USC graduate student Oliver Laryea

New USC graduate student Oliver Laryea will be majoring in Product Development Engineering at USC Viterbi starting this month. (Photo/Lukas Neasi)


New Trojan ready to get the most of his USC experience

Oliver Laryea — one of more than 2,000 students who start at USC this month — is ready to take advantage of everything the university has to offer, from academics to connections only the Trojan Family can provide.

January 04, 2023 Lilledeshan Bose

As a kid, Oliver Laryea loved putting together Ikea furniture. “I never saw it as a chore,” he said. “I was obsessed with creating things and seeing what you can assemble by taking a thing here and a thing there, where there was previously nothing.

“For me, startups are the vehicle to create something — and give myself the opportunity to become the creator,” said the incoming graduate student at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering — one of more than 2,000 new Trojans who will begin their USC journey this month.

The son of a Ghanaian engineer and a Czech businesswoman, “I was predisposed to working at the intersection between technology, innovation and business,” Laryea said. While growing up in the Czech Republic, he became interested in engineering and startups in high school, when he was selected to intern at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research.

But it wasn’t until he was an undergraduate engineering student at the University of Manchester in England that Laryea discovered his passion for science, public speaking and entrepreneurship. While in Manchester, he joined Accelerate ME, the United Kingdom’s leading student startup accelerator that helps British students build, develop and grow their businesses. He dubbed himself a “pitch coachsultant,” advising the best young founders on how to pitch for investment. Eventually, he took over Accelerate ME, expanding the fund’s portfolio to over 70 startups that have raised more than £6 Million in follow-on funding.

Oliver Laryea in Ghana
Oliver Laryea visits Ghana as part of Plantinos, his business that exports plantains from the West African country to the Czech Republic. (Photo/Courtesy of Oliver Laryea)

Helping others refine business plans whetted Laryea’s appetite for his own entrepreneurship: In April 2020, he founded Helpedu, a nonprofit tutoring organization for parents and students struggling during the pandemic. In 2021, he started Plantinos, a business that exports plantains from Ghana to the Czech Republic. He also has a highly rated podcast geared toward Czech and Slovak students who want to study abroad.

This week, Laryea embarks on a new adventure — as a Los Angeles resident majoring in Product Development Engineering at USC Viterbi. After a campus visit in 2018, he said, “I fell in love instantly. It sounds very corny, but getting into USC really is a dream come true.

“[Other schools] might be great at teaching engineering or entrepreneurship, but I think they miss that creative aspect that Los Angeles is known for,” Laryea said. “USC combines all that perfectly and creates a very unique ecosystem that I’m really excited to be part of.”

USC spring admits: starting in the new year

Each year, several hundred USC students — this year they make up about one-fifth of the freshman class, plus more than 1,200 graduate and professional students — begin their academic journey in the spring.

Among undergrads who start in January, some take advantage of the preceding months to get a jump on their studies at a community college, while others study abroad, work or take a “gap semester.”

USC is among a handful of highly selective universities that offer guaranteed undergraduate spring admission — and unlike most universities, USC doesn’t put students on a waitlist: Once they’re accepted, spring freshmen are guaranteed January admittance and university housing.