Valley Business building at night

A Winning Pitch

  • BY Cal State East Bay
  • May 24, 2021

For the first time, Cal State East Bay was invited to participate in the local TiE University competition — a pitch competition for campus based startups — which allows finalists to compete globally. Those who come out on top stand to receive cash and in-kind prizes worth $550,000, but more importantly they had the opportunity to pitch their ideas to a room full of investors — including well known venture capitalists.

“I am very proud of the team and the 2021 cohort that has shared responsibilities and demonstrated inclusive, agile leadership,” Professor of Management Asha Rao said. “They have illustrated that women are terrific leaders for these troubling times.” 

Three out of the four top spots at the Silicon Valley TiE virtual competition in April went to Cal State East Bay teams. The Road to Independence, spearheaded by Cal State East Bay students placed first in regionals and presented at the Global Finals on May 15, the same weekend they graduated. 

Rao said this reflects the emphasis both Cal State East Bay and TiE are placing on students having a positive impact on their communities.

"It is laudable that our Women in Leadership students placed ahead of the for-profit entries with their social impact project,” Rao said. Tasked with developing a socially conscious innovative project as part of their program, this group led by two graduating seniors, came up with “Road to Independence.”

The project concept envisioned by Natalie Rasmussen, an MBA graduate, is purchasing, refurbishing and giving lightly outfitted used vehicles to unsheltered individuals. This gives them a place to stay, but also a way to get to and from work, paving the road to independence. 

Organizers say the mission of this program is to give hope to those who need it and transition them from homelessness to permanent housing. 

"We are a group of people from varied professional and educational backgrounds who are united by our passion to find creative and affordable ways to end homelessness," said Anne Swatzell, who co-pitched the project idea at the global competition along with Pam Miller, who just graduated with a bachelor’s degree in business. 

All of the Cal State East Bay students involved, including Sonal Chandna, who just graduated with an MBA were also given access to mentorship by TiE members and ecosystem partners and the ability to attend a  wide range of workshops on topics relating to business. Though the team did not advance to the top eight at the global competition, they plan to pursue their idea and concept.

In total, 526 teams participated in the regional rounds from 40 cities in 7 countries. 27 teams have been selected to present in the Global Finals.