As a young kid, Anthony Borquez ’94 loved to play video games. “I was fascinated by the graphics and how the television could almost transform you to this different reality,” he says.
That obsession would lead him to his new full-time faculty role at the Lloyd Greif Center for Entrepreneurial Studies at the USC Marshall School of Business.
His passion for technology and entrepreneurship has earned him accolades from students and peers. His popular undergraduate course, “Digital Playbook for Entrepreneurs: Creating a Tech Startup,” earned him a Golden Apple award from his students. He had a packed house for the graduate “Video Game Entrepreneurship” class launched last semester.
"I’ve been fortunate to teach at USC, and I’m still here because every semester, I continue to find so much value and purpose helping students on their journey.”— Anthony Borquez, assistant professor of clinical entrepreneurship
“I feel like I’m learning so much each semester,” he says, “because technology evolves and changes regularly. I’m able to connect with students, and we’re able to identify trends together and apply a lot of these principles of entrepreneurship to new technology that's constantly evolving.”
His track record with building and scaling tech businesses gives him authority on these topics. He’s launched multiple startups, which have had partnerships with Google, Apple and all the big tech players over the years. He’s always willing to share those industry connections with students and alumni pursuing new ventures.
Teacher … and Serial Entrepreneur
Borquez came to USC on a track scholarship and graduated with a business degree in 1994. It was on the strength of his classes there that he plunged into teaching at the Viterbi School of Engineering immediately after graduating. He has been a feature on campus ever since. Along the way, he earned an MS in IT ’98, MA in Communication Management ’08 and a doctorate in Cognitive Psychology ’03.
During that time, he remained captivated by tech, especially its immersiveness and innovation. “I’m always fascinated by new forms of technology and the ability to commercialize them,” he says of his dive into startups. “Any time we hear about new hardware coming out, we think: ‘What are the limits we can push with this platform? How can we take what’s already been done and do something that's never been done?’ It’s in my DNA now, to think about new platforms and emerging technology.”
In 2000, Borquez co-founded Spacient Technologies, an early mobile GPS platform. “We thought about how amazing it would be if you could put a map on your phone and enable businesses to get all this geo-location data from your mobile device.” That was pre-Google maps. He and his team received funding from an early Microsoft executive and were able to scale that business, which was acquired by Trimble Inc.
After that, he developed Blue Label Games. “We started one of the first companies focused solely on creating video games for cellphones,” he says. “The challenge was … when we spoke to venture capitalists, most of them questioned: Why would people play a game on a phone? It’s such a small screen.”
Famous last words. That startup was acquired by Konami and enabled the Japanese gaming leader to become a top worldwide mobile game publisher.
Today, his latest startup, Grab, is working with augmented reality technology, which Apple CEO Tim Cook predicted would have a bigger impact than the iPhone. “Three years ago, we became early leaders in this space given our entrepreneurial mindset and our ability to align ourselves with industry innovators. Embracing change and moving with a sense of urgency have always been part of our company culture.”
Grab has been working with Google on a combination of AR and VR products. They are also building software for Magic Leap, one of the most hyped startups of all time, in partnership with the NBA. In April of 2019, Grab also featured their AR technology at the Masters Tournament, allowing fans to watch the golf course come to life in a tabletop format.
“I love bringing these concepts to the students and exposing them to these technology opportunities. Hopefully, that’s a big value add,” says Borquez. “I’ve been fortunate to teach at USC, and I’m still here because every semester, I continue to find so much value and purpose helping students on their journey.”
His experience as part of the Trojan family has come full circle. His son, Brayden, finished runner-up in the 400M at the California State Championships this year and will be joining the USC track team this fall. Brayden will also be starting Marshall.
It takes a broad skill set to make it as an entrepreneur today, says Borquez. One of his insights on success is: “Surround yourself with amazing people. You become a product of your own environment.” Indeed.