CPP NSF I-corps prepares for sixth cohort

Cal Poly Pomona’s National Science Foundation Innovative Corps program is preparing for its sixth cohort following the campus’ fifth cohort that completed the course in two virtual meetings held Oct. 9 and Oct. 23.

The NSF I-Corps aims to teach innovators how to translate laboratory research into the marketplace, according to the CPP NSF I-Corps webpage. The program’s ultimate goal is to provide participants with the necessary mentoring and team-building training to help them build an effective business proposal and acquire the appropriate funding.

Trayan Kushev, assistant professor of entrepreneurship at CPP, lecturing an in-person cohort. Photo pre-COVID 19 restrictions. Courtesy of CPP I-Corps)

The I-Corps program’s second cohort’s success story, “Vistendo” led by CPP alumna Isabel Gutierrez (’19, mechanical engineering), spoke to the fifth cohort to provide advice, answer questions and discuss her experience with the program.

“When I founded Vistendo to end human suffering related to youth athlete injuries, I found it was vital to talk to athletes, parents, coaches, athletic organizations, athletic trainers and doctors to narrow down how best to solve this important problem,” said Gutierrez. “I really believe that I-Corps emphasis on customers and grants help entrepreneurs have a greater chance of success with their venture.”

“Vistendo” is a first aid service that provides sports teams with a team of medics specially trained in sports medicine. The service has two different packages, one providing a basic level of care to players and the other providing a more advanced level of care.

After moving on from the CPP I-Corps training site, “Vistendo” received a $250,000 grant from the Defense Health Agency, according to the CPP Office of Academic Innovation annual report.

The I-Corps program, which typically benefits from in-person instruction and team building, has been heavily impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, resulting in virtual instruction. As such, program results have been delayed.

The I-corps program’s fifth cohort was conducted entirely over Zoom, the first cohort to do so since the program began in spring 2019. (Courtesy of CPP I-Corps)

“Last cohort in spring, we had the lowest success rate in terms of completion, in terms of the faculty teaching team evaluation to grant them to move on to the next step or not,” said Olive Li, director of the I-Corps program and associate professor of human nutrition and food science.

Teams that did not finish training from the fourth cohort were invited back to the program to pick up their training where they left off.

The fifth cohort was planned to be conducted remotely, Li added; a significant change to the fourth cohort’s quick shift from in-person to online mentoring.

CPP received the grant to become an NSF I-Corps training site in 2018. Teams that succeed at the CPP site will move on to the Innovation Network – Los Angeles I-Corps Node. The program is led by an eight-member team of specialists and CPP professors. The program is open to not only current CPP students, but also alumni, faculty and members of the surrounding community, according to Li.

The first cohort saw 24 participants in spring 2019. The following cohorts saw 21 in summer 2019, 42 in fall 2019, 19 in spring 2020 and 14 n fall 2020, according to Lauren Bernal, NSF I-Corps program coordinator.

“This is a great program and a wonderful opportunity that the Cal Poly Pomona community has available to them,” Bernal said. “The faculty teaching team’s guidance and connections that are made between the members of each cohort are invaluable.”

As of Nov. 6, the next short course dates are to be announced. For more information about past and future cohorts, visit CPP I-Corps webpage.

(Feature image taken pre-COVID restrictions; courtesy of CPP I-Corps)

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