Why SBIR/STTR funding is critical to build our Inland Empire startup ecosystem

As I travel the Inland Empire region of Southern California (Riverside and San Bernardino Counties) meeting with and mentoring entrepreneurs, I often have to give the unwelcome feedback to founders that they are too early for the professional angel investment or seed venture capital funding that they seek. This is especially true in regions like ours where we have not built (yet) a strong network of local angel investors who write checks to help our startups grow to the point where they have enough traction to credibly pitch to professional angels and VCs.

Riverside, CA

Because of this challenge, our team at University of California Riverside’s EPIC SBDC (Small Business Development Center) created an SBIR/STTR Resource Center in January of 2018.  In just one year, our mentors have helped entrepreneurs secure over $1.6 million in non-dilutive funding to help commercialize their ideas, products and services.  This creates a “bridge” to help get professional angel investors and seed venture capital funds more interested in investing in the startups in our region.  

If you are an entrepreneur, faculty member, grad student, business executive, inventor or scientist, I highly recommend that you attend the day long SBIR/STTR CON | 19 conference on March 12th at the University of California, Riverside. If you have any questions, as always, please get in touch with me.

More details:

Federal SBIR/STTR programs provide $2.5 Billion in capital funding every year to help small business entrepreneurs bring transformative innovations to market. Join program officers from five federal agencies for this incredible conference to learn how to obtain early stage funding to commercialize your idea. Make an appointment to meet with agency program directors. Discuss your potential proposals with the Department of Defense, US Department of Agriculture, Department of Energy, the National Institutes of Health, and the National Science Foundation. Meet with former grant winners, founders, and business experts/mentors. Discuss your ideas with public representatives. Sign up for special workshops on topics vital for funding success.


What is…SBIR: Small Business Innovation Research STTR: Small Business Technology Transfer – competitive awards-based resources that enable small businesses to develop new tech and facilitate commercialization.

• Example funding areas: AI, first responders, national security, biomed, cybersecurity, advanced robotics, agtech, space exploration + more.

• $2.5 billion of funding is available each year in competitive grant and contract awards. Since 1982, more than $478B has been awarded to American small businesses.

• 5,000 awards each year.

• Government does not take an equity stake and IP is retained by the small business.

• SBIR played a role in innovation giants like Qualcomm, iRobot, Symantec and many others.

Clean energy startup grant funding event Feb 13th

Calling all Inland Empire clean energy entrepreneurs – on Feb 13th, UC Riverside’s Center for Environmental Research & Technology (CE-CERT), CalSEED (managed by the California Clean Energy Fund) and The Southern California Energy Innovation Network (managed by Cleantech San Diego) are talking about how awardees can receive $150,000 for proof-of-concept activities and have the chance to participate in a business plan competition for an additional $450,000. This is an amazing way to jumpstart your clean energy idea, project or startup with non-dilutive grant funding. It is also a great idea to meet the team at CE-CERT, Tenley Dalstrom and Alyssa Gutner-Davis if you plan on doing anything clean energy related in the State of California. Contact Scott Brovsky with any questions and please show up.


Riverside in Inc Magazine

What a great way to end a year of tremendous progress in growing our entrepreneurial ecosystem in Riverside and the larger Inland Empire region. A huge thank you to Inc Magazine for including us at number 23 of the “50 Best Places in America for Starting a Business” as well as mentioning some of the programs that we are leading at the University of California, Riverside including our EPIC and EPIC SBDC (Small Business Development Center) programs as well as our ExCITE incubator which is a partnership between Riverside County, The City of Riverside and UCR. Looking forward to big things in the region in 2019. This is why I am #LongSoCal

Stan Lee

I was lucky enough to work with Stan Lee during two periods in my life, first in 2000 at his Internet startup Stan Lee Media and again in 2010-2013 while working with the amazing team at Disney/Marvel. It was surreal walking into meetings with Stan and my boss George Hamilton at Stan Lee Media after having just moved to LA from Austin. He was always warm, friendly and funny in my interactions with him.

Stan helping us promote our Captain America mobile game at Comic-Con in 2011

Stan helped teach millions of us as kids (and adults) that it is OK to be different, to like science and to not judge or be judged based on our socioeconomic background, skin color or gender but on the merits of our own hero’s journey.
Rest in peace. Excelsior!
#RIPStanLee #stanlee #ThankyouStan

Twilio acquires SendGrid for $2 billion in stock

Congrats to University of California, Riverside alums and all around cool guys Tim Jenkins and Elmer Thomas on the $2B acquisition of their company SendGrid by Twilio. Thanks for all you do for our Riverside and Inland Empire tech startup ecosystem.

Twilio acquires email API platform SendGrid for $2 billion in stock

EPIC SBDC Panel on Startup Scaling and Fundraising a success

We had a strong turnout of Inland Empire entrepreneurs for our EPIC SBDC panel discussion at The Box Theater at Inland Empire Startup Week on October 2nd. Our region and our entrepreneurs are truly grateful for these investors and entrepreneurs who took the time out of their busy schedules to come talk to us about fundraising and scaling startups:
Brent Granado, Managing Partner, Sway Ventures
Dr. Eamonn Keogh , Co-Founder, FarmSense
Mike Krebs, Angel Investor, Pasadena Angels
Tim Jenkins, Co-Founder and former CTO, SendGrid
Also, congrats to Tim on the announcement of his next big thing!
Get in touch if you want to learn more about what is happening in our growing startup ecosystem in the IE and at UC Riverside.

UC Riverside Startup and ExCITE Incubator Resident BEAM-CA Receives National Science Foundation Grant

More great news for our growing Riverside and Inland Empire tech ecosystem. Congratulations to Alexander Khitun, a research professor of electrical and computer engineering in UC Riverside’s Bourns College of Engineering and founder of BEAM-CA, on being awarded a National Science Foundation (NSF) Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I grant for $149,000 to conduct research and development work on a novel type of sensitive, robust magnetometer that operates at room temperature. BEAM-CA is a resident at the ExCITE Incubator in Riverside and is being mentored by our team at UCR’s EPIC SBDC. Read more details in Holly Ober‘s article here.
For the entrepreneur, non-dilutive SBIR funding can be a good way to help you build your product, get early traction and work on achieving product/market fit. This can put your tech startup in a better position to be able to raise Angel and Seed capital as you scale. If you want to learn more about potential SBIR funding from the USDA for your startup, be sure to register for our workshop (with free lunch) on July 26th on campus. Learn more here.

SmartBot360 is looking to hire for two positions

SmartBot360 is looking to hire for two positions: a Full-Stack Developer and a Business Development Officer. Vagelis Hristidis and his team have developed a platform to create, manage and share AI chatbots. The platform empowers customer agents to increase the number of reached customers by offloading routine interactions to the AI-powered chatbots.

Chatbots and humans work together through easy to define triaging handover protocols. The intuitive Web-based SmartBot360 Management Dashboard is the control panel of the

SmartBot360 is mentored by the team at University of California, Riverside‘s EPIC SBDC and is a resident at the ExCITE incubator in Riverside, CA.

More here: https://angel.co/smartbot360/jobs

EPIC SBDC Launch Event April 3rd

Inland Southern California entrepreneurs – come and join us on April 3rd as we celebrate entrepreneurs and innovation at the launch of our new tech Small Business Development Center called EPIC SBDC. EPIC SBDC provides early stage tech entrepreneurs and companies in Riverside and San Bernardino Counties support to grow their businesses at no cost. Services include specialized consulting, training programs, access to capital and SBIR/STTR assistance. It is hosted and supported by University of California Riverside, Riverside County, the Orange County Inland Empire SBDC Network, the State of California and the Small Business Administration. Register here.


Sensorygen raises up to $500K from UC Riverside’s Highlander Fund

Congrats to Tom Stone, Anand Ray and the team at Sensorygen on your funding round from UC Riverside’s Highlander Venture Fund. This is a big win for our growing Inland Southern California tech startup scene as our talented entrepreneurs and researchers at UC Riverside start to get noticed by VCs.