This seven-person founding team has four different products in four different industries and is shooting for the sky (in some cases, literally).
Company: VIRES Engineeering
Headquarters: Berkeley, CA
Founder: Harshil Goel, 20; Jordan Greene, 20; Jason Forslin, 19; Jeremy Fiance, 21; Zachary Hargreaves, 23; Matt Fay, 22; Timothy Lee, 20
Year Founded: 2010
There's a start-up out in California with grand plans to revolutionize the automobile industry...and the recycling industry, the renewable energy industry, and, oh yeah, the drone industry.
When it comes to ambition, the seven (yes, seven) founders of VIRES Engineering, a start-up out of University of California Berkeley, may be unrivaled.
It all started with a science project. Co-founders Harshil Goel and Jason Forslin were high school students in San Ramon, California and decided to build an automobile transmission for class. Of course Goel and Forslin (who a third co-founder, Jordan Greene lovingly refers to as "savants") didn't build just any auto transmission. Theirs was an all-mechanical transmission, which would be super energy efficient at high speeds and maximize torque at low speeds. This transmission, known as the Virtually Infinite Rotary Exponentiation System, was the first of the start-up's many products and gave the company its name.
In 2010, Goel met Greene, the lone business major on the VIRES team, in his freshman dormitory at Berkeley. "Harshil and Jason are mechanical engineers, mathematicians, and physics people," Greene says. "They're solely invested in making the product. I really wanted to help them move the business forward."
Since then, Zachary Hargreaves, Matt Fay, Jeremy Fiance, and Timothy Lee, all Berkeley students with backgrounds at NASA, Tesla, and Boeing, respectively, have joined the founding team. Their policy, Greene says, is to let each founder work on a project he’s passionate about, which is how VIRES ended up with four products right off the bat. In addition to the transmission, there's a plastic recycling machine that reduces plastic bottles to flakes or pellets that can then be sent back to companies like PepsiCo or Coca-Cola to reuse. Then there's VIRES's novel wing design for unmanned aerial vehicles, which increases their stability and enables drones to carry 200 to 400 percent more weight. To top it off is VIRES's high-power wind turbine, which Greene says they built for about $5. "It's like a think tank of engineers," says Greene. "It's like if Thomas Edison's lab were to go commercial."
Buoyed by an impressive product line, VIRES has gotten plenty of outside support. The founders are part of the student-run entrepreneurial group Kairos Society and were the first company admitted to i-GATE, an incubator sponsored by the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. They've raised enough money, Greene says, to cover their costs "easily," and have gotten attention from notable venture capitalists and corporations (though Greene's not naming names).
According to Brandon Cardwell, i-GATE’s vice president of programming, the most immediate market opportunity is for VIRES’s recycling machine, but every one of the company's products has huge potential. "They didn't want to let go of any one technology, which I appreciate," he says. "Instead, they said, 'Let's bring more people on to use their muscle, and we'll see who crosses the finish line first.'"
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Thank you to these organizations that provided nominations: Baylor University Hankamer School of Business, Belmont University, Brevard Community College, Brigham Young University, C. T. Bauer College of Business at the University of Houston, Carroll School of Management - Boston College, Chapman University, Clarkson University - Reh Center for Entrepreneurship, Collegiate Entrepreneurs' Organization (CEO), Dartmouth Entrepreneurial Network (DEN), Empact 100, Entrepreneurship Group at U.Va., Griggs Center for Entrepreneurship & Philanthropy, Abilene Christian University, Harry C. Piper Center for Vocation & Career - St. Olaf College, Harvard Innovation Lab, Harvard University, Johnson County Community College, Kairos Society, Kauffman Global Scholars Program, Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship, NC State University Entrepreneurship Inititative, Northwestern University, Robert H. Smith School of Business - University of Maryland, College Park, Social Enterprise Institute at Northeastern University, SoTechie Spaces, Studio for Creative Inquiry at Carnegie Mellon University, SUNY Ulster, The Edson Student Entrepreneur Initiative at Arizona State University, The Lemelson-MIT Program, The StartingBloc Fellowship, The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, University of Southern California, Yale University, Young Entrepreneur Council