A Gift of Masks

Marshall alumnus and entrepreneur donates 200K masks to USC

August 18, 2020

Daniel Rice ’19, knows more about face masks than most people. That’s because he’s in the business.

He’s the president and co-founder (along with Roger Zhang and Alan Bidgoli) of Upside Health Inc., a developer, importer and distributor of FDA 510(k) approved face masks to clients including first responders, health care organizations and the federal government.

We’re spec developers,” he said. “We aim to provide the highest standard of protection to the communities that we’re able serve.”

Upside Health Inc. is able to get the FDA approval thanks to its adherence to ASTM standards, ISO quality control, and implementation of quality management systems. American Society of Testing and Materials (ASTM) is an international standards organization that develops and publishes technical standards for a wide range of materials, products, systems and services. It is the gold standard for any medical device.

As Upside expanded from wholesale retailers to healthcare professionals and government agencies, they’ve shifted manufacturing to not only meet the overwhelming demand but also higher regulatory standards of FXX Class II medical devices.

Rice realized that the USC community would benefit from its supply of its surplus masks.

“We’re so fortunate to be able to donate after only four months,” he said. The company donated the masks on Friday, August 14.

Becoming a Trojan

Rice grew up in Shanghai, but his father grew up in Southern California, and loved the Trojans even though he went to that school across town.  In the course of his business he established close connections with USC Marshall, so much so that Rice became friends with professor Carl Voigt when he was in middle school.

He attended Emory for two years before transferring to USC.

“Marshall is synonymous with entrepreneurship education,” he said. “And being half Chinese and bilingual, its partnerships and reach beyond the Pacific Rim were attractive to me.”

The Pain Point

But when Rice arrived at USC, he was already busy launching his business with hangover prevention jelly supplements and didn’t have any time to participate in pitch competitions.

When COVID-19 shut down the party scene, Rice and his partners quickly realized a massive pain point: There were not enough medical-grade masks to meet the suddenly massive need.

Rice reached out to a connection in Shanghai who was involved in the healthcare industry. Within a few intense weeks of preparation, Rice and his team were able to streamline and control their entire supply chain from production to quality control, compliant export and imports, and ultimately, distribution.

In four months, Rice and his team went from selling a few thousand masks to retailers to selling government agencies and healthcare institutions millions of masks.

It couldn’t have happened without the efforts of a team of student volunteers, including two recent Marshall graduates, who helped Upside model its reorder and equilibrium inventory quantity.

“Mark Cheong ’20 and Alison Tong ’20 had both just finished their BUAD311 course in operations when we had them come onboard to do a case study,” he said. “We eventually used that as a standard for our inventory management.”

“We’re here today because everybody has worked hard and pulled together,” he said. “Without my co-founders and our team of student volunteers, we would not have been in a position to give back to USC. “