UCLA-based startups pitched sustainable oral care, alcohol alternatives and eight other ideas at Google Venice Headquarters on Wednesday.
The UCLA Anderson School of Management’s Venture Accelerator showcased 10 startups at the headquarters, attempting to get funding and network with career professionals. Four alumni companies also provided updates on their progress after graduating from the Accelerator.
Established in 2016, the Accelerator provides a platform, resources and space for early-stage startups to work on their ideas. The six-month program, which is open to UCLA students, faculty and alumni, provides entrepreneurs with professional connections, space to work and opportunities for funding. Teams must have at least one member from UCLA.
Since its inception, the program has raised $5.8 million in funding, generated $6.2 million in venture sales and has helped a total of 38 companies.
Evan Quinn and George Youmans pitched Willow, a beverage line meant to serve as an alternative to alcoholic drinks.
Quinn, a co-founder of the company and business graduate student at Anderson, said a recent experience with his family motivated him to create Willow.
“Earlier this year, I received a phone call that my family member had been taken to the hospital with alcohol poisoning,” Quinn said. “They said that he blew a 0.42, which is 0.2 above the level that causes death.”
This event led both Quinn and Youmans to develop beverages using a type of terpenoid, or plant-based molecule, that creates similar effects to alcohol in a healthier way, Quinn added.
“There’s got to be a better way to socially consume beverages and get the same mood altering effects that we see from alcohol but instead from healthy, functional ingredients,” Youman, who is also a co-founder said. “And thankfully, the market was begging for this too.”
Jack Fernandes, a recent alumnus at the UCLA School of Law, presented Regencia Biosciences, his biopharmaceutical company. Fernandez said he was concerned that there has not been enough development of antidotes to biological weapons.
“Unfortunately, private sector companies haven’t really figured out how to make antidote development economically feasible. We are woefully underprepared today,” Fernandes said.
The first product Regencia Biosciences is developing aims to be an antidote for pesticide poisoning and nerve-agent exposure, Fernandes said.
Belinda Lau, a business graduate student at Anderson, pitched Wise Earthcare, a company which aims to eliminate plastic use in daily health care products. In the short term, Wise is looking to create a sustainable toothbrush, Lau said.
“Did you know that by the year 2050, there’ll be more plastic in the ocean than there are fish?” she said. “And most likely, one of those pieces of plastic will be the toothbrush that you used this morning to brush your teeth.”
In the long term, the company wants to help eliminate plastic dumping in our oceans by creating a line of sustainable health care products, Lau said.
“Everything from the product to the packaging will be completely plant based and sustainable.” Lau added.
After the event, investors, consultants and alumni had the opportunity to chat with presenters and ask more questions.
“Everyone that I met from Anderson is great. All of these companies want to disrupt an industry,” said Mark Gustafson, an investor.
Theo Lee, founder of Korean food company KPOP Foods and Accelerator alumnus, said the Accelerator provided him valuable benefits and has been instrumental to his success.
“The Anderson Venture Accelerator was there to help connect us to people in (public relations), grocery stores, Amazon and just solve so many different issues,” said Lee, a two-time UCLA alumnus.
Alfred Osborne, the senior associate dean for external affairs at Anderson, said it hadn’t been easy to create startup ventures in his past 47 years at UCLA.
“The Accelerator is something that really came about as the physical expression of the commitment that we have at UCLA to entrepreneurship,” Osborne said.
Antonio Bernardo, dean at Anderson, said one of his priorities is to continue such programs in the future.
“They’re incredibly important sources of distinction.” Bernardo said.
Trish Halamandaris, director of the Accelerator, said applications for the 2020 cohort of the Venture Accelerator were open. The next residency will begin early next year, she added.