Co-founding and collaborating across campus

ASU student entrepreneurs connect at Techiepalooza

February 23, 2023

It’s not easy to meet someone with compatible goals, values and interests. The reality of a potentially yearslong commitment can be intimidating and make a person second-guess their connection. This is true in most relationships, especially business partners.

Michael Hool, a venture lawyer with Hool Coury Law and associate professor of law in the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University, and Brent Sebold, director of Entrepreneurship + Innovation at ASU's Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, seek to help young entrepreneurs connect at the semiannual Techiepalooza event. Arizona State University faculty members Brent Sebold (left) and Michael Hool (middle) and ASU alumnus Jake Slatnick (right) pictured sitting in front of a room of students. Arizona State University faculty members Brent Sebold (left) and Michael Hool (middle), along with ASU alumnus Jake Slatnick (right), educate young entrepreneurs about founding startup companies at Techiepalooza. Photo by Erika Gronek/ASU Download Full Image

“We want to help students network across the colleges,” Hool says. “There could be potential collaborators just on the other side of campus, but they’d never know.”

For one afternoon, founders, techies and business owners converge to discuss their ventures and skills. Everyone from undergraduates and graduate students to local startups are encouraged to attend and learn from both companies and investors what it means to be a young company and assemble the right founding team.

An engineer might be an expert in their venture’s subject matter but will inevitably need to evolve their tech and market their work. Additionally, a founder without engineering skills may have an idea but need technical support to execute their vision. Sebold and Hool help students overcome these challenges with opportunities, such as Techiepalooza, by introducing them to other entrepreneurs with complementary skill sets to maximize their venture’s potential.

“We are the bridge between the business and engineering schools,” says Sebold, who is also the Hool Coury Law Professor of Entrepreneurship. “Any students who want to be a part of a startup have an open invitation to come together.”

Student entrepreneurs benefit from interdisciplinary teams

The founders who attended the spring Techiepalooza event are exploring a large range of ventures, including hospitalitybrandingeducationnetworkingrecyclinghealth diagnostics and telecommunication. The variety of industries represents a testament to the program’s commitment to interdisciplinary partnerships. It’s also an appropriate reflection of the collaboration of the three major schools at ASU that co-produce the program: the Fulton Schools, the W. P. Carey School of Business and the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts.

Max Bregman, a business data analytics student in his final year at ASU and co-founder of Breathe EV, is a long-standing proponent of the program.

“It’s been great to have a like-minded community,” Bregman says. “Dr. Sebold has been a great resource for me for forming connections, both with faculty at ASU and externally with potential customers.”

ASU alumni share their experience

Techiepalooza celebrated its enduring legacy with the return of former student entrepreneur Jake Slatnick, who was part of the first cohort to study technical management at ASU. Slatnick attributes part of his success to Techiepalooza for helping him find his co-founder, Eric Goodchild. Slatnick and Goodchild established a wireless charger company called FreePower that has since incited a bidding war on Shark Tank, has accumulated more than $50 million in funding and is currently allying with Tesla to install its wireless charging system.

Slatnick has been named in Forbes Magazine’s 30 under 30 in Manufacturing and Industry and received the Consumer Technology Association’s 2022 Innovation Award. While sharing his experiences with burgeoning founders and aspiring techies, Slatnick emphasized the importance of finding a need within the existing market.

“I saw a fundamental flaw,” Slatnick says. “Wireless charging is meant to be more convenient but had to be very precise, so we made something easier.”

Sebold notes that while the Entrepreneurship + Innovation @ Fulton, or E+I, team team enjoys seeing students develop connections, his favorite aspect of the program has been when graduates like Slatnick return years later and cite the program as where they met their co-founder.

Man speaking into a microphone in a room full of people.

Fulton Schools computer systems engineering alumnus Derick Tangap explains his venture, Frontier Technology Group, to the student founders attending Techiepalooza. Photo by Erika Gronek/ASU

The future of innovation and entrepreneurship

The E+I team and the Fulton Schools further encourage student ventures by granting more than $450,000 annually to support student venture success. By hosting impactful events on an international scale, the Fulton Schools plan to continue fostering a community to support and motivate students.

They recently collaborated to host the ASU Innovation Open, which invites both domestic and international collegiate teams to pitch their ventures to business leaders and technology developers.

E+I’s next event is a seed funding competition called the eSeed Challenge, which is part of the ASU Venture Devils program funding network. Teams will submit their analyses of business models, and winners will receive up to $6,000 and an all-expenses-paid trip to Silicon Valley.

“As a sponsor, I enjoy watching students grow from these events,” says Connor Hubach, a longtime supporter and mentor for E+I. “They become more confident, their pitches are more succinct and they clearly understand their market better.”

The team is eager to keep growing its network of entrepreneurs from all backgrounds and to promote entrepreneurial innovation on a global scale.

Hannah Weisman

Science writer, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, Marketing and Communications


ASU Global Launch program helps alum achieve dreams of career in international diplomacy

February 23, 2023

Growing up the daughter of two public servants from Peru, Diana Salas Diaz had an early passion for helping underserved communities and understanding the role of the government in economic development.

But her goal to pursue a career in international development did not come quickly. She spent over 10 years working in cross-cultural business development, public-private partnerships, diplomacy organizations and nonprofits across the Americas. During that time, she supported regional economic development projects and executed engagement strategies for 35 multinational companies — including Fortune 500 companies — expanding into several Latin American markets. Portrait of ASU alum Diana Salas Diaz. Diana Salas Diaz Download Full Image

But Salas Diaz knew that to take her career to the next level, she'd need to improve her English language skills, get a graduate degree and gain more international experience. This realization sparked her decision to apply for a master’s degree in global management at Arizona State University's Thunderbird School of Global Management.

While she was waiting to be admitted, she spent one year in Toronto learning English and another year in Boston taking GRE classes in 2019. By the time she was back in Peru, the world was already in lockdown because of COVID-19, and Salas Diaz knew that she needed to improve her TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) score to be admitted.

In 2020, Salas Diaz decided to put all her energy into improving her English, and before she knew it, she was immersed in a two-month-long program focused on English for graduate admission at ASU Global Launch. She worked diligently through the course, and upon passing, was admitted to ASU; her dreams were becoming a reality in front of her eyes.

Since graduating from the Thunderbird School in May 2022 with a master’s degree in global management and concentrations in global affairs and global businessSalas Diaz is now working as a senior program coordinator for Latin America at the ASU International Development Initiative (IDI). In this role, she coordinates ASU’s global pipeline for opportunities in Latin America and the Caribbean across sectors (education, sustainability, economic growth, health and citizen security) for projects funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development, Inter-American Bank, World Bank and corporate funders.

During her time as a student, Salas Diaz achieved far beyond what she could have imagined. She was selected as a PLUS Alliance Student Ambassador for the Transforming Women’s Leadership Pathways initiative in 2020 and the Thunderbird Women in Business president and Latin American Co-President in 2021. Later, she was selected for the Dean’s Fellow Internship with the Phoenix Mayor’s Office and the United Nations. She served as the student fellow for Fundraising and Donor Relations for the Phoenix Committee on Foreign Relations and received the Diplomatic Corps of Arizona Scholarship Award and the Organization of American States Rowe Fund Fellowship. 

“I feel incredibly grateful for the opportunity that Global Launch provided. I hope my story encourages more students from developing countries to learn and improve their English and never give up on their academic dreams,” Salas Diaz said. “If I could give some advice to future Global Launch students, it would be to believe in yourself, have endurance and work hard on pursuing higher education in the U.S.”

Today, thanks to her master’s degree and fluency in English and Spanish, Salas Diaz applies her passion for developing strong connections between the U.S. and Latin America through trade, diplomacy and culture, working closely with Global Operations and coordinating projects with several ASU offices.

Chloé Martin-Bonneville

Sr. Marketing and Communications Specialist, Global Launch