California State University, Los Angeles won the grand prize of $25,000 in the first-ever L.A. Mayor's Cup, a competition in which university students create innovative solutions to vexing civic problems.
"This is a wonderful victory for our college's entrepreneurship students and their Small Business Strong Cal State LA Team in the L.A. Mayor's Cup," said James A. Goodrich, dean of the College of Business and Economics. "As the only undergraduate team, they pulled off an amazing upset; winning first place is a testimony to the quality of our students and our program."
Goodrich thanked Barney Santos, entrepreneur in residence, and others who worked with the students to prepare them for the competition.
The Cal State LA team and four other finalists from USC and Loyola Marymount pitched their projects to L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti, deputy mayors, and local business leaders in a live competition yesterday.
Nearly 100 teams from universities and colleges in Los Angeles County competed in the inaugural L.A. Mayor's Cup.
Garcetti called the competition "an exciting opportunity for young entrepreneurs to help us solve the city's toughest challenges."
"We want to put your ideas to work," Garcetti said in a video promoting the competition.
The grand prize includes an opportunity for the Cal State LA students to work with City Hall for eight weeks to transform their award-winning idea into reality.
The Cal State LA team has proposed a traveling resource center that will connect small business owners with city resources. Using zero-emission vehicles, Small Business Strong will travel to businesses located in underserved neighborhoods. It will link small business owners with established resource centers, lending organizations and non-profits.
Cal State LA students Oscar Aguayo, Alex Lam, Elianne Rodriguez, and Martin Tejeda make up the winning team. The team members are part of the Entrepreneurial Collegiate Consulting Organization.
The students worked with the University's Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation to develop the project for the competition. Under the direction of Santos and with support from Goodrich, the Center has provided the Cal State LA team with connections to industry mentors and training through a five-week intensive design thinking lab.
"This victory by our students underscores the talent, energy and spirit of innovation that is flourishing at Cal State LA," said Cal State LA Vice President Jose A. Gomez.
The L.A. Mayor's Cup is a project of the MetroLab Network, a group of public-private partnerships focused on addressing urban challenges with new technology and policy approaches. Cal State LA and the City of Los Angeles are partners in the network. The partnership was established through the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, which is housed under the College of Business and Economics. The MetroLab Network was launched in 2015 as part of the Obama Administration's Smart Cities Initiative.