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Innovate Pasadena Marks Seven Years of Fostering Technology, Ideas, Dreams

Published on Sunday, June 28, 2020 | 4:23 am

After seven years of inspiring entrepreneurship, cooperation and technological advancement, Pasadena nonprofit organization, the COVID-19 pandemic could not stop Innovate Pasadena from working to help keep Pasadena at the forefront of scientific and technological advancement.

After opening its doors in 2013, the nonprofit organization has worked tirelessly to bring the city’s forward-thinking entrepreneurial minds together and help foster new technologies and new businesses.

“Innovate Pasadena is proud to celebrate seven years of spotlighting Pasadena’s innovation community,”  Innovate Pasadena President Beth Kuchar said. “We’ve been continuing to grow and strengthen our connections and our reach, and hope to use new virtual connections as a springboard to connect with more of Pasadena’s great thinkers and doers, as well as promote Pasadena as a Center of Innovation.”

With the onset of stay-at-home orders and social distancing guidelines, some innovation was required to keep the mission on track, Innovate Pasadena President Beth Kuchar said.

“We’ve been able to rethink our programs and events and pivot to the virtual realm thanks to some creative thinking — we’re lucky to have access to many out-of -the-box thinkers here in Pasadena,” she said.

“Our new 2020 board members have hit the ground running even during the pandemic,” Kuchar added.

Board Member Minnie Ingersoll hosted a “virtual showcase” highlighting 30 innovative Pasadena people and businesses via Zoom conference, Kuchar said. Board Member Harrison Tang has helped organize a twice-monthly “ask me anything” series, which is scheduled to feature Pasadena Chief Information Officer Phillip Leclair on July 8.

Innovators could use the assistance of Innovate Pasadena now more than ever, she said.

“We’ve also discovered that our main strength — connecting the resources which help our local innovators — has come in incredibly handy during this time to do things like help share free resources with struggling startups, and connect local schools with iPad and laptop donations,” she said.

All events being planned in 2020, including its biggest event of the year each fall, Connect Week, will be virtual, organizers said.

“This year, we’ve obviously had to make adjustments to how we do things,” Innovate Pasadena Chairman and co-founder Michael A. Giardello said.

“This year will be our first year that (Connect Week) will be a virtual event,” Giardello said.

Kuchar said she viewed the virtual Connect Week as “an exciting new experiment.”

“Our 8th Connect event will incorporate behind-the-scenes virtual tours of some really cool and innovative places around Pasadena, follow-at-home workshops, and Zoom panels and webinars hosted by some of the great venues who have supported Connect Week in the past,” she said. More details were to be announced later in the summer.

“We are also excited to be teaming up with Pasadena City College to serve as a resource to connect their students with local tech companies, startups, and other innovative employers for internship and job opportunities, mentorship, and career advice,” according to Kuchar.

Innovate Pasadena launched in 2013. It was a 100% volunteer project for the first two years before any paid staff positions were added, Giardello said.

“We’ve had tremendous support from the community, from companies, from individuals,” he said. .

It’s since brought countless collaborators together at thousands of meetings and helped to secure tens of million of dollars in funding for startups each year.

In recent months, however, helping start-ups secure funding has also been stymied to some extent by the pandemic, he said. Investors are generally less willing to take on new projects during tough economic times.

“Any time there’s economic dislocation, there’s always challenges,” Giardello said.

“We do the best we can with the situation we’re in right now… All we can do is continue to be supportive and helpful,” he said.

“And we hope we emerge to a vibrant economy,” he added. “We’re really excited about our prospects for the future.”

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