Check out the presentation to the winners of this year’s Riverside Regional Fast Pitch event, Solarflux and Tinker the Robot. Photo via Twitter @riversidecagov
As massive as they may seem today, some of the largest and most successful companies, such as Apple and Tesla, started with an idea and an innovation.
That’s why Riverside County’s annual Innovation Month aims to nurture the region’s lightbulbs and eureka moments through a series of events that prepare innovators for take-off.
Sponsored by the Riverside County Office of Economic Development, the Town of Riverside and other organizations, the grassroots effort brings together people, institutions and businesses to raise awareness of the region’s strong ecosystem to support entrepreneurship .
“Innovation Month is driven by the fact that approximately 96% of businesses located in our county have 50 or fewer employees,” said Rob Moran, assistant director of the Riverside County Office of Economic Development. “We need to elevate the small businesses that are the lifeline of our economy.”
This year’s festivities kicked off with regional “Shark Tank” style fastpitch competitions in four cities, including Riverside. About 40 startups had five minutes to present a business concept and its market potential in front of a panel of judges for a chance to win and qualify for the final. Regional winners then proceeded to the Grand Finals on April 27 in Temecula with an opportunity to win cash prizes.
The Solarflux founder makes his pitch at this year’s Riverside Regional Fast Pitch event. Photo via Twitter @riversidecagov
“It could be someone starting the next best ice cream chain or the team developing a scientific way to reduce air pollution,” Moran explained.
Moran said the fast-pitch competition is the cornerstone of Innovation Month and one of his favorite events.
“I’m in awe of these entrepreneurs willing to risk it all and risk it all for an idea in a room full of strangers,” Moran said.
A QR code-based wearable identification system, parabolic concentrator technology and “Tinker the Robot” science and technology homeschooling kits are some of the innovations from entrepreneurs who took part in the rapid launch final of this year.
Other exciting Innovation Month activities included a county-hosted Coachella Valley Business and Economic Forecasting Conference, where entrepreneurs learned about current trends to keep their businesses innovative.
“The main reason for our success is partnerships and collaborations,” Moran said. “The Town of Riverside is a great partner, as are the universities, chambers of commerce and private businesses that work together to foster economic growth in our region.
The DashBill founder participated in this year’s Riverside Regional Fast Pitch event. Photo via Twitter @riversidecagov
Innovation Month partners hosted conferences, workshops, tours and networking, including the Inland Empire Small Business Development Center’s “Demystifying QuickBooks” seminar and the grand opening of the new downtown site for the ExCITE startup accelerator program at the University of California, Riverside.
“The seeds of our entrepreneurial ecosystem begin with an active and engaged community,” said Riverside Mayor Patricia Lock Dawson. “From Innovation Month to Innovation District, investing in emerging businesses and retaining entrepreneurs here at Riverside knows no bounds.”
While April was all about innovation, Moran said resources were available for entrepreneurs, business owners and students year-round.
“Whether you have an idea or are an existing business, we’re ready for you,” Moran said.
To learn more about Riverside County Innovation Month, visit www.rivcoinnovation.org.