Office of Research and Innovation Engages Students, Faculty, and Industry Leaders at USC and Techstars Ecosystem Development Lab

The second event, as part of the newly announced USC and Techstars Digital Economy Program, took place on April 11th and 12th and served as the follow-up to the partnership’s startup weekend. The USC and Techstars Digital Economy Program is focused on startups working on digital advancement across bioscience, biomedicine, physical science, engineering, information, and computer sciences. The USC and Techstars Ecosystem Development Lab (EDL) was an immersive, 2-day program designed to further strengthen the foundation of the USC entrepreneurial ecosystem. The program connected community leaders, local stakeholders, students, and faculty, to provide participants with practical means to adapt quickly, apply the knowledge they gain, connect better with communities, and bridge their ecosystem gap together. Speakers over the two-day event included John Hill of Techstars, Katie Smith of Techstars, Shirley Romig of Techstars, Anya Ozmen of REDVEST (founder), Sarah Ellenbogen of Digiphy (Co-Founder and CEO), Sherrod Davis of EcoMap (Co-Founder and CEO), Saba Karim of Favs (Co-Founder and CEO), and Ian Hathaway of Far Out Ventures (Co-Founder and General Partner). Attendees from USC included faculty and leaders from the USC Iovine and Young Academy, Viterbi School of Engineering, Viterbi Startup Garage, Keck School of Medicine, and Stevens Center for Innovation, among others. Ishwar Puri (Senior Vice President, Research and Innovation, Office of Research and Innovation), Dave Eastman (Viterbi Startup Garage Director, NSF I-Corps Node Director), Ellis Meng (Viterbi Vice Dean, Office of Technology Innovation and Entrepreneurship), Thanassis Rikakis (Dean, Iovine and Young Academy), and Denis Evseenko (Professor, Orthopaedic Surgery, Director, Skeletal Regeneration, and Vice Chair, Research of Orthopaedic Surgery) were among those in attendance.

Over the course of the two days, attendees had the opportunity to hear from each speaker, as well as hear from the winning teams from the Startup Weekend kick-off event. First-place team Momentum, second-place team ProperlyAI, and third-place team Clean Dorm were invited as attendees and special guests and had the opportunity to share with the room their experiences at Startup Weekend and entrepreneurial aspirations.

 “The Ecosystem Development Lab was the perfect way to promote continued conversations around innovation following the success of Startup Weekend,” said Dr. Steven Moldin, Associate Vice President of Research Strategy and Innovation, “we were able to have critically important discussions from the perspective of faculty, students, and industry leaders on how to transform USC’s innovation ecosystem, and I am thrilled to see what is in store as the Techstars partnership continues.”

The 3 winning teams from Startup Weekend voiced their support and appreciation for the opportunity to partake in the event as well – “The events provided invaluable opportunities for networking, mentorship, and gaining insights from experienced entrepreneurs and investors,” said Diya Shah, who is currently a Master’s student in USC’s Viterbi School of Engineering, “they fostered a collaborative environment that empowered us to refine our ideas and develop a deeper understanding of the entrepreneurial landscape. Moving forward, I would love to see the partnership continue facilitating hands-on workshops, specialized training programs, and increased access to potential funding sources to further support early-stage entrepreneurs like us in turning their visions into reality.”

The USC and Techstars Digital Economy Program has recently opened applications to the University Catalyst Program, which provides early-stage founders with startup education, mentorship, and access to the Techstars network. The primarily virtual program will take place from September through November, with some in-person components. Participants will have access to virtual masterclasses with a focus on pitch coaching and pitch deck development, 1:1 mentoring through the Techstars network, and peer opportunities. All entrepreneurs are encouraged to apply and there will be a concerted effort to support startups affiliated with the USC community, including students, alumni, and faculty/staff. For more information, click here.