The packed house at Google headquarters in Venice Beach was burbling with tension and anticipation as 14 company founders from a cross-section of UCLA’s entrepreneurial ecosystem prepared to compete in the inaugural Innovation Showcase, presented by the Venture Accelerator at the UCLA Anderson School of Management.

At stake in this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity: $100,000 in prize money awarded from venture capital funds, a Google for Startups Cloud Program credit package worth up to $350,000, and a $2,500 “sweetener” from the Venture Accelerator.

One by one, in a rapid succession of presentations that would impress even the most skeptical judge on “Shark Tank,” UCLA alumni, student and staff company founders took to the stage to pitch their inventions to a live audience of venture capitalists, investors, faculty and students, as well as those watching the livestream of the event.

Graphic showing how UCLA Anderson has supported entrepreneurship
UCLA Anderson

The range of these early-stage businesses — from B2B tech to space to consumer products — highlighted UCLA’s robust and diverse entrepreneurial mindset. Over the past decade, Anderson’s Price Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation has helped to create 400 startups, with $1.8 billion in funding and 4,000 jobs, elevating Los Angeles to No. 3 among startup hubs in the U.S., behind only San Francisco and New York.

The Oct. 26 event at Google highlighted UCLA Anderson’s efforts to boost entrepreneurship across the entire campus by offering an expansive range of resources to would-be entrepreneurs from every discipline and department, said Trish Halamandaris, director of the Venture Accelerator and the showcase’s organizer. Those resources included an immersive “pitch presentation boot camp” for showcase finalists to learn how to build a pitch deck and address an audience.

“Narrative and communication are everything,” Halamandaris said. “If they can’t communicate their vision clearly, then they’re not going to get funding as desired and, perhaps more important, they’re not going to be able to hire and build a team.”

Halamandaris credits UCLA alumnus Jesse Draper, who runs the Halogen VC fund, which invests in early-stage, female-founded consumer tech, with the genesis of the Innovation Showcase. “Jesse sat on one of our panels for LA Tech Week in 2022 and came to me afterward and said, ‘Look, I’m an alumna and want to get involved, but it’s hard to figure out where to break in. If you guys can create one big pitch competition, it would be great for the UCLA community, and it would be great for the entire venture community in Southern California.’”

► Read more about the showcase and winners on the UCLA Anderson website.

Watch the entire Innovation Showcase.