Student-led Cybersecurity Firm Wins 2015-16 ITA Venture Competition

May 24, 2016

By UCLA Samueli Newsroom

A cybersecurity firm launched by students from the Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science and the Anderson School of Management took first prize May 17 in the fourth annual UCLA Student Entrepreneur Venture Competition.

The company, Ariento, and two other top teams won cash, legal guidance to help structure their companies and grant funding to identify potential customers.

Ariento offers subscription cybersecurity services to help small businesses defend against data braches. Chris Rose, a former security officer in the U.S. Marine Corps who will graduate in June with a master’s degree in computer science from UCLA Engineering and an MBA from Anderson, is founder and president of Ariento. Others on the team include Meredith Nussbaum, who earned her MBA from Anderson and is vice president of marketing and sales at the firm; and Elijah Agbayani, an intern at Ariento who is an undergraduate in computer science at UCLA.

The team won $8,000, plus $5,000 worth of legal services from Silicon Valley law firm Wilson, Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati; and $3,000 worth of customer research from the National Science Foundation’s Innovation Corps program at Anderson.

The Student Venture Entrepreneur Competition is co-sponsored by the UCLA Engineering’s Institute for Technology Advancement, which incubates and assists businesses founded on technology developed by engineering students and faculty. Other sponsors include the UCLA Venture Capital Fund, the Easton Technology Management Center at Anderson, the law firm Cooley, the Easton Foundation, the Samueli Foundation, Silicon Valley Bank and Wilson Sonsini.

Teams in the competition must include both UCLA business and engineering students. They submit an executive summary for review before finalists face a panel of judges who grill company leaders on their technologies, market research and plans for growth.

The Student Venture Entrepreneur Contest “forces you to sit down and slow down in order to be able to speed up,” said Rose, whose faculty advisor at UCLA Engineering is Computer Science Professor Songwu Lu. “You think through strategic issues and you make changes based on what you learned since the last time you looked at the business plan.”

Rose said Ariento, which was advised by Anderson lecturer John Funk and visiting assistant professor Daniel Nathanson, recently signed up its first subscriber and has been approached about several consulting engagements.

The contest runner-up was Dimention, developer of an online financial platform to help people set aside funds for retirement. Third place went to PetSnap, which has developed an app allowing pet owners to better track and maintain records of their pets’ medical histories.

Dimention and Petsnap won $5,000 and $2,000, respectively, plus legal services and funding for customer research.

Past winners of the contest include 2014-15 winner Spinal Singularity, which has a developed a minimally invasive catheter system and which subsequently won the top prize of $150,000 at the University of California-wide primeUC Startup competition in December; and 2012-13 winner Neural Analytics, which develops portable and non-invasive device to test for brain hemorrhages and Traumatic Brain Injury, and which raised $10 million in Series A funding in 2015.

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