University of Southern California

YPrize Win Jumpstarts MindMeld Labs
Marshall MBA student Software and digital media company wins $50K
February 24, 2012 • by News at Marshall

USC Marshal MBA student Josh Junker '12 wants to breathe new life into the Periodic Table. For the past 15 years, Junker, who teaches college chemistry, has focused on how to improve science education through technology.

"For something as complicated and visual as chemistry is, teaching it is very old-fashioned," said Junker, an instructor at Irvine Valley College. "There are a lot of shapes, architecture and kinetics involved. But how you do you convey that with just the Periodic Table and a flat, static textbook? Then there's a stigma associated with science—that it's hard, or doesn't seem relevant. Maybe that's because there's no dynamic tool for teaching it."

Junker welcomed the $50,000 in funding his company MindMeld Labs won at the 2012 YPrize New Media Business Plan Challenge in January 2012, he is excited to finish the incorporation process, a service provided by Legal Zoom, which he also earned with the YPrize.

Organized by the USC Marshall School's Lloyd Greif Center for Entrepreneurial Studies, the YPrize New Media Competition is open to undergraduate and graduate students, alumni and faculty at Marshall, USC Annenberg School of Communications, USC Viterbi School of Engineering and USC School of Cinematic Arts.

The Young Presidents' Organization and US Trust sponsored the challenge, which is designed to educate and prepare students for creating new business ventures and becoming entrepreneurs. The challenge was held in three rounds; the top three finalists going head-to-head with a final presentation on Jan. 26.

With his on-line learning enterprise centered on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) education slated to launch in fall 2012, Junker said: "Incorporating will give the company the ability to attract venture capital to help build the technical side of the business."

He and his YPrize team members Branden Wermers '12 and Sandeep Sana (MS '12 Viterbi) plan to develop the software and accomplish the wire framing in time for Junker to begin testing the concept on students in his summer school chemistry course. He expects to work out the bugs over the summer to release the software in time for the beginning of the next academic year in the fall.

Junker said winning the YPrize came as the team required some momentum and credibility as they begin to seek backers, as well as "rock star caliber web developers and design gurus."

For Junker, earning a Marshall MBA on top of the Masters in Science he holds from UC Santa Cruz in Chemistry and Biochemistry was a natural reach for someone interested in transforming education through new technologies.

"Education is an enormous market that's unaddressed," he said. "Plus there's a social entrepreneurship element to it. MindMeld can help a lot of people."

About the USC Marshall School of Business
Consistently ranked among the nation's premier schools, USC Marshall is internationally recognized for its emphasis on entrepreneurship and innovation, social responsibility and path-breaking research. Located in the heart of Los Angeles, one of the world's leading business centers and the U.S. gateway to the Pacific Rim, Marshall offers its 5,700-plus undergraduate and graduate students a unique world view and impressive global experiential opportunities. With an alumni community spanning 123 countries, USC Marshall students join a worldwide community of thought leaders who are redefining the way business works.