Mentoring startups to make a difference

The Rady School of Management is home to a host of innovators and entrepreneurs looking to make a difference in the world. Many students arrive at Rady with ideas of how to bring about change, and during their time at UC San Diego form bonds with classmates and discover new opportunities of how they can make an impact on others.

"Rady provides a space where ideas can flourish into products. The school has resources, professors, and staff with an entrepreneurial spirit and a university in its backyard with a strong STEM reputation. I saw the Rady program as an opportunity to accelerate my development as an entrepreneur." — Chris Hissom, MBA '19, CEO of SurfUpThe DRIvE (Developing Rady Innovation Entrepreneurs) program is a unique opportunity for select startups to gain valuable insights and coaching from global entrepreneurs who have built their own companies or provided financial support to growing businesses. Since 2018, DRIvE and its mentors have helped more than 20 student-led startups take an idea and build it into something larger and more tangible.

The mentors are at the heart of the program and its success. Startups admitted into DRIvE go through a pitch process where they communicate their product or idea to a panel of up to 30 potential mentors. These mentors tend to have backgrounds in one of the following areas:

● Technology
● Finance
● Biotech
● Marketing
● Manufacturing
● IP law

"DRIvE is a very strong program. It connects experienced individuals with relevant backgrounds to new entrepreneurs coming out of UCSD so they can help them start thinking about how to move their company forward." — Carolyn Fritz, Board Chair, DMC Biotechnologies The students receive feedback from the mentors after the pitch and then are matched with one of the mentors. The mentors commit to meet with the startups for a minimum of six months, but often a relationship forms that extends beyond that period.

DRIvE is a part of Rady's California Institute for Innovation and Development (CIID), which was created to support and catalyze innovation leadership and entrepreneurship initiatives.

  21 companies supported 60 plus entrepreneurs, investors, venture capitalists and top global business leaders serve as mentors to students in the program


Tackling the opioid epidemic

Ana Moreno, MS '14, PhD 19, founder and CEO of Navega TherapeuticsMore Americans live with chronic pain than cancer, heart disease, and diabetes, combined. This reality has contributed to an influx of opioid dependence and addiction that has turned into an epidemic. Every day, more than 135 people die from an opioid overdose.  Navega Therapeutics is attempting to tackle the epidemic head on with a gene therapy that targets pain in a non-addictive, highly specific, and long-lasting way.

Ana Moreno, MS '14, PhD 19, founder and CEO of Navega Therapeutics, turned to the DRIvE program to help grow her company. She shared her thoughts on how the program helped her and her company.


What was it about the DRIvE program that initially appealed to you?
As scientists, we knew we needed mentors with business expertise and with previous success in translating therapies from discovery to the clinic.

How has your mentor helped you move your company forward?
Randy Woods has been an amazing mentor. We have worked with him for a few years now, and as a CEO himself, he has provided guidance on how to run a board, speak with investors, and focus on strategy. He has never hesitated to take a call, meet with us, or provide feedback. He has been very generous with his time, and we could not be more grateful.

What are two of the most important lessons you learned through the DRIvE program?
When talking with potential investors, I learned the importance of focusing on the business opportunity and not going too deep into the science, as well as the importance of understanding who you're speaking to so you can better communicate your vision of the company and how it aligns with their investment strategy.

How else did the DRIvE program help you grow your company?
We have evolved a lot since we started this program, but overall, the program has helped build confidence in us as entrepreneurs and to better communicate the vision of our company.