Penn StateSchool of Engineering Design, Technology, and Professional Programs

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Phil Boyer

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Engineering Entrepreneurship Minor

The 18-credit Engineering Entrepreneurship (E-SHIP) minor combines technology and business to create entrepreneurs and innovators. E-SHIP shows students of any major how to use their unique skills to become innovators in today's global business climate.

The E-SHIP minor was founded thanks to a grant from the GE Learning Excellence Fund and the Penn State Leonard Center. The minor is now partially funded through the Gaelen Endowment for Engineering Entrepreneurship and Leadership, the E. V. Bishoff Engineering Entrepreneur in Residence, the Keen Endowment for Engineering Entrepreneurship, and the Eberhardt Endowment for Entrepreneurship in Engineering.

E-SHIP Alum Shares Entrepreneurial Experiences with Current Students

November 2014

Brad Bogolea talks with a student

Brad Bogolea (’06 CMPSC) has entrepreneurship in his blood. The Penn State alum launched his first serious startup venture while still enrolled as an undergrad in SEDTAPP’s Engineering Entrepreneurship minor. Upon graduation, Bogolea headed for Silicon Valley with a high tech data visualization solution for the home energy market.

Eight years later on, having shepherded his product ideas through many twists and turns and ultimately great success, Bogolea returned to Penn State to share lessons learned with the next generation of budding student entrepreneurs.

As the Bishoff Entrepreneur in Residence during Global Entrepreneurship Week (Nov. 15-21, 2014), Bogolea managed a whirlwind schedule teaching, coaching, re-connecting and judging new ideas presented by Penn State’s latest crop of would-be business leaders.

“The best part of the week has been connecting with the people,” he said, citing both the professors who mentored him as an undergrad, and the current students, who he says “have such fantastic energy and ideas!”

Bogolea’s journey began with developing original intellectual property – data visualization software called Greenbox that allows homeowners to more accurately monitor their home energy use, in order to bring down both cost and consumption.

“You can’t manage what you can’t measure,” noted Bogolea, who struggled early on with both team dynamics and funding. Some early partners dropped out, and he found that many investors were wary of putting their money into a venture without a proven track record.

“A lot of them are worried if you’re going to be a round in six months or not,” he explained. But then Bogolea struck a key partnership with an older, more established company called Silver Springs, who had a need that his software could fill, along with an outstanding business network and a robust platform upon which to try it out.

After acquiring, then re-naming Greenbox as Customer IQ, Silver Springs was positioned to bring Bogolea’s software to the utility market. A pilot project launched in Oklahoma proved a great success, resulting in savings for customers and earnings for Silver Springs. The company went public in 2013 and has taken Bogolea’s product nationwide.

Ever the entrepreneur, Bogolea left Silver Springs this past summer, and has set his sights on the world of robotics. “Tech is in search of the most interesting problem,” he noted, and robotics is poised to tackle some very interesting problems.

SEDTAPP department head Sven Bilén mentored Bogolea during his time at Penn State.

“I’m so glad Brad came back as the Bishoff Entrepreneur in Residence, especially during Global Entrepreneurship Week,” enthused Bilén. “His entrepreneurial journey, which started here at Penn State in the Engineering Entrepreneurship Minor, can be an inspiration to our students.”

Created in 2003, the Entrepreneur-in-Residence program is named for E.V. Bishoff, a Pittsburgh native and long-time supporter of the College of Engineering. The program contributes to the engineering entrepreneurship program’s mission to develop new entrepreneurs and creative thinkers through innovation, leadership and project-based coursework.

Throughout Global Entrepreneurship Week, Bogolea was inundated by questions, but he loved every minute of it. “State College is a great place to start a business,” he said. “And there‚Äôs no better time than now.”

Fielding lots of inquiries about how to find early money and early partners, Bogolea told students that online crowdfunding platforms and investor tools like Angel.co are transforming the whole playing field. But he also would like to see State College fill some remaining gaps in the startup landscape.

“This town could use a strong incubator/accelerator facility with an institutional funding model,” he explained, “I’d like to see a lot more money available along with more mentorship. Angel investors love those kinds of set ups.”

Bilén hopes that exposure to Bogolea’s real-world perspective will help current students to get a leg up on their own budding ventures.

“His well-earned lessons are important for them to hear,” he said. “Being an entrepreneur is not an easy path, but it can be a rewarding one in many different ways.”