All You Need is An Idea
Riverside County's 13 Innovation Centers offer tailored services to different industries and entrepreneurs, providing mentorship, education, and training to launch companies and raise venture capital. The Centers have helped launch hundreds of ventures and raised millions in the past three years. They offer a "fertile ground to cultivate a new idea," says an entrepreneur who benefited from the support. The Centers provide guidance and direction to novice entrepreneurs, who often don't know where to start.
There are 13 Innovation Centers located throughout Riverside County. Each one operates independently, serving different industries and provides a tailored set of services—but they all have the same goal: to assist entrepreneurs pursuing an idea.
“You can just have an idea,” says Dr. Rosibel Ochoa, the Associate Vice Chancellor of Technology Partnerships at the University of California, Riverside, which oversees EPIC, an Innovation Center with a life science and technology incubators, as well as efforts tied with UCR’s Opportunities to Advance Sustainability, Innovation, and Social Inclusion (OASIS) and the California Air Resources Board (CARB), which supports research and vehicle emissions testing. “You can come into the center as early as you want.” EPIC offers mentorship, education and training to help entrepreneurs find value in an idea and ultimately commercialize that idea, according to Ochoa. Since opening its doors five years ago, EPIC has helped more than 600 ventures and launched 46 companies. In the last three years, the center has raised more than $70 million in venture capital for start-ups.
Edge Sound Research is one of the more recent companies EPIC has helped. Founded by Valtteri Salomaki and Ethan Castro in 2020, the firm created Experiential Audio, a new audio format that allows listeners to hear and feel sound. Edge has already raised $230,000, and will start raising $4 million in SEED funding this year. “We had support from EPIC, SBDC and Riverside County, which was supporting the facilities that we were in. That allowed us to have the time and the resources to prototype and try and fail, fail, fail. It was a fertile ground to cultivate a new idea. I don’t think you get that most other places,” says Castro about his experience with EPIC.
The Coachella Valley has three Innovation Centers, also known as ihubs, operated by The Coachella Valley Economic Partnership (CVEP). “Our programs are open to any entrepreneur with a presence in the Coachella Valley and occasionally to those with a verified intent to relocate their business to the Coachella Valley,” says Laura E. James, VP of Innovation at CVEP.
The Murrieta Innovation Center (MIC) is another central hub supporting innovation in the County. The MIC has helped launch companies like Vinduino, an agronomy technology company that helps farmers manage crops through climate change. Reinier van der Lee, the CEO and founder, initially connected with the Innovation Center through a local pitch competition, but he credits the center with helping to support and scale the business. “It helps us sharpening our tools by organizing pitch competitions and soliciting investor feedback,” he says.
The California Baptist University also operates an Innovation Center to support business development in Riverside. “I am so excited to see the level of innovation happening in Riverside County,” says Tim Gramling, LPD, Assistant Professor of Business Dean of School of Business. “My role is to be the chief champion for business in the Inland Empire, particularly from a biblical and Christian worldview. Our mission is to focus on the way that business is done.”
Innovation Centers provide direction and guidance to novice entrepreneurs, who often don’t know the first step toward bringing their idea to fruition. “The world is full of individuals who are ready to pounce on naïve or starry-eyed startup founders who aren’t sure which way to turn,” says James. “There are so many free and low-cost resources in Riverside County that are available to help. Seek them out.”