Entrepreneurial Workshop Students Pitch Innovative Startups

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Fiber optic light-up ski poles and an affordable analog software for musicians and sound engineers were among the startup business models presented by students on the final day of Harvey Mudd College’s new Entrepreneurship Workshop class. Student teams develop an innovative idea for a product that solves customers’ unmet needs and then create a scalable business model for their startup.  

The course is a hands-on, practical class that helps students create a model for their startup with significantly less money in a short timeframe. The class is taught by Kash Gokli, founding director of entrepreneurship initiatives and professor of manufacturing practice and engineering economics.

“All of the presentations were great, and each student brought an interesting perspective to their product and company,” Gokli said. “Not everyone here will go on to start a company, but they’ll at least learn how it is done and how to set the building blocks if they ever have an idea they want to run with.”

Six groups presented various products and services, including a college-experience enhancement platform, a college-based marketplace mobile application, fiber optic light-up ski poles and an affordable analog software for musicians and sound engineers.

“We started off creating an analog synthesizer, but after talking to potential customers at music stores, we found that people really don’t care all that much about them,” Xander Fries ’24 said. “We took that feedback and shifted to talking to customers in active markets.”

Fries said that the chip and software he has developed with his classmates Devon Overbey ’25 and Pierce Gruber ’25 will help cut down by hours the time it takes for sound engineers to reset high-quality studio mixing consoles.

“This class taught us how to approach and talk to our target audience to gather information that would help us shift accordingly,” Gruber said. “Anyone thinking about getting into entrepreneurship needs to be comfortable with getting out and talking to everyone in their target audience. It is one of the most important steps when getting started with a product.”

Ayman Abdellatif ’24 teamed with fellow classmates Ammar Fakih ’24 and Lucas Welch CMC ’25 to create a mobile application that aspires to enhance the undergraduate college experience.

“Athena Network is a one-stop shop that provides college students with all of the resources they may want,” Abdellatif said. “Our goal is to connect students with other students, staff, faculty and, most importantly, their community.”

The Athena Network team discussed its initial hypothesis, showcased a full application overview and presented a three-year forecast for the company.

“I always knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur, even when I didn’t know what that meant,” Abdellatif said. “After hearing about all of the things that Josh Jones is doing as an HMC alumnus, that really inspired me to text Ammar, my childhood best friend, to get something going.”

In addition to being an entrepreneur (DreamHost founder) and investor, Josh Jones ’98 and Gary Evans, professor of economics emeritus, co-founded HMC INQ (a finance company that invests in HMC alumni and their startup companies) and Harvey’s Angels, a network of HMC alumni who invest in Harvey Mudd-related companies.

Jones also helps teach the Entrepreneurship Workshop class alongside Gokli.

“I love seeing these teams’ enthusiasm as they go through this semester-long journey and how they have to pivot and adapt with their idea,” Jones said. “Students getting into entrepreneurship shouldn’t think too hard and just go for it. A few years down the line they may be breaking even and be happier than if they were somewhere else.”

To learn more about Harvey Mudd’s entrepreneurship courses and resources, visit the Entrepreneurship website.