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uscTIMES Stories, snippets & scenes from the

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alk is cheap in the buzzword-laden world of economic development. The only way to tell what’s genuine is to look behind the façade. At USC, innovation and entrepreneurial spirit are not simply slogans — they’re principles being put into practice every day by real people in classrooms, laboratories, offices, cubicles and dorm rooms. Perhaps more than ever before, there’s a belief at USC that taking risks and applying hard-earned knowledge in novel ways should be embraced instead of feared.

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Bill Kirkland, director of USC’s Office of Economic Engagement

The university recently started the Office of Economic Engagement and you’ll be heading that up. What’s the mission of the office? Simply put, the mission is to help grow South Carolina’s economy. The office will act as a single point of contact for any business or entity that wants to tap into the expertise and creativity here at USC. There’s tremendous momentum building within the USC system for everything from devel-

About the Office of Economic Engagement In July USC will consolidate all local and statewide economic outreach efforts under one banner, the Office of Economic Engagement will: •S  erve as a liaison to connect businesses with USC’s intellectual property assets; • Act as the coordinating point of contact for economic development organizations; •C  oordinate with USC centers and institutes dedicated to entrepreneurship; •L  ead the Council for USC Economic Engagement, a group consisting of representatives from USC’s eight-campus system; •M  anage current and future Innovista district facilities dedicated to commercializing USC research, including the IdeaLabs.

oping and commercializing new technologies to encouraging entrepreneurship and risk-taking. The task of the new office is to harness that momentum and better connect it to the outside world.

What’s your background? Most recently, I’ve served as executive director and entrepreneur in residence of the USC-Columbia Technology Incubator. I’ve also

“the mission is to help grow South Carolina’s economy.”

worked in executive management for IBM and Pfizer; served as managing partner of Columbia-based LK Global Consulting, which provides early-stage companies with strategic and operational assistance; and president and CEO of Collexis Holdings Inc. I’m a USC graduate and my wife, Carol, and I have two kids, Jackson, 12, and Ella Grace, 5.

Why should economic development matter to the USC community? We’re the state’s flagship research institution and have a special obligation to contribute to the quality of life in our state. Our fortunes rise and fall together. A stronger, more diverse S.C. economy makes it easier to recruit top faculty and students and also helps ensure that this is a vibrant place for talented graduates to live and work.

What’s happening to Innovista? Innovista remains important and will become a part of the new office, but more focused on physical space for public-private partnerships. Selah Genomics, which recently moved into Horizon I

Getting the ‘Idea’

research facility, is a great example of how those partnerships can work. The Office of Economic

Leasing space to research companies brings

centers at individual colleges dedicated to fostering student and faculty innovation, like the Faber

academic and commercial researchers together, helping cross-fertilize thinking. The IdeaLabs are

Engagement has a broader role that also includes technology commercialization, business outreach and recruitment, working with the USC/Columbia Incubator, and coordinating with various Entrepreneurship Center at the Moore School of Business.

the only ready-built, wet lab space commercially

Any final thoughts?

available in Columbia. Selah Genomics moved

When you look at all the intellectual capital and creative energy that exist on USC campuses —

into the labs in the Horizon building this spring.

from faculty, staff and students — the opportunity to make great things happen is right in front of

Another tenant is targeted to arrive in July.

us. I consider it a privilege to be a part of that and I’m very excited to get started.


University of south carolina Special Edition: Growing SC’s Economy

Fostering creativity

‘Shark tank’ spirit By Peggy Binette

When Joel Stevenson arrived at USC in 1999 and was asked to speak about an incubator, people were confused. “They thought I was talking about chickens or babies,” Stevenson says. Nearly 15 years later that has changed. “More people at USC and the in the community get it,” says Stevenson, a lecturer in entrepreneurship and strategic management at the Darla Moore School of Business. And the “it” extends beyond the incubator, reflecting an entrepreneurial spirit that is growing on campus. “It seems like there’s been a recent explosion of support for entrepreneurship at the USC campus,” says Kai Mayeda, a doctoral student in chemical engineering. Mayeda’s team con-

Business outreach



cept, SAGE Energy Solutions, was a winner in the newly created Fuel Cell Challenge, a competition for students to bring new hydrogen and fuel cell technologies to the marketplace. International MBA student Howard Glenn credits

ith about 200 research universities in the United

current and former Faber Entrepreneurship Center direc-

States alone, private sector companies looking to

tors Dirk Brown and Richard Robinson as “spurring on-

tap into university-based talent can afford to be choosy. So how does a school distinguish itself from the also-rans? For starters, by having a roster of the best and brightest in high-demand fields. That’s what lured one company, Huntsville, Ala.based Victory Solutions Inc., to the Palmetto State.

The engineering consultancy firm specializes in finding technical solutions for clients like the U.S. Army and NASA, and it had Abdel-Moez Bayoumi on their radar. Bayoumi is a mechanical engineering professor at USC who conducts ground-breaking research in conditions-based maintenance of military hardware, including Apache and Blackhawk helicopters. USC’s business development team worked with Victory, Bayoumi and the Office of

“The $25,000 was enough to move our idea from dream to reality and talk to walk.”

Research to quickly secure a business agreement that protects intellectual property campus entrepreneurship,”

while allowing for new, real-world applications of the research.

and cites an innovative

“This was by far the best experience we’ve had with a university,” says company

IMBA curriculum that

President Shane Doty, who also heads Victory’s new Charleston office.

features new venture

Bayoumi says his reward comes from knowing his work is being used to help keep

analysis and intellec-

American troops safer.

tual property.

“When someone comes up to us at a conference and says ‘hey guys, we’re using

Glenn, along with

your technology’—to me, that’s better than publishing a paper,” Bayoumi says.

three fellow IMBA stu-

—Jeff Stensland

dents, won a top prize in The Proving Ground, the university’s premiere


RENAISSANCE RESEARCHER Mike Matthews isn’t satisfied with progress in just one area – he’s driving technological innovation on multiple fronts. From combating asthma’s misery to developing more efficient fuel cells, he’s helping move academic research toward the marketplace. A professor in the department of chemical engineering, Matthews serves as chief technology officer for Carbonix, a company he co-founded in 2006. The company targets asthma, which carries a $15 billion price tag in the United States every year, according to Matthews. In 2002, the Matthews group uncovered a powerful application for compressed carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide can deactivate and remove allergens as well as kill dust mites in fabrics. Both the U.S. National Institutes of Health and the Department of Housing and Urban Development are interested in using the now-refined technology to reduce asthma’s toll in urban dwellings. Matthews is also advising a team of students that earned a $25,000 research grant in the 2012 Fuel Cell Challenge. His experience working with chemical hydrogen storage is instrumental in helping Trulite, a company based at Midlands Technical College’s Enterprise campus, bring its quiet, efficient, emission-free electric generators to commercial fruition. Through it all, it’s student success that drives Matthews. “We’ve had three doctoral dissertations related to our asthma work, and three more on hydrogen storage so far,” he says. “Every step of the way, we have to prove practical benefits.” —Steven Powell

entrepreneurial competition, for Watsi, a non-profit that crowdsources health care funding for people in need around the world. “The Proving Ground helped us to really understand and refine our organization’s value proposition in both text — business plans and executive summaries — and verbal formats, such as elevator pitches and ‘shark tank’ environments with tough questioning,” says Glenn who says Watsi, in its first seven months, processed more than 3,700 donations, totaling more than $200,000 in medical treatments for more than 250 patients in 13 countries. The startup spirit also has taken hold with undergraduates. Jocelyn Paonita who graduated in May with a trifecta of business degrees — finance, global supply chain management and international business — wants more resources, competitions and networking with entrepreneurs for students. “I never would have found my entrepreneurial interest without The Proving Ground, and I wouldn’t have known the first steps in starting my business, PTtrax, without professors such as Dean Kress, she says.” Kress, associate director of the Faber Center and Proving Ground organizer, helped Stevenson launch the USC Instigator this spring to help students shape startup ideas for the next step. “We’re encouraging students to consider entrepreneurship as a viable alternative to more traditional career options. We expose them to successful entrepreneurs, particularly our own graduates, so the students can see that they can do it, too,” Kress says. “Our students are not only intellectually gifted, they are greatly determined to be successful.”

USC Times Special Edition: Growing SC’s Economy 6/20/2013




n all ways, David Cutler’s career personifies entrepreneurship. Juggling no fewer than 24 income streams, this music

man enjoys a varied career ­— as an educator, jazz and classical composer, pianist, arranger, conductor, collaborator, concert producer, author, blogger, consultant, speaker, advocate and entrepreneur. In short, Cutler lives the gospel that he preaches to his

students in his music entrepreneurship class.


“Many students would like a career in music but don’t know how to

make that happen,” Cutler says. “Part of my job is to help students find a way to be relevant, viable and sustainable as musicians.” In Cutler’s arts entrepreneurship class, each student pitches an idea for an arts-based venture with the potential to generate revenue. Students vote on the best concepts, form teams, create a business model and design sample events. The semester ends with an exercise reminiscent of one of today’s reality talent shows such as “American Idol” or “The Voice” by presenting their concepts to external judges who provide feedback and award cash prizes. “One of the biggest changes in music higher education in the last 10 years is a realization that churning out outstanding artists is not enough,” Cutler says. “Programs are now exploring ways that better prepare students for professional, financial and artistic success.” Cutler says he is proud to be a part of the USC School of Music, which is one program leading that charge. —Frenche Brewer


By Liz McCarthy

Six years ago in an engineering lab on campus, Asif Khan had a bright idea to develop ultraviolet light emitting diode lamps. Today that idea has expanded from a small startup to a viable company selling its research to different companies and employing graduates. Nitek Inc., which moved off campus in 2011 to lease its own space with South Carolina Research Authority, has increased its intellectual property portfolio by about 20 patents in the United States and internationally, according to Asif Khan, a Carolina Distinguished Professor in electrical engineering and the brains behind the company. Now Nitek, which conducts research on LED lights, is in the market for a strategic partner to get financing to expand. “Everything is waiting to get the financing and then the plan is to expand significantly,” said Khan, who sits on the board of the company and acts as a technical consultant. “For small companies there is always a push to either become a large-scale manufacturer or partner with some large company. At the stage that this company is, they have to make some serious decisions.” So far the company has become a place in the Palmetto State for USC engineering students to find summer internships and employment after graduation. Nitek has about 16 full-time employees, many of them Carolina graduates. It also funds much of Khan’s research at the university and supports his doctoral students. “It’s a good source and a big benefit for my research,” said Khan, who is currently working on more research on campus for Nitek. Khan said the administration, the Office of Research and the Office of Technology Commercialization have helped change the on-campus philosophy about entrepreneurship and research. “We’ve had tremendous support from the university system,” he said. “They are really encouraging to capitalize and commercialize on intellectual property that we have at the university. The university is really forward looking.” That’s been a big difference for Nitek’s success, he said.

363 62 28 35 45 #2

“I feel very good about it that we started a new technology from the university, established a company and the company became a viable player in the industry. It’s a very successful way to go,” he said.

USC technologies with active intellectual property protection USC researchers who disclosed new inventions last year alone

Startup companies actively utilizing USC technology Companies graduated from the USC/ Columbia Technology Incubator Startups currently working with the Incubator Columbia’s rank for growth in high-tech jobs among metro areas Sources: Office of Research, USC/Columbia Technology Incubator, Bay Area Council Economic Institute Report

Simon Hudson is a true globetrotter with a cluster of passport stamps of far-flung places from Europe and Australia to Fiji. Hudson, director of the SmartState Center of Excellence in Tourism and Economic Development, wanted to bring the world to South Carolina, but he says international travelers need a reason to come. Hudson launched a tourism incubator to help budding entrepreneurs in the Palmetto State start their own tourism businesses. The SmartState Center partnered with the USC/Columbia Technology Incubator and accepted its first business this year — a father-son enterprise called Jah Roots, an agri-tourism business utilizing hydroponics. The center provides free office space, a telephone and a computer for two years. —Frenche Brewer


University of south carolina

Economic impact

Bitten by the radio bug Since he was a kid, Steve Varholy was tuned into a career in radio. It’s why he started working at WUSC as soon as he arrived at Carolina. Following graduation in broadcast journalism in 1994, Varholy worked in radio in Columbia, then moved to Washington, D.C., to pursue a law degree and career in communications regulation. “It was great money and a great experience, but it was not what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.” Itching to get back into radio, Varholy jumped at the opportunity to launch a low-power station in Columbia. He rallied several WUSC pals and together they went in on the project. In 2007, he was on the air at WXRY,


a 100-watt independent alternative station that broadcasts from Main Street. His former WUSC colleagues serve on the station’s board. “We’re doing old-fashioned radio in a new way,” he said. “We’re one of the few low-power stations in the right place at the right time.” —Chris Horn

Two ‘halfs’ make a whole lot more For USC alumni Nick Wilson and Sara Thomas, Columbia-based

’06 ’07

graphic design and printmaking studio The Half and Half is a labor of love — but one that’s also paid off.


Launched in 2006 with a budget of $200, the studio now grosses over $700,000 a year. It’s also gone from a two-person operation to a business with eight full-time employees plus three to five part timers.

“Our first client was El Burrito on Harden

Hybridized: Moore School alumnus finds gold in green transportation

Street, and we got paid in tacos,” says Wil-

Three million people own a Toyota Prius — the ultra-fuel

son. “Our client list now includes Obama’s

efficient hybrid — but only one person had the foresight to

2012 campaign, Dave Matthews Band,

“Our first client was

Live Nation and AMC’s the Walking Dead, and they pay in money.”

launch a web-based forum for Prius owners. Danny Cooper got the idea for starting “after reading a news article about the second generation

Wilson credits some of the stu-

Prius with all of its bells and whistles.” He launched the site in

El Burrito on and we

dio’s success to USC’s design and art

2003, and devoted his spare time to cultivating a forum now

programs, which he describes as a

visited by 100,000 Prius enthusiasts.

got paid in tacos.”

space, guidance and contacts. And

and started running PriusChat full time,” said Cooper, a 2002

while their major clients are now

Moore School of Business graduate. “The Prius brand has be-

mostly out-of-state, he and Thomas

come synonymous with all hybrid and alternative fuel cars, so

still believe in reinvesting locally.

the forum attracts not just Prius enthusiasts but also people

“passive incubator,” providing studio

“We understand that local clients like the Jam Room Music Festival and theIndie Grits Festival are not going to have the budgets of Bonnaroo and Obama, so we

“In 2007, I took a big leap of faith, quit my regular job

interested in Tesla, the Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf.” PriusChat’s revenue from advertising and an online acces-

have that flexibility of working with everyone,” says Wilson. “Since we live here, we

sories shop has enabled Cooper to support his growing fam-

want our city to be as beautiful as we know it can be, even though we have to drag

ily and enjoy the flexibility of a home-based business.

it kicking and screaming to that point.”

S ystemwide

—Craig Brandhorst

— Chris Horn

Upstate innovation Engagement and impact. It’s one of the mantras at the George Dean Johnson Jr. College of Business and Economics at USC Upstate. “Our students see the need to be entrepreneurial. And they under-

uscTIMES Vol. 24, No.11 JUNE 20, 2013 USC Times is published 20 times a year for the faculty and staff of the University of South Carolina by the Division of Communications.

stand that entrepreneurism doesn’t necessarily mean you have to start a business. It also means improving one,” says Dean Frank Rudisill. Krish Patel took “New Business Enterprise,” a curriculum cornerstone for Upstate’s 700 students. The 2008 graduate bought his first KRIS


Verizon store using his home as collateral. Today he owns 40 stores, with a goal to own 100. Upstate is on the move. In August it will open its new incubator in the business school, which is located in downtown Spartanburg. The incubator, in combination with curriculum and outreach through the Spartanburg Entrepreneurial Network, is making USC Upstate a hub for economic development and entrepreneurism.

—Peggy Binette

The University of South Carolina does not discriminate in educational or employment opportunities or decisions for qualified persons on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, genetics, sexual orientation or veteran status.

Managing editor: Liz McCarthy Designer: Linda Dodge Contributors: Peggy Binette, Craig Brandhorst, Frenché Brewer, Glenn Hare, Thom Harman, Chris Horn, Page Ivey, Steven Powell, Megan Sexton, Jeff Stensland and Marshall Swanson Photographers: Kim Truett To reach us: 803-777-2848 or Campus correspondents: Patti McGrath, Aiken Candace Brasseur, Beaufort Shana Dry, Lancaster Jane Brewer, Salkehatchie Misty Hatfield, Sumter Tammy Whaley, Upstate Annie Smith, Union

USC Times June 20, 2013  

This special edition of the USC Times gives an inside look into USC's economic impact on the state of South Carolina and the entrepreneurial...

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