Innovation Challenge Kicks Off 7th Season

Innovation Challenge snapshotStartups are an important vehicle for U.S. economic growth, accounting for half of all new jobs created. At CSULB, students have a unique opportunity to gain real-world experience in starting a business through the Innovation Challenge, an annual contest that provides the winning entrepreneurial team with $50,000 in cash and services to get started.

Now in its seventh year, the Innovation Challenge is supported by the CSULB Colleges of the Arts, Business Administration, and Engineering, along with industry leaders with varied high-level business experience. The contest is open to all students.

Guided by mentors from the business world, students learn how to develop viable business plans, as well as other aspects of entrepreneurship, such as protecting intellectual property. Four finalists present their proposals to judges, and one team is selected in April to receive $10,000 in cash and $40,000 in services to help launch their business.

Many people have business ideas. But not everyone knows how to transform that idea into a reality.

“Even if you don’t win the top prize, learning what it takes to develop a business plan is tremendously important,” said College of Engineering Dean Forouzan Golshani, who has started several successful businesses throughout his career. “Just going through the process of participating in the Innovation Challenge is a valuable learning experience.”

This year, the Innovation Challenge has a new leadership team. Longtime IC volunteer Mike Bahramian, president of Bager Electronics, will co-chair the IC Steering Committee with Gail Meredith, who recently retired as director of information technology at Boeing. Other new Steering Committee members include: Hieu Nguyen, associate professor of marketing at CSULB; Richard Okumoto, who has more than three decades of corporate finance, operations, and strategy development experience in rapid-growth Silicon Valley tech companies; and Mahdi Yoozbashizadeh, a CSULB assistant professor in mechanical engineering.

Information sessions will be held on Wednesday, Sept. 7 from 4-5 p.m. in ECS-312 and Thursday, Sept. 15 from 12-1 p.m. in ECS-312. Anyone interested in entrepreneurship, please invite them to attend. The Innovation Challenge represents a unique opportunity to gain real-world experience in learning how to start a business.

Over the years, the contest has supported many businesses, from a 3D bone printer and a tool to help diagnose pulmonary diseases to a student textbook exchange and a mobile boxing ring for seniors. For more information, visit