Annual systemwide entrepreneur competition increases UC’s innovation capabilities and opportunities for entry to market
With a mission to democratize opportunity, the Office of Innovation & Entrepreneurship at University of California, Office of the President, is rethinking the playing field, offering opportunities to connect UC-affiliated startups with investors and others who can help their fledgling companies scale up, partnering with industry leaders Extreme Tech Challenge and Global Corporate Venturing.
The Office of Innovation & Entrepreneurship leverages the scale and diversity of UC’s ten campuses, four affiliated Institutes for Science & Innovation, and three affiliated national labs to build a vibrant innovation culture across the UC system. The team is also actively focused on increasing participation of under-represented groups in the innovation economy within UC and the State of California.
Forging alliances with government, private, and philanthropic sectors to promote public benefit and economic growth, the UC Startup Innovation Challenge, now in its fifth year, aims to help early and growth stage startups grow and thrive by gaining exposure to global funders and investor networks, increasing visibility for corporate collaborations.
The challenge is open to almost anyone with a UC affiliation: students, alumni, faculty, staff, postdocs and visiting scholars. Last year around 200 startups entered the competition, with five finalists chosen to attend the Global Corporate Venturing & Innovation Summit where they networked and pitched to 800+ corporate VCs over a two-day period.
This year, there are two tracks: one for early-stage startups and one for those who are further along in their startup journey. The challenge will be giving away $5K free AWS credit for all competition participants. Finalists will receive pro bono legal services from Orrick and mentorship from the judges in preparation for their final showcase. A winner for each track will receive $50K in cash prizes.
Creating more introductions for these entrepreneurs to network, the competition can help change lives, opening up the playing field for diverse backgrounds and investment, alongside UC’s commitment to democratize opportunity.
“We are holistically rethinking innovation and entrepreneurship. To be more inclusive, we have expanded beyond STEM, inviting participation from humanities and arts,” said Slivkoff. “We are also lending strong support to accelerate impact through social entrepreneurship for future generations to thrive".
The challenge is being held in partnership with Extreme Tech Challenge (XTC), the world’s largest startup competition for entrepreneurs addressing global challenges. All applicants to the UC Startup Innovation Challenge will be automatically entered into XTC’s regional startup competition. Additionally, finalists will receive one-on-one mentoring to hone their skills while forging strategic partnerships that provide value beyond funding.
For Jason McKeown, UC San Diego visiting scholar and CEO of Neurovalens, the competition helped his company raise $15M+ in VC investment and formed strategic partnerships, within the larger global ecosystem.
“We have used the experience, networking and connections to really grow the company internationally and secure in the region of $15 million dollars of funding,” said McKeown, CEO of Nuerovalens, a Belfast-based health tech company.
UC leaders and a panel of industry judges will select five finalists in each track by mid-December, and provide mentoring and other help as part of an invitation to pitch their startup at the 2021 Global Corporate Venturing Digital Forum in late January.