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Tuesday, July 16th 2019

Lavin Entrepreneur Program Alumni

Lavin Startups are Growing Rapidly

Profiled below are a few of the Lavin Entrepreneurs that went through our program at San Diego State University and the companies they created.

Kevin Gelfand, ShakeSmart

As a co-founder of ShakeSmart, Kevin has grown the company from a single university location to more than 13 university locations in four states. He founded the company on the belief that people would want a more natural, sugar-free protein laden shake within 30 minutes of working out. ShakeSmarts are strategically located on college campuses near their recreation and athletic centers.

Brian Kidwell, Scotts Cheap Flights

After college, Brian travelled extensively and worked as a digital nomad utilizing his online marketing skills. Through the course of his travels he stumbled across a “cheap flight alert” blog and turned that blog into a SaaS subscription engine to alert people as to where they could obtain and book cheap flights. The company did more than $6 million in revenue at the end of 2018.

Luke Sophinos, CourseKey

When Luke first arrived at SDSU, he was floored to see that as a freshman and sophomore, he was in lecture classes of over 400 students. He could see students were disengaged. So he set out to build a web and mobile phone based platform that allowed university professors to load teaching material to the web-based platform and then use an app on student’s phones to disseminate and interact with students in real time. CourseKey has raised more than $3 million in funding.

Drew Haines, HoursLogger

As someone who excelled in engineering, Drew made money on the side tutoring other engineering students. But he did not really see himself in an engineering career. He did like to code. So, he taught himself several programming languages and eventually created HoursLogger, an app that allows individuals and consultants to track their time and ultimately create invoices for clients via QuickBooks.

Matt Decelles, William Painter

While in the Lavin program, Matt completed several internships in sales and marketing. As he and the co-founders looked at what people bought all the time and lost, they started to focus on sunglasses. Eventually, they created and patented, unique, and classic sunglasses, made from titanium, with a lifetime guarantee. Oh, and the frames have a “patented hook” to open bottle caps.

Alex Martinez, Real Estate skills

While in school, Alex took a paid internship with a real estate company that specialized in “flipping” homes. Within the next two years, Alex learning everything about assessing, purchasing, renovating and selling houses. After a few years of doing this, he created his own company that utilizes live workshops and online course to teach other people how to make money in real estate.

Jack Doheny, Bold Brew

Another engineer major who perhaps did not really want an engineering career, Jack’s curiosity had him following and noticing the cold brew coffee trend a few years back. Along with a co-founder, they started experimenting with making cold brew coffee in their apartment and sharing it with friends. Then they worked with university to sell it on the campus. Then they sold it at farmer’s markets. Today, they are in more than 200 retail locations and are also sold on Amazon.

Eric Birkemeier, ShredLights

Eric was a film major who joined the Lavin program wondering if he could take his passion for film into a career. While at SDSU, he took an internship helping out a team in the Zip LaunchPad incubator on campus. That team struggled and eventually abandoned the startup which Eric took over. Today, ShredLights will do more than seven figures in revenue and Eric is innovating additional product uses.

Jon Tucker, HelpFlow

Jon was a very curious and passionate Lavin who learned online marketing early in his college career. But he did not really want to do marketing as a long term career. So he studied ecommerce websites and looked for a way to improve the customer experience. Eventually he created HelpFlow which combines website software and live chat to sell very expensive and niched products. Today, he has over 20 employees and most work remotely.

Nick Slettengren, Power Digital Marketing

Nick was a communications major who arrived at SDSU with several years of work experience. At school, Nick did not really know how to apply his communication major into a career direction so after he graduated, he worked in sales with a digital agency specializing in SEO. That sparked an interest in digital marketing to the point that after working for three years in marketing, Nick founded his company which grew very rapidly over the past six years and will conclude 2018 with more than $10 million in revenue.

Jesse Villanueva, Mercato

Jesse was like quite a few of our Lavin Entrepreneurs who so passionately want to create a company but don’t know what to create. Jesse utilized every opportunity while at SDSU participating in pitch fests, in business plan competitions and getting several internships with entrepreneurs. One of those entrepreneurs took Jesse under his wing, and when he sold an existing company, he and Jesse created Mercato, a food delivery company that has raised more than $2.5 million in funding.

Sean Dreiling, Restoar

Sean was in the Lavin program and worked his way through several sales internships. He really did not know what kind of company he wanted to create as an entrepreneur. But he finally focused on something he was well aware of his entire life: acne. He had acne since he was 12 years old and finally studied possible solutions relentlessly. That pursuit led to the founding of Restoar, a natural facial toner that has had remarkable success in the treatment of acne. Starting at farmer’s markets, today you find his products on Amazon and his own website.

Greg Crisi, Tip Network

Greg overcame several challenges while he was a Lavin Entrepreneur including being a single dad. Already an idea he was working on while in school, in April of 2012 he founded Tip Network, a platform that unravels and automates the process of the $40 billion in tips flowing throughout restaurants, bars, and night clubs, by converting the cash, including credit card tips, into digital currency and provides feedback and insights back to the restaurants throughout the process. After early success, Crisci received an offer to sell Tip Network to another company known as NetSpend and he now serves as its Senior Product Manager of Tips.

I look for three I's in an employee--integrity, industry and intelligence. Of the three, integrity is the most important.
~ Sol Price, SDSU'34
   Price Club


Passionate about entrepreneurship? Want to give an aspiring student or entrepreneur more fuel?

Building the Next Generation of Entrepreneurs

The Lavin Entrepreneurship Center at San Diego State University serves SDSU students, entrepreneurs and business leaders through entrepreneurial curriculum, workshops, internships, resources and events. For information browse the Programs section of our website, subscribe to the Lavin Center Calendar and sign up for the Center's Entrepreneurial Fuel Newsletter. Entrepreneur resources such as the Lavin Center resume guide, marketing and business planning tools and more can be found in the Resources section of our site.

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