In a culture where the importance of racial, ethnic and gender diversity are often overlooked, the mystartupXX accelerator, a collaboration of the California Institute for Innovation and Development (CIID) and the Jacobs School of Engineering, is making a difference.
The idea for mystartupXX originated when Executive Director of CIID Lada Rasochova and her colleague Rosibel Ochoa from the Jacob’s School of Engineering attended a screening of The Social Network, a 2010 film loosely based on the origin of Facebook. Rasochova and Rosibel were both surprised by the lack of women in a domain where women are an important part of the target market.
“We looked in to all our incubator and accelerator programs, and we actually counted how many women we had in our programs. It turned out that we had only one woman in almost ten years of various innovation activities at UC San Diego. There were no females participating,” said Rasochova.
Together, Rasochova and Ochoa applied for and received a grant from VentureWell to fund a diversity-driven accelerator program at UC San Diego. The program now admits ten teams each year, and provides a place for teams to explore their start up ideas, network with each other, find new members, talk about the challenges of startups and share success. In addition, mystartupXX offers resources for startup teams, including mentorship from local entrepreneurs, IP advice, access to $100,000 in credits for Amazon Web Services and a workshop with various guest speakers from the community and beyond.
All UC San Diego students, including undergraduates, graduates and post-graduates from any school and any major are eligible to apply. In addition, alumni from UC San Diego who have graduated within the last five years at the time of application are also eligible.
mystartupXX focuses on creating effective teams by bringing together not only individuals of different genders, but also individuals with different backgrounds and life experiences to work on a single project or idea. The diverse skillsets of these teams prepare them well to creatively overcome the challenges of starting a company.
Since its inception in 2012 mystartupXX has made a huge impact on the entrepreneurial community, both at UC San Diego and beyond. According to Rasochova, a number of other programs which focus on similar diversity-driven goals have arisen in the last three years. In particular, Hera Hub and Rady School alum Silvia Mah’s (MBA ’10) Hera LABS, two organizations aimed at helping female entrepreneurs succeed in the business world, have been influenced by the program. Hera LABS and mystartupXX often collaborate to co-sponsor conferences and workshops to drive diversity in San Diego’s entrepreneurial community.
“In general mystartupXX is just a part of what the community is doing to try and really look in to diversity, because if we are not including some groups of the population the results are really limiting the impact and potential of companies,” said Rasachova. “If you are not using the ideas of 50 percent of the population you are really limiting economic growth, job creation and the competitiveness of the United States around the world.”
Applications for the 2015-16 mystartupXX program are now open! UC San Diego undergraduate, graduate, postdoctoral students and recent alumni are eligible to apply and must submit an online application by November 15, 2015 to be considered.
Aleena Karamally is a student writer for the Rady School and a freshman at UC San Diego. She is a Human Development major and a member of the UC San Diego Equestrian Team.