Student Entrepreneurs Flock to Innovation Challenge Contest

Industrial design junior Ryan Genena already knows how to develop a business plan. That was just one of the things he learned as a participant in last year’s CSULB Innovation Challenge. His team—a startup called 1010 Innovation with an app to help seniors—was one of four finalists in last year’s Challenge.

Genena was one of about 50 students who turned out Thursday to hear more about the contest, which provides $10,000 in seed funding and $40,000 in services to support the lucky winner’s startup.

The students came from many majors—everything from animation, marketing, and political science to industrial design and chemical and electrical engineering. Their interests were equally varied: artificial intelligence, footwear, sustainable design, safe driving, security, robotics, and human-centered design.

The idea behind the entrepreneurship contest, which is supported by the colleges of the Arts, Business Administration, and Engineering, is to build interdisciplinary teams to develop new products and services. The hope is to support one successful business each year.

“Ideally, teams need designers, business people, and engineers to keep things going,” said College of Engineering Dean Forouzan Golshani, a former entrepreneur who holds nearly a dozen patents.

Steven Boyer, a designer, inventor, and entrepreneur who teaches in the CSULB Department of Design, brought about 15 of his students to the meeting. “We’re

hoping we can originate some projects,” said Boyer, who serves as a mentor for the contest.

While some students worry about the time commitment, Boyer said he plans to try to work the entrepreneurial contest into the curriculum.

Marisol Bernal, who just transferred into the CSULB Chemical Engineering Department, already has an idea—and a team composed of three Chemical Engineering majors and one Electrical Engineering major.

Tyler Quillen, meanwhile, has lots of ideas but hasn’t settled on one yet. “An idea comes into my head and I write it down,” he said.

Last year, 45 teams submitted business plans, up from 18 the previous year.

Now in its eighth year, the Innovation Challenge is open to all students. 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.

The next information sessions will be held Monday, Sept. 18 from 3-4 p.m. in the Niggli Conference Center, ECS-312 and Tuesday, Sept. 19, 7-8 p.m., CBA-139A. RSVP to reserve your spot. Anyone interested in entrepreneurship is invited them to attend. A mixer is scheduled for Monday, Sept. 25 at 7 p.m. in ECS-105.

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