Entrepreneurship and innovation are integral aspects of a Rady School of Management education. So when Ignite UC San Diego – the university’s conference celebrating entrepreneurial risk-takers and innovation change-makers – announced a call for startups and speakers, Rady School students, faculty and alumni eagerly answered the call.
Held on March 6 and 7, the second annual event connected campus and community for two days of jam-packed networking and entrepreneurial learning. More than 800 attendees gathered at the Price Center on the UC San Diego campus for a pitch competition, keynote addresses, mentorship sessions and industry updates.
The conference kicked off with a Startup Fair, with eight Rady led or co-led teams participating. Additionally, five Social Venture Accelerator and mystartupXX teams participated — both entrepreneurial accelerators housed in the Rady School.
After the fair, startup teams were invited to participate in the Elevator Pitch Competition for the chance to win cash prizes for top pitches. Thirty one teams gave 90-second pitches to an esteemed panel of judges. Among the six winners were CReATE, a company co-founded by David Dallas-Orr (MBA ’18) that is developing an algorithm used to predict accurate patient-specific outcomes to pacemaker-related heart surgeries, and Osteolux, a mystartupXX team led by bioengineering students implementing a bone cement curing device to improve operating room efficiency.
Later in the day a total of 25 teams from UC San Diego and other universities from across the country presented at the semi-finals for the Pitch @ Ignite competition for a chance to be one of six teams selected to compete for over $21,000 in cash prizes during the evening event. All three UC San Diego teams to make it to the final pitch had Rady ties.
CReATE won a second place prize of $6,000. The team is part of a joint partnership between the Rady School and Jacobs School of Engineering Institute for the Global Entrepreneur, as well as a current member of the StartR Accelerator.
The other two teams to make it to the top six were Navega, a Jacobs School of Engineering team that is currently participating in mystartupxx, and USYNO, a company founded by Jimmy Wu (MBA ’17) who participated in both StartR and mystartupXX, and is currently in EvoNexus.
A new fun element this year was the evening Startup Rap Battle. Participating (and each winning their “battle”) were Rady alum Brett Blazys of Doggie Doo Don’t and mystartupXX participant Isaiah Weiss of Celeride.
In addition to a number startup participation, expert Rady alumni shared their knowledge and skills through keynote addresses focused on setting goals, San Diego-centric innovation and strategies for building entrepreneurial ventures. Lada Rasochova, executive director of the California Institute for Innovation and Development (CIID) at the Rady School, presented as part of a panel in the “SOS! The Entrepreneur’s Guide to San Diego” afternoon breakout session. Rady alumna Silvia Mah (Flex Weekend MBA ‘10) led a discussion on the value of creating vision boards to enhance creativity and direction. Current Rady student and CEO of the student-led Entrepreneur Challenge Alex Boone hosted the Elevator Pitch Competition and moderated a conversation with Kim Kovacs. Alumni Sean Haggerty (Flex Weekend MBA ‘17), founder of Protector Brewery, was a featured panelist in the “Leverage Your Fear, Kick Entrepreneurial A$$” session.
“In just its second year, the Ignite Conference is proving to be one of San Diego’s premiere events for entrepreneurs,” said Karen Jensen, program manager of CIID. “The opportunity it provides particularly for our students to pitch their ideas in front of an audience that includes potential investors or partners, whether through the competitions, Startup Fair, or conversation is unparralled.”