The San Francisco State University IncuGator (SFSU Gator + Incubator) is a startup incubator designed to develop and accelerate the innovative ideas and entrepreneurial visions of SF State students of all majors and levels. IncuGator accepts approximately seven new concepts each academic year. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis until the annual cohort is full.
Concept founders and their team will spend their time in the IncuGator:
- building a prototype and/or minimally viable product (MVP)
- testing and finding validation of proof of concept
- identifying, speaking and working with potential customers or development partners
- exploring business and revenue models
- developing a pitch, and a pitch deck
Based on the concept progress and completion of development milestones, concepts will have access to seed funding to further their product development, market research and manufacturing goals.
About the Program
IncuGator was initially founded in 2018 as the Innovation & Entrepreneurship Fellows Program. With a generous grant from MUFG Union Bank, N.A, the program became a part of a larger Innovation and Entrepreneurship (I&E) initiative at the Lam Family College of Business, designed to help SF State students build the skills, network and confidence to become entrepreneurs.
Today, IncuGator serves as the concept incubator for SF State students of all majors and degree programs. Founders and concepts from IncuGator have gone on to win pitch competitions, join other incubation programs, and find their next concept iteration after graduation.
IncuGator is guided by a diverse pool of faculty, successful industry professionals, well-connected alumni and passionate members of the extended SF State community.
In-person and virtual social events to connect with like minded students, mentors, and professionals.
Prototyping & Development Resources
Research and development support funding up (amount will vary by concept) for the purposes of prototyping, market research, product testing, industrial or graphic design outsourcing, etc.
Individual Coaching & Mentorship Consultations
One-on-one coaching and mentorship will be provided on each concept. Faculty, industry professionals, and start-up experts will all have a hand in critiquing and guiding incubated concepts. IncuGator concepts can also get access to in-house legal consultation and a referral to legal partner Startup Legal Garage.
Upon completion of the program, incubated concepts will have:
- developed a minimally viable product (MVP) prototype
- applied design thinking principles to actualize and iterate product or service ideas
- developed a financial and/or operating model that articulates the startup’s growth path
- created a stakeholder-ready pitch deck with feedback from faculty and industry mentors
Along the way, program fellows become a member of an intimate network of fellow innovators, entrepreneurs and business professionals—spanning the SFSU community and beyond!
Through resource access, mentorship, coaching and networking, the incubator provides the support system that enable students to bring their concepts into reality:
Resources are available to participants through a centralized hub of foundational business functions such as legal advising; entity formation; accounting/taxation; web hosting, development and design; UI/UX design; budgeting and financial modeling
We utilize our extensive base of passionate and engaged alumni, to connect our entrepreneurs and innovators with seasoned professionals that are willing to provide longer-term development, counsel and advising to students looking to pursue entrepreneurship as a career path, or those wishing to develop an innovation-mindset.
We tap into SF State’s alumni base, community partners, faculty, administration and staff to provide objective-oriented guidance to help our incubates make objective progress towards their concept goals. Coaching relationships are shorter-term and objectively goal-oriented.
Social happy hours, intimate AMAs with entrepreneurs, start-up experts, and successful SF State alumni entrepreneurs. Incubatees will also have the opportunity to meet with Bay Area angel investors and seed-stage venture capitalists. Given the University’s operations plan for hybrid and remote programming this year, networking events will be conducted both in-person, and virtually via Zoom.
How to Apply
Currently enrolled SFSU students are encouraged to apply when they are ready to pitch their idea to the IncuGator, and commit to dedicating time effort to developing their concept. Acceptance into the IncuGator is on a rolling basis. Apply early for a better chance of acceptance.
- Fill out the application form.
- Applicants will receive a preliminary evaluation and feedbacks. If invited to proceed further, applicants will be called on for a formal interview.
We are often asked what we look for when selecting students and concepts to incubate. Our acceptance criteria might not be what you think:
For the Concepts That We Incubate
Though we are geographically located right next to Silicon Valley, we consider all concepts based on their potential to impact businesses, communities, and/or society in a positive manner.
Concepts can be:
- product or service innovations
- for-profit or not-for-profit models
- civic, industrial, or social in scope
- technological or analog in nature
Generically, we look for ideas or concepts that aim to do right by their community and by others.
However, there are also a few concept characteristics that particularly pique our interest:
- The concept targets a problem that currently is not adequately addressed through the status quo.
- The concept targets a problem that addresses a significant business, social, or equity issue.
- Given the concept founder(s) and the IncuGator’s resources, a path to build out a prototype or demonstrable version of the concept, is reasonably feasible.
- The concept has the support of a faculty member who is also willing to mentor the concept and concept founder.
Tips for Students Applying to the Program
As with any experience or education, you get what you put in. But the stakes are even higher with the IncuGator, because the value of each encounter with a mentor, coach, and networking session is magnified by the full participation and engagement of the cohort. We choose to incubate students and teams that demonstrate a strong desire, ability, and commitment to developing and growing their entrepreneurial vision. We also look for founders that will give back to the program through active engagement, comradery with others in the cohort (such as by asking questions, sharing experiences, providing feedback and being generous of spirit). IncuGator’s commitment to you means that we put our time, reputation and resources into you, and we expect the same level of commitment from all individuals in in the program.
We also look for students with concepts that will take full, active advantage of the tools, resources, mentorship and connections that we provide. This means you proactively ask for help, expand your network, experiment, iterate and overall, just take action. We mentor and coach, but we are not your co-founder. We will not tell you what to do, make cold calls or conduct research on your behalf. We will make introductions, provide networking opportunities, coaches, mentors, and lots of feedback, guidance and advice. The most successful IncuGators are hungry and driven about their concepts, and have carried themselves with humility to ask for and accept advice, help and guidance.
There are also a few standard eligibility requirements:
- Full-time or part-time status as an SF State undergraduate or graduate student from any college, program or concentration. Must maintain student status through the end of the academic year which you were accepted.
- Minimum SFSU GPA of 2.0 (You cannot be on academic probation).
We incubate concepts from all industries and at all stages of development. Once accepted, student founders are invited to take advantage for IncuGator resources through matriculation. Incubated concepts are listed by industry group. The acceptance year for each concept is listed in their description.
- StomaMate (21/22) - Direct to consumer, customized stoma filter service.
- Adrenalyn (20/21) - Performance athletic apparel for enhancing the experience for track and field athletes.
- Baked! (21/22) - Gluten-free, vegan baking mixes.
- Green Collar (22/23) - Zero waste, sustainable work apparel.
- LuBean (22/23) - Lupini bean isolate prepared foods.
- Lupini Milk Co. (20/21) - High protein plant-based milk made from lupini beans.
- eduMusic (19/20) - Better education through music.
- GfitU (21/22) - Consumer workout matching and accountability application.
- Influpeach (20/21) - Social media data optimization tool for micro-influencers.
- Koob (22/23) - AI/ML-enabled e-reader dictionary.
- LevelUp Prep (20/21) - ML-enabled standardized test preparation application.
- NobleNeighbor (19/20) - Social media platform for local tool and resource exchange.
- Politifi (20/21) - Political matching service to enable constituent awareness, activism, and engagement. Local politics is broken. People wanting to advocate for their communities within the government can be left with zero resources, even when their message is good. With this app, however, you can help change that by finding the candidates you deserve, and listening for when they need people to mobilize for them.
- SimbaPolice (19/20) - Communications platform for law enforcement.
- Vivently (19/20) - Wedding planning application.
Frequently Asked Questions
Have Questions about Applying to IncuGator?
Take a look at some of the Frequently Asked Questions students have about applying to the IncuGator program:
There is no application deadline. We accept and evaluate applications on a rolling basis as received. We aim to incubate up to seven (7) new concepts each year, but will still consider applications even if/when we meet our in-coming cohort goals.
The IncuGator is not a class. It is a year-long program where you learn about and practice elements of innovation and entrepreneurship. There are no tests or grades. Though there will be lectures and deliverables, the focus is on mentorship, hands-on coaching, and network-building. However, if you would like, participation in the program can be taken for course credit under an Independent Study designation through the Lam Family College of Business. If you do participate in the program as a for-credit independent study, it is your responsibility to coordinate deliverables and learning outcomes with your desired instructor of record.
There is no monetary cost to participate in the IncuGator. As a matter of fact, your concept may actually receive funding to help develop your idea. While the program is not technically included with your tuition, its existence is made possible by a generous grant from MUFG Union Bank, N.A., and support from the Lam Family College of Business.
You do not have to be a student in the Lam Family College of Business to apply for or participate in the program. Though we are housed in the Lam Family College of Business, the IncuGator is a cross-disciplinary incubator, and we actively encourage participation from students from all colleges and departments at SF State.
You do not have to already have a startup/business idea or concept to apply, but your chances of being accepted improve greatly as we prefer to incubate concept teams, and concept founders. We do accept individuals that wish to work with a startup, however the availability of such positions will depend on the type and number of concepts that have been accepted into the cohort.
If you do not have a concept that you already want to work on there are several options:
- dependent upon your interests and skill sets, we may try to find an existing concept in the cohort for you to join
- if you have technical, creative or business skills that complement several concepts, your talents could be best utilized as a technical expert, assisting other concepts throughout the academic year
We want to incubate all sorts of business ideas. We welcome both for-profit and not-for-profit product and service concepts across all industries and target market segments. The concept does not have to be technology (hardware or software) based, nor does it have to be ‘the next billion-dollar unicorn.’ We look for concepts that have a high probability of in their effort to affect meaningful, sustainable change.
The IncuGator is neither an investment fund nor do we take a portion of equity on incubated concepts. The program is a part of the Lam Family College of Business at San Francisco State, a not-for-profit, public education institution. Our objectives are to provide opportunities for individuals to develop intellectually, personally, and professionally. Our actions are designed to promote equity, and inspire courage to lead, create and innovate.
Yes, you can apply as many times as you like, as an individual, or as a part of a pre-formed concept team. An individual's eligibility is only determined by their status as a current SFSU student with a minimum 2.0 GPA.
Yes, there are program elements that will be open to non-program participants, such as:
- The annual Innovation Pitch Competition — entry is open to all SF State students, and attendance is open to the public
- The annual Entrepreneurship Symposium — a conference-like event designed to develop the audience’s knowledge, skills and network in the entrepreneurial space
- LFCoB courses in entrepreneurship
- Guest speaker events — We host guest speaker sessions that are open for attendance across the general SF State community. If you are interested in joining the email list to be notified of such speakers, please sign up for our newsletter.
If you apply as an individual, then no, you cannot participate in the IncuGator, as the program is designed as an academic-year long experience.
However, if you have applied as a member of a concept team, and other members of the team still have student status at SF State during the Spring semester, then the concept team can continue in the program, but please consult with the program director on how you might continue with the program in the Spring semester.
Make sure that you have met the individual eligibility requirements, i.e., status as a current SF State student with a minimum 2.0 GPA. If you met those requirements, we also will take into consideration whether you were a Fall graduate, or whether you were able to complete the entire academic year of the program.
We also take into consideration the portfolio of concepts that we will be incubating for the year. We try to balance the cohort with a variety of concepts, e.g., services/products, tech/analog, (not)for-profit, civic/industrial. Sometimes we receive too many similar ideas, and we make the tough choices when creating a diverse cohort.