Last Jan­uary, Carlos Vil­lalobos picked up and moved to San Fran­cisco to work on co-​​op as a dig­ital mar­keting spe­cialist for Adobe Sys­tems, the multi­na­tional com­puter soft­ware com­pany. He loved the job, working remotely from little cafés, talking shop with his For­tune 500 clients, and helping the big-​​name sports, retail, and banking brands pro­mote their goods and ser­vices through online media.

But his greatest joy of living in Cal­i­fornia derived from exploring his new envi­ron­ment and get­ting to know its merry band of ambi­tious entre­pre­neurs. He chatted with Jack Dorsey, the co-​​founder of Twitter. He hung out in Sil­icon Valley, observing the daily grind of the startup life. He watched with wonder as his fellow pas­sen­gers on the bullet train tapped away on their lap­tops, coding new apps and web­sites with unfet­tered fervor.

And then and there, in the midst of entre­pre­neurial reverie, he glimpsed a future in which he had claimed a patch of fer­tile land in this vibrant ecosystem of new­fan­gled ideas. “I was bitten by the tech bug,” recalls Vil­lalobos, DMSB'15. “Seeing these big com­pa­nies suc­ceed pushes you out of your com­fort zone and makes you want to get out there and start some­thing of your own.”

In the spring, he turned his words into action, co-​​founding Bökeh, a wire­less enabled camera lens that con­nects to the iPhone. Vil­lalobos, a fourth-​​year busi­ness major from El Sal­vador, con­ceived of the idea, which is cur­rently in the pro­to­type phase, while taking notes in class. “I really like taking photos from cool angles, but I found myself not knowing how they would turn out,” he says, noting Bökeh's supe­rior res­o­lu­tion. “Why not design a camera lens that could help you snap this per­fect picture?”

Bökeh—a Japanese term for the aes­thetic quality of the out-​​of-​​focus areas of a pho­to­graphic image—has drawn the interest of local student-​​run ven­ture firms as well as the movers and shakers in Northeastern's entre­pre­neurial ecosystem. Last month, Vil­lalobos and his co-​​founder Diego Rivas, E'16, dis­cussed Bökeh with Hugh Courtney, dean of the D'Amore-McKim School of Busi­ness, who, Vil­lalobos says, “imme­di­ately fell in love with the con­cept.” In short order, Courtney con­nected the bud­ding entre­pre­neurs with a trio of men­tors, North­eastern pro­fes­sors who spe­cialize in con­sumer elec­tronics, lean design, and mass man­u­fac­turing. IDEA, Northeastern's student-​​run ven­ture accel­er­ator, con­nected Vil­lalobos and Rivas with lawyers, who are cur­rently helping them file for intel­lec­tual prop­erty and reg­ister Bökeh as a Lim­ited Lia­bility Company.

“Bökeh is gaining fear­less trac­tion, and we believe we've built strong momentum to launch this product in the upcoming months,” Vil­lalobos says. “North­eastern has been extremely sup­portive, and one meeting has led to another with someone else who has been able to help us fur­ther its development.”

Up to the point of his Cal­i­fornia dream to try his hand at entre­pre­neur­ship, Vil­lalobos had been nothing if not a tire­less worker with a pen­chant for absorbing and imparting boun­tiful knowl­edge. He rose early to make the most of each day, sought advice from saga­cious friends and col­leagues, and shared his own nuggets of wisdom as a res­i­dent assis­tant and brand ambas­sador for Strik­ingly, an intu­itive web­site builder. But Bökeh, he says, would never have come to fruition if not for his Cal­i­fornia co-​​op.

A few months ago, Vil­lalobos told the Twit­ter­verse why co-​​op has trans­formed his life, tweeting “#iheart­coop because I was able to move to the West Coast for six months.” In a recent inter­view, he added: “Co-​​op is much more than just a work expe­ri­ence. It's a life-​​changing adven­ture.

Later this month, Vil­lalobos will pick up and move to London to work on co-​​op as an invest­ment ana­lyst for Wellington Man­age­ment, the inde­pen­dent invest­ment man­age­ment com­pany. When he returns, who knows what he'll want to do next. “I might end up having to run a com­pany,” he says.