Startup Challenge Monterey Bay logo

Finalists Announced for the 2018 Startup Challenge

Startup Monterey Bay logo

Eighty-One businesses entered this year’s Startup Challenge, and the field has been narrowed to 25 finalists!  This year’s Finalists are:


Student Division:

  • Ammodo Recruiting
  • BOHO Marketplace
  • Sauce
  • Worknight Creations LLC


Main Street Division:

  • 360 Health Café
  • Abilities Café
  • Arti-Culture
  • CGC Dog Training
  • Monterey Moments
  • Salad Bytes Media
  • Spice of Life Catering
  • Splendid Blended
  • Turn Key (101 Vapes)


Venture Division:

  • Audible RX
  • Check Your Engine Light
  • Cruz Foam
  • Einsigns
  • Levered Learning
  • Leviathan Foods
  • Litmus Box
  • New Wave Programs
  • Ohana Shave Ice
  • Passion Slam
  • Sea Change
  • Time Lock Documentation


Finalists will receive mentoring and pitch workshops to help them prepare for the Finale of this year’s Startup Challenge.  The Finales will feature exhibits of the Finalist businesses at the Venture Showcase and the championship competition at the Otter Tank.  The Finale will be held on May 12th at CSUMB @ Salinas City Center in downtown Salinas.

RSVP Link: .

More information is available at


Congratulations to everyone that pitched their businesses at the 2018 Startup Challenge Qualifying Round!



Hello desk logo

Hellodesk Coworking Space in the News

Coworking space comes to Monterey

Monterey is catching up with the rest of the telecommuting world. The area’s first coworking space launched late last year, bringing the latest trend in space and idea sharing work communities to the area. The enterprise is called Hellodesk and was co-founded by Pacific Grove startup entrepreneurs Avneesh Kumar, 39, and Sam Hain, 44.
Read the article here!
Cruz Foam logo

Cruz Foam Tackles Sustainability of Surfboards

Cruz Foam is aiming to tackle sustainability in their own way. With backgrounds in material and chemical engineering, founders John and Marco set out to create a sustainable replacement for surfboard blanks.

Surfboard blanks are made out of different types of foam, though polyurethane foam has been used in the making of these boards since the 1950s. The main reason this foam has been widely used is its ability to shape easily. However easy it is to produce and shape these surfboard blanks they are toxic to nature since they are non-renewable and do not decompose.

Coming from Santa Cruz, this student and teacher, both avid surfers, put their minds together to come up with the idea of creating a surfboard blank out of shrimp shells. Shrimp shells, along with other crustaceans, have a cell wall structure composed of a polymer that can be formed and shaped much like other foams. With making great progress and getting good results, they have pursued their work further.

They are now in the process of moving outside of the school and creating the actual business. Opening a new lab where they can further their research has given them the hopes of creating a sustainable and similar surfboard blank that the people are expecting. They are expanding by looking into establishing an advisory board which will most likely consist of Ward Coffey, Dan Hutchins, and others soon to be determined.


They own the patent for the creation of the foam and the product of the surfboard blank created from the foam. Currently their chitin foam is 2 times as dense, meaning their only problems are with the scaling of both the physics and dynamics of the product. There is a lot of confidence in them being able to create a surfboard blank that shapes easily and is comparable in strength.

It is clear that John and his other co-founders, Marco Rolandi and Xiaolin Zhang, are focused on sustainability, and although they are focusing on surfboard blanks for now, it doesn’t mean they will stop there. When asked about manufacturing of their products, John stated that they would ideally like to partner or license their technology to other surfboard manufactures so they can mass produce their Cruz Foam boards. Focusing their efforts in Santa Cruz at the moment but they are hoping to expand to California and later other states to help eliminate toxic materials from entering our ecosystem. When asked what will come from the completion of their product they stated that they will give out the product to famous and local surfers such as Ward Coffey to test the product and provide feedback.


Cruz Foam has been in numerous startup like events that have helped them get to where they are today. They have participated in UC’s Grandslam where research is presented and awarded. They entered UC Santa Cruz’s Business Design Showcase and won third. They continued onto to Innovation Goes Outside in Mountain View where they pitched their idea in a forum setting and received offers for business consulting and lawyers. From here they received $5,000 in legal services from Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati (WSGR). Cruz Foam also took 1st place in the student division at our own Startup Challenge Monterey Bay.

Cruz Foam is dedicated to its mission and has now been accepted into Santa Cruz’s accelerator at Santa Cruz Works where they will receive help on furthering their business and entering the market.


A sustainable product that can create change in the ecosystem while not changing the sport of surfing. Keep your eyes out when purchasing your next surfboard for Cruz Foam and help make a difference. Visit their website, to see what all the fuss is about!

Startup Challenge

Startup Challenge Monterey Bay

Startup Challenge Monterey Bay is a regional new business competition and acceleration program for entrepreneurs in Monterey, San Benito and Santa Cruz counties.  The Challenge is held annually, organized by a team of community volunteers and hosted by the Institute for Innovation and Economic Development of CSU, Monterey Bay. It is a competitive acceleration process that teaches, coaches, mentors, networks, and connects entrepreneurs to the knowledge and resources they need. Prospective entrepreneurs, start-ups and emerging companies showcase and develop their business concepts while competing for prizes. The Challenge provides workshops and mentoring to support the founding, funding and growth of new and innovative businesses in the Monterey Bay region. The Challenge empowers entrepreneurs to communicate their ideas effectively to investors, customers and employees.

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Women in Ag

Monterey Herald Covers the Women In Ag Forum

KION News covers the 2017 New Frontiers Water Forum

SEASIDE, Calif. – Hundreds gathered in Seaside on Friday for the 2017 New Frontiers Water Forum.

The all day event was sold out and brought water experts, researchers and innovators from all over the World. The goal of the conference was to find new ways to conserve and manage water on the Central Coast.

The Central Coast faces challenges that other parts of California do not when it comes to sourcing water. There is no Hetch Hetchy Reservoir or Colorado River pumping water into the Central Coast, for the most part it is sourced locally.

Keynote speaker, David Sedlak, who is also a professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at UC Berkeley says “unlike much of California the Central Coast is not connected to these imported water projects that brings snow melt down from the mountains, so the central coast has to make due on the water that falls between the coastal range and the sea.”

Sedlak says even though the drought is over, it is not a matter of if there will be another drought, it’s a matter of when. He also says one of the biggest challenges is having residents live within their means.

“In a wet year there might be plenty of water but in a dry year we draw upon our ground water supply and start depleting it and we have to do a good job managing the needs of people and farming to make sure that we have enough water to get us through the drought periods.” says Sedlak.

The CEO and President of Ocean Mist Farms in Castroville says his company does all they can to conserve water, “We value water. It’s a precious resource. We actually use recycled water for much of our irrigation in the Castroville area. We also use all drip irrigation. I mean water is a precious resource and we do everything we can to save it as much as we can. It’s an inlet and it’s a valuable thing for the whole community not just for agriculture.”

John Fair, who has lived in Monterey County for more than 20 years says he is concerned because water is such a huge part of life on the Central Coast, “Our economy as well as our own quality of life is built around the water here. Not only for personal use but for the economics of the areas.”

Central Coast water officials say they are looking into different ways to manage water, one is desalination plants. “Twenty or thirty years ago people dismissed desalination because it was energy intensive and damaging to the environment, but over the last decade many parts of the world have build sea water desalination plants and have reduced the cost and the environmental impacts. So after the desalination plant was opened in Carlsbad, north of San Diego and Santa Barbara went forward with the plans for their desalination plant, people here in the Monterey area are taking it much more seriously as an option for our future.”

Although the desalination plant is being discussed, water management officials say they will take a closer look at recycling water and storm water collection first.
KION Copyright 2017


Startup Challenge Returns to CSUMB

SEASIDE, Ca., March 1, 2018 – California State University, Monterey Bay (CSUMB) is set to host the Startup Challenge again this spring for the ninth consecutive year.

 Article ID: 690440
Released: 2-Mar-2018 12:05 PM EST
Source Newsroom: California State University, Monterey Bay

Newswise — SEASIDE, Ca., March 1, 2018 – California State University, Monterey Bay (CSUMB) is set to host the Startup Challenge again this spring for the ninth consecutive year. The Startup Challenge is a new business competition and accelerator program that supports the founding, funding and growth of new and innovative businesses in the Monterey Bay region.

The competition, which as awarded more than $350K over nine years, offers three divisions for competitors based on the size and scope of their business.

  • Venture Division: Open to businesses that are intended to scale and provide venture-investor level returns.
  • Main Street Division: Open to small businesses, sole proprietorships, and nonprofits.
  • Student Division: Open to students in high school, community colleges, colleges and universities.

Entrepreneurs and startup companies in Monterey, Santa Cruz and San Benito counties, as well as Gilroy and Morgan Hill, may apply to the competition through CSUMB’s Institution for Innovation and Economic Development (iiED). Applications are due by midnight, Monday, March 12th.

Startup Challenge is also offering introduction to Startup Challenge workshops to help prospective contestants prepare their application and business pitch.

Key dates for the Challenge are the application deadline on March 12th, the qualifying round pitches on April 8th, and the final round and venture showcase on May 12th.

The Startup Challenge Monterey Bay is organized by the Institute for Innovation and Economic Development (iiED). The iiED provides programs and events to support entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship in the Monterey Bay region. The iiED is an institute of the College of Business at CSU Monterey Bay.

CSUMB to hold Symposium on Women in Ag and Tech

SEASIDE, Calif. – The role technology plays in agriculture continues to grow. But what about the role women play? On Wednesday a symposium will feature some of the top women in agriculture, technology and agtech.

According to Executive Director of the Institute for Innovation and Economic Development, Brad Barbeau, not enough women are entering STEM fields or tech fields, even though that’s what companies and industries are increasingly looking for. Pair that with farming, which is also typically dominated by men, it makes the environment not as welcoming for females. Some of the top women from the biggest Agriculture companies will speak about their experiences in tech, agriculture and agtech Wednesday.

“Having successful women talk about what their experiences have been, whats helped them be successful and what are some of the barriers and how do we understand those barriers,” said Barbeau.

The panel discussion will be today from 2-6PM at CSUMB University Center, 4314 Sixth Avenue Seaside, CA 93955.

 See the story on KION

Women in Tech and Ag Entrepreneurship Forum

Agriculture and technology come together at Cal State Monterey Bay’s half day symposium on Women in AgTech, Ag and Tech. Female leaders in Ag and tech share stories of challenges and opportunities in their respected fields. Speakers include Lorri Koster the CEO and chair of Mann Packing, Margaret D’Arigo of Taylor Farms and women entrepreneurs and innovators in agtech. Meet these amazing women who are dedicated to agriculture and technology. Special guests include Monterey County Supervisor Luis Alejo.

For more information visit

For disability accommodations, please contact


Otters in the “Shark Tank”

Note: This article was originally published by The Lutrinae, please follow the link to read the original.

This past Friday through Sunday, Cal State University, Monterey Bay hosted the sixth annual Startup Weekend for the Monterey Bay area. Taking place every January, the event gives young entrepreneurs the chance to learn in an environment that encourages “startup magic,” working together to create startups in one chaotic weekend. Their goal is to help teach through doing, foregoing long panels and textbooks in favor of workshops and collaboration. This is to encourage entrepreneurs to learn through experience, and not just through hypothetical situations.

The main event of the weekend is the startup challenge, where teams compete by delivering short presentations to practice pitching their company to investors or in other professional situations. This “Shark Tank”-style environment doesn’t just offer experience for entrepreneurs, but also gives them a chance to win money in both cash prizes and legal or other business services. The teams are split up into three categories: Venture, for startups aiming high and hoping to grow into proper enterprises; Main Street, for small businesses; and Student, for young entrepreneurs somewhere in between highschool and graduate school.

Landing in first place this year was the proposed service Swoop, which aims to connect homeowners with people seeking parking for venues. Taking second was Line Jumper, a service that would rock the queue-economy by allowing people to buy, sell, and auction their place in line. Coming in third, but winning the ultimate favour of the crowd, was Furever. Furever would set out to connect homeless pets with willing and able owners, a good idea with a lovely sentiment, leaving no surprise as to why in won crowd favourite.