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Student-run startup fair connects students to local entrepreneurs

Students at the 2024 edition of Startup Fair LA, which was hosted by Bruin Entrepreneurs, are pictured. (Tszshan Huang/Daily Bruin)

By Alexandra Crosnoe

Feb. 1, 2024 8:19 p.m.

More than 400 students attended the 11th annual Startup Fair LA on Friday afternoon to connect with local entrepreneurs in business, technology and engineering.

The event, which took place from 2 to 5:30 p.m. in the Ackerman Grand Ballroom, was hosted by Bruin Entrepreneurs, which assists students in pursuing business ventures, according to its website. Over 20 startups attended, including social media app Plots, Varda Space Industries and GODE Tech.

Jiajun Ma, the fair’s director, said the fair had two main goals: connect business founders with students and assist UCLA students in finding their first jobs. Ma, who is also a third-year geography/environmental studies and mathematics/economics student, added that he relied on both the Bruin Entrepreneurs network and the James West Alumni Center when reaching out to companies to attend.

“We really want to help founders to find the right talent because UCLA has got such a vibrant and diverse community,” he said. “On the student side, since for all students it is hard to get their very first job, especially in the business domain, so we really want to use our fair as help.”

Ellen Wei, a fourth-year statistics and data science student, said she attended the fair to learn more about startup companies. Wei added that she hoped to learn more about full-time job options at the fair as a graduating senior.

“I’m just looking at my options in different startups that are in the local LA area and getting to know what kind of companies are recruiting at the moment,” Wei said.

She added that she enjoyed how job fairs centralize many career opportunities in one location, making it more convenient to find them.

Throughout the event, students lined up in front of company booths to interact with founders and representatives from startups. Justin Zhou, a first-year business economics and linguistics and computer science student, said one thing he noticed was how passionate the founders were about their companies.

“I see that they all really actually care about their company,” he said. “I can see the spark that they have for the company and the passion and the belief that it might take off and turn into something great.”

Not all students came looking for jobs. Elizabeth Yang, a first-year business economics and cognitive science student, said she visited the fair to look into startups to invest in for her business club, Impact Investing Group.

Yang said while she was at first nervous to interact with representatives from startups, she found them welcoming and willing to share their experiences.

Other startups sought to highlight their products, such as Afterparty, a hangover remedy company founded by UCLA students. Aiden Rubinstein, the company’s CEO, said he created his product to enhance the college party experience in a more affordable manner.

Rubinstein, who is also a third-year philosophy student, added that he was hoping to use the startup fair to highlight where his startup is headed in the future.

“We have a really interesting product,” he said. “We’re looking to really expand Afterparty, really expand our reach and get better every single day and work on getting a product in front of as many eyes as possible.”

Pet 1o7, which provides pet services including personalized parties, cakes and treats, was also in attendance. Lucas Luo, the company’s founder and a fourth-year mathematics of computation and statistics and data science student, said he was particularly interested in recruiting college students because they are willing to put passion into their work.

Ma said his goal for the fair was to include many majors, inviting startups from the technology, engineering and business fields. He added that he consulted the Academic Advancement Program to see how the fair could reflect the diversity of UCLA’s student body.

Overall, Ma said he took pride in the fair’s ability to connect students and startup founders, helping them to grow their networks and companies.

“It’s really about connecting people and helping people,” he said. “I’m really happy to play a support role because I believe my work is playing an impact.”

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Alexandra Crosnoe
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