The Resnick Sustainability Institute at Caltech’s FLoW program runs a series of initiatives aimed at helping student and newly graduated scientists and engineers start cleantech companies and gain practical entrepreneurship skills.
Underpinning FLoW’s initiatives is its “Five Point Program for Entrepreneurial Success”, which emphasizes education and training, mentoring, real world competitive experience, and building connections to funds and partners.
FLoW’s young entrepreneurs develop a core foundation of skills to turn ideas and technologies into products and businesses setting them up to emerge as future business leaders. To this end, over the past four years, FLoW companies have raised over $35 million in follow on funding and two have been acquired.
FLoW has three initiatives that may be participated in individually, in sequence or in whatever combination makes sense based on the participants’ goals. The initiatives include:
- The FLoW JUMP! Educational Training
- The FLoW Business Plan Competition
- The FLoW Rocket Fund
FLoW’s JUMP! Initiative provides foundational entrepreneurship skills on the fast track. This accelerated business skills training session is intended for those already starting or thinking of starting companies to help them navigate the tough choices ahead and avoid costly mistakes.
JUMP! Consists of 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 initiative is a partnership with Innovation Node – LA (IN-LA)'s BLITZ program.
As participant’s move through the JUMP! Training, they are provided with connections to expert mentors to further enhance their growth. Completing the JUMP! training is strongly encouraged prior to participating in the FLoW competition.
To sign up for JUMP! contact Stephanie Yanchinski, FLoW's Executive Director.
About the Competition
The capstone of the JUMP! training is participation in the FLoW cleantech business plan competition, where student teams pitch their business plans and ideas in pursuit of over $100,000 in cash prizes. As the Western partner of the DOE’s National Cleantech UP (CUP), FLoW winners are eligible to compete in the CUP three day national event, held in June.
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.
The competitive process ideally begins with the JUMP! online training program, followed by coordinated mentoring assignments which help entrepreneurs understand and shape their business focus. Contestants then “pitch” during three rounds of judging and are assessed by seasoned experts offering real world advice.
Armed with the JUMP! training and the competition’s mentoring and real world feedback, the teams are prepared to form strategic partners and attract funding.
About the Rocket Fund
Through a special partnership with California’s major utilities via the Emerging Technologies Coordinating Council (ETCC), FLoW operates its own Rocket Fund which provides grants for building prototypes and for field testing with customers.
Interested candidates should check Rocket Fund Guidelines and fill out the Rocket Fund Application Form which will then be screened for eligibility. Selected applicants prepare a business presentation for further consideration and finalists present to a review panel of industry experts.
FLoW as a Connector
FLoW opens a channel for young entrepreneurs to government agencies with cleantech funding available, and to incubators and accelerator programs that welcome early stage cleantech ventures including: the National Science Foundation (in partnership with Innovation – Los Angeles (IN-LA), an NSF I-Corps program for educating entrepreneurs; Wells Fargo IN2, where FLoW is a channel partner for new building technologies; the DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory, providing technical support and lab facilities; Cyclotron Road, an incubator program under the DOE’s National Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory; the Hawaii Excelerator, with programs and funding for maturing cleantech ventures, and the Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator, a top rated incubator with an international presence.
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. In 2015, FLoW won another DOE Cleantech UP grant to extend the program for another three years.
Today, FLoW participants benefit from the program’s special relationship with the DOE labs, the DOE’s National Incubator Initiative for Clean Energy (NIICE) - national incubators, the Electric Power Research Institute and DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory.
FLoW is currently under the exclusive leadership of the Resnick Sustainability Institute at Caltech. 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.