Author: Kiva Runnels


About Kiva Runnels

Kiva is a WashU student studying comparative literature and French. She has worked as a production intern with the School of Arts & Sciences' podcast Hold That Thought and is a member of various media clubs on campus, including Storyscope, KWUR and WUTV. Kiva loves telling meaningful stories through writing, visual media and podcasts. Outside of school and work, you can find her on long walks in the neighborhood with her friends, listening to music, or re-watching her favorite TV shows.

A new WashU course, Innovation for Defense, will give students a chance to define and solve problems facing the US intelligence community starting in spring.

An inter-disciplinary entrepreneurial course, Innovation for Defense is open to students from McKelvey School of Engineering and Olin Business School. The class (consisting of roughly 10 Olin students and 10 McKelvey students) is co-taught by Doug Villhard, professor of practice in entrepreneurship at Olin, and Peggy Matson, professor of practice, Sever Institute, McKelvey. The course brings together people from the Olin business community and the McKelvey School of Engineering.

Exploring current problems—like moving people and supplies through checkpoints in a secure way, helping pilots quickly acclimate to a variety of aircraft and reducing technology downtime by using IT data to create proactive solutions—will be a driving force behind the student’s learning.

Each class problem has a dedicated sponsor from the Department of Defense who will be regularly engaged with the team. Student teams will learn to use the Lean Startup methodology and Mission Model Canvas, made famous by Stanford University, to iteratively cut through the complexities of these issues.  

The Innovating for Defense course is building on the partnership with the National Security Innovation Network (NSIN), and includes the recently awarded National Security Academic Accelerator grant which seeks to launch new ‘dual-use ventures’ from the University’s existing intellectual property.

Jake Laktas, university program director at WashU, representing NSIN says, “This course’s model is unique because it can be an equally valuable learning experience for DoD partners as it is for the students. University problem solvers who are unencumbered by existing thought processes can lend brand new approaches and unique contributions to our nation’s most difficult technology and security challenges.”

It is interesting to note that a student does not have to be a citizen of the United States to take this course and none of the DoD problems are confidential.

“None of these business problems are classified. It is not innovating for war, or something secret; it is innovating for large organizations. It will teach students what the DoD is, how to interact with it, how to support it, and how to ultimately support the economy,” Villhard said. “It’s almost like a mirror of the commercial market when you consider how many different things there are to do within the DoD.”

The course was created to introduce entrepreneurial thinking to students and introduce the concept of interdisciplinary teams. These students will gain hands-on experience that can be useful in any work situation in the future and will look excellent on their resumes. It teaches how to seek out problems, find solutions, and consider monetization.

Find the original post on the Innovation for Defense class, from the Skandalaris Center, here.

Above: Credit, Shutterstock.

Snacklins, a company that produces plant-based alternatives to pork rinds, nearly tripled its sales in 2020 in the highly competitive snack food industry.

Jeremy Sherman

Fans of NBC’s “Shark Tank”might recognize the brand from its appearance on the show in 2019, when founder Sam Kobrosly walked away with an investment from Mark Cuban.

Since the onset of the global pandemic, Snacklins has continued to pursue industry success, undergoing a major rebrand to create a more interactive, internet-accessible brand. The effort to differentiate Snacklins and draw consumer attention was led by Olin alum and Snacklins Marketing and E-Commerce Manager Jeremy Sherman, BSBA ’15.

Consumers seek products online

Sherman and his team noticed that the pandemic pushed consumers to seek out products online. They struck out to create a brand that offers both a great product and an interactive, fun and personable online experience. They decided to launch a complete rebrand, selling the same product using a new website, new packaging, new flavors and bigger bag sizes.

The key to the rebrand, Sherman said, was to “create a whole personality around” Snacklins.” The goal was to make its product “not just fun to snack on, but to interact with.” The company had to be innovative, while incorporating its core personality and spirit in its new marketing campaign. To do this, the Snacklins team kept a simple and bold design and introduced engaging new features on its website, including a game called SNAC-MAN .

Snacklins has been recognized for the success of its rebrand, earning a feature in Forbes magazine.

Olin’s influence

Sherman credits Olin’s influence with allowing him to consider himself a “business generalist, with the ability to think about economics, operations, supply chain and marketing.”

Olin provided him with a valuable foundation of business knowledge, he says. He credits his Introduction to Entrepreneurship class for arming him with the ability to understand the mechanics of entrepreneurship, especially how to transform a vague idea into a complete business plan. The creativity and entrepreneurial spirit he acquired during his time at Olin still guides his work today, he said.

Late last month, the Skandalaris Center announced this year’s finalists for the Global Impact Award. This award, founded in 2013, may present the finalist teams with up to $50,000, thanks to a donation from Suren Dutia and Jas Grewal.

The Global Impact Award was established in order to support the passions of Washington University students, recent alumni, and postdoctoral researchers who are creating ventures that are scalable, sustainable, and quick-to-market with proof of concept and a broad impact.

Caregather makes the life surrounding health bolder and brighter by connecting patients going through serious medical incidents to their closest circle and broader network. Tripp Brockway (AB ’12) and Michael Offerman, AB/MBA ’13. 

Cedars Health, Inc. provides minimally invasive procedures using their biocompatible implant, which mechanically compresses the prostate to dilate the urethral channel.  Raphael Chung, BS ’20, and Kevin Park, BSBE/MSBE ’20.

Golden Roots Essentials is an all-natural toxin-free skincare line with ingredients derived from the African continent. Fanta Kaba, MBA ’21. 

LFR International creates scalable networks of emergency first responders in a resource-limited setting without formal emergency medical services. Zachary Eisner, BS ’21, and Peter Delaney, AB ’18. 

Pareto is a direct-to-consumer women’s apparel brand founded on the principle that women wear 20% of their closets, 80% of the time. Jessica Landzberg, BSBA ’17, and Olivia Bordson, BSBA ’15. 

Qilo is an energy solutions company and energy supplier that charges consumers transparent rates and helps them make smarter energy decisions using a mobile application. David Brost (School of Engineer & Applied Science ’12). 

Congratulations to the finalists! The winner of the Global Impact Award will be announced on April 27, 2021, over Zoom.

Find the original Skandalaris post announcing the finalists here. Also, watch the video of finalists reacting to their selection above.

Justin Reiling and Drake Shafer, both BU

Undergraduate business students Drake Shafer and Justin Reiling, both BU ’23, are passionate about bringing creativity from the local St. Louis area onto the Washington University campus. Shafer and Reiling have spent the past six months working on their new business, which recently opened on the South 40, called Gallery 314.

Gallery 314 is a community-centric retail store, bringing products from small businesses all over St. Louis to Washington University students. The idea for the store stemmed from Shafer and Reiling’s realization that the Washington University campus did not yet have a creative and entrepreneurial setting for community members to showcase their retail products.

So, they created one! Gallery 314 recently joined a host of other student-run businesses that have flourished on the first floor of Gregg House on the South 40, including U Trucking and Bear-y Sweet Shop.

Reiling and Shafer attribute the successful opening of Gallery 314 in part to skills both students learned in their Foundations of Business (MGT 150) course, taught by Olin faculty member Yoon Groves. The class revolved around the process of creating plans and financials for a made-up company, a process that guided Reiling and Shafer’s efforts to create and establish Gallery 314.

Visit Gallery 314 in-person, on the first floor of Gregg House on Washington University’s South 40 or find hours and additional information on their website here.

Pictured at top: Justin Reiling and Drake Shafer, both BU ’23.

Shattuck Groome, MBA ’00

Inc. magazine released its definitive ranking of the top 5,000 fastest-growing private companies in the United States, a list that has given national exposure and recognition to now-ubiquitous companies such as Zappos, Patagonia and even Microsoft for the first time.

The Inc. 5000, released in August, one of the most prestigious rankings in the nation for independent small businesses, placed Cage Point LLC—founded by Shattuck Groome, MBA ’00—No. 44 on the 2020 list.

Cage Point LLC is a media agency that specializes in research, communications planning and targeted media across all platforms. Their strategy is a people-focused approach, connecting brands to their target audience through media and data driven technology.

Groome said making the Inc. 5000 “reinforces (Cage Point’s) dedication to forming true partnerships with clients.”

Cage Point LLC made the Inc. 5000 by exhibiting an unprecedented three-year revenue growth of 6,467%. This places it above the median growth rate for the Inc. 5000 list, which lands at 165%.