Three weeks ago, Josh Schwochert and Cameron Pye were working on their startup out of garages and coffee shops.
The two recent chemistry graduates from UCSC’s doctoral program were living the startup life—rubbing elbows at mixers in search of connections, pitching potential investors and working wherever Wifi was available. At coffee shops, Schwochert would answer his cell phone and say he was in his office, eliciting laughter from the baristas.
Now, they’ve moved into a cubicle at Startup Sandbox, an incubator space on Santa Cruz’s Westside. Less than a year old, Sandbox is a nonprofit funded by the university, geared toward recruiting biotech companies in Santa Cruz and across the greater Monterey Bay region.
Incubators and accelerators like this one aren’t a new concept. Silicon Valley is full of programs geared toward helping startups create business plans, develop products and pitch to investors.
This incubator is a $700,000 initiative funded via UCSC, through a new state law. California lawmakers passed the bill AB 2664 in the fall of 2016, injecting $22 million into the 10 University of California campuses, in the hopes of spurring innovation and entrepreneurship. Each campus received $2.2 million to use at their discretion. UCSC opted to spread the funds across several areas through a program called SPLICE—Support Program for Long-term Innovation, Commercialization & Entrepreneurship.
The SPLICE plan includes seven components, including an entrepreneurial student program, grants to commercialize products and the Sandbox incubator. UCSC administrators have aimed the approach at complementing research already underway at the university—dating back to a foundation that UCSC researcher David Haussler and his team first laid when they published the first-ever map of the human genome sequence in 2000.