How Entrepreneurs Learn to Build a Startup

An interview with Kimberly Davis King, co-director StartR and mystartupXX programs, Rady School of Management UCSD

by Amy Duncan, Goldfish Consulting

A veteran in the world of venture capital, Kimberly Davis King now focuses on investing and mentoring startups and high growth companies. With academic credentials that include a BS in industrial engineering from Stanford University and a MBA from the Harvard Business School, Ms. King is currently a lecturer at the Rady School of Management at University of California, San Diego (UCSD) where she also co-directs the student accelerator programs, StartR and mystartupXX, among other leadership roles and non-profit board positions she holds through the San Diego community.  

The Rady School of Management is an ideal environment for Ms. King. While this graduate-level business school offers an MBA as well as other business degrees, the MBA curriculum places a special emphasis on issues faced by innovation-driven companies. Its signature program is called Lab to Market (L2M), a year-long course series that teaches students how to perform market research and feasibility studies, and develop a business plan and go-to-market strategy. “After that experience many of those students want to start their own companies,” said Ms. King. “But they are still going to school or working other jobs and often not able to get into traditional accelerator programs.” In 2013, a group of students identified this gap and suggested that the Rady School have their own accelerator program. The Dean asked Lada Rasochova, PhD, and Ms. King to help start StartR.

StartR is a free, non-profit accelerator program for Rady students and alumni designed to provide entrepreneurs tools to start and grow their businesses. The program includes workshops, mentoring, advice, and access to other resources for early-stage companies. At the conclusion of the six-month program, teams present their pitches at Demo Day, attended by investors and industry experts in the San Diego community.

“Every six months we have a cohort of six teams that go through the StartR program,” said Ms. King. “They come in with the idea, and we help them get their business off the ground. They incorporate the company, raise money, and many have generated revenue.”

Two stand-out companies that completed the StartR program are Aira.io and Alpine Labs. Aira.io uses Google glass-like technology worn by the blind that connects to remote agents who provide assistance in navigating the world around them. They’ve raised over $2.25 million in venture funding and have the product in beta-testing. The Alpine Labs product, Michron, allows affordable time-lapse photography using common DSLR cameras. The company has had three successful Kickstarter campaigns, recently raising $1.2 million, the highest amount any UCSD group has raised on Kickstarter.

The mystartupXX program was created by Dr. Rasochova and Rosibel Ochoa, PhD, from the von Liebig Entrepreneurism Center at UCSD. “They created mystartupXX to encourage female entrepreneurship in technology,” said Ms. King. “During the nine-month program, participants attend workshops on team building, leadership, market assessment, market research, creating a value proposition, validating business models, and understanding financing strategies needed to launch the business.”

One notable company that completed the mystartupXX program is Cypher Genomics, founded by Ashley Van Zeeland, PhD. Cypher Genomics enables scalable, automated genome interpretation of next generation sequencing data for diagnostics development and biomarker discovery. The company was acquired by Human Longevity in November 2015.

“We welcome SDEE members to become involved with StartR and mystartupXX,” said Ms. King. “Only one member of the management team needs to be a current Rady student or a Rady alumni to participate in StartR.” A great way to meet Rady students and entrepreneurs is to attend Demo Day on March 30, when the StartR teams present their pitches. Both programs have a competitive application process to select participants. The Spring 2016 StartR program closes on April 10th. The next application period for mystartupXX is the Fall 2016. To learn more about StartR and the Demo Day, click here. To learn more about mystartupXX, click here.

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