Friday, October 30, 2015

LETU Alumnus Wins Big on Shark Tank

A LeTourneau University education equips students to pursue their Christian faith by doing excellent work.  One of our LETU alumni is reaping the fruits of his labors as seen last week on the ABC television network program, "Shark Tank."  Another LETU alumnus is scheduled to appear on the same program tomorrow.

The TV show has become a celebration of entrepreneurial spirit and bold vision.  From our founder to this fall's freshmen, LETU continues to be the place for those seeking bold new solutions informed by the ancient virtues of our faith.

Friday night's episode of "Shark Tank" was a big win for 2001 LETU aviation graduate JD Claridge of Sandpoint, Idaho, who is the founder, president and CEO of xCraft, which makes a revolutionary hybrid unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), or "drone," the X PlusOne.

He and his business partner, Charles Manning, walked into the "Shark Tank" to seek $500,000 in funding for 20% share of their company and walked away with $1.5 million in funding for a 25% share, along with historic participation from all five shark investors.

The five "shark" investors included Mark Cuban, Robert Herjavec, Kevin O'Leary, Daymond John and Lori Greiner, who each put up $300,000 and will each receive a 5% share of the new business.  The sharks are all seasoned investors and entrepreneurs who are as valued for their experience and mentoring advice as for their cash investments.

A video demonstration showed that Claridge's patent-pending, hybrid, remotely piloted aircraft combines the vertical takeoff, hovering and landing capabilities of a helicopter drone, but also can climb to 10,000 feet and turn to fly like an airplane at 60 mph.  It is anticipated to sell for about $1,800.

It also can run autonomously on a flight plan built on a personal computer software.  Claridge and Manning demonstrated the drone as they walked into the shark tank following the aircraft, with Claridge at the controls, landing the aircraft gently on a table before the shark investors.

Claridge, an aerospace engineer, is the inventor of the drone. He and Manning, CEO of a mobile analytics tech company, partnered to commercialize Claridge's design. While in the "shark tank," the team also showed a patent-pending product still being developed that will turn a smartphone into a drone, aptly named the "Phone Drone," anticipated to retail for about $400.

Claridge said we are witnessing a new dawn of aviation--the age of unmanned flight.

At LeTourneau University, we agree.  LETU's new Remotely Piloted Aircraft program is right on the cutting edge of training for this fast-growing field that has immense potential for growth over the next decades to come.

Claridge and his ingenuity in this invention remind me of our LETU founder R.G. LeTourneau who looked for a new, better way of doing things. And with that innovation was a commitment and perseverance to overcome obstacles and succeed.  We congratulate him and wish him all the best.

Tomorrow night, another LETU alumnus Mike Hostetler and Julie Phelps Hostetler are scheduled to appear on "Shark Tank" at 8 p.m. with their business idea called "Rent Like a Champion."  We hope they also find success in the shark tank.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Education Partnership with the C12 Group

Faith and work integration has long been a distinction of a LeTourneau University education.

For 70 years, LETU has combined our legacy of faith and innovation with our world-class business education to inspire students and graduates to share the Good News of Christ around the globe--in every workplace, in every nation.

To further that end, I am proud to share that LETU will soon be announcing a new partnership with a group of America's leading business owners and executives, known as the C12 Group.  This organization, founded in 1992, is one of America's leading CEO roundtable organizations with members who seek to achieve excellence through professional development, Christian accountability and peer sharpening as they conduct business with an eternal perspective in mind.

LETU will begin in January 2016 offering classes to cohorts of C-12 member institutions who can choose from our current undergraduate business programs:  Bachelor of Business Administration, Bachelor of Science in Health Information Systems, Bachelor of Science in Health Care Management, Bachelor of Science in Computer Information Systems; as well as our graduate business programs:  Master of Strategic Leadership, Master of Business Administration, Master of Healthcare Administration and Master of Engineering Management. 

My thanks go to LETU Dean of Business and Technology Dr. Ron Sones and LETU Center for Faith and Work Executive Director Dr. Bill Peel for making this partnership happen.
Our flexible, online formats will allow these C12 students to maintain their busy schedules while completing their degrees.

LETU will benefit from the opportunities to work with established, faith-focused companies that can, in turn, provide valuable internship opportunities for our current students. Research projects can grow out of this partnership to enable LETU faculty and students to help solve company-specific challenges to prove that doing business according to biblical principles is the best way to run a business.

LETU's School of Business & Technology prepares professionals to make an impact for Christ at the intersection of career and God's calling.  Our programs prepare graduates to better understand how to live their faith at work in some of the most demanding and impactful fields.

We stand ready to welcome these new students to LETU, where they can experience the power of an education driven by faith, so the decisions they make in the board room on Monday reflect the same God they serve on Sunday.  Business is a rich environment for strengthening bonds of faith between professional and personal lives, to ensure that the lives we lead bring honor and glory to God.