Check presentation to this year’s Riverside Regional Fast Pitch event winners Solarflux and Tinker the Robot. Photo via @riversidecagov Twitter
However massive they may seem now, some of the largest and most successful companies, such as Apple and Tesla, started with an idea and an innovation.
That’s why the annual Riverside County Innovation Month aims to nurture the region’s light bulbs and eureka moments through a series of events that get innovators ready for liftoff.
Sponsored by the Riverside County Office of Economic Development, the City of Riverside, and other organizations, the grassroots effort brings together people, institutions, and companies to raise awareness of the region’s robust ecosystem to support entrepreneurship.
“Innovation Month is driven by the fact that approximately 96% of businesses located within our county have 50 employees or less,” said Rob Moran, Deputy Director for the Riverside County Office of Economic Development. “We need to lift up small businesses that are the lifeline of our economy.”
This year’s festivities kicked off with “Shark Tank”-style regional fast-pitch competitions in four cities, including Riverside. About 40 startups were given five minutes to showcase a business concept and its market potential in front of a panel of judges for a chance to win and advance to the finals. Regional winners then competed at the grand finale event on April 27 in Temecula with an opportunity to win cash prizes.
The founder of Solarflux makes his pitch at this year’s Riverside Regional Fast Pitch event. Photo via @riversidecagov Twitter
“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 willing to risk it all and entrepreneurs put everything on the line for an idea in a room full of complete strangers,” Moran said.
A wearable QR Code-based identification system, parabolic dish concentrator technology, and “Tinker the Robot” science and engineering homeschooling kits are some of the innovations from entrepreneurs that competed in this year’s fast pitch finale.
Other exciting Innovation Month activities included a business and economic forecast conference in the Coachella Valley, hosted by the county, where entrepreneurs learned about current trends to keep their innovative companies.
“The biggest reason for our success is partnerships and collaborations,” Moran said. “The City of Riverside is an excellent partner, as well as the universities, Chambers of Commerce, and private companies all working together to further economic growth in our region.”
The founder of DashBill pitching at this year’s Riverside Regional Fast Pitch event. Photo via @riversidecagov Twitter
Innovation Month partners hosted talks, workshops, tours, and networking that included the Inland Empire Small Business Development Center’s “Demystifying QuickBooks” seminar and the grand opening of the new downtown location for the University of California, Riverside, ExCITE startup accelerator program.
“The seeds of our entrepreneurial ecosystem begin with an active, engaged community,” said Riverside Mayor Patricia Lock Dawson.. “From Innovation Month to the Innovation District, investment in emerging businesses and retention of entrepreneurs here in Riverside knows no bounds.”
While April was dedicated to innovation, Moran said resources are available to entrepreneurs, business owners, and students year-round.
“Whether you’ve got an idea or you’re an existing business, we’re ready for you,” Moran said.
For more about Riverside County Innovation Month, go to www.rivcoinnovation.org.