February 06, 2020 • By Sydney Charles
Aaron Anderson, double UCI alumnus in International Relations (’13) and Business Administration (’18), is many things: an army veteran, founder of The Green Beret Foundation, a father and a fighter for the things he believes in. However, his most recent accomplishment is becoming CEO of Vusar–an immersive visual tool that enables product designers to interact with their inventions in the real world.
The Vusar app allows product development companies to interact with design concepts and to share and view their product at scale in the real world. This allows designers to better communicate their ideas and reduce prototyping costs. Currently, Vusar is being used by UCI’s solar race car team as well as the mechanical engineering school and is available to download on the Google Play and iOS app stores.
“The Beall Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship was an amazing opportunity for my team,” said Anderson. “My co-founders and I all went through the Executive MBA (EMBA) program, and we were inspired to show what we could do and add to the pipeline of cool new startups at UCI.”
Through the Center, Anderson was able to build a diverse team on campus–composed mostly of UCI students–to create Vusar. Anderson’s drive to help his community through technology traces back to the transformative experiences he gained after enlisting in the U.S Army Special Forces following 9/11.
“With a different mindset, and different life experience from being in the military, along with the things that had happened to me, I was able to give back to the younger generation,” he explained.
One of the defining experiences from the military that changed Anderson’s outlook on life was getting hit by an improvised explosive device–an anti-tank mine that almost took his life in February 2006.
“That to me was a life-changing, 180 in a split second. I wanted to continue to go even further, I wanted to go into Delta Force, the CIA,” he explained. “Then suddenly, I couldn’t do that anymore, my legs were damaged way too badly. Also, I didn’t want to sit behind a desk in the military. There’s nothing wrong with that, but with my mentality and mindset, I couldn’t handle that.”
Due to the tumultuous events he experienced, Anderson became inspired by other injured veterans, their families and the struggles they’d endured. In response, he founded The Green Beret Foundation: an organization devoted to providing resources for the Army’s Special Forces. Anderson’s work with The Green Beret Foundation was acknowledged in President Barack Obama’s 2014 UCI commencement address.
Pursuing Higher Education
Soon, Anderson set his sights on applying his army learned skills elsewhere–entrepreneurship. He wanted to start his own company, and the Merage School was a perfect fit in his eyes.
He said, “I chose UCI because it’s a great local name brand. Also, the business community in Orange County is top notch and I’d like to be able to make a meaningful impact locally. UCI and The Paul Merage School of Business are early adopters and are willing to try new things. UCI, as part of the UC system, is a research powerhouse that serves as an innovative hub for all of California. I want to be a part of creating a great legacy for the UC system, UCI and the business school.”
Through his degree and classes at the Merage School, Anderson was able to navigate the vision for Vusar:
“Through the program, we were able to understand the customer, which is what you do in business school; you learn how to identify things. There’s more to business school than just identifying problems, but that’s what we were focused on, and that’s the lens we brought into the classroom. Learning things about management, leadership, finance and marketing, and addressing that from the standpoint of ‘we want to create this new technology.’”
Trailokya Shrestha, a project management intern with Vusar, said, “Aaron has allowed Vusar to really excel through his expertise in business and work ethic. What really shines through is how much he truly cares about the company and the students working under him. He is a fantastic people person and is always approachable and understanding, which I believe is a great characteristic to have in his line of work.”
Anderson’s pursuit to assist the next generation of brilliant minds continues daily with Vusar.