May 5, 2018 • Sacramento, California
Thursday morning, I was incredibly grateful for an opportunity to sit in on the proceedings of one of the first community brainstorming sessions hosted by the new Dale and Katy Carlsen Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Sacramento State University.
At least 50 student leaders, University and community representatives gathered to meet the Carlsen Center’s Interim Director Jyoti Das, learn about the vision for the Sacramento region University’s brand new center for entrepreneurship, and get a first-look at the roadmap for where they plan to take the center over the rest of 2018 and beyond.
The leadership team aims to create an innovative, interdisciplinary new institution in California’s capital city:
The Dale and Katy Carlsen Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship will immeasurably enrich the educational experience of Sacramento State students irrespective of their academic disciplines. High-quality education, advising, and practical experiences in innovation and entrepreneurship, coupled with experimentation and practical application in programs and events of the Center, will fully instantiate a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship in the campus and the region. The partnership with regional, national and international community partners will provide opportunities to network and collaborate broadly. In addition to nurturing the entrepreneurial spirit of the students, the Center will provide students and others the pathway to take solutions to market. Ultimately, the Center will provide the leadership and workforce to ensure the vitality and success of the region’s economy, businesses, charitable and civic organizations, and ultimately the quality of life.
Administrators invited select student leaders and alumni from CSUS to attend the Carlsen Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship’s (CCIE) Breakfast Break. It was an informational and networking meeting for the student and alumni community to learn about the mission of the new center and hear some of the exciting opportunities the CCIE aims to bring to campus in the coming years. President Robert Nelson gave a resounding welcome, emphasizing that it was also a chance for the community to provide feedback on what they expect from the center and how to best engage and serve the student population.
Mr. Nelsen was also joined by Sacramento State student government directors: Associated Students, Inc. (ASI) President Mia Kagianas, and Vice President for Academic Affairs Noel Mora.
A panel of mentors was introduced — local entrepreneurs, business leaders, and Sacramento State staff — to help facilitate discussion about entrepreneurship and innovation in the Sacramento region.
Legendary local businessman Mr. Dale Carlsen, the founder of Sleep Train, CEO of Bunker Wilson, LLC, and Chairman of the Ticket to Dream Foundation presented a spellbinding keynote about his astounding entrepreneurial journey and his passionate desire to give back to fellow students from Sacramento State University.
Mr. Carlsen and his team announced preliminary plans that the CCIE plans to push deeper involvement in Global Entrepreneurship Week this coming November, as well as hosting pitch competitions across all colleges, and fostering larger venture competitions potentially involving regional partners, and eventually leading promising student startups all along the incubation process to back office, HR, intellectual property, funding, etc.
Breakout group discussions were led by volunteer mentors and University members including:
- Brian Dombrowski – Founder of Fantag Inc.
- Edris Bemanian – COO of Engage3
- Mitch Gardner – Co-Founder & COO, Pocket Points
- Mark Beckford – Sales & Marketing Executive, EZE Sytem
- Josh Wolfson – Director of Product Development at Parrable
- Sabya Das – Early stage technology VC at Moneta Ventures
- Dan Mors – Founder & CEO of Gemini Legal
- Haley Meyer Dillon – Coaching / Pitch Competition / Parents and Families
- Julian Vasquez Heilig – Professor of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies
I sat at a table with student Shay Putnam, President of the Business Honors Society Dwight L. Wise, education studies professor Dr. Julian Vasquez Hielig, and mentor Josh Wolfson, Director of Product Development for Parrable.
Mr. Carlsen and the Center leadership team opened the conversation by asking all in attendance to discuss what innovation and entrepreneurship mean.
They also asked: “What is the best way we can shape the curriculum and delivery method so that it is fun and effective for students to learn?”, and highlighted the importance of experiential learning.
“Where and how best can we engage the student body? As leaders of the campus how can you influence and engage?”
The closing address was made by Lokesh Sikaria, Managing Partner of Moneta Ventures, LLC, one of the region’s largest venture capital investment firms.
All photographs © Cody McKibben