Changing the Face of Innovation: Future Founders and Venture Capitalists Embark on Joint Immersive Training Experience

by | Aug 28, 2023 | Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, Research and Innovation

Phanith Dodda, Co-Founder of TempAccom, pitches in front of venture fund firms at the final demo event of the SpartUp Summer Intensive.

This summer, San José State University’s first interdisciplinary startup incubator, SpartUp, set out to do something unique: pair emerging startups founders with underrepresented venture capitalists in an immersive, deep dive training. The training was designed to offer a holistic perspective on the symbiotic relationship between venture capitalists and startups.

Isita Bagayatkar speaking

Isita Bagayatkar, Co-Founder of Xircle, pitches her student focused app to venture fund firms at the final demo event of the SpartUp Summer Intensive.

SpartUp has already made its mark on campus and an impact across the California State University system. During its whirlwind inaugural year, SpartUp has welcomed over 300 SJSU students, faculty and alumni members, mentored over 30 viable startups, won local and statewide awards (including two Top Award Winners in the California State University (CSU) Sunstone Startup Competition), and offered 30 workshops, panels, experiences and events to the SJSU community. It’s fast becoming the hub of entrepreneurship for SJSU, weaving a web of new startup programs and opportunities across campus, while networking aspiring and expert entrepreneurs.

“This summer, we set out to try something new — connecting our underrepresented SpartUp founders with emerging funders they can identify with,” explains Abby Queale, Director of Innovation. “We had them live and train together right here on our campus for an intensive, joint learning experience, a unique and powerful foundational entrepreneurial opportunity.”  

The inaugural Summer Intensive was carried out over 3 weeks in July. The program equipped 14 SJSU founders (6 on campus and 8 participating remotely) from 6 different startups with the resources and support they’ll need to take their businesses to the next level. “We were thrilled to be a part of the summer intensive — we built relationships, learned from peers and (fingers crossed) raised money to scale our company,” said Sameer Saran, ’18 MS Computer Engineering, and founder of ParkStash.

Venture capital trainees (fellows) participated alongside the founders through Venture Partners, an educational organization with a mission to diversify the decision makers in venture capital and entrepreneurship. Venture Partners provides hands-on, practical education and experience to Black, Indigenous, (and) People of Color (BIPOC), women, and individuals from rural communities, creating a pipeline of diverse fund managers, just as SpartUp is creating a more diverse generation of entrepreneurs.

Group of people posing for picture at SpartUp event

The inaugural SpartUp Summer Intensive cohort included 14 SJSU startup founders, both in-person and virtually.

Together, the SpartUp founders and the emerging Venture Partner fellows lived in SJSU dorms, attended daily workshops, took field trips and crafted presentations and pitches together. Remote team members joined via Zoom. They practiced sourcing, screening, due diligence, pitch development, and drafting investment memos. The program’s location on campus in the heart of Silicon Valley allowed for employer site visits with venture capital firms as well as startups across industries. 

Working through the stages of startup ideation, prototyping, planning and fundraising, each startup founder team went through 84 hours of immersive instruction and one-on-one mentoring in addition to sessions with 10 visiting industry leaders. The experience culminated in a final demo day where they pitched their newly polished startup concepts in front of venture fund firms.  

“The SpartUp summer intensive has truly been an incredible journey filled with valuable experiences and tremendous growth for all of us, whether on the VC team or among the founders,” explained Phanith Dodda, SJSU student and Co-Founder of TempAccom. “We’ve learned so much and forged strong connections along the way.“ Other participating startups were: FutPlay, Edily, CreditCliq and Xircle. All participants will continue to receive ongoing support from SpartUp as they grow their businesses.

The program is already scheduled to repeat in summer 2024, possibly expanding to 12 startup founders in residence, and will continue to provide a unique experiential environment for Spartan entrepreneurs to learn and practice real-world entrepreneurial skills that will ultimately position them to succeed as startup founders, principals, and employees.  “SpartUp not only helps our diverse and talented SJSU Spartaneurs thrive in Silicon Valley, but also helps them change the Valley,” explains Queale.

Learn more about SpartUp and the Summer Intensive in this California State University feature story.