Mix of skills, viewpoints drives student-entrepreneur success

By Ethan Nash, Voiland College of Engineering & Architecture intern

go-kefi-220PULLMAN, Wash. – Monica Bomber, Amanda Scott and Troy Carpenter sit in a Todd Hall conference room surrounded by half-full mugs of coffee and crushed Red Bull cans.

Bomber, left, Scott and Carpenter.

Crumpled papers are scattered on the floor, and surrounding whiteboards are plastered with borderline illegible lists, charts and graphs in colorful ink.

Aspiring entrepreneurs, the students attend to their buzzing phones, set up impromptu meetings, hash out assignments and solve problems.

Welcome to Go-KEFI, a Washington State University student-led startup business.

Adventures in business – and travel

Finding the right platform for entrepreneurial ideas can be difficult for even the most ambitious college student. But Bomber and her colleagues – one from communications and the other from economics – found a way to bring together their passion for learning with their motivation to create a successful startup through the Harold Frank Engineering Entrepreneurship Institute.

“Through the Harold Frank program, you get to see all the possibilities out there and you learn not to limit yourself. Your possibilities are endless,” said Bomber, a senior chemical engineering student in the Voiland School of Chemical Engineering and Bioengineering.

The idea for Go-KEFI – an experience-based, adventure travel website – came out of a technology ventures class that Bomber and Scott took as part of the Frank program. Go-KEFI.com will allow users to design custom travel by entering their budget, what they want to do and how far they are willing to venture. The site will find locations that fit the users’ criteria.

Students find resources, validation

Bomber is the project’s chief financial officer and chief strategic officer. She is using skills she gained in engineering classes to create financial models and is analyzing strategic steps to move the project forward.

Earlier this year, the team won first place at Startup Weekend Spokane. Read an earlier article here.

“It gave us a lot of validation with our idea,” said Bomber.

“All of a sudden it wasn’t just a class project anymore,” said Scott.

Bomber gives much credit for Go-KEFI’s success to the Harold Frank program. The technology ventures course provides a chance for motivated students from a variety of disciplines to come together for collaboration.

“I just love the atmosphere of the class. It really is there to provide you with resources,” she said.

Unique inspiration, vision

Students in the program also have the chance to go to Silicon Valley in California to meet with WSU alumni entrepreneurs.

“I would strongly encourage anyone who has an interest in starting a business or being in the startup world to do the program,” said Scott. “I know that because of this program, I will go 10 times further in my career. I truly believe that.

“This program is unlike anything on this campus,” she said.

Bomber agrees.

“I love engineering, but I wanted to learn more about business,” she said. “The Harold Frank Engineering Entrepreneurship Institute allowed me the opportunity to learn about how business and engineering work together.”

“If you all see things from the same point of view, you won’t get anywhere exciting,” said Carpenter.

Business launch planned

The Go-KEFI team will participate later this year in several business plan competitions to get more exposure for their business and website. They also hope to launch and test their product prototype on the WSU campus.

Students who are interested in learning more or applying to the Harold Frank program can go to http://vcea.wsu.edu/entrepreneurship/.