Innovation and Entrepreneurship Fellows Program

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The Innovation & Entrepreneurship Fellows Program at San Francisco State University is currently accepting applications for its 2020/2021 cohort! If you are a current SFSU student and have a business idea or a concept startup, we want to hear from you.

Attend one of our virtual Information Sessions on September 2nd, 3rd, 16th or 17th. See more details below, under Information Sessions.

Application Deadline: Monday, September 28th, 2020 at 5 p.m. PDT.

Build your network. Learn to be a founder. Practice building a business. Exercise your creativity.

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About the Program

The Innovation and Entrepreneurship Fellows Program (IEFP or The Program) is a concept incubator designed to grow SFSU students, of all majors and levels, into successful innovators and entrepreneurs. Every year, IEFP selects five (5) of the most promising concepts (or up to 25 individual students) to join a year-long mentorship cohort.

The Program, guided by a diverse pool of SFSU faculty and successful industry professionals, will provide the cohort with the skills, interdisciplinary expertise, real-world connections and social network to nurture their ideas and turn them into an executable reality. Upon completion of the Program, cohort members will have:

  • 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, you will become a member of an intimate network of fellow innovators, entrepreneurs and business professionals – spanning the SFSU community and beyond. The 2020/2021 program includes the following elements:

  • Classes: Customize, boot-camp instruction to get you up and running on key topics such as - customer segmentation, value propositions, prototyping, team-building and leadership, revenue/business models, financial modeling, and pitching to investors.
  • Networking: Social happy hours, intimate AMAs with entrepreneurs, start-up experts, and successful SFSU alumni entrepreneurs. You will also have the opportunity to meet with Bay Area angel investors and seed-stage venture capitalists. Given the University’s operations plan for remote learning and remote activities this year, all networking events will be virtual via Zoom.
  • Prototyping & Development Resources: Research and development support funding up to ($3,000 per concept) will be made available for initiatives such as: prototyping, market research, product testing, industrial or graphic design outsourcing, etc.
  • Coaching & Mentorship: 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.

Information Sessions

Virtual information sessions launching the 2020 Innovation & Entrepreneurship Fellows Program are open to all current SFSU students. There are five session times to choose from. All sessions are held on Zoom, so you can join online or by phone. Material presented during the sessions are the same, so you only need to attend one of the sessions.

Several information session times available:

  • Wednesday, September 2, 10 a.m. and 7 p.m.
  • Thursday, September 3, 10 a.m.; 4 p.m.; and 7 p.m.
  • Wednesday, September 16, 10 a.m. and 7 p.m.
  • Thursday, September 17, 4 p.m. and 7 p.m.

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Meeting ID: 932 9788 0593

Passcode: 792609

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Program History

The IEFP was launched in 2018 with a generous grant from MUFG Union Bank, N.A. The IEFP is just one part of a larger initiative at the Lam Family College of Business designed to help SF State students build the skills and confidence to become entrepreneurs. Housed in the Lam Family College of Business, the IEFP is one of three engagement initiatives launched to help SFSU students become more successful entrepreneurs:

  • Innovation & Entrepreneurship Fellows Program – A year-long startup and concept incubator open to all current SFSU students.
  • Entrepreneurship Symposium – An annual conference founded with the mission to encourage the entrepreneurial spirit, develop entrepreneurial skills and strengthen the entrepreneurial network between SFSU, our local communities, and all industries.
  • Innovation Pitch Competition – An annual business pitch competition, open to all concepts where the founder and/or co-founder is a current SFSU student.

The Application Process

Applications for the 2020-2021 Cohort are now open!

Application deadline: Monday, September 28th, 2020 at 5 p.m. PDT.

Submit your application on our Qualtrics form.

Applications are accepted for individuals and for concept teams, meaning you can apply:

  • As an individual, without a team, with or without a concept.
  • As a team (of up to five people, all must be current SFSU students), with or without a concept.

Acceptance Criteria

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 Students in the Program:

  • Grit and Commitment to the Program – Like any experience or education, you get what you put in. But the stakes are even higher with the IEFP, 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 the desire and ability to commit to the program through active engagement with others in the cohort, such as by asking questions, sharing experiences, providing feedback and being generous of spirit. Our commitment means that we put our time, reputation and resources into you, and we expect the same level of commitment from you as well.
  • A Desire and Ability to Grow – We want students and concepts that will take full advantage of the tools, resources, mentorship and connects 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 won’t spoon-feed you. You need to be hungry and driven, yet carry yourself with humility.

There are also a few standard eligibility requirements:

  • Full-time/Part-time status as an SF State undergraduate or graduate student from any college, program or concentration. Must remain a full-time or part-time student through May 2021.
  • Minimum SFSU GPA of 2.0

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.

You get the picture, right? The sky’s the limit, your idea just needs to do right by your community and others, and we want to help make that happen.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Q: Is this a class?
    No, this is not a class. This is a year-long fellowship where you will learn about and practice elements of innovation and entrepreneurship. There are no tests, no grades. Though there will be some lectures and assignments, there is a focus 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. 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.
  • Q: What does this program cost?
    Is it included in my tuition? There is no monetary cost to participate in the IEFP. 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., with support from the Lam Family College of Business.
  • Q: Do I have to be a Business Major to participate or apply?
    No, you do not have to be a student in the Lam Family College of Business to apply for or participate in the IEFP program. Though we are housed in the Lam Family College of Business, the IEFP is a cross-disciplinary program, and we actively encourage participation from students in all colleges and departments at San Francisco State.
  • Q: Do I have to already have a startup idea or concept to apply?
    No, you do not have to already have a startup/business idea or concept to apply. If you do not have a concept that you already want to work on there are several options:
    • We will try to find an existing concept in the cohort for you to join up with;
    • You can come up with a concept to incubate during the program;
    • If you have technical skills that complement several cohort concepts, your talents could be best utilized as a floater, assisting all cohort concepts throughout the academic year.
  • Q: What types of ideas/concepts do you incubate? Does the startup idea have to be technology-based? Does it have to be a for-profit business?
    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.’
  • Q: I hear most startup incubators are investors. Is the IEFP an investment fund? Do you take a portion of equity?
    No, the IEFP is not an investment fund, nor do we take a portion of equity on your concept. The IEFP is a part of the Lam Family College of Business at San Francisco State University, a not-for-profit, public educational 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.
  • Q: I've applied before, but was not accepted in the program. Can I apply again?
    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.
  • Q: I'm interested in the Program, but I think it's too much of a commitment for me right now. Can I still participate in parts of the Program?
    Yes and no. 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 SFSU 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.
    • Guest speaker events - the IEFP will host a number of guest speaker sessions that are open for attendance across the general SFSU community. If you are interested in joining the email list to be notified of such speakers, please sign up for our newsletter.
    Aside from the opportunities listed above, other Program events and resources are reserved only for IEFP Fellows. Because of the resource-intensive nature of the incubation process, we can only provide access to a limited number of Fellows each year.
  • Q: I will be graduating after the Fall semester. Could I still be a part of the Program?
    It's complicated. If you apply as an individual, then no, you cannot participate in the IEFP, 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 SFSU during the Spring semester, then the concept team can continue in the program though you will not officially be a part of the IEFP in the Spring semester.
  • Q: My idea was pretty awesome, but why wasn’t I accepted into the Program?
    First, make sure that you meet the individual eligibility requirements (status as a current SFSU student with a minimum 2.0 GPA). If you meet those requirements, we also take into consideration whether you will be a Fall graduate, or whether you will be 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 (services/products, tech/analog, (not)for-profit, civic/industrial). Sometimes, we just get too many similar ideas, and we have to make tough choices when creating a diverse cohort.

Special thanks to MUFG Union Bank, N.A.

union bank logoWe extend our appreciation to our corporate partner MUFG Union Bank for their investment to the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Fellowship program, a first for the Lam Family College of Business at San Francisco State University. Thanks to their generosity, we can prepare students to become global leaders as they develop entrepreneurial skills by launching a successful startup.