Uncertainty about the economy during the pandemic hasn’t stopped investors from taking a chance on some of Riverside’s hottest tech startups.
ExCITE, the startup incubator led by UC Riverside in partnership with the County of Riverside and the city of Riverside has graduated its first three companies, each of which has received enough funding to move on to the next phase of growth and expand locally. The incubator houses a total of 20 startups.
Over the last three years, UC Riverside has been a key player in building the infrastructure to support technology startups in Riverside. It has established strong partnerships with the city and county’s economic development agencies, collaborating on initiatives including the ExCITE incubator in downtown Riverside, the EPIC Small Business Development Center, as well as working with local angel investors.
“This is a proud moment for all of us here at UC Riverside,” said Rosibel Ochoa, associate vice chancellor for Technology Partnerships. “The hard work we have done with our city and county partners to grow a robust entrepreneurship ecosystem in the Inland Empire is starting to bear fruit.”
More information on the graduating companies:
Farmsense, a company founded in 2016 by UC Riverside engineering faculty members, is moving to larger headquarters and beginning to manufacture its intelligent insect pest detection systems. The UC Riverside Office of Technology Partnerships has worked with the inventors since 2015 to help them protect their intellectual property, providing proof of concept funding, mentoring, and even providing an interim chief operating officer. These actions helped the founders get their fledgling company off the ground before joining ExCITE to work on product development and secure partnerships and customers for field trials. In the past two years, Farmsense was able to receive SBIR Phase I and Phase II funding for over $1 million and acquire paying customers, making it the first company to graduate from ExCITE.
“We are making great progress as a company, with significant funding and our first paying customers,” said Farmsense co-founder Eamonn Keogh. “While we are a high-tech company, we were never tempted to relocate to Silicon Valley; we love the support and mentorship that we get from UCR and ExCITE.”
Globe Biomedical, founded by engineering faculty members from California Baptist University, joined ExCITE in 2018 and benefited from its events, workshops, as well as trainings and mentoring provided by EPIC SBDC and led by UC Riverside. In the past two years, Globe Biomedical was able to receive SBIR Phase I and Phase II funding for almost $1 million, making it the second graduate of ExCITE.
“Without the space and incubation at ExCITE, we probably would not have been awarded the SBIR Phase II grant,” said Globe Biomedical COO Matthew Rickard. “The founders have deep roots here in Riverside. It’s a terrific community, and we are excited to grow Globe right here in the heart of the Inland Empire.”
Blue, a Latino-owned local Riverside startup that developed the first Bluetooth-based social network, won 2017’s Riverside County April Innovation Month Fast Pitch Competition and has been an ExCITE incubator resident ever since. EPIC SBDC mentored the Blue founding team. With the recent launch of Blue Smart products, the company has generated over $500,000 in revenue in just six months and is raising another $1 million via equity crowdfunding on the Republic platform. In the past year, Blue has been able to show scalable traction and closed a $1.3 million seed round led by Tim Draper, a billionaire venture capitalist and investor in Tesla, SpaceX, and 26 other unicorns.
“Blue is a product for the world built here in Riverside,” said Blue CEO Jose Montero, “We are committed to grow our company here and utilize the local resources available to establish a strong innovation hub for entrepreneurs in the area.”