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UC launches startup mentorship campaign for alumni entrepreneurs

By Dina Stumpf

Nov. 2, 2017 1:44 a.m.

The University of California launched a campaign Oct. 25 to provide alumni creating startups with mentoring support.

The UC Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship announced a contest last week that would provide alumni with access to corporate mentors. UC alumni entrepreneurs have until Dec. 15 to submit a video to the office detailing their business strategies and visions.

A panel of mentors from corporations such as Chevron and HP will then choose five finalists and train them before they pitch their startup ideas at the 2018 Global Corporate Venturing and Innovation Summit. There will be more than 600 venture capitalists and business leaders at the summit, which will take place from Jan. 30 to Feb. 1, 2018.

The UC intends to continue the contest in future years, said UC spokesperson Stephanie Beechem.

Victoria Slivkoff, head of strategic partnerships in the Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, said the office created the contest to maintain the UC’s relationship with alumni and highlight the work of graduates developing startups.

“(The initiative allows alumni to) have exposure to broader venture capital investor communities,” she said. “Our role is really to create that channel and ecosystem to get their ideas heard.”

Deanna Evans, executive director of Startup UCLA, said she thinks the UC created the contest to draw attention to the increasing number of alumni who have created startups.

“(It’s) a good opportunity for alumni who are working on their startups to get more visibility,” she said. “And (it also makes) the UC system aware of what alumni are doing, as far as entrepreneurship goes.”

Josh Khalili, president of Bruin Ventures, a UCLA club for students interested in entrepreneurship, said he thinks the university should also provide support for current students who have created startups.

“(The contest) will give an opportunity to a small amount of alumni who went to the campus … but I think it’s such a small percentage where it’ll make a difference,” he said. “(The UC should) target (the) entire population of students, and hit a wider scope of people.”

Khalili added he thinks the UC could create a mentorship program for student entrepreneurs and hold more networking events for students interested in creating startups.

Several alumni entrepreneurs said they think the initiative will help alumni stay connected with the UC.

Richard Salazar, a UCLA alumnus who runs a film and video production company, said he thinks entrepreneurs need a reliable team and support system, which he thinks the contest will help provide.

“When you’re coming from a community that doesn’t necessarily have a lot of resources … venturing on your own can be kind of scary,” he said. “You may not necessarily have a support system (compared to) a family that has always ran businesses.”

Salazar, who is part of the UCLA Latino Alumni Association, said he thinks the contest could put alumni in touch with individuals who could guide them through different stages of building a startup.

Tim Yu, a UCLA alumnus who is co-founder and CEO of Pluto Money, a mobile application that aims to help college students better manage their personal finances, said he thinks the contest will help the UC build a network of alumni entrepreneurs.

“(This is a) huge step in mobilizing alumni to give back and support each other, and also showing that when you graduate from the UC system, you’re not cut off,” Yu said. “You still get the advantages and benefits because (the UC is) still giving out resources to them.”

Yu, who said he is considering participating in the contest, added he thinks the contest’s summit conference will help alumni get in touch with potential investors.

“The most powerful way to be successful in the startup world (is to have a) strong network,” he added. “Here you have a potential to be in front of 600 venture capitalists – it definitely makes fundraising a lot easier when you have access to these people.”

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Dina Stumpf
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