iStartup Academy


Do you have a good idea? Have you wondered what to do when you have a good idea? Have you wondered how to start your own business? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then the iStartup Academy is for you!
iStartup Academy provides you the basic tools to turn your idea into a new venture. As a participant in iStartup Academy, you will be inspired by stories of successful entrepreneurs. You will learn how to identify problems worth solving and how to evaluate solutions to solve these problems. You will learn how to build an entrepreneurial team, conduct customer discovery, determine product-market fit, and how to finance your venture. You will learn how to pitch your ideas to customers and investors.
iStartup Academy will provide you with the tools you need to start a new venture – be it for profit, nonprofit or social enterprise. You will receive:

  • Certificate of completion
  • Mentoring by successful professionals
  • Networking with program participants and successful entrepreneurs
  • Pitching skills
  • Startup team members
  • Opportunity to compete in the Bronco Startup Challenge with $20,000 in prize money
  • Resume worthy experience

When & Where

iStartup Academy meets from 6 to 7:50 on Thursdays starting March 30 to May 11. The iStartup Academy will be held in the University Library Room 1808.

The Academy culminates with the Bronco Startup Challenge on May 18 from 5 to 9 p.m.


Registration now closed!

Brought to you by:
Student Innovation Idea Lab (iLab)
Office of Research, Innovation and Economic Development
Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation
College of Business Administration

Schedule – Click each week to see speakers and a short bio!

Host: Dr. Olukemi Sawyerr
Speakers: Phillip Kauffman, Tim Kippen, Sandy Stone

  • My Entrepreneurial Journey

Phillip Kauffman

Phillip is a very driven man. Some people see a problem as just that – a problem. But to Phillip, each problem is an exciting challenge that demands a creative response and a unique solution.

This passion for creation and hard work led Phillip to earn his degree from Cal Poly Pomona in Graphic Design while running his own business painting custom cars, motorcycles, and sailboats. After graduation he worked in the entertainment industry designing movie posters. During this time, he designed and launched his first product, the Screw Holder, and created his company Tri Comma LLC. Currently, Phillip is the Creative Director for Monster Energy overseeing all aspects of design for 14 domestic and international brands, while building new business ventures on the side. Phillip lives with his wife and 20 month old baby boy in Fontana (the nice part).

Tim Kippen

Mr. Kippen is an engineer and business owner with over 30 years of experience providing data recording solutions for extreme product testing. After graduating from Cal Poly Pomona in 1989 with a B.S. in Engineering Technology, he co-founded Diversified Technical Systems in 1990 to develop crashworthy data recorders for occupant safety testing. With over 25 years in engineering and product design roles, he has contributed to hardware, firmware, and software solutions for more than 7 generations of DTS on-board data recorder products and accessories. These award-winning products are used every day around the world in automotive, aerospace, biomechanics, military, blast, and sports/recreation testing—often in extreme conditions. In addition to his role on the DTS Board of Directors, he has managed company functions at the executive level including Engineering, Operations and Technical Support and currently supports the product development team as CTO, Engineering.

Dr. Olukemi Sawyerr

Dr. Olukemi Sawyerr is the inaugural Director of the Student Innovation Idea Lab (iLab) and Professor in the Management and Human Resources Department at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona. She is a founding faculty of the Education in STEM Entrepreneurship (ESTEME), the NASA Technology Screen Assessment, and the Startup NASA programs. She received her Ph.D. in Strategic Management from the University of North Texas. She has consulted for several organizations including the Ad Sales Division of Comcast, has taught executive education at the University of California Los Angeles’ Collins Center for Executive Education, and has held visiting professor positions at various universities including the University of Texas at Arlington, Hong Kong Baptist University, and Beijing Institute of Technology. Her research interests include strategic entrepreneurship in emerging economies. She has authored publications in multiple journals including the Strategic Management Journal, International Small Business Journal, Journal of Small Business Management and Journal of High Technology Management Research. She has presented at numerous national and international conferences including the University Business Forum sponsored by the European Commission.

Sandy Stone

Sandy Stone is passionate about helping youth transition into adulthood successfully. Her proactive approach resulted in her becoming the visionary, Co-founder, and Board Director of Pretend City Children’s Museum. The 28,000 square foot educationally-based child-sized city has hosted over 1.5 million guests since opening in 2009. Her experience building relationships and raising contributions led Sandy to become a Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE) in 2008. Since then, she has led teams to raise over $100 million in government, foundation, individual, and corporate support. Sandy has 40 years of for-profit and non-profit business experience (she started young) in random fields such as architecture and construction, concert and video production, hotels and restaurants, education, addiction, and social services for domestic violence and mental health. This equips her, as the CEO of Sandy Stone Consulting, to guide visionaries through a process that helps them move from a good idea to a healthy operating organization. Sandy holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Hospitality Management from California Polytechnic University, Pomona and certification in Organizational Leadership from Biola University. She is a grateful wife and parent of six young adults and also serves on the Board of Directors for Anika’s Pink Closet and the Orange County Child Care and Development Planning Council.

Speakers: Nelson Pizarro

  • Problem definition
  • Customer discovery
  • Your business model
  • Pitching 101

Nelson Pizarro

Nelson Pizarro, received his DBA in Business Administration at Grenoble Ecole of Management, France. He also received an MBA from the University of Florida and a BBA from Washington State University. His primary research interest is opportunity finding, entrepreneurship education and sustainability in organizations. Dr. Pizarro has published in journals, such as Journal of Entrepreneurship Education, New England Journal of Entrepreneurship and Economies et sociétés, He helped start up 6 companies including business consulting, consumer electronics, consumer electronics refurbishing, and automatic vehicle location systems. In April of 2012, he launched EcoStatic Inc. He has done business in 46 countries. He also has experience in a corporate environment working for multinational companies such Brother International and Uniden. In the government sector, he worked for Americorps as a full-time volunteer, Miami Dade Community College, and at the City of Gainesville, FL, as the Small and Minority Business Development Coordinator. Currently, he teaches full time at Cal Poly Pomona entrepreneurship courses. When he is not teaching he meditates, practice yoga and bikes.

Speakers: Matt Ryczek

  • The elements of design
  • Customer acquisition strategy
  • Customer acquisition cost
  • Lifetime value of customer
  • Pitching 102

Matt Ryczek

Matt Ryczek is the COO of Idea House & Co. where his team and himself work with start-ups, entrepreneurs, and existing brands to develop, engineer, manufacture, and grow their businesses to be industry leaders. Working in industries such as extreme sports, beauty products, transportation, medical, aviation, and home products there is not an industry Mr. Ryczek has not had a chance to explore and execute in. Mr. Ryczek’s specialties focus in on the viability of a brand and product including market identification/ acquisition, supply chain design, and design for a market fit.

Speakers: Edmond Wu

  • Team selection
  • Partnership agreements
  • Intellectual Property
  • Pitching 103

Edmond Wu

Edmond Wu is a serial entrepreneur has started businesses in the restaurant, ecommerce, web consulting and real estate industry. In college, along with a few partners, he started the first Quickly franchise in the United States before going starting businesses in the web industry which included an ecommerce business selling shoes and a web development company creating apps and websites for large media companies. Currently he is owner and broker of Peak Management which is a real estate consultancy and management group as well as a lecturer at his alma mater, Cal Poly Pomona.

Speakers: Clarissa Redwine, Pawan Tomkoria, Wei Yu

  • Build your budget
  • Crowd funding

Clarissa Redwine

Clarissa Redwine is Kickstarter’s Design & Technology Outreach Lead for the west coast. She travels up and down the coast in search of innovators, creators, and makers who can leverage the powerful community and storytelling tool of Kickstarter to bring creative projects to life. Before joining Kickstarter, Clarissa cofounded a nonprofit with the core mission of fostering the North Texas startup community and worked with 10 promising robotics startups as the Program Manager of the Qualcomm Accelerator, powered by Techstars.

Pawan Tomkoria

Results oriented business leader transitioned to teaching as Adjunct Professor in International Business and Finance, Management Consulting, and Investment Management. Extensive expertise in International/Cross-Cultural Business, Executive Management, Investment Analysis, and Corporate Finance. Industry experience in all aspects of the Medical Device sector. Previously Vice President, Finance and Vice President/GM Asia Pacific for Edwards Lifesciences. Currently Managing Director, PNAB Advisors (investments and management consulting).

Wei Yu

Dr. Wei Yu is an Associate Professor of Finance at Cal Poly Pomona. She received her Ph.D. in Finance from the Rutgers University. Since joining Cal Poly Pomona in 2007, Dr. Yu has taught managerial finance, financial institutions and markets, financial decision making case study courses at both the undergraduate level and graduate level. She has also served as the faculty advisor for the Finance Society and CFA Institute Research Challenge Competition team. As a dedicated researcher, Dr. Yu published her research in leading academic journals such as the Real Estate Economics, Journal of Housing Economics, European Financial Management, and International Journal of Operations Research and Information System, among others. She is the recipient of the Best Paper Award in Real Estate Finance by the American Real Estate Society in both 2011 and 2015.

Speakers: Nick Verity

  • Kickstarter Campaign

Nick Verity

Nicholas Verity is a 4th year college student studying marketing at Cal Poly Pomona. He’s held internships with NASA as a Technology Transfer Consultant and with DreamWorks Animation as a Product and Market Strategy intern. He’s also led marketing efforts for campus organizations: Polyfounders, Hackpoly and TEDxCPP. His latest innovation includes leading the marketing on a successful Kickstarter campaign, which raised over 3000% of the campaigns goal, totaling over $55,000 in just 21 days.

  • Speakers: Jack Tsai, Ray Chan

Jack Tsai

As a serial entrepreneur, investor and advisor Jack KN Tsai has shared his Startup expertise with entrepreneurs around the globe. With a down-to-earth style and keen eye for detail Jack lends his nearly 20 years of entrepreneurial knowledge in the areas of business plan development, operations process, strategic business execution as well marketing strategy and consumer research.

As a manager of a leading window covering manufacturing company Jack’s first key position was responsibility for the company’s operational development and process. Clients included K-Mart, Home-Depot, Standard Brand and Levelor to name a few.
With his career on the rise and hungry for advancement, Jack moved up and on to a new senior-level position but this time shifting toward the computer industry. In this position, He oversaw both the macro and micro markets as they related to the price trend movement.
Armed with experience and a can-do spirit, Jack founded P8I, a top computer peripherals importer and export in the computer chrome market. As Founder and CEO Jack positioned the company for acquisition.

After exit, Jack returned to school to obtain his EMBA at UC Berkeley’s HAAS School of Business.
Currently, Jack is contributor mentor for student at Stanford Venture Technology Program, UC Berkeley Entrepreneurship, UCLA Anderson, USC Marshall, CalPoly SLO, and CalTech. Jack is an active angel investor, former member of the Tech Coast Angels, TiE Angel Silicon Valley, Co-Chairman of the Tech Coast Angels Fast Pitch Competition, BusinessWeek Advisory Committee and the Harvard Business Review Advisory Council.

Ray Chan

Ray is currently the Managing Partner at K5 Ventures, he is also a Managing Partner of Tech Coast Angels ACE Fund. As an active angel investor with a successful 25 year track record as a king/queen maker, Ray is committed to partnering with entrepreneurs to lead them to success. Working in tandem with these entrepreneurs, Ray loves sharing his passion and knowledge with the next class of game-changers.

  • Bronco Startup Challenge
    Bronco Student Center,
    Ursa Major 5pm – 9pm
  • Prizes announced