Event Recap: primeUC Crowns its First Startup Champions

By Dr. Karen Ring for Big3Bio

IMG_1515California is a hotbed for promising startups in technology, healthcare and the life sciences. Many of the innovative ideas that spawn these companies originate from labs and universities.

One of the leaders in scientific entrepreneurship is the University of California (UC). Among its 10 campuses, five medical centers and three affiliated national labs, UC has produced more than 700 start-ups and received more than $5 billion in venture capital since 2005.

is the UC system’s latest effort to push forward innovation in the life sciences. The event is part of UC President Janet Napolitano’s Initiative on Innovation and Entrepreneurship and provides seed funding to the most promising startups coming out of UC.

More than 260 companies applied ranging from healthcare technologies to medical devices to disease therapeutics; 20 of these companies advanced to the finals where they gave lightning pitches to a crowd with 50+ venture capitalists, angel investors, and corporate partners.

The finals were hosted by QB3 at the UC San Francisco Mission Bay campus. QB3 Director Regis Kelly and primeUC Director Neena Kadaba gave opening speeches to a packed room followed by a keynote address from President Napolitano.

Inspiring pitch by Derek Herrera from Spinal Singularity wins grand prize and people’s choice award at primeUC

Napolitano praised UC’s efforts to promote entrepreneurship and innovation in the life sciences and said that the goal of primeUC was to “raise the profile of the most promising startups at UC and connect them with investors and partners.”

She continued, “UC is a place for translating research into the technologies of tomorrow. Where good ideas are nurtured and supported at every level. Our goal is to expand and enhance innovation at every turn.”

Next up were the lightning pitches from the finalists. On the line were three prizes of $50K in seed funding and a grand prize of $150,000. The entrepreneurs only had a minute to pitch to the judges and the crowd about why their “game-changing” company should be funded.

The runner-up prizes went to UC Berkeley’s Sonomotion, for its non-invasive technology to eliminate kidney stones, UC Los Angeles’s FirstStep Medical Technologies, for its in-home monitoring system for children with asthma, and UC Irvine’s Laser Associated Sciences for its medical device to diagnose and monitor vascular disease.

The grand prize went to UC Los Angeles’s Spinal Singularity, which is developing medical devices that will vastly improve the quality of life for people who suffer from spinal cord injury and disease. CEO and Founder Derek Herrera hit it out of the park with a compelling pitch that won him the “People’s Choice Award” as well as $150,000 grand prize.

The event was huge success and even those companies that didn’t win a cash prize still won in the end. Neena Kadaba explained, “we created primeUC to introduce young companies to the investment community. Even if finalists don’t win an award, they’ll get valuable exposure.”

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