From #Vanlife to C-Suite: Education, Gumption and Entrepreneurial Spirit

Pete CodellaNews

An element of Utah’s vibrant economy is again in the national spotlight, with the entrepreneurship programs of Brigham Young University (BYU) and the University of Utah earning top-25 national rankings according to The Princeton Review. These programs are housed in world-class facilities with top instruction that provide students the edge they need to excel in an increasingly competitive and global business environment.

Mark Pittman is one of those students. As a graduate of the Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute at the University of Utah, Mark’s company Blyncsy aims to change the inefficiency of the modern traffic grid.

“Initially we tried to sync all traffic lights, and we talked to traffic employees,” Pittman said. “We learned it’s not possible — not because of the lights, but because of the software. There’s no software that gets data on the movement of people.”

That realization laid the groundwork for his startup, which has a first-generation beacon that records whenever a signal-emitting electronic-device passes. The beacons, called Blyncs, can be placed anywhere to monitor the movement of people — on sidewalks, streetlights or even ski lifts.

Since most people carry a connected device in their pocket, Blyncsy can monitor the movement of the majority of the population. The company tracks people using IP addresses, the unique number assigned to each device, performing a real-time traffic study every second of every day.

Ideas like Blyncsy grow best in an environment and facility for thinkers. The recently announced Lassonde Studios at the University of Utah will be a one of a kind facility providing 400 residences, work space and a 20,000 square foot “garage” for students to attend events, network and create the next great business ideas.

“The Lassonde Institute provides cutting edge facilities and staff for business students,” said Troy D’Ambrosio, executive director of the Lassonde Institute. “We’ve partnered with schools from across the state and we believe the statewide collaboration is critical to Utah’s success and longevity.”

At BYU, the Rollins Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology holds contests in mobile app development and business models. The Center also provides annual awards for student entrepreneur of the year and student innovator of the year.

“We enjoy working with our fellow Utah universities to build up the rising generation of student entrepreneurs through events such as the Utah Student 25,” said Lee Perry, dean of the BYU Marriott School of Management. “Our Rollins Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology staff, entrepreneurship faculty and incredible student entrepreneurs have worked hard to earn the No. 2 undergraduate and No. 7 graduate rankings. In addition, we are excited about the Lassonde Studios and the entrepreneurial excitement it brings to the state of Utah. Our program and the program at the Eccles School have become national leaders in the ‘lean startup’ approach to new ventures, and we see many opportunities for further collaboration in the future.”

By injecting the entrepreneurial spirit into education, Utah’s universities are reaping the rewards. BYU is No. 2 in the nation in undergraduate entrepreneurship. The University of Utah ranks high in graduate entrepreneurship programs at No. 17. This seed of entrepreneurism, philanthropy and innovation directly relates to the growing world-class business environment in Utah.

“When you mix education with a bit of grit, innovation and determination, you end up with not only athletic dynasties but also economic dynasties,” said Val Hale, executive director of the Governor’s Office of Economic Development. “Utah’s built an economic dynasty thanks to every hard-working, innovative entrepreneur.”

The state’s collaboration between education, private industry and government is paying off. In five out of the last six years, Forbes ranks Utah as the No. 1 “Best State for Business.” Additionally, Utah maintains the 2015 No. 1 “Pro-Business State” four out of the last five years from Pollina Corporate, a leader in corporate real estate. With a mixture of practical, conservative fiscal and regulatory policies and a population of Utahns who don’t mind getting their hands dirty, Utah’s economic outlook is strong.