Two KU alumni named Pipeline Fellows

Both graduates’ startups were launched through The Catalyst, KU’s student business accelerator

Two recent KU graduates, Austin Barone and Lei Shi, were selected as part of Pipeline’s 2017 entrepreneurial fellowship class, announced at the Innovator of the Year event Jan. 26 in Kansas City.

Pipeline, an elite organization of entrepreneurs located in the Midwest, selects approximately 10 new entrepreneurs to join as Pipeline Fellows each year. Members take part in a yearlong program that includes business leadership development training and advice from a national network of business advisers.

KU business alumnus Austin Barone with Jeffrey Vitter, former KU provost and executive vice chancellor, at KU Innovation and Collaboration’s “Celebration of Innovation: A Startup Showcase” in 2015 (Photo credit: Julie Nagel)

Barone, a KU School of Business alumnus, is co-founder of startup Just Play Sports Solutions, which offers digital coaching tools and an app for players to learn and practice effective preparation. As a student, Barone represented KU at the Pipeline Innovator of the Year celebration in 2016 and pitched his company to an audience of national experts, entrepreneurs and investors.

KU engineering alumnus Lei Shi (Photo credit: KU Marketing Communications)

Shi, who received his undergraduate and doctoral degrees in electrical engineering and was a Self Graduate Fellow at KU, is founder of UAVradars LLC. The company specializes in airborne collision-avoidance sensors for drones and received a Small Business Innovation Research grant from NASA in 2015.

Both Barone and Shi launched their companies through The Catalyst, KU’s student business accelerator.

“We are delighted that two recent graduates are part of the next Pipeline class as they fully utilized assistance from the robust entrepreneurship ecosystem at KU,” said Julie Nagel, president of KU Innovation & Collaboration and associate vice chancellor for innovation and entrepreneurship. “Both Austin and Lei were involved in the entrepreneurial curriculum, The Catalyst, Startup School@KU and were awarded competitive proof of concept funding. They are now growing their companies in Kansas. We look forward to their success, which will certainly be accelerated by Pipeline.”

The Catalyst and Startup School@KU are managed by the KU Center for Entrepreneurship, housed at the School of Business, which helps students and faculty develop entrepreneurial mindsets through education, research and outreach programs. Its services and programs are open to all KU students and faculty.

“Both Austin and Lei studied entrepreneurship at the KU School of Business and created the business plans in those entrepreneurial classes. Just Play Sports and UAVradars, their respective companies, continue to refine their business approaches today using the resources of The Catalyst,” said Wally Meyer, director of entrepreneurship programs at the KU School of Business.

Several other student startups are using The Catalyst resources to expand their businesses; applications for participation are available on its website.

On Jan. 26, Pipeline also featured four University Spotlight Entrepreneurs, including KU engineering student Wilson Hack. Hack pitched intellX Education, a Catalyst company he founded with fellow KU student Max Soto. IntellX Education provides a summer camp-in-a-box to school districts that lack the resources to develop STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) summer camps.