EvoNexus Incubator: Immersion Learning for Rady Students

EvoNexus

FlexMBA students in a new Rady School course on technology commercialization successfully evaluated and helped startups for a nonprofit incubator this summer, giving students the opportunity to gain hands-on business experience, expand their professional network and explore their business interests.

In this pilot program, nine students assessed 50 companies that applied to be part of EvoNexus, the CommNexus incubator for startups in the high-tech sector. At the same time, a group of EvoNexus experts independently evaluated the startups. The students and the experts picked eight of the same companies to move to the next phase of evaluation with the experts picking two additional companies.

Lada Rasochova, a Rady MBA alum who led the class, said the results highlight the students’ scientific and business expertise. “The leaders at EvoNexus were really impressed,” Rasochova said.

In addition, students took on market analysis and other projects for startups that are already in the incubator. “Now when the students apply for jobs, they can say, ‘I solved this real business problem for a company,’” Rasochova said. Another student, Mahesh Makhijani, conducted an in-depth investigation on a startup that applied to the incubator to determine how it should improve before gaining entry to the incubator. EvoNexus was so pleased with his work, the incubator asked him to remain on the project.

“In this program, you are embedded in the San Diego business community and you get a chance to see what is going on in the business world,” said Makhijani.

He worked on this project with EvoNexus volunteer, Martha G. Dennis, Ph.D., principal at Gordian Knot who has worked as a technologist, telecommunications entrepreneur, venture capitalist and corporate director during her 40–year career.

“He has done a lot of solid, in-depth work for the due diligence project as well as putting together and delivering an excellent due diligence presentation on the results,” said Dennis.

During the last class, many students presented the results of their projects.

“They did an incredible job,” said Cathy Pucher, executive director of EvoNexus, who helped Rasochova lead the class and instructed students on evaluating the startups. She also brought several experts to class who explained the evaluation process.

The class grew out of previous collaborations with EvoNexus in which students took internships and completed projects for the incubator’s startups. One Rady graduate was recently hired full time by a successful EvoNexus startup.

The partnership with EvoNexus joins several other programs at the Rady School that help bring innovation to the marketplace. The school’s capstone course series, Lab to Market, allows students to launch ideas into viable businesses, and the school’s new Rady Venture Fund challenges students to evaluate and invest in promising new companies.