October 11, 2012
The Jacobs School of Engineering at the University of California, San Diego announced that Jay Kunin has joined the Jacobs School as the inaugural director of the new Moxie Center for undergraduate entrepreneurship. Kunin has had a long career as an entrepreneur, executive, investor and director of technology startups.
“Jay’s extensive entrepreneurial experience in more than 13 companies, deep ties to the San Diego community and his passion for teaching students made him an ideal candidate to build the Moxie Center at the Jacobs School,” said Rosibel Ochoa, Executive Director of the Jacobs School’s von Liebig Entrepreneurism Center.
The Moxie Center opens this fall with a gift from Irwin Zahn and his family through their Moxie Foundation. The Moxie Center will include two student workspaces – one each in the departments of Computer Science and Engineering, and Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering – designed for prototyping as well as meetings and brainstorming. The Moxie Center’s focus on undergraduates complements the Jacobs School’s von Liebig Entrepreneurism Center, which provides faculty and graduate students access to entrepreneurism education, proof-of-concept grants and business mentoring programs.
“I’m an engineer – I like to build things, whether products or businesses,” Kunin said. “The Moxie Center is a great opportunity to build a program to help young engineers realize their dreams.” One of the joys of working with undergraduates is that “they don’t know what they don’t know,” said Kunin, and therefore will attempt new and novel approaches that more seasoned individuals are too cautious to try. An example is PharmaSecure, where Kunin is a Board member, and the acting chief technology officer. The company was founded by two Dartmouth undergraduates, and provides drug anti-counterfeiting solutions to the pharmaceutical industry in India and Indian export markets.
Kunin has been responsible for engineering of a variety of products, including astronomical and oceanographic instrumentation, medical imaging, industrial and consumer pharmacy products, as well as numerous software systems. He has been a co-founder and executive officer of many startups, most recently serving as president of BenSoft, Inc., a software company in the consumer-directed healthcare industry, which was acquired by a public company in 2008. He is also the co-founder of Professional Health Technologies (USA), a strategic consulting firm focused on helping medical products companies from outside the United States navigate entry into the U.S. market.
Students are already taking the first course sponsored by the Moxie Center – a technical elective in Product Design and Entrpreneurship – taught by Nate Delson, a lecturer of mechanical and aerospace engineering. During a recent class, Delson said that it is essential that engineers consider how an end-user interacts with product, and identify how a new product solves a user’s need better than existing solutions. Guest speaker Charles Curbbun, CEO of Carlsbad-based DDSTUDIO, emphasized the importance of thinking about the user experience early in the design process. “There’s nothing wrong with failure as long as it leads to a better experience,” Curbbun said.
Myles Syverud, a fifth-year mechanical engineering major, said he was always very interested in entrepreneurship. He knew Delson and decided to take the class. It is a good introduction to industry and the real world, with real money on the line, he said.
Kunin knows first-hand the importance of funding. He is a long-time angel investor, and served as a board member of Tech Coast Angels from 2004-11, where he headed the BioMed Track. He has also been a consultant to the New Zealand government and Incubators New Zealand on angel investing, and served as a Visiting Fellow for the Australian Institute for Commercialisation. He has served as a board member for entrepreneurial companies in industries including medical devices, protein genomics, and tissue engineering, as well as a variety of software companies in domains including medical, health, legal, financial and internet. He currently serves on the boards of three early-stage companies.
Kunin has been an affiliated scientist with the UC San Diego Division of Biomedical Informatics since its inception; guest lecturer, a Lab to Market judge, an executive mentor at the UCSD Rady School of Management; and a guest lecturer and panelist for the von Liebig Center. He has also been an admissions interviewer for MIT for 25 years.
Kunin earned a B.S. in physical sciences, M.S. in Earth and planetary science, and Ph.D. in computer science from MIT.