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Sam Guo Draws on Ag Springboard Experience at VC firm

Posted: February 14, 2014

2011 Ag Springboarder: Event was ‘the seed that planted my entrepreneurship vibe’
Sam Guo reflects on his 2011 Ag Springboard experience

Sam Guo reflects on his 2011 Ag Springboard experience

Sam Guo, an associate with Fenox Venture Capital and 2011 Ag Springboard runner up, credits his Ag Springboard experience with helping him to succeed in today’s work environment. 

"Ag Springboard was the seed that planted my entrepreneurship vibe," says Guo, adding that he draws on the experience as he collaborates with start-up companies and venture capital firms for investment relationships for Fenox Venture Capital. The San Francisco VC firm helps North American entrepreneurs achieve international expansion in Asia and Europe by accelerating growth of their ideas and helping to launch new products and services. 

"It was fun and good to pursue money," says Guo of competing, "but the process helped me to understand entrepreneurship mentality and thinking." 

Ag Springboard is an annual business plan presentation competition open to undergraduate and graduate Penn State students of all majors. After successfully pitching a business start-up idea, students have the chance to win a grand prize of $7,500. The third Ag Springboard business plan competition finale will be April 10, 2014. Teams must register by March 1, 2014.

Guo didn’t realize the importance of skillfully  pitching a presentation to investors until entering the professional world. The Ag Springboardcompetition is a great way to help students practice, he says. 

"I really learned that the rule of sales is involved into everything. Everything in life is about sales, you have to sell something," says Guo, emphasizing that selling your product or service is paramount in business. 

Guo and his team presented the business concept of using bio-based, starch nanofibers to produce wound dressings. The team, BioSpin Fiber Technologies, finished tied for second place in the 2011 Ag Springboard competition. He went on to graduate in 2012 with a B.S. degree in Engineering Science and a minor in Entrepreneurship. 

Now, Guo is responsible for finding companies that Fenox Venture Capital can invest in to collaborate with start-up companies. He also works in the areas of business development, consulting, and global networking.

Guo discovered Ag Springboard through his involvement with the College of Agricultural Sciences Entrepreneurship & Innovation Program. He describes his participation in Ag Springboard as very useful because it helped with his entrepreneurship journey and helped to get him where he is today, as a professional and at a specific skill level. 

Guo explained that being involved in the competition helped to shape his personal development skills. "One of the most important things is the mentorship," says Guo. The exposure to the professional entrepreneurs, teachers, and other mentors help to build a strong network that is critical throughout the competition and beyond. 

The process provided the opportunity for him to see the successes and struggles that are part of implementing a business plan, says Guo. The starch nanofiber business concept is the area of further research by a current Penn State PhD student. Guo’s advice to students gearing up to compete in this year’s Ag Springboard contest? 

"I think one of the most important things is to try your best and keep trying if you lose. It’s not about the [money] you win, it’s about the experience you get for it."