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ASU alumni grow powerhouse firms, create thousands of jobs

'Sun Devil 100' honors fastest-growing ASU-led businesses

row of awards
April 25, 2018

Entrepreneurs don’t always need advice, but they do need support, and the Sun Devil family is a good source for that, according to one of Arizona State University's most successful alumni CEOs.

Gabriel Shahin, who is the principal of Falcon Wealth Planning, was named the top businessman at the “Sun Devil 100” event Wednesday. His California-based company showed the most growth over the past year among 75 companies that are led by ASU alumni.

“I live in Los Angeles and something like this brings us back to the university and rekindles the fire, the spark of ASU, in all of us to give back,” he said.

Shahin earned a degree in business administration from the W. P. Carey School of Business in 2006 and launched Falcon Wealth Planning in 2014. He urged his fellow successful alumni to help other budding entrepreneurs.

“Nobody here is looking for advice, but we should be letting them know it’s going to be hard, letting them know it’s going to be a lot of hours, letting them know that it kind of consumes your life,” he said.

“Once you have that conversation, they’re going to get that endless motivation that they need.”

Gabriel Shahin, who earned a degree in business administration in 2006 and is the principal of Falcon Wealth Planning, speaks after winning the Sun Devil 100 at the Carson Ballroom on Wednesday. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Eighty-seven former Sun Devils who lead 75 companies were celebrated at the two-day event, sponsored by the ASU Alumni Association. This was the fourth year of the Sun Devil 100, which eventually will grow to the top 100 firms led by ASU graduates.

All of the nominated firms had to be in business at least three years and be founded or led by an ASU alum, among other criteria.

In total, the 75 businesses in the class of 2018 had revenues of $8.5 billion and employ more than 25,000 people. The companies include a winery, a cloud-computing business, a fitness franchise, a sustainable tourism firm, an architecture studio, a live-music venue in Tempe and an ice manufacturer in Phoenix.

“This is a huge testament to what ASU’s spirit is all about,” said Sethuraman Panchanathan, the chief research and innovation officer of ASU. “Here, innovation is in the fabric of the university. From a research perspective: We were known as a $100 million enterprise in 2001, and this year we will exceed $550 million in research expenditures. We are the fastest-growing research university in the United States by a long shot.”

The alumni represent 14 academic programs and span 46 years, from Bob Boscamp of the class of 1969 to Jack Wight and Carrie Dougher from the class of 2015. Wight and Dougher, CEO and COO, respectively, of Buyback Boss, lived next to each other in the Agave residence hall at Barrett, The Honors College.

Shahin said the award was humbling because there are so many successful Sun Devils, and he noted the connections even among far-flung alumni.

“I talked to probably 70 percent of this room and one of my favorite restaurants in Los Angeles, the owner is here. Lee and Associates, I just got a building through your firm, so thank you. One of my new favorite wines is here,” he said.

“We all know what it takes. We’re the ones crazy enough to work 80 hours when we could be working 40 hours.”

Rounding out the top 10 of the class of 2018:

2. Benjamin Jones, 2011 BSN nursing, owner of FitBody Boot Camp Arizona, which specializes in 30-minute group workouts. The company started in Jones’ garage in 2014 and now has seven locations around the Valley.

3. Ben Ellis, 2008 BA communications, owner and designated broker of Phoenix-based E & G Real Estate Services.

4. Bob Boscamp, 1969 BAE elementary education, co-founder and president of PowerParasol, a company that makes solar-panel shade structures, including the one in front of the Memorial Union on the Tempe campus.

5. Jack Wight, 2015 BS marketing, and Carrie Dougher, 2015 BS computer information systems, CEO and COO of Buyback Boss, an Arizona-based company that buys electronic devices like iPhones.

6. Ibrahim Mesbah, 2000 BSE computer systems engineering and 2004 MCS computer science, and Andreas Ronneseth, 2003 BSE computer systems engineering and 2006 MS computer science, CEO and co-founder/chief technology officer, respectively, of Phoenix-based RevolutionParts, an e-commerce platform for auto-parts dealers.

7. Manpreet Singh, 1997 BS accounting, co-founder and president of California-based PayScout, a payment-processing provider with locations in China and Brazil.

8. Crystal Patriarche, 1998 BA journalism, founder and CEO of SparkPoint Studio, a Tempe-based company that provides public relations, social media, marketing and content services.

9. Sean McGraw, 2011 BS sustainability, CEO of FOR Energy, a Tempe-based company that performs home-energy audits and upgrades.

10. David Yauchzee, 1994 BS mechanical engineering, owner of Top Shelf Exhibits at Exhibit Marketing Group in Rochester, New York, which designs and constructs corporate trade-show exhibits.

The complete list of the Class of 2018 is available on the Sun Devil 100 site, as well as previous classes.

Top photo: Winners of the Sun Devil 100 won plaques at the two-day event honoring alumni who lead fast-growing companies. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

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