University of Southern California

Head in the Game
Entrepreneurship Student Brings Lifelong Talent for Invention to his Studies
January 24, 2014 • by News at Marshall

For Nick Metzler ’16, studying entrepreneurial strategies at the USC Marshall School of Business is about more than just earning a bachelor’s degree. He has immediate plans to put his new business knowledge into practice with a board game, called Squashed, that won him the “Young Inventor of the Year” title at the 2013 Toy and Game Inventor (TAGIE) Awards, held on Nov. 22 in Chicago, Ill.

Metzler has been inventing video games, board games and card games since he was 4. Now, at age 19, he figures he’s come up with more than 20 new games. When considering colleges, Metzler’s entrepreneurial interests and professional goals weighed heavily in his decision to attend Marshall.

“Back in January of 2012, I began my own company, Messy Desk Ideas Inc., and began learning how ideas could be turned to profit,” said Metzler. “Since I am an idea guy in many different fields, I didn’t want to limit myself by choosing a specific major like industrial design. Instead, I wanted to learn how to take any idea and turn it to profit no matter the field. That’s why I chose Marshall and the entrepreneurship major.”

The first time Metzler entered one of his games in a competition was at the Chicago Toy and Games Fair in 2010, when he was a high school junior. In the Young Inventor’s Challenge, 150 youngsters gave presentations about the games they’d invented, and the public voted on them. Metzler won the competition that year with a game he called That’s Cheating, and then again in 2011 with Squashed. Squashed caught the attention of Tim Kimber, the chief executive officer of toy company PlaSmart Inc., which agreed to license the game. It’s now available for sale nationwide; and it was recently listed No. 17 out of 22 recommended toys in TIME for Kids’ Holiday Toy Guide.

While focusing on his studies, Metzler certainly has kept his head in the game. His participation in the Global Leadership Program was a particular highlight. Available to a small number of freshmen, GLP includes a two-semester leadership seminar and a trip to China for meetings with top executives in a range of international companies.

“I have benefited greatly from my time at Marshall,” Metzler said. “As a freshman, I had a global experience that was essential to actually considering global business rather than just staying domestic, something I would not have gotten in any other college or university.”

Metzler said three professors in GLP had lasting and different effects on him. “First, from Dean [James G.] Ellis I learned the great importance of connections in landing a job,” he said. “Second, [Professor of Clinical Management and Organization] Carl Voigt helped me understand how important global business is to success and helped me develop my leadership skills. Last, but certainly not least, [Associate Professor of Clinical Management Communication] Stacy Geck may have had the biggest influence because her business communications class was easily the most important in my development at Marshall and USC so far.”

In Geck’s course, Metzler said he learned vital skills: how to make persuasive and memorable presentations, how to tell a story and interview, and how to write impressive resumes and cover letters. “The class linked everything I had learned from GLP and the connections I had created to how to activate the benefits for future success in business and life,” he said.

“Nick is driven by an inner desire to change the world,” Geck said. “He sees things differently and his thought process automatically begins to strategize about how to make what he sees more applicable, better or more enjoyable. Nick embodies a global leader. He leads by example, and he always takes the time to connect with those along his path to success.”

Geck believes that Marshall’s pedagogy cultivates the creativity and the logic to encourage students like Metzler. “Based on our experiential learning approach and our interdisciplinary focus,” she said, “we help make dreams a reality with a clear and structured academic plan, balanced out with a global perspective and the opportunities to network and learn from the best and the brightest both in and outside of the classroom.”

For Metzler, one of those opportunities came when David Belasco, co-director of Marshall’s Lloyd Greif Center for Entrepreneurial Studies and adjunct professor, invited Mark Burnett, creator and executive producer of the reality TV show “Survivor,” to speak to his class. Metzler asked Geck for help polishing his resume for a summer job on the show and advice on how best to follow up with the producer. Metzler ended up spending 15 weeks in the Philippines working on set for the current season of the show, building, painting and testing challenges for the contestants.

“I did not fully understand the importance of the Trojan Family at the time I was choosing a college,” Metzler said. “It is incredibly strong at Marshall and is the biggest benefit of being at Marshall. That door to the summer ‘Survivor’ job would never have happened if I didn’t attend USC.”

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.