Zac Graber in front of Mason Hall

Zac Graber (BSBA ’18) discovered his passion for entrepreneurship at Ohio State, a journey that ultimately culminated in his selection as a recipient of the President’s Prize, the university's highest recognition bestowed on exceptional students committed to social change.

Using his Fisher experience and lessons learned from his work with the President’s Prize, Graber has continued to explore and lead exciting new startup ventures.   

Now that you’ve been out in the workforce for a few years, tell us about some of your recent accomplishments.   

I was given the opportunity to be the representative of the Fall 2018 class to speak to the Board of Trustees and other honored guests at the pre-commencement luncheon. 

I recently became the operations manager for Matrix Meats, where we are about to complete (knock on wood) a $3 million seed series. Also, I have been building my own startup, Opendemia, that we beta tested this spring with about 150 students from over 50 schools. We just launched version 1.0 at the end of August. We are keeping the website completely free due to COVID (although we’ll always have a free version), so students with a writing assignment on their syllabus this semester can check out the resources available at 

How have Ohio State and Fisher equipped, prepared you or made a difference in your career?  

Zac Graber presentation
Zac Graber speaks at the 2018 Ohio State Board of Trustees Pre-Commencement Luncheon.

I think Ohio State is a great example of the real world. It is a massive university and campus with some of the best resources and opportunities in the world; but finding and accessing those resources can be a challenge. I spent too much of my time at Ohio State trying to navigate the complexity of everything the university has to offer. Because of this, I now always look for opportunity, and many times, it is never as far away as you expect. 

Do you have a favorite business faculty member or mentor who helped shape who you are today?  

There are countless individuals who contributed to my being where I am at today. If I had to give a special shoutout, I would say (Assistant Professor of Operations Management) Christian Blanco was a supportive advisor for my undergraduate research project which helped lead to my President’s Prize selection. Additionally, Tim Raderstorf (instructor of clinical practice and chief innovation officer at the College of Nursing), who I didn’t connect with until the very end, if not right after graduation, has been extremely supportive for all of my entrepreneurial endeavors! 

What is your favorite business school-related memory from Fisher?  

During the fall semester of my senior year I was taking the Strategic Management capstone course. It was a cold November morning and I was running late for my group’s 8 a.m. final presentation. I rushed out the front door of my house, slipped on some black ice and fell down the steps. I got up, checked that my laptop wasn’t broken and then felt a breeze. I had torn my pants straight down the crack. I had to run back inside, quickly change, exit cautiously this time and then jog to class.

I got to class out of breath, but just in time to begin presenting. A couple minutes into the presentation President Drake and a group of others walked in. He asked my professor if we could take a quick pause in class and then he awarded me the President’s Prize. It was a wild half hour to say the least! 


Did you have a favorite spot on campus? 

Scott Traditions Dining Hall. I know what you are thinking: it’s like picking recess as a kid as a favorite subject; but I actually did a lot of my best work there, including drafting my President’s Prize application and brainstorming Opendemia business plans. Something about it always screamed "college” to me. Plus, there was tons of brain food, coffee and tea to keep you focused and conveniently located beside Fisher and Jesse Owens North. 

Graduating from Ohio State meant...

I was now part of one of the largest alumni networks in the nation. I felt like I had squandered some of the opportunity a massive university like Ohio State affords its students, and I was determined to make up for that moving forward. However, I was able to avoid having to start my alumni journey cold turkey because of my work with the President’s Prize, and because some of my friends were doing “victory laps,” which allowed me to stay ingrained in the Ohio State ecosystem a little longer! 

Describe the impact that winning the President’s Prize had on your development as an entrepreneur? 

Zac Graber and Michael Drake
Zac Graber and former president Michael Drake during a halftime recognition of the President's Prize recipients.

This opportunity was challenging both personally and professionally. It threw me into a role that would usually require at least three to five years of experience. It required me to learn at an accelerated rate and, of course, fail at an accelerated rate. Learning how to deal with and move on from failure for a project that would go nowhere without my effort was overwhelming at times but was invaluable experience for exactly what it’s like running a startup! 

Circling back to present day, tell us a little more about your current ventures.

Our mission at Matrix Meats is to develop and manufacture the foremost nanofiber scaffolds to support the production of clean, healthy, tasty and environmentally friendly cultured meat to ethically feed the world. We create scaffolding and microcarrier solutions that help cultured products proliferate and differentiate more efficiently. Between my time at Ohio State and summer internships, I gained experience in operations, supply chain, brand and project management that have been crucial to helping run the operations of a startup company. 

As an undergraduate student who was conducting and writing multiple research papers (which helped lead to the President’s Prize), I quickly realized that students are regularly given research and writing assignments, and many are left feeling unprepared and overwhelmed by the task. So, I set out to make my own solution — Opendemia, a website that makes it easy to keep notes organized, automates the in-text citation and full works cited process, and saves it all for future use. Most students hate getting writing assignments; we help them complete them more quickly and easily, with the goal of stoking their interest in research while creating and disseminating more knowledge in the process. 

I mocked up wireframes, assembled a team and went from a minimum viable product to beta to now v 1.0. We currently have users ranging from high school students to PhD candidates from hundreds of schools.  

What advice would you give to a current student or recent Fisher graduate?    

Take advantage of everything Ohio State has to offer early and often. Try out different clubs and actually search for something that resonates with you. I waited far too long before finding the opportunities I could have enjoyed years earlier. 

Learning how to deal with and move on from failure for a project that would go nowhere without my effort was overwhelming at times but was invaluable experience for exactly what it’s like running a startup!

Zac Graber (BSBA '18)