Inclusive Innovation Tackling the World's Most Pressing Issues

As Director of the Blackstone Launchpad powered by Techstars and as Rachel Carson College Lecturer at the University of California, Santa Cruz, I seek to accelerate inclusive entrepreneurship for shared prosperity.


Through the Blackstone Launchpad powered by Techstars, my team and I nurture next-generation founders, innovations, and ventures by providing them with funding, mentorship, access to support networks and more. We focus on science-based, AI, and digital technologies and ventures that are tackling environmental, health, and social issues. And we help founders to create a new kind of ventures that embody the values of diversity, equity and inclusion, with shared prosperity in mind from day one. Learn more about the changes I'm advocating for and witnessing in this space, as discussed in a recent conversation with Fast Company and other colleagues from a number of industries.


As a Rachel Carson College Lecturer at UCSC, I foster inclusive and mission-driven innovation by teaching technology innovation, human-centered design and entrepreneurship for sustainability and planet health, and "Hacking for Oceans", a new course launched as part of the "Hacking for" series hosted at Stanford and at the University of California, Berkeley, Santa Cruz, and San Diego, applying the lean launchpad methodology to real world problems in specific areas of research and academic excellence in each campus. Hacking for Oceans is being opened up to the entire UC system as UC-wide class. Among the startups that I have worked with are ReFuel and OrganOmics.


One of my other responsibilities is to serve as a member of the UC Office of the President's Innovation & Entrepreneurship Initiative, which is aimed at enabling the UC system to continue creating bold solutions to today’s biggest challenges through innovation and entrepreneurship.


To conclude, I train as well as fund academic entrepreneurs through the National Science Foundation's Innovation Corps (I-Corps), a program aimed at bringing more scientific research-based innovations to market. Innovation Corps is experiential and project-based, allowing teams of professors and students to develop early-stage ideas and to launch new ventures and innovations from the classroom. Thanks to the generous funding made available by the NSF, my colleagues and I select and fund promising I-Corps ventures -- many of them end up applying for additional NSF funding too. Among the successful NSF-funded startups that I often refer to when working with I-Corps participants is Cruz Foam.