USC engineering students find success in startup lab

EXPOSITION PARK, LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- What is the next big idea for a business? The race is on to find it and bring it to the marketplace and USC's Viterbi School of Engineering is cultivating contenders like never before.

Students pore over laptops, gadgets and twisted wires at an off-campus site called the USC Viterbi Start Up Garage.

Founded two years ago, the program has already yielded results.

"We have launched 17 companies and 13 or 14 have done very, very well," Professor Ashish Soni said.

Selected engineering students are mentored and get $50,000 of investment capital.

Their technologies include an airborne camera system that can take "selfie" videos.

Unlike existing camera-mounted drones that are operated with a console, this one is hands-free -- a must for windsurfers and extreme athletes.

A portable battery unit has already brought in $750,000 for Jan Isagi, who calls her fledgling company Bezalel. The device charges a phone on contact. A newer version will wirelessly charge the phones for everyone in the room.

Want to know what's happening in a particular place right now? TILOFY browses what people are posting on social media in real time by location. Find trending restaurants or events.

Young CEO Ali Khoshgozaran shows scenes popping up on his smartphone.

"This is a live feed from people who are in Echo Park taking pictures of renovations at the Park," Khoshgozaran said.

Need pals to help you select an outfit? The app WAUW links your dressing room "selfie" to your friends. The bigger deal, says its creator Melanie Shaul, is that a paper thin disposable sensor on the garment will collect comments your friends posted about the item and then send the data to the retailer. Envision fashion guided by the consumer.

"Big data is a huge thing right now, so there is a huge gap right now that retailers are looking to fill," Shaul said.

The goal of USC's Viterbi Start Up Garage is to cultivate business models and maximize students chances for success.

"We wanted to plant hundreds of seeds across the school with the hope that three, four, 10, 20 of them become really big," Soni said.

Copyright © 2022 KABC Television, LLC. All rights reserved.