Director, Student Innovation at PSU Center of Entrepreneurship Juan Barraza
Director, Student Innovation at PSU Center of Entrepreneurship Juan Barraza
Gabriel Flores 0:00
Hello, everyone, and welcome to the shades of entrepreneurship. This is your host, Mr. Gabriel Flores. Today I have one Barraza with me Portland State Innovation. Thank you for joining me on my show today. Juan.
Juan Barraza 0:15
Gabriel, thank you for having me and great to be here. Excited to take a deep dive on entrepreneurship and innovation.
Gabriel Flores 0:23
Yeah, I'm really excited because you know, you you actually work in academia. Right? And you work and you you educate entrepreneurs, right, the future entrepreneurs, so I'm really excited about this. But first, let's get a little background who has won tell the world who is one.
Juan Barraza 0:37
Yeah, thank you. Born and raised in Mexico City. I spend my life in a very cosmopolitan, beautiful city moved to Oregon about 26, six. Each and everything now figured out it's a good place to raise a family. Nobody told me about the rain.
Gabriel Flores 1:00
So so we're moving from Mexico and you realize Oregon's a little wet?
Juan Barraza 1:04
Yeah, definitely a change of pace. And it's not like I said torrential rain is that drizzle, the constant constant result, the overcast clouds. But there's the reason we have such a green environment, trees, everything grows so fast and beautiful. So I have done a lot. benchers created businesses and the boss that I sell businesses about, let's see. Dan, 11 years ago, my last venture that was the first time I needed to raise capital, okay, and it raise capital. So we created this company that if you're familiar with having family that has limited English proficiency, when you go to the hospital, you had to wait for an interpreter. Right, right. Or you bring cussing your son, somebody speaks a language and it's able to interpret for you with the medical providers. So working in healthcare, I realized that that was a big need. And it's still a big need in our community. We decided to launch 10 years too early, a company that will bring certified medical interpreter real time via videoconferencing to assist the collaboration and the conversation at the emergency room, at the hospital, the medical provider precheck appointment for your kids and we develop a pilot with existing technology back in the day, many of us are using Zoom day in and day out now, due to the pandemic that we are going through. But we were one of the first companies they actually use their API, the back end to power. Our solution. We were at a capital I use like any other intrapreneur you have certain amount of capital to be able to build to figure out what is the problem you solve and how you're gonna solve it. And then how you scale and the scaling piece that was very difficult. Healthcare is prime and for innovation and, and disruption. You want to use that word, but there's so much red tape, HIPAA compliance, adoption and everything, there's a lot of checks and balances. If you don't have the right. The right decision maker, clear multi monetization is, is definitely is another so when we closed the company back in 2015, and then a dozen 15, I had my office at the PSU business accelerator down at the Portland State campus. The director of the Center for Entrepreneurship that time is so much technology and some of the resources that are widely available that makes the college experience university experience so much, so much better than when we went to school.
Gabriel Flores 4:15
Yeah. Do you? So what do you feel like what is your biggest learning point from your failed venture?
Juan Barraza 4:24
Definitely figure it out who's gonna pay for your product or service, right? You can have a great product with a great value proposition that will benefit the wrong people, but you don't find a way to get it funded. And I say get it funded as use in the our application for videoconferencing with medical providers is mandate. Title six that requires that any healthcare provider needs to provide a certified medical interpreter, but it's an unfunded mandate and is not to There are ways to, for hospitals to get reimbursed for that. So that, that brings the adoption very difficult because somebody needs to pay for it. Yeah. So just whatever you build to make sure that somebody's gonna pay for it is the right individual. And I give the example. You have kids, if you have kids, and you go to the get to the store, you will see the candy is perfectly positioned right to the level of the kid. They are the target, they are the target consumer, but you are the one who pays paying for that. So using that analogy, make sure that, yes, you're gonna have to find the perfect user for your product or service. But you also do need to figure out who's going to pay for that once you know, that element is a lot easier to replicate. Because now you know, what is the path? So the second piece is ask people what, how they're going to use your product. Sometimes we build things that we like that it's a great hobby to have, but no market. The market to grow is just you and your friends that will buy it, but nobody else.
Gabriel Flores 6:04
Yeah, that's a good point. That's a good point. Now, did you feel like when you were growing up that you always wanted to be an entrepreneur? Or was that something that you kind of grew into?
Juan Barraza 6:17
We didn't have a name for the cleanup. Yeah, we didn't have a name from growing up. Back in Mexico gallon emprendedores. And that was an even until this day is not such a common phrase. But we knew a lot of people that were doing businesses, I was fortunate that growing up I had my parents that were very intrapreneurial and intrapreneurship. And business creation has allowed my family to leapfrog economic mobility. I grew up my mom starting businesses just from from her kitchen table or my dad, I started in wholesale route for food, grocery stores on the weekends, Ryan, I was right there with him and in the cargo van going meeting the store owners and selling them products. So for me, my siblings, seeing that firsthand experience, that is what has planted the seeds for a greater business down the road that we're having a business would allow you to bring higher income to your family provide a lot more than a day to day. Job, right? There's nothing wrong with that. So some folks do great work in industry. So some folks who wants to have that flexibility to to explore and create new things and entrepreneurship is for them.
Gabriel Flores 7:39
Definitely. So let's talk a little bit about the Portland State. The Portland State student innovation department. What what exactly is the student the Portland State student innovation?
Juan Barraza 7:50
Yeah, so at the Center for Entrepreneurship pawrents, the universe Center for Entrepreneurship. We've been around for the last nine years. And from the beginning, we were very clear in our mission, we want to make sure that we create a pathway for the students, faculty and staff at the university to explore what it's like to be an innovator and inventor, entrepreneur. Doesn't matter, you're a freshman, or US graduated, are you pursuing a Masters, or a PhD, everyone has an idea along the way during your time in, in campus. So we created these on ramps where we have different programming that will allow you to explore an idea maybe you just wanted to know if there's a market opportunity for your idea. So you participate in one hour weekend events, or maybe your ad that or you're farther along than that many and you want to figure it out the can you build it. So we have a student competitions like a clean tech challenge or event Oregon nice, where we provide a little bit of funding many times in this case where the first money in, we provide a little bit of funding 90 days to prototype an idea. And that's a very compressed timeline where on there a lot of pressure you are able to figure out if you have something in your hands, or is just a hobby. And then for the students that go through our program for most of our programs, the expectation is not for them to launch a company or greater adventure, but some of them are or many of our students will go into industry will do great work. But some of them decide to either fall for a pattern, larger company from the get go. And we had the RS two Incubator we call the queue where if you already have an idea product, you prototype it, you believe you market you have a little bit of funding, either from friends and family or an actual sell the product product that selling then the string covers for you. And with that one, we flip the formula and we want to poke holes to your idea very fast to figure out what did you need to do to take it to market and get your spot So as close as possible to launching the company and scaling
Gabriel Flores 10:04
Nice. Now, what? You know, I think you kind of mentioned earlier, you know, the word entrepreneur is actually new. Right. And that's it's still relatively new, I think even in the, in the United States and in different places. It's a relatively, it's been a while, but what, what would you say, is the definition of entrepreneurship.
Juan Barraza 10:26
For me, based on my experience, you see a problem in there in the market and your personal life that will benefit people. And you tried to figure out how to solve that problem. Then you tap into your network of friends, or, or you close circle of coworkers, and figure out who has the skill sets to help you build a solution and solve that problem. So for me, an entrepreneur is a problem solver, that is able to connect the dots and bring together the skill sets and they know how to solve a big problem in our personal lives, in our community or around the world. And you don't have to have all the rocket science, education, all you have to do is be able to bring people together. So it's a connector from intrapreneurs a connector.
Gabriel Flores 11:19
Yeah. Now, you mentioned at the start of this, that you had a your own, you know, company, and then they closed the doors in 2015. Or like was, do you currently still run a company?
Juan Barraza 11:30
I don't have right now my main focus. And I will say that with a grain of salt, I don't have a private company owned by me right now, with that said, working at the Center for Entrepreneurship. With the clean tech challenge competition with the inventor and competition, which is a statewide prototyping competition for any student in Oregon, in a way, those are our our ventures or companies, right? We are able to bring invention education, teacher students, college students across the state, they have a background in STEM science, engineering, business or cultural arts, bring them together, and then just put them in that pathway in that sandbox, where they can learn how to rapid prototype and take it to market. So in a way, that is there is a business. Yeah. But there's more focused on the impact on the social entrepreneurship. With the with the social entrepreneurship lens.
Gabriel Flores 12:31
Yeah, that's a great point. What other you know, since you know, you're coming from academia, what other programs do you may be aware of, that folks out there may be unaware of are available to them that may be starting out a new business, or their programs or educational things that folks at home should be aware of?
Juan Barraza 12:50
Yeah, so look in the university, any of the universities across across the state, they have the Center for Entrepreneurship, right. So it will be you are a student in one of the community college or four universities across Oregon. Look at using the front panel ship from University of Oregon, the LEAD Center for Entrepreneurship, University of Portland, the front center, here in Portland State, we have the Center for Entrepreneurship, look at those programs to figure out how to get support outside the higher education ecosystem. You have programs like the Portland incubator experiment, you have built Oregon, they're helping intrapreneurs to figure out how to take their direct to consumer manufacturing products to market or you have a combination of technology software, the political experiment is a good place to start. You only have a recipe, we've got a recipe to market. PCC has a great programs, download, whether from buy buy, I'm seeing that we'll be able to figure out how to take the Recipe to Market. Then you have one of the merkabah in Siena, down in in Saudis, that they will do the same for any director consumer product that has a recipe that needs to be co Packer must produce. Those are the places that will start. Okay, and on top of that there's a lot of resources online that will be able to get you started depending where you are. the darling of intrapreneurship is software companies does easy to get funded, quotation mark and ACPs. But people don't understand them better because require low investment is not capital intensive. When you start getting into manufacturing production and carrying inventory, it gets a little bit more complicated. Why is that you have got an inventory figured out supply chain distribution channels, you got to train people, you got to have a space and facility to fabricate. Right. So you can have 40,000 square feet of manufacturing space to launch a company that will bring a million $2 million in sales, for example, every year, were a software company, all you need is a group of five or three people in a 200 square foot office. All they do is line the code and the once they figured out there, what the software is doing all they had to put it out there on the internet, and they can rapidly grow because they have millions and millions of consumer, the supply chain and distribution is totally different than a direct to consumer. Once you have like, you deserve your salsa or you manufacturing shoes or hearts, then you got to figure out who's going to distribute them get into two different markets, it gets a little bit more complicated.
Gabriel Flores 16:02
And I think you kind of highlighted several things that, you know, young business owners probably don't think about when they're first getting into a business venture. Right? What advice do you give some of the students that are coming into the program? What advice you give them about entrepreneurship?
Juan Barraza 16:21
Get to know your consumer. Before you build anything, before you do anything, you got to do your research, and the research and different aspects. Of course, you got to look at the market opportunity. What is your value proposition? What is unique about your idea that will differentiate you differentiate you from the rest of the competitors in the market. And even when I hear an often I hear saying is that we nobody else is when these were the only ones doing it on as you develop a new kind of technology, biotech engineer something that truly nobody's nobody's done, you will have a competitor out there. So now we have to understand what what makes you different from the market, that is one, but then the part that we miss very often is actually talking to people. Before we build a product or a service, or doesn't matter the software, always manufacturer, you got to talk to people and ask them and observe them, how will you use it, how it tastes, how it feels, and feet. Because once you get their feedback, you're gonna have you're going to be closer to a better market fit. Where people actually from the get go, they will buy your product from day one. And as soon as they grab it, the word they said use it, it will feel right for them. And from there, you can start building. So before you do anything, do you do your research? The easy one is the market. The hardest one is actually going on talking, talking to people and ask them how will they use something that you planning to build a manufacturer of?
Gabriel Flores 18:12
Yeah, and you know, it's kind of funny, we actually, in a previous episode discussed, you know, the difference between primary research and secondary research, right, and the importance of that, because it is important to engross yourself into your consumer to really identify what their needs are to create a product to address those needs. Because if you create a product that's addressing your own needs, that's great, but there your your needs may not be the needs of everyone else.
Juan Barraza 18:38
And that's correct. I mean, if all you like is wearing black and blue is gonna be a limited amount of people that will like to wear black and blue and some a lot more. It's a little more needs and different points of view. So
Gabriel Flores 18:56
yeah, now one of the things you've said you said it at the beginning of this conversation, you recently said it again, is value proposition. Can you kind of explain to the listeners at home? What value proposition is?
Juan Barraza 19:09
What makes you unique, right? What is your product unique and what problem are you solving. To give you an example, some great company that skier growing Oregon is brassy bites is Brazilian cheese breads. So you're from South America, you have the pleasure of growing up with a brush Sheila Brazilian cheese bread which is has a center a gooey cheese on it and once it comes out of the oven, you can stop eating that sounds
Gabriel Flores 19:40
Juan Barraza 19:43
He does right so they figured out how to manufacture it and replicate the recipe that is being kind of generation over generation. But their value proposition rather than going to the main market to the beginning was All their ingredients that was to appeal to the gluten free individuals. So a great number of folks out there that cannot eat gluten. So they go to specialized stores to buy this products are gluten free to be able to enjoy the things that you and I take for granted in our day to day meal. So that was the value proposition. I started with a gluten free marketplace, they go into those markets, it took a while for them to get there. But once they hone in on that demographic, they were able to span to the mass market. And now you can go to Costco, or any convenience stores and buy brassy bites. But their value proposition is that healthy and gluten free. And the folks that need that kind of meal, they will go and grab it there for that and all of us will fall.
Gabriel Flores 20:57
Yeah, yeah, that's a that's a great point. Now, you know, you mentioned you start your own business, and then you closed the doors now in academia, looking back on everything, what advice would you give a younger one?
Juan Barraza 21:18
Do as to what to describe, do your market research, right. And also figured out who's gonna pay for it could be a great idea. But there's no way that you can get it funded. And as a funder, this, people will not be able to buy it as easily, it may be just a moot point where you can still build it, but it's gonna be for a few. Second one, build a team. intrapreneurship is a very long winded road, the hassle of a stop angles Hollywood and Silicon Valley has given us this perception that funding a company or that company is so cool and exciting, which it is to a point but they forgot to mention all the battles you have to fight and day in and day out. So it's a very lonely road. So is better done with a team that complements your skill set. The earlier you can bring somebody that complement the knee or brings the skill so that your company needs the better, right. So us for today's marketing and business development. And you need somebody with science or engineering background, try to find the individual as soon as possible in your 40s, engineering and science and you can build a product, you got to bring the business development and grow the team from there. So do your homework. And make sure that you have a path to monetization and build your team early. Then surround yourself by other founders. Because then you can talk to folks that can relate to your experience. I can tell my wife and friends what it's like to build a business and the heart aches, pressures the this entails. They can relate to that they can be sympathize with what I'm going through, but another founder will definitely will be able to a get it right away and be provided with that by some maybe a solution for your problem.
Gabriel Flores 23:18
Yeah, do you would you do anything different?
Juan Barraza 23:26
I would have different group, but we're abroad. They make a co founder earlier that there could have been my
good expedited to find out it will have something there. I mean, self dot programming and HTML, um, other computer software to use to be able to build a filter first prototype, I could have definitely done a lot of things faster with a technical co founder on onboard. Nice.
Gabriel Flores 23:52
So for the folks at home that might be interested to learn about the Portland State entrepreneurship program. How do they get a hold how they find information, how they get a hold of you if they want to contact you?
Juan Barraza 24:01
Very simple. You want to go to Portland State University and just Google orange State University Center for Entrepreneurship. That's an easy way to get a hold of the progress that we do the center. If you're in Twitter, just look for one Barraza at one Boris and Twitter, the CC and I can share my email that you can put later on the on the podcast so
Gabriel Flores 24:27
perfect. Okay, perfect one by Raza. Thank you so much for joining me on the shades of entrepreneurship for those at home. Thank you and good night.