GWU Grad Student Launches Food Startup

As my research on student startups highlights, food ventures are popular. A recent George Washington University grad student has launched a social venture (Halona Foods) to get more value out of ‘ugly’ produce.

From DC Inno:

As a grad student at George Washington University, Stephanie Westhelle committed her academic life to studying sustainable development. That’s how she found herself researching and visiting small farms around the area.

“It was disheartening to see how many thousands and thousands of pounds of produce are left behind,” she said. “I think the one that was the most disheartening and really made me move forward with my idea was a small farm in Maryland that had lost about 80,000 pounds of apples due to some bruising that happened because of a hail storm… I came up with the idea to start making apple crisps from [them].”

Westhelle is the co-founder and CEO of Halona Foods, which she founded just a little over a year ago. She works with micro-scale farms (small, typically family-owned farms that usually bring in under $1 million in sales annually) to give new life to produce that would normally be considered waste. She and her team buy the irregularly-shaped, bruised or otherwise hard-to-sell fruits and veggies and turn them into snacks, like zucchini chips or apple crisps.

Halona Foods is not the first DC based food startup created by students to try to bring more efficiency to the use of farmed produce. Georgetown’s Misfit Juicery has had a nice run so far — recently being selected to join Chobani’s food accelerator.

Some @PeterThiel Content | Videos and Articles

Like many, I’ve been fascinated by Peter Thiel for a few years, really hitting my radar with his Thiel Fellowship a few years back when he asked innovators to leave the campus and pursue their innovations (here are all the fellowship winners). I was fortunate enough to Peter-thiel-paypal-historysee him in Conversations with Tyler at George Mason University in 2015.

His background, from founding PayPal (PYPL | NASDAQ) and funding Facebook (FB | NASDAQ) to his fellows and Zero to One (his book), its clear this guy is one of the most intelligent and insightful people out there (at least among those sharing their thoughts publicly) so it’s no surprise that he has been so successful. Here is some Thiel content.

I share the The Competition Myth by Peter Thiel with all of my students.

Excellent long video interview with Bill Kristol. Really covers a diverse set of topics from Facebook to the major problems with higher education – really going after the ‘racket’ of higher ed with some incredible truths (last 25 minutes or so). Really great long interview (I watched it over 5 sessions)

Video of Peter Thiel discussing Mark Zuckerberg’s impact in specifics. Good short video (6:30).

Well? Pretty thoughtful, insightful guy huh? Feel free to send any great Thiel content you come across.

BTW, interested on my views of higher education, founders and innovation? Check out Campus Frontier: High Growth Student Startups at US Colleges and Universities.

 

 

 

Forbes Billionaires and Student Entrepreneurs

Each year Forbes The World’s Billionaire list is released and its as clear as a punch in the nose that student founders build some of the most important, impactful and wealth creating ventures in the world. Here are a few from the 2016 World’s Billionaires list.

Bill Gates (1), Mark Zuckerberg (6), Larry Page and Sergey Brin (12 & 13), Phil Knight (24), Michael Dell (35), Elizabeth Holmes (435), and Kevin Plank (527) are some of the student founders on the list. Facebook and Microsoft appear to have the ability to field basketball squads from members of the list.

The basic Forbe’s  billionaire story provides an overview of the shrinking and churn of the list… number of billionaires is down as more moved out than in and total wealth and average wealth are down from 2015.

0228_billionaires-collage_500x500

 

Szaky of @TerraCycle Profiled in @CSMonitor

There are many student entrepreneurs — Gates, Zuckerberg, Dell — that the masses Official_TerraCycle_Logoknow about. Tom Szaky of TerraCycle is probably one of the most innovative and few are aware of his vision and actions. The story of his rise out of Princeton is legendary in my mind and his concept of creating everything out of waste is in many ways revolutionary for industrial and post-industrial societies.

David Karas of the Christian Science Monitor has a very good profile of Tom and TerraCycle in their People Making a Difference feature. From the piece…

Mr. Szaky founded TerraCycle in 2001 while a freshman at Princeton University. He and another student fed dining hall leftovers to worms and liquefied the worm compost, creating an organic and highly effective fertilizer. Lacking the money to package their product, the duo used soda bottles they retrieved from recycling bins as containers to peddle the worm poop.

and later…

Szaky grew up in Budapest, Hungary, prior to the fall of communism and has been intrigued by entrepreneurship ever since he arrived in North America. He sees the world of business as a vehicle for positive social change.

“I think business is more powerful than war, and more powerful than politics,” he says. “It transcends borders very easily, and it is much more lasting.”

He rejects the paradigm that businesses are intended only to generate profits, and that only charities can do good. His goal is to find a way to overlap those missions.

Tom has always been one of my favorites and I think I will see if I can make a trip up to Trenton to meet him and see what he has been building all these years. (Looks like Trenton is about 3 hours from DC… fill ‘er up….)

#trenton #recycling #waste #innovator #princeton #studententrepreneur

 

 

 

Entrepreneurial Nuggets | Adirondack Jack | Wave Extinguisher at Ripley’s | Cheap Lego Drones | Warby Parker Makes Public School Hip

Alibaba founder Jack Ma bought 28,000 acres of forestland in the Adirondacks for conservation purposes… While billionaire founders and CEOs conserving land in NY is not new, the fact that a Chinese innovators is there too is interesting. Read the story about Jack and his $23 million dollar buy.

Warby Parker, the hip, social impact oriented eye glass firm founded by Wharton

Ripley's Believe It or Not! Cartoon of the day 6/26/15.
Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Cartoon of the day 6/26/15.

students has partnered with New York City Public Schools and will provide up to 20,000 pairs of glasses to kids in need.

GMU’s Seth Robertson and Viet Tran were feature in Ripley’s Believe It Or Not Cartoon of the Day for their Wave Extinguisher — it puts out fire with sound waves!

We love Parrot drones at Mason — they are fun for students to learn on. The company announced 13 new drones this week for less than $189! One with a Lego attachment!

Commonbond, an innovative student loan company started at Wharton in 2012, sold its first bonds to Wall Street investors. By targeting specific students and graduates (originally Wharton grads), the firm offers lower rates to lender and loan products with specific attributes to investors.

Competition Myth @PeterThiel @ISI | #Conformity Kills | #students #highered

Was fortunate to have one of our GMU School of Business supporters send us a really strong piece by Peter Thiel at The Intercollegiate Review on being true to oneself and your own vision of truth/value rather than that of those around you.

The article is a strong indictment of conformity and mediocrity across a whole host of areas — both micro and societal — and the dangers it presents. Good read for students and others trying recharge and find a truer, self-defined path. (Hint of Earl Nightingale in the article — wonder if Thiel is familiar with The Strangest Secret)

A few strong excerpts,

This is, I think, the big problem with competition: it focuses us on the people around us, and while we get better at the things we’re competing on, we lose sight of anything that’s important, or transcendent, or truly meaningful in our world.

later,

The problem is not one of brainpower: we are talking about fiercely intelligent people with degrees from the nation’s most prestigious institutions. No, the real problem is conformity, a fear of stepping outside the bounds. This is the issue I had to confront in myself when, after years of competing, I achieved my goal of working at a major law firm—and realized it was the last thing I wanted.

This problem of conformity runs deep. Already in the time of Shakespeare the word ape meant both a primate and to imitate. The Aristotelian concept of biology held that man differed from the other animals in his greater aptitude for imitation. This is how we learn language as children: we imitate. This is how culture gets transmitted. But imitation can also go badly wrong. It leads to crazed peer pressure; it leads to the various insane bubbles our society has experienced. If there’s going to be progress, if there’s going to be new thinking in any direction, it requires something very different.

Thiel’s 7 Keys to Market Creating Innovation (Blue Ocean Anyone?)

Peter Thiel, one of the ‘great’ wizards of Silicon Valley has some mortal elements

Peter Thiel back in the days of PayPal
Peter Thiel back in the days of PayPal

as he too has written a book and gone on a speaking and interview tour. Zero to One, by Thiel (with Blake Masters), has many interesting insights and thoughts and Steve Denning of Forbes does a nice job covering the book. From Denning:

In his book, Zero to One, serial entrepreneur Peter Thiel offers seven—sometimes surprising– tools for doing just that. They are what he calls, “the seven questions that every market-creating business must answer.”

The Engineering Question: Do you have a breakthrough technology?
The Timing Question: Is your timing right?
The Monopoly Question: Do you have something no-one else has?
The People Question: Do you have the right people?
The Distribution Question: Can you sell and market your stuff?
The Durability Question: Will you be still around in 10 years?
The Secret Question: Do you know something nobody else does?

Continue reading “Thiel’s 7 Keys to Market Creating Innovation (Blue Ocean Anyone?)”