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Friday, June 18, 2021

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Students show off the piggy banks they created during the ZIP Launchpad's "Paint Your Perspective" event in the fall semester. Students show off the piggy banks they created during the ZIP Launchpad's "Paint Your Perspective" event in the fall semester.
 


ZIP Launchpad a “Great Motivator” During Pandemic

SDSU’s start-up incubator is thinking outside the box to encourage student entrepreneurs with virtual programming.
By Kellie Woodhouse
 

“The event gave me such encouragement in my STEM endeavors, and it is so interesting to learn from different perspectives.”

As students head into a third semester of a college experience upended by the COVID-19 pandemic, San Diego State University’s start-up incubator continues to invent ways to provide high-impact experiences in a digital environment.

“We ask our entrepreneurs to think outside the box all the time, so the shift to virtual programming has allowed us to practice what we preach and really think creatively about our programming,” said Cathy Pucher, executive director of the Zahn Innovation Platform (ZIP) Launchpad.

The ZIP Launchpad held 20 virtual events last semester, attended by more than 300 aspiring entrepreneurs. Pucher and her team have adapted events previously conducted in-person.

One example is during a Women Entrepreneurs in STEM “Paint Your Perspective” event in the fall, the ZIP Launchpad delivered paint-your-own piggy bank kits that students worked on while a series of successful female leaders gave advice and answered questions. Then they voted for their favorite piggy banks, which symbolized “idea banks” to inspire participants to bank their creative ideas and use their best to apply to the ZIP Launchpad.

“It was so incredible to listen to inspirational women in STEM and be given the opportunity to ask questions about their careers,” said Jeanette Marino, a biology major. “The event gave me such encouragement in my STEM endeavors, and it is so interesting to learn from different perspectives.”

Trevor Bailey participated in ZIP Launchpad during the fall semester to hone his idea for Shore Cubby, a company that would provide storage at the beach for surfers and others participating in water sports. Bailey and his partner recently won Pitch of the Semester for ZIP Launchpad’s experience-track (e-track) level, the first-stage teams undergo when refining their ideas.

“ZIP Launchpad’s e-track was a great motivator for Shore Cubby during the pandemic, our team felt it kept us on track and laid down specific goals for us to hit,” Bailey said. “It was a wakeup call for us that we had the potential and could take Shore Cubby really far with the right process.”

Students interested in learning more about the ZIP Launchpad and applying to become a part of the incubator can visit their website for tips, help and instructions. The next round of applications are due Feb. 14.

Teams who take advantage of ZIP Launchpad’s application resources — including office hours and an application workshop — have a 60% better chance of acceptance, Pucher said.

Students who don’t have their own idea, but want to get some entrepreneurship experience can apply for a paid internship with one of the ZIP Launchpad teams like Shore Cubby. ZIP Launchpad teams are on track to hire 50 paid interns to work virtually this year.