2015 Innovation Challenge Kicks Off

2015 Innovation Challenge
About 75 students turned out for the Sept. 21 kickoff of the 2015 Innovation Challenge.

ABC has “Shark Tank.” Google has Angelpad. And Cal State Long Beach has the Innovation Challenge.

The annual entrepreneurial event, where student teams compete to win $50,000 in funding and services for the best business idea, was started six years ago by the colleges of Engineering, Business, and the Arts.

The challenge’s goal is to produce one new business for the university each year. And judging from the 75 students who attended the Sept. 21 kickoff meeting, interest is on the rise.

“It is very important that you took the first step to be here. It will be a lifetime experience for you if you stick with it,” College of Engineering Dean Forouzan Golshani told the audience. “This will be so essential for those of you who dream of doing something big.”

Multidisciplinary teams are encouraged, since engineers, business experts, and designers are all needed to move an idea through the planning process. The only requirement is that one member of each team be a CSULB student.

College of the Arts Dean Cyrus Parker-Jeanette said those studying the arts can benefit from picking up entrepreneurial skills, just as those studying engineering or business can benefit from exposure to design perspectives. “We live in an interdisciplinary world,” she said.

Teams start off with an idea, and after attending information sessions and working with experienced mentors, must produce a business plan. “By the time it’s done, you’ll be an expert at business plans,” Golshani said.

Besides $10,000 in seed funding, the winner will receive in-kind services such as office space, legal assistance, printing services, marketing advice, and accounting and tax help. Golshani, a former entrepreneur himself, said starting a business makes you a winner, even if that business fails, because so much is learned during the process.

Starting a business can be a process of trial and error. College of Business Administration Dean Michael E. Solt pointed out that Silicon Valley entrepreneurs don’t write just one business plan, but many.

An important question to ask, said Trevor Wagner, whose team won last year’s challenge, is whether the product or service you’re creating is marketable. For instance, his team realized the bone printer they conceived would be complicated to produce and manufacture, and also have potential liability issues. But they didn’t let that stop them. Instead, they came up with a plan to lease patents and potentially earn a share of a multi-million-dollar market.

Faculty organizers of the challenge are Christianne Beyer, mechanical engineering; Larry Pate, business; and Wesley Woefel, design.

The next meeting will be held from 2-3 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 1 in ECS-312. For more information about the contest, visit http://web.csulb.edu/innovationchallenge/.