The FLoW 2.0 Program
The FLoW 2.0 program prepares students with projects aimed at making a positive contribution to environmental sustainability for entrepreneurial success. With a special emphasis on scientists and engineers, FLoW 2.0 establishes a core foundation of skills to turn ideas and technologies into products and businesses. Through our program, scientists and engineers emerge as future leaders in the business community.
FLoW 2.0 works with entrepreneurs to mitigate the major challenges that often stop them in their tracks: inadequate business training, finding money and facilities for building prototypes, and connecting with mentors who understand their technologies and can help them advance their businesses. FLoW’s five point program shortens the odds by paying attention to the three core “C’s” that prevent technology innovators from becoming entrepreneurs: culture, connections and cash.
In partnership with UCSD’s von Liebig Entrepreneurism Center and working with Innovation Node – LA (IN-LA), the program begins with a month-long, four session online course focused on market analysis, identifying and interacting with customers, and building a viable business model for product development.
The capstone of the 2.0 training is participation in the FLoW competition, where student teams pitch their business plans and ideas in pursuit of over $100,000 in cash prizes.
The FloW program is open to university students and recent graduates. We’ve worked with students from universities all across the United States, whose innovations span the breadth of cleantech and sustainability.
The FLoW Competition
The FLoW competition is a clean energy business plan challenge for teams of student entrepreneurs, with $100,000+ in prize money. FLoW has two tracks: the “Ready to Commercialize” track and the “Transformational Idea” track depending on whether the business is still conceptual or further along in formation.
FLoW begins with the FLoW 2.0 online training program, available to anyone who applies. Then teams are assigned a specialized mentor pool to prepare them for the business plan “pitch” competition. Stellar advice ranging from legal support to marketing and product development is available. On the road to the final competition, participants are strategically matched up to form the connections and networks they need to maximize their success. This includes access to strategic partners, funding sources and facilities for prototyping.
The competition winners are determined based on three rounds of judging by seasoned experts. The judges offer real world advice to help accelerate and guide the teams to success.
FLoW was started in 2011 with a 3-year grant from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to accelerate cleantech innovation and foster student entrepreneurship. It did this by establishing a western regional business plan competition, First Look West (FLoW), whose winners would go on to participate in the National Clean Energy Business Plan Competition against the winners of several other regional competitions. Today, FLoW teams benefit from the competition’s special relationship with DOE national labs.
During its first three years, FLoW established more than 12 companies with substantial successes. REEcycle, the FLoW winner in year 3, went on to sweep the top prizes offered in the 2014 National Competition.
The establishment of FLoW 2.0 broadens the program’s educational component and prepares students for the competition. FLoW is currently under the exclusive leadership of the Resnick Sustainability Institute at Caltech.
The FLoW program is unique in providing specialized mentorship and educational training to science and engineering focused entrepreneurs. As such, we maintain a broad network of strategic partners, mentors and sponsors to create an immersive experience like no other.
In 2014, FLoW is proud to partner with UCSD’s von Liebig Entrepreneurism Center. Together we look forward to evolving FLoW into California’s premier training ground for young cleantech entrepreneurs. If you are interested in getting involved as a program partner, sponsor or mentor—or just learning more about what we do, please contact us.