The Startup UCLA Accelerator Is About Entrepreneurship Not Investment Returns

By Michael Carney , written on September 13, 2012

From The News Desk

Later today, the Startup UCLA accelerator will have its inaugural demo day. While it's en vogue for everyone and their grandmother to start an accelerator, the University is coming at it with much, much different motivations than most. UCLA doesn’t aim to make a financial return. Rather, the overarching goal of the program is to promote entrepreneurship within the student body and to connect the University to the rapidly growing local tech community.

The money from the program comes from a combination of corporate sponsors and several academic departments. PwC has been a significant contributor, as have the law firm Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, local creative agency Philosophie, and cloud infrastructure company Joyent.

Participating companies get between $4,000 and $8,000 in addition to mentorship and office space while participating in the 12 week program, and have to give up zero equity in exchange. The only guideline is that each team have a minimum of two people, must be 50 percent current or alumni UCLA students, and must have a minimum of one “technical” member.

Program head Robert Jadon describes Startup UCLA as more of a pre-accelerator than anything, meaning the the ideas are typically earlier stage and the entrepreneurs less experienced. Many teams will participate in the summer program and then return to school full time in the fall -- hopefully having learned a ton and with a growing entrepreneurial bug. Others will create something viable and pursue follow on financing.

In many cases, the next logical step for one of these young companies will be to join another, later-stage accelerator. There are five prominent ones in town, Launchpad, Amplify, MuckerLab, StartEngine, and IdeaLab. Most have been involved in some capacity along the way with Startup UCLA, and all will be represented during the demo day.

The rest of the audience for this afternoon’s pitch fest will be an invitation-only group of angel investors, VC’s, experienced entrepreneurs, and local government officials assembled largely from Jadon’s rolodex. Tomorrow, the group will have a second demo day that will be open to the public and is expected to fill a lecture hall with several hundred students, faculty, and community members.

Being in its inaugural class, Startup UCLA is still sorting through its own identity and business model issues. The next step is to figure out how this program continues during the academic year. The leadership group is currently looking at options to tie in relevant coursework in entrepreneurship, business, and engineering, while also contemplating an alumni-only, mid-year class of startups.

The long-term model will figure itself out over the next few weeks, but today, it’s all about the inaugural class and Jadon and his colleagues are extremely proud and excited about this group. Check out the inaugural Startup UCLA companies, as self-described, below:

Accelsor – Accelsor simplifies custom website creation into a single step by eliminating the prototyping and coding stages.

C Monster Solutions – The Ship Mate App provides cruise goers with an engaging experience before and during their voyage.

The Hatch Studios – Falcon is a new navigation app that utilizes user-generated data and social connections to provide a new way to navigate.

Perfect Beauty – Perfect Beauty is a one-stop hub for women around the world to build a community based on trusted beauty and self-image advice.

Play In Motion – Play In Motion is developing a social mobile location-based platform for casual gaming

PuddleWorks – PuddleWorks is developing interactive mobile games and leveraging these products and capabilities to develop a powerful franchise.

StratoSquare – StratoSquare is the world’s simplest web-based investment analysis platform, consolidating multiple portfolios and providing insight into investment performance, risk and behavior through proprietary investment management tools.

TravelStrings – TravelStrings is an online platform for building and sharing travel stories.

VuPad – VuPad allows consumers to visualize furniture in a pleasing and simple manner using augmented reality technology with state-of-the-art object reconstruction techniques.