Vathsangam

CEO, Moving Analytics

Trojan Status
USC Viterbi post-doc; Ph.D. CS ’13, M.S. CS ’11

The Company
Moving Analytics helps hospitals implement home-based cardiac rehab programs using smartphones and tablets.

Company Highlights
With paying customers, including Trinity Health, NYU Langone and the USC Division of Cardiology, Moving Analytics has booked over $200,000 in revenue.

USC Viterbi Support
Moving Analytics has received $115,000 from the USC Coulter Translational Partnership, as well as $20,000 in seed funding from the USC Viterbi Startup Garage, in addition to world-class mentors, and hands-on product marketing, introductions to customers, and legal and fundraising support.

Alexa Hudnut

CEO, InDepth

Trojan Status
Ph.D. candidate, BME; B.S./M.S. BME ’13

The Company
InDepth developed a “stud finder” for arteries, a device that will allow doctors to place central lines safely and rapidly during critical care of premature babies.

Company Highlights
Received “Most Disruptive Award” at 2013 USC Stevens Innovators Showcase and “Mentor’s Choice Award” at the 2014 MEPC Competition. InDepth promises a handheld device in the $858 million market for placing arterial lines in infant and adult patients.

USC Viterbi Support
As part of the Health, Technology and Engineering @ USC (HTE@ USC), a four-year joint program between USC Viterbi engineers and Keck School of Medicine M.D. students, InDepth has received access to clinical experts at CHLA, Keck Hospital, LA County Hospital and Kaiser Permanente. Interacting with patients and physicians has changed the way Hudnut looks at her research and inspired her to try to directly translate her innovative ideas to the clinic through startups.

Jens Windau

CEO, AIO Robotics

Trojan Status
Ph.D. candidate, CS; M.S. CS ’10

The Company
Forbes called AIO Robotics’ ZEUS — an all-in-one 3-D printer/copier/scanner/fax machine — “a game changer” for making 3-D printing mainstream.

Company Highlights
Not only has the company raised over $500,000 in capital, it has supported the 3D4E Printing Club at USC with multiple ZEUS machines to 3-D print dozens of prosthetic hands for injured or disabled children in Syria and Haiti.

USC Viterbi Support
As part of the 2013 class of the USC Viterbi Startup Garage, one of the only engineer-led accelerators in the United States, AIO Robotics received $20,000 in seed funding as well as world-class mentors, and hands-on products, marketing, and legal and fundraising support.

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Behnam Analui 

Co-founder and CEO, Abtum Inc.

Trojan Status
USC Viterbi research associate (2009–2014)

The Company
Developing tunable radio frequency (RF) filters for phones and other mobile devices, with a $10 billion value for the industry, based on multi-patented technology that breaks a fundamental performance barrier and promises 30X improvement in the critical performance of RF filters.

Company Highlights
Closed a seed round from angel investors, most of whom have been senior executives (CEO or CTO) in the semiconductor industry. Completed a hardware proof-of-concept prototype and demonstrated to customers. Twelve patents pending, five licensed from USC. Commercially validated the technology by working closely with multiple tier 1 leaders of the mobile telecommunications industry.

USC Viterbi Support
Abtum received mentoring as part of the educational sessions offered to Maseeh Entrepreneurship Prize Competition (MEPC) participants and was the inaugural $50,000 grand prize winner of the MEPC in 2011.

Rajiv Maheswaran

CEO, Second Spectrum Research assistant professor, computer science (2006–2015)

The Company
Second Spectrum fuses cuttingedge design with spatiotemporal pattern recognition, machine learning and computer vision to transform the way people play, coach and watch sports.

Company Highlights
Second Spectrum works with high-profile teams, leagues and broadcasters including almost all top contenders in the NBA, ESPN, FOX Sports and across sports including basketball, football, soccer and baseball.

USC Viterbi Support
Second Spectrum won the Grand Prize and $50,000 at the 2013 Maseeh Entrepreneurship Prize Competition.

Ashley Crowder

CEO, Co-founder, VNTANA

Trojan Status
B.S. ISE ’08, M.S. EM ’09

The Company
VNTANA builds the world’s only scalable, affordable and interactive hologram systems with data collection capabilities and social media integration.

Company Highlights
VNTANA’s interactive hologram technologies are applicable globally and across multiple industries, including education, business communications, advertising, retail, sports and entertainment. VNTANA’s technology has been used by the USC Shoah Foundation – The Institute for Visual History and Education, PepsiCo, Microsoft, Dell, Nokia, Mercedes-Benz, Kia, TYLT, Universal Pictures, Social Media Week Los Angeles, Paul Oakenfold, Mike Rayburn and Nicky Romero.

USC Viterbi Support
Crowder, former USC Viterbi president of the Industrial Systems Engineering Honor Society, still keeps in touch with her professors today for advice and recruiting for VNTANA.