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Sleepyhead Wins CSUN’s Second-Annual Bull Ring New Venture Competition

May 8, 2017

Original Article

Sleepyhead, an e-commerce sleep startup that sells boxed memory-foam mattresses and bed toppers, won the $20,000 first-place award at the final round of California State University, Northridge’s second-annual Bull Ring New Venture Competition on May 2.

The Bull Ring Competition awarded $35,000 in collective cash prizes and $30,000 in sponsorships to three teams of student entrepreneurs. Five teams advanced from April’s trade show-style, semifinal round to the finals, where they pitched their startup ideas to a panel of four judges in an event modeled after the hit ABC TV show “Shark Tank.”

Steven Van Alen, a CSUN business management student and Sleepyhead’s CEO, said the win was a surprise.

“A friend of mine told me we didn’t win, so I thought we’d place second or third,” Van Alen said. “When I heard that third place wasn’t us and then second place wasn’t us, I looked to my co-founder and said, ‘It’s too bad we didn’t even place.’

“Then, they announced Sleepyhead won. I was completely shocked, to be honest,” he continued. “We’re going to put this money to good use implementing our current ideas and driving marketing, to make sure CSUN students interested in sleeping well at night are aware of our product.”

MyGymPals, a mobile app that connects gym-goers to foster fitness communities, finished second, and Germ 3 Solutions, a company that sells products aimed at preventing the spread of germs in hospitals, came in third. The teams won $10,000 and $5,000, respectively. The runner-ups were Tint, an app that helps users shop for clothes by color, and Omnigreen, a company that builds plant-based air purifiers.

“When they announced we’d won second, I was incredibly satisfied,” said Muris Mulalic, a CSUN psychology student and MyGymPals’ CEO. “It’s great placing in the contest, but the real test is out in the world.”

Ryan Holbrook, director of the David Nazarian College of Business and EconomicsEntrepreneurship Program, noted that Mulalic and many other competitors were not business majors.

“This year, we saw increased involvement from across the university,” Holbrook said. “Teams were comprised of students from computer science, mechanical engineering, biochemistry, psychology, arts and many other disciplines.”

The competition was co-hosted by the Nazarian College and LACI@CSUN, CSUN’s on-campus branch of the Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator. The cash prizes were funded by CSUN alumnus Jeff Marine, founder and CEO of JEM Sportswear and Awake Inc. Marine also served as the final event’s keynote speaker.

The top three finishers also will receive legal startup services courtesy of DLA Piper; accounting services courtesy of Armanino, LLP; marketing services donated by SKY Marketing Consultants, a psychological brand-design studio; and a three-month trial membership to LACI@CSUN.

“This was really exceptional,” said Tom White, executive director of LACI@CSUN. “The performance we saw onstage today reflected the collaboration between the Nazarian Entrepreneurship Program, which is amazing, and the executives in residence of the LACI@CSUN incubator that helped mentor the competitors who embodied a burning passion to excel.”

The winners were decided by four judges who assumed the roles of potential investors. The panel consisted of Enplug CEO Nanxi Liu, COACCEL co-founder Cam Kashani, PCS Development CEO Paul Jennings and R6S CEO Ash Sobhe.

“Investors are always investing in the individual, not always in the product or the company,” Sobhe said. “We want to help students who really want to make a difference in the world.”

Sobhe, a CSUN alumnus, said it is “absolutely incredible” to see students embrace entrepreneurship as the Nazarian College continues to nurture their ambitions.

“The competition is designed to be a springboard for our student entrepreneurs,” Holbrook said. “With the prize money, in-kind services and trial membership to our incubator, the teams will have the resources and support network needed to take their new ventures to the next level.”

As the contest concluded and teams posed for pictures with the organizers and judges, some participants said they could not help but enjoy the moment. MyGymPals’ chief marketing officer Wan Song cracked a wide grin while waiting for a photo when Pharrell Williams’ hit song “Happy” began to echo through the University Student Union’s Grand Salon.

“This is the perfect song right now,” he said.


The Archives:

April 10, 2017: 5 CSUN Student-Entrepreneur Teams Advance to Bull Ring Competition Finals

March 6, 2017: CSUN Bull Ring Competition Returns with More than $60,000 in Prizes

Nov. 18, 2016: Fast Pitch Event Brings out the Best in Young Entrepreneurs

Nov. 16, 2016: CSUN's Second Annual Fast Pitch

Oct. 17, 2016: Students learn from innovative minds in the 4th Annual Art of Innovation Conference

Oct. 5, 2016: CSUN to Host Fourth Annual Art of Innovation Conference

Sept. 22, 2016: CSUN to Host Prominent Independent Entrepreneurship Conference (USASBE)

April 27, 2016: A New Way to Consume Probiotics Took Top Prize in CSUN’s Inaugural Bull Ring

April 27, 2016: CSUN "Bull Ring" Competition Names Top Student Entrepreneurs

April 25, 2016: CSUN Students Compete for More Than $50K at Inaugural Bull Ring New Venture Competition

April 15, 2016: Meeting the Bull Ring Challenge

April 9, 2016: Bull Ring finalists move to next round

April 7, 2016: CSUN Matadors Enter a "Bull Ring" with Hot Business Ideas

March 30, 2016: Students to Face Off in First Round of CSUN’s ‘Bull Ring’ New Venture Competition

Feb. 25, 2016: [PHOTO GALLERY] Bull Ring Kickoff & Startup Workshops


Feb. 8, 2016: CSUN Launches a "Bull Ring" for Student Entrepreneurs

Feb. 8, 2016: CSUN to host first entrepreneurship competition: The BullRing

Jan. 29, 2016: New Entrepreneurship Concentration Available for CSUN MBA's

New Entrepreneurship Concentration Available for CSUN MBA's

Article in San Fernando Valley Business Journal
January 29, 2016


The Master of Business Administration (MBA) Program at CSUN’s David Nazarian College of Business Administration and Economics is putting a substantial gift from local entrepreneur David Nazarian to excellent use. The accredited (AACSB) and nationally ranked MBA (Best Grad Schools 2016, U.S. News and World Report; The Princeton Review Best Business Schools 2016) offers a new entrepreneurship concentration, an expanded data analytics curriculum, and a renewed focus on career education and professional development for its MBA students and alumni.


The modern entrepreneur is an innovative leader with a bias toward action and the ability to remain persistent in the face of adversity. The new concentration in entrepreneurship develops these attributes by equipping students with the interdisciplinary knowledge and distinct skills necessary to plan, launch and grow successful new ventures.

The concentration in entrepreneurship includes a broad set of courses that provide targeted classroom training and experiential, hands-on learning that immerses students in the four pillars of successful entrepreneurship: personal integrity, the idea, team and execution, and serendipity. Under faculty advisement, students conduct challenging consulting projects for local small-business owners and entrepreneurs, leverage new technologies that spark innovation, and apply structure and experimentation to the project-planning process.

Outside of the classroom, students have access to a variety of resources, including on-campus pitch competitions such as the current “The Bullring: Shark Tank Meets Matadors,” and cross-campus events, to develop their ideas. Students have opportunities to interact and learn from real-world, successful entrepreneurs through speaker events and conferences on the topic of entrepreneurship.

Upon earning the concentration in entrepreneurship, students will have developed a skill set that includes real-life experimentation, a team-based approach and a penchant for innovation.

Data Analytics

We are awash in data as never before in history, at an ever-increasing rate. In fact, 90 percent of the data in the world has been generated in the past two years. Technology has exponentially increased the amount of data available, making analytics a vital tool for business strategy.

The challenge for companies is to have managers trained to analyze all of this data. From the point of view of business schools in general and marketing departments in particular, the challenge is to equip students to meet this challenge. The
MBA program offers two graduate courses in data metrics to address this need.

The course in marketing metrics uses practical applications and focuses on developing actionable insights for business managers. It provides a broad overview of key analytic strategies, concepts, issues, challenges and tools to interpret, review and critique current marketing strategies. Topics in this hands-on, active-learning class are organized around a quantitative assessment of the basic graduate marketing curriculum.

The course in data mining and predictive analytics covers an extensive collection of machine-learning tools that help uncover insights buried in business data. It covers concepts and methods in data mining and analytics applicable to business settings that lead to better managerial decision making. The course goes through the data-mining process, including data preparation, partitioning, model building, validation and selection. Students who complete the course are able to apply modeling tools that include classification, prediction, association and clustering — using supervised and unsupervised approaches. The class is interactive, using a combination of lectures, teamwork, case studies and software in a computer lab environment.

Career Services

Substantial improvements are being developed and implemented in career guidance, placement, mentoring, networking programs and events, and targeted corporate partnerships for the MBA students. Rigorous new programs in career counseling and marketplace preparation help graduate students hone professional life skills that complement and augment the Nazarian College’s historic track record of distinguished, cutting-edge pedagogy in business disciplines.

In every case, the goal is to ensure that students and alumni have more and better opportunities and preparation to advance beyond their mid-career level. A particular emphasis on technology, industry trends and careers of the future generates long-term value.

The college's Career Education and Professional Development team works with individual students and alumni to explore, develop and communicate a personal, professional brand; learn about relevant and emerging opportunities; and use the full array of resources at their disposal. CSUN's Master of Science in Accountancy and Master of Science in Taxation students receive specialized attention through the Ernst & Young Center for Careers.

Local companies send their rising stars to the Nazarian College MBA program, and these firms look to CSUN as their “source of choice” for human capital and talent.

CSUN’s Nazarian College offers three master’s degrees—the Master of Business Administration (MBA), the Master of Science in Accountancy (MSA), and the Master of Science in Taxation (MST). The college also hosts a Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) offered by its partner school Grenoble Ecole de Management in southeast France. In addition to its graduate degrees, Nazarian College offers a pre-MBA Graduate Certificate in Business Administration (GCBA). These evening and Saturday programs are designed for working professionals. With comprehensive tools and capabilities in place — and with ambitious initiatives on the horizon — Nazarian College’s MBA and Graduate Programs in Business are committed to being and remaining a national force.

Jan. 14, 2016: LACI@CSUN Ranked No. 3 Business Incubator in the World

Dec. 16, 2015: CSUN Introduces New Minor in Entrepreneurship to its Business School

CSUN Introduces New Minor in Entrepreneurship to its Business School

Written by: Robin Kellogg, Community Connection (local San Fernando Valley newspaper)

December 16, 2015

Photo from the first "Startup Workshop" - October 2015

Normally the introduction of a minor at a college doesn’t stir up a lot of excitement. However, when California State University Northridge (CSUN) David Nazarian College of Business and Economics introduced a Minor in Entrepreneurship in their Fall 2015 course listing, students took notice.

“Student reaction to the minor has been really strong,” according to Ryan Holbrook, Director of the new Entrepreneurship Program, who himself attended a college that was geared toward entrepreneurship. “Students are excited. They want to know more information about the minor and many have business ideas they want to pursue.”

“There are little pockets of entrepreneurship already happening on campus. For instance, the Music Department has a class called Music Entrepreneurship, which is an elective course as part of the minor. We encourage our students to go cross-campus and learn from other colleges and get to know those students as well,” Holbrook continued.

Fostering this interdisciplinary cooperation, The College of Business and the College of Engineering co-sponsored the Art of Innovation Conference in late October. “We brought together the top minds in entrepreneurship and engineering. They discussed the trends and opportunities available for entrepreneurs in the 21st Century, and potential ways to get involved.”

The Minor in Entrepreneurship, which rolled out this Fall, currently has 27 students enrolled. The hope is to grow the minor into additional sections, each with a maximum of 25 students. The smaller class size is the vision of Dr. Lois Shelton, a professor in the Department of Management, who has spent the past two years spearheading this effort.

Dr Shelton believes that capping the students per class at 25 offers a more direct impact and will make it a very experiential-based class. “Our goal,” explained Shelton, “is to fully engage students in the experience of entrepreneurship and inspire them to move beyond any pre-conceived limits so that they will be equipped to create and master the future; I believe that this can be accomplished best in the personalized, highly interactive environment of a small class."

Small Business Consulting, one of the courses offered in the minor, brings students in direct contact with business owners in the community. According to Holbrook, “Any business in the community can approach the school and have the students form teams that work on a project with the company. It can be a financial project, marketing project, a project about streamlining operations, or anything in between.” Holbrook added that businesses can also connect with the University through the Wells Fargo Center for Small Business and Entrepreneurship, which provides students with real-world opportunities.

Currently, the staff for the Minor in Entrepreneurship includes Dr. Shelton; Franc Vigneron, Director of the Wells Fargo Center and a CSUN professor, and Holbrook, Director of the Entrepreneurship program with responsibilities for all the co-curricular activities. The department is looking to hire a dedicated professor of entrepreneurship to help build out the curriculum and continue to develop the program.

In just this first semester, the Entrepreneurship Program has helped to coordinate the following events:
•    Speaker Series in conjunction with the CSUN Alumni Association
•    Startup Workshop Series, held this past October to prepare students for a Fast Pitch competition in November. The students were each given two minutes to pitch their business ideas to a panel of seasoned investors.
•    CSUN Innovators Alumni Mixer that brought entrepreneurial-minded alumni together.
•    New Venture Competitions, including a Spring 2016 event called the Bull Ring. “Think: Shark Tank Meets Matadors” Holbrook noted, referring to the school mascot. The community is invited to attend as audience members. As part of the competition, the grand prize winner will receive $25,000 to use toward their business idea in addition to in-kind sponsorships and a spot at the Los Angeles CleanTech Incubator (LACI) on campus. “LACI has also been helping to put the workshops together and find judges and mentors. They’re my partner in this,” Holbrook added.

Holbrook realizes that not all the students who take the minor will start their own business right out of school, but he believes the foundation they gain does a few important things:
•    Plants the seed so that perhaps 10-15 years down the road they will be able to recognize opportunities as they arise
•    Gives them a chance to work on their leadership as part of a multidisciplinary team
•    Teaches them how to present effectively. Most of the education the students will receive involves how to pitch to investors, and that’s a valuable skill. You’re selling when you are on a job interview or when you’re taking on consulting projects.

He added that the minor also promotes writing skills, developing an action-bias, and confidence—all necessary traits for a successful entrepreneur.
“For us to get this program done correctly, we not only need to engage our alumni but the greater community,” summarized Holbrook.
For students who may not have declared the minor but want a taste of what entrepreneurship can mean in their lives, they can join the newly created Entrepreneurship Club, open to all current students cross-campus.

Dec. 2, 2015: CSUN Selected for VentureWell Pathways to Innovation Program

Original Article

CSUN Team Members (Engineering & Business) for VentureWell Pathways to Innovation Program

Nov. 10, 2015: David Nazarian Gives Insight Into the Business World

Oct. 28, 2015: CSUN Fashion Entrepreneurs

Oct. 26, 2015: Associated Students hope to help students become entrepreneurs

Oct. 20, 2015: CSUN Colleges Collaborate on “Art of Innovation” Conference