Entrepreneurs at ASU: Reforging the Road to Success

There’s a new trend for the brightest young business minds of today. Skip the traditional method of working your way up the business ladder, found an exciting new business instead and you’re already on top.

For entrepreneur Mark Sholin, this is a reality.

Sholin graduated with his Chemical Engineering B.S. in 2010 from the University of Arizona and entered a Ph.D. program at ASU. While working as a research associate in the BioDesign Institute a certain technology called ARBCell captured his interest and this lead to the founding of ARBSource in August 2011.

The ARBCell is a treatment method for water that is cost and energy efficient. Organic waste in water from a high production facility, such as a potato chip factory, is degraded and eliminated using organisms and a unique reactor design. In the end the water is clean and the process produces hydrogen gas which can be sold or used by the company.

“What I like to say is that ARBSource transforms wastewater treatment from a costly liability into a valuable resource,” Sholin said.

ARBSource, though still pre-revenue, has already been noticed. It is being supported by the ASU Edson Student Entrepreneurship Initiative with a $10,000 investment and it is a finalist in the CleanTech Open, a worldwide competition for cleantech startup businesses.

The CleanTech finals will be held in San Jose, Calif. November 15 and 16. To win the $250,000 prize, ARBSource must beat out 20 other companies.

Sholin credits his company’s success to the young and enthusiastic team behind ARBSource as well as their older, more experienced advisors.

“At CleanTech we were the youngest by far,” Sholin said. “But we show that we’re knowledgeable and credible.”

Being young, in fact, is a benefit, Sholin said. As long as the team stays “leveraged by experienced advisors” youth will make the business more memorable.

Josh Hottenstein, the Arizona director for the CleanTech Open, has worked directly with Sholin and praises the start up. He worked to pair ARBSource with mentors who would be able to foster the newly formed business’ growth.

“CleanTech works to find, fund and foster clean technology entrepreneurs,” Hottenstein said. “Even though it is a competition, we work with every contestant to be their advocate and connect them with mentors in the field.”

Hottenstein said that ARBSource has what a start up needs: a sellable product, unique hook and a solid team.

“There are a lot of ideas in Arizona,” Hottenstein said. “I try to connect them with resources to turn them into a company.”

Will Curran, a senior at ASU and colleague of Sholin’s, said the two of them often brainstorm together about how to build their businesses.

Curran founded and runs Arizona Pro DJs, a business that delivers high quality entertainers and music to events such as birthday parties and High School dances.

“We bring concert and club elements to events,” Curran said.

Curran is a two time ASU Edson Student Entrepreneurship Initiative award recipient and couldn’t be more thankful for the help it gave.

“Edson was huge,” Curran said. “We were able to use that money toward expensive equipment we needed.”

Both Sholin and Curran agree that ASU and the resources it provides was a huge boon to their businesses.

“The learning curve for me and ARBSource was accelerated by ASU’s resources,” Sholin said

“It’s important to utilize all resources, and ASU has tons of them,” Curran said.

ASU’s effort spent on creating an atmosphere that encourages and supports student entrepreneurship has definitely paid off in the cases of Sholin and Curran. Now it’s time to see who will succeed next.


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