An Innovative Challenge for New Students

The Rady School of Management prides itself on committing to innovation and entrepreneurship. Starting this quarter, the newest cohort of Rady School students have the opportunity to get a head start on solving problems and transforming ideas into new market opportunities.

The launch of the Rady Idea Challenge was inspired by the startup culture at the Rady School. Many students catch the startup bug early on in their coursework and want to get their hands dirty as soon as possible.

Professor Vish Krishnan, a Rady School founding faculty member and leader of the Lab to Market program recognized that students were looking for avenues to get started on their ideation and venture creation efforts. As the faculty director of the California Institute for Innovation and Development, he conceived of the Rady Idea Challenge to give new students the chance to work on developing entrepreneurial thinking and experience.

“This is a pilot program for incoming MBA students,” said Lada Rasochova, executive director of the California Institute for Innovation and Development. “Many of them want to focus on entrepreneurship and are very excited to begin working on their ideas. But they have to go through required courses first and wait until the Lab to Market.”

"Idea generation has a long gestation time,” said Prof. Krishnan. “Quality ideas don’t happen in a hurry. The Rady Idea Challenge is an experiment to offer incoming students an opportunity to ponder anomalies, spot product gaps, and creatively identify solutions to problems with social and economic impact."

Big picture thinkers

First year students are tasked with addressing an unmet need and creating business solutions that would help alleviate the problem. "Over the next 3 months, they are tasked with identifying a problem that would be worth solving," Rasochova said. "Not just a problem that affects a small number of people but something that affects a lot of people. The solution should be scalable and should have a positive impact on society."

Ideas can range from addressing campus parking maladies to assisting individuals with disabilities to creating instructional tools for the classroom.

"Our goal is to train students in identifying business opportunities. Our hope is that when students reach the Lab to Market courses, they will be much more ready and hit the ground running," Rasochova said.

Innovative thinking

Students are allowed to work alone or with a team. Once a problem and potential solution have been identified, the students will submit a video of up to three minutes describing the problem, solution and potential customers.

Rasochova describes the challenge as a crash course for creating a rudimentary business plan.

Once the ideas have been submitted, Rasochova and Krishnan will select top ideas that will be presented at the Rady Idea Challenge Quick Pitch, taking place in January.

"It's important to learn to communicate your idea in two to three minutes," Rasochova said. "The pitch does not have to have every detail, the goal is to generate interest and get "a second meeting."

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