The Viterbi Startup Garage, an early-stage technology accelerator designed to provide financial and other strategic resources to a select group of USC student and alumni entrepreneurs, was launched on March 26 by the the USC Viterbi School of Engineering in partnership with the venture capital firm Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield, Byers (KPCB) and the talent and literary agency United Talent Agency (UTA).
“We are very excited to provide our students world-class opportunities and resources by launching the first Los Angeles accelerator backed by a prominent university,” said Ashish Soni, executive director of digital innovation and founding director of the Viterbi Student Innovation Institute (VSI2) at the school. “We believe that KPCB and UTA are ideal partners, given KPCB’s unparalleled track record in identifying and advising phenomenal entrepreneurs, and UTA’s track record in providing early-stage companies’ strategic assistance across a number of categories.”
Southern California produces a large number of engineers each year. However, entry-level and accelerator opportunities in the region have always been sparse. As a result, graduates that ultimately launch their own startups do so for the most part in locales other than Southern California.
Through the Startup Garage, USC, KPCB and UTA want to help facilitate the growth of the Los Angeles technology marketplace for USC engineering students and graduates, as well as encourage the best and brightest engineers to remain and flourish in Southern California. USC is also working with Los Angeles-based Dun & Bradstreet Credibility Corp. to sponsor and support other initiatives within the VSI2 in and out of the classroom.
“Talent is global, and we are very impressed by the quality of engineers emerging from USC’s Viterbi School,” said Mike Abbott, general partner at KPCB. “The partnership with USC and UTA is an example of our intensifying efforts to identify and nurture the next generation of technology leaders wherever they are in the world, adding to our strong track record of organizing and supporting pioneering development programs to build scalable successful businesses.”
As envisioned, the accelerator will provide financial grants, strategic guidance and mentorship to approximately 10 companies that will work out of the Viterbi Startup Garage facility housed at USC’s Information Sciences Institute in Marina Del Rey for 12 weeks beginning on May 28.
“We have been proudly advising technology startups for many years, and the Startup Garage will give us an opportunity to be even more hands-on with inspiring entrepreneurs who are working on groundbreaking ideas,” said Brent Weinstein, head of digital media at UTA. “So many early-stage companies are media focused or media adjacent that we feel Los Angeles is the ideal place to launch an accelerator in partnership with partners like USC and KPCB.”
The program will be formally introduced at USC on April 2 by Soni, Abbott, Weinstein and USC Viterbi Dean Yannis C. Yortsos.
“Innovation and entrepreneurship are the key ingredients of our knowledge-based society and a strategic pillar of the goals of the Viterbi School,” Yortsos said. “We are very pleased that we are in a position to launch this accelerator at our Information Sciences Institute, the birthplace of the Internet era.”
The Viterbi Startup Garage is one of several programs that helps engineering students turn their ideas into successful business ventures.
Any USC undergraduate or graduate students or USC alumni who graduated in the past five years are eligible to apply to the Viterbi Startup Garage, with the requirement that at least one member of the founding team is an enrolled student in USC Viterbi or is a USC Viterbi alumnus. Applications will be accepted through April 22.