Bruin Entrepreneurs with Nathan Lim

An interview with Nathan Lim, the President of Bruin Entrepreneurs, on their student entrepreneurship initiatives and how to get involved.
February 19, 2024
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Background

Nathan Lim is a third-year undergraduate student at UCLA studying economics. Nathan is the President of Bruin Entrepreneurs. Bruin Entreprenuers is a student-led organization that started in 2013 and runs several initiatives throughout the school year to support student entrepreneurship. I talked with Nathan about Bruin Entreprenuers’ various initiatives, how students can get involved, and how to join the internal team. 

Highlights

  • Some of the more prominent startups coming out of Bruin Entreprenuers’ Startup Labs Bootcamp include Duffl, Kona, Charipay, and SmartBooks.

  • While students have to go through an application process to join the Startup Labs Bootcamp, the rest of the Bruin Entrepreneurs programming is accessible to any student interested in entrepreneurship.

  • Bruin Entrepreneurs are working on resources, like an entrepreneurship ecosystem map and events that bridge UCLA students with other university students and the broader entrepreneurship ecosystem. 

Interview Transcription

Kieran: Hey, Nathan, thanks for joining me today. Do you want to introduce yourself?

Nathan: My name is Nathan. I am a third-year undergraduate Bachelor of Arts (BA) candidate at UCLA. I’m studying economics and am very interested in business and startups. I’m presiding over Bruin Entrepreneurs, the premier entrepreneurship organization on campus. 

Kieran: How did you learn about the organization on campus?

Nathan: Typically, people find out about the club through word of mouth and social media. During my freshman year, one of my close friends was on the board for Bruin Entrepreneurs. So, that’s how I got to learn more about the club and when I started to get involved.

Kieran: Before we dive into the questions, can you share background information and history about the organization?

Nathan: Bruin Entrepreneurs was founded in 2013, so it’s one of the newer clubs on campus. Our team has ~35 active board members. We have project coordinators who help plan events and some project managers and directors who oversee our events and initiatives.  

Kieran: Bruin Entrepreneurs runs various initiatives, including Weekly Nights & 1000 Pitches, Startup Labs Bootcamp, Startup Fair LA & BruinLabs, and Media & Designathon. Can you give a quick overview of your programming?

Nathan: Weekly Nights & 1000 Pitches are our flagship events since they happen every week during the academic year. We host the Weekly Nights event every Tuesday in our co-working space on campus, where we invite students with any background or interest in entrepreneurship to attend our speaker series or activities to learn more. We hope their involvement will grow their interest in the field. 1000 Pitches is also one of our entry-level activities, where we invite a thousand students on campus to present an elevator pitch. It’s a competition; we narrow it down to where someone receives a final prize. So, both of these events are great introductions to entrepreneurship for people who want to learn more about the space or develop their ideas. Startup Labs Bootcamp is more of an advanced program. It’s an in-house accelerator program we offer on campus during the winter and spring quarters. It is one of our most popular initiatives. We invite students to form teams and hone in on a startup idea. They will have several weeks in our co-working space where they get mentored by professionals and our team to develop, ideate, and go through the entire design-thinking process to be ready to present their ideas at the commencement of the program, a final demo day with a panel of judges. Startup Fair LA is another one of our entry-level opportunities for students here on campus. It’s also an opportunity for us to engage with startups that want to work with our organization. So, during the winter quarter, we host a career fair, but it’s focused on startups to hire talent for their teams. Startups come to campus to recruit UCLA students, including engineering, marketing, and additional opportunities. Many UCLA students really look forward to this event. The last initiative is Media & Designathon. Media is more of an internal team that focuses on the design aspects of our organization. This includes marketing, graphics, assets, brand identity, and governance and compliance for accessibility. That team also hosts Designathon, and I had the pleasure of directing that program this past spring. So, a Designathon is much like a hackathon but for those who want to focus on the design aspect of an idea. So, this past year, when we hosted the event, it was an all-day event where teams had 7 hours to design a solution to a couple of ideas we were actually sponsored by UCLA Residential Life, so they created a challenge prompt for our teams to focus on during that competition. That is another great entry-level program for people interested in the design thinking process but don’t have to commit fully like some of our other programs. It’s very much an entry-level opportunity for people interested in design. That is a rundown of our initiatives, which run year-round during the academic year. 

Kieran: For Startup Labs Bootcamp, who are some professionals involved? Is it founders, investors, or operators from startups?

Nathan: All of the above. We’ve had partners from VC firms, past winners, and notable alums from the program. One of our startup alumni includes Duffl, a delivery service for college students where they deliver goods on scooters in as fast as 5 minutes. Other startups from the program include Charipay, Kona, and SmartBooks. Many Startup Labs Bootcamp startups grew to become bigger things, and many of those members have come back to mentor the teams during the program.

Kieran: Is there any additional support for the alumni? 

Nathan: Typically, we just focus on the students. They typically go on to get funding on their own, but BE is working on the entrepreneurial ecosystem map, which one of our presidents started and created a few years ago. We’re currently developing it so our media team can publish it in a web format. Right now, it’s just a working document. The goal of this map is to allow anyone, from those interested in entrepreneurship to those working on their venture, to get resources, from what entrepreneurship is and what design thinking is to how I can get funding and venture capital support for my venture.

Kieran: For 1000 Pitches and Startup Labs Bootcamp, what do they get if they win these initiatives? 

Nathan: Typically, it is a monetary prize through our university funding or sponsors.

Kieran: Can you give an overview of the application process? I saw on your website that you recruit in the Fall and Winter. It’s a written application followed by a couple of interviews. What are you looking for when selecting students?

Nathan: The recruitment that is posted on our website is typically for the organization’s board. So, that application is to become a project coordinator for internal teams to create these initiatives. So, the application is for people interested in planning Startup Labs Bootcamp, Weekly Nights, etc. They get to choose which initiatives they want to work on. In terms of applying to be a participant in our initiatives, it varies based on the initiative. For Weekly Nights, we post it on our calendar and people can come as they wish without even needing to RSVP. The same goes for Startup Fair LA – we ask them to sign up and submit their resumes so we can send a resume book to our clients who are a part of the event. Other initiatives may require a more intensive application process, like Startup Labs Bootcamp, so we can ensure we have a good amount of people and those who have some entrepreneurial experience. Otherwise, we recommend them to one of our other programs, such as BruinLabs, which is basically a summer version of Startup Labs Bootcamp but more entry-level focused. With all of our applications, including to be a part of our internal team, we focus on interest in entrepreneurship. Initiatives like Startup Fair LA, Weekly Nights, and those that are entry-level are very inclusive. We typically accept all applications. For project coordinators on one of our internal initiatives, it depends on how much space we have and our resources for our incoming project coordinators. Typically, we just look for interest in entrepreneurship and project management skills. We try to be as inclusive and holistic as possible. 

Kieran: What do you see as the biggest opportunities to improve Bruin Entrepreneurs in terms of how you support founders? 

Nathan: One of the biggest things I am trying to figure out is how to make our resources as inclusive as possible. I mentioned the entrepreneurship ecosystem map we are trying to make publicly available on our website. I hope the resources we make and continue to build on will allow for really accessible and equitable opportunities for anyone interested in the entrepreneurship space and those who are already working on a venture. I want to ensure that those resources can be easily found and marketed well so people know they exist. 

Kieran: What is the best way to plug in for people who watch this video and want to help this community? Is it to sponsor an event, reach out to offer themselves as a resource, or something else?

Nathan: I think both. It’s the first year we’ve had a dedicated focus on sponsorships. When I became president, this was one of the big things I implemented in our organization. My goal is to find sponsors to help make these events possible, whether through funding or support, but also by providing resources to student entrepreneurs. I want to make some of our events available to any university student, regardless of whether they attend UCLA. When I first had the opportunity to direct Designathon, it was near the end of our spring quarter, when many other universities are out who are on the semester system, so that event was targeted to university students who could come out to UCLA’s campus. So, we did have non-UCLA students participate in that. So, making sure when we get support from sponsors to include all university students interested in entrepreneurship. Similarly, the entrepreneurship ecosystem map is for everyone, too. 

Kieran: Is there anything that I didn’t ask about that you think is important to know for students considering Bruin Entrepreneurs?

Nathan: One thing I can say about the entrepreneurial space is that everyone should play around with it. Everyone has a great idea or the potential to create an idea. A tagline of the organization is to be the next big thing. Everyone has the potential to play around with that tagline in whatever practice they are in. Entrepreneurship is being able to problem solve. So, whether it is Weekly Nights, 1000 Pitches, Designathon, or any of our entry-level events, it’s always good to play around and discover your potential. So, I think that’s what Bruin Entrepreneurs is. One of our biggest goals here on campus is to support all students.