USC Students Aim to be the Next Tech Titan in Annual Demo Day Competition

A crowd of some 500 people clustered around booths at USC's Tutor Campus Center ballroom, flitting between vastly different products. A clothing brand made out of milk waste sat a booth away from a virtual reality clothing store, rideshare scooters were just down the row from massive cargo-hauling drones.


These were among the 50 startups competing at USC Demo Day to pitch their ideas to judges ranging from faculty within the Marshall School of Business to entrepreneurs. Students were vying for a $2,000 grand prize, and a chance to follow the path of young visionaries like Mark Zuckerberg and Evan Spiegel to become the next tech titan.

More importantly, the event was a chance to see and be seen.

"I think this was a great experience to network with a lot of teams. Working on a company, especially as an undergrad, you can kind of get like, laser focused on your company," said Joel Joseph, a Viterbi School of Engineering student. "The nice thing about Demo Day is the fact it allows you to network with all the other teams, so you aren't just working in your own little bubble."

Indeed, networking paid off for Joseph and parter Kaushal Saraf. Their startup Atomus, which they call the "iTunes of 3D printing," took the top prize at Friday's competition.

Atomus is an interface designed to safely share files for 3D printing, and keeps track of how many times the file has been used so that royalties can properly be distributed. They have been working with the Department of Defense to implement the program.

Hatch Credit, a startup app designed to help college students build their finances, nabbed second-place with a $1,000 award. And $500 was doled out to those placing third through sixth.

USC Demo Day was put together by the student organization Troy Labs, and has since grown both in size and recognition with the goal of helping peer and alumni companies gain access to L.A.'s growing business environment. After observing more robust startup immersions in campuses such as UC Berkeley and Stanford, co-founder Ankur Karwal said the goal was to bring part of that excitement to Southern California.

"Our first year, we must have done over a hundred calls with people in L.A., in S.F., to try to get them to buy into this," said Karwal, who adds that the success of Demo Day is enabling the organization to launch accelerator Troy Labs Build this spring. "We hope that we can also be able to pay it forward to other universities that are starting to expand."

Subscribe to our newsletter to catch every headline.

Cadence

Genies Wants To Help Creators Build ‘Avatar Ecosystems’

Christian Hetrick

Christian Hetrick is dot.LA's Entertainment Tech Reporter. He was formerly a business reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and reported on New Jersey politics for the Observer and the Press of Atlantic City.

Genies Wants To Help Creators Build ‘Avatar Ecosystems’

When avatar startup Genies raised $150 million in April, the company released an unusual message to the public: “Farewell.”

The Marina del Rey-based unicorn, which makes cartoon-like avatars for celebrities and aims to “build an avatar for every single person on Earth,” didn’t go under. Rather, Genies announced it would stay quiet for a while to focus on building avatar-creation products.

Genies representatives told dot.LA that the firm is now seeking more creators to try its creation tools for 3D avatars, digital fashion items and virtual experiences. On Thursday, the startup launched a three-week program called DIY Collective, which will mentor and financially support up-and-coming creatives.

Read moreShow less

Here's What To Expect At LA Tech Week

Christian Hetrick

Christian Hetrick is dot.LA's Entertainment Tech Reporter. He was formerly a business reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and reported on New Jersey politics for the Observer and the Press of Atlantic City.

Here's What To Expect At LA Tech Week

LA Tech Week—a weeklong showcase of the region’s growing startup ecosystem—is coming this August.

The seven-day series of events, from Aug. 15 through Aug. 21, is a chance for the Los Angeles startup community to network, share insights and pitch themselves to investors. It comes a year after hundreds of people gathered for a similar event that allowed the L.A. tech community—often in the shadow of Silicon Valley—to flex its muscles.

From fireside chats with prominent founders to a panel on aerospace, here are some highlights from the roughly 30 events happening during LA Tech Week, including one hosted by dot.LA.

Read moreShow less

Motional Links With Uber to Make Robotaxis a Reality

Samson Amore

Samson Amore is a reporter for dot.LA. He holds a degree in journalism from Emerson College and previously covered technology and entertainment for TheWrap and reported on the SoCal startup scene for the Los Angeles Business Journal. Send tips or pitches to samsonamore@dot.la and find him on Twitter @Samsonamore.

Motional
Image courtesy of Motional

Motional, a self-driving taxi startup backed by Hyundai, will partner with Uber to bring its robotic taxis to cities throughout the United States within the next decade as part of its push to get people more comfortable with the concept of taking a ride in a driverless electric vehicle.

Read moreShow less
RELATEDEDITOR'S PICKS
LA TECH JOBS
interchangeLA
Trending