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OC Innovation Week Recap: Fast Pitch and the 2023 Tech Innovation Forum

OC Innovation Week was an exciting event showcasing the vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem of Orange County. Two key highlights of the week were the Fast Pitch event at UCI Beall Applied Innovation and Octane’s Tech Innovation Forum, both of which brought together industry leaders, innovators, and investors. Fast Pitch, held on Tuesday, May 9th at the Cove at UCI Beall Applied Innovation, was a platform for 29 companies to present their groundbreaking ideas and technologies. The presentations were nothing short of amazing, with each startup showcasing their unique value proposition and potential for disruption. Among the impressive pool of participants, Todd R. Smith emerged as the winner with his company KYG Trade, Inc. The victory underscored the promising future of KYG Trade and the potential impact it could have in its respective industry.

Following Fast Pitch, the 2023 Tech Innovation Forum kicked off at AV Irvine, featuring a fireside chat with Marc Bell, Co-Founder, Chairman, and CEO of Terran Orbital. Marc Bell’s insights and experiences captivated the audience as he shared his journey in the world of technology innovation. The fireside chat provided valuable perspectives on the challenges and opportunities that arise in the pursuit of groundbreaking ideas.

The Women Leaders of Octane played a crucial role in OC Innovation Week by hosting a kick-off breakfast and organizing a female-led panel titled “Finding the Innovator or Founder in You!” The panel featured accomplished women tech innovators and founders who shared their experiences, inspirations, challenges, and recommendations. The panelists included Azadeh Nasibi, Vice President, Business Development, Strategy and Region Led Markets at Medtronic (Moderator), Nazli Azimi, Founder of Bioniz Therapeutics, Michele Bodda, President of Experian Housing, Verification Solutions, and Employer Services at Experian North America, Tammy Cooper, CEO/CFO-Corporate at Technologent, and Cynthia West, Incoming Director of the Leatherby Center for Entrepreneurship and Business Ethics at Chapman University. Their insights and stories served as a source of inspiration for aspiring entrepreneurs, especially women looking to make their mark in the tech industry.


Additionally, the Irvine Ecosystem Accelerating Electrification of 2-Wheel Mobility panel brought together key influencers to discuss the importance of clean and sustainable communities, innovative technology and infrastructure, and policy development. Scott Kitcher, President & CEO of Sustain SoCal, served as the moderator for this panel, which included LeGrand Crewse, Co-Founder & CEO of Super73, Mayor Farrah N. Khan of the City of Irvine, Paul Martin, Senior Project Manager at Mark Thomas, and Yednesh Parnaik, Vice President of Global Sales and Marketing, EV Battery Technology at Enevate Corporation. The panelists shared their perspectives on the role of their respective organizations within the rapidly growing 2-wheel mobility segment and its implications for building sustainable communities.


Another topic was “Intrapreneurship in Orange County.” This panel delved into the concept of intrapreneurship, which evolved around the strategies and initiatives implemented by companies to encourage intrapreneurship and foster an entrepreneurial mindset among employees. They discussed the importance of creating an environment that supports risk-taking, experimentation, and creativity within a corporate setting. The panel brought together industry experts who have played key roles in driving innovation within their respective companies. The guest speakers included Derek Clinton, Head of Corporate Innovation at Hatch Labs, Pacific Life; Paul Kagoo, Vice President of Corporate Strategy at Western Digital; and Joe Lige, Head of Enterprise Data Partnership at Experian Marketing Services. The panel was moderated by Carolyn Stephens, Ph.D., Managing Director of the Enterprise Collaborations Group.


The Capital & Growth company pitch presentations culminated in two outstanding winners. Smerf secured the “People’s Choice Award” for their groundbreaking work in connecting and elevating online gaming through their revolutionary social infrastructure. Their innovative approach promises to transform the gaming landscape. On the other hand, Thrivelab was honored with the prestigious “Judge’s Choice Award.” Their AI-driven virtual clinic and online pharmacy in the anti-aging space caught the attention of the judges, showcasing their dedication to advancing healthcare through cutting-edge technology. All presenting companies (Bored & Thirsty, GoGoods, Integrated Medical Sensors, Trubify, and Quident) exemplified the spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship that drives the Orange County ecosystem forward. Their participation at the Capital & Growth company pitch presentations highlights their exceptional contributions to their respective industries and positions them as leaders in their fields.


The Tech Innovation Forum held during OC Innovation Week proved to be a resounding success, fueling innovation in Orange County and bringing together a remarkable array of content, speakers, and individuals dedicated to shaping the future of Southern California. The forum provided a platform for thought-provoking discussions, insightful panels, and inspiring presentations that showcased the cutting-edge advancements and entrepreneurial spirit thriving in the region. 


The week concluded with the Healthcare MBA Summit hosted by long-time Octane partners at CHOC and UCI. Octane’s CEO, Bill Carpou, took part in the Inaugural Healthcare MBA Summit as a closing event for OC Innovation Week. Bill discussed the imperatives needed to build an innovation ecosystem.
Thank you to Octane’s partners, UCI Beall Applied Innovation, The Greater Irvine Chamber, and Orange County Business Council, OC Innovation Week was a testament to the thriving entrepreneurial spirit in Orange County. OC Innovation Week made a significant impact in fueling innovation and uniting the individuals who are actively building the Southern California of tomorrow. By providing a platform for dynamic discussions and showcasing groundbreaking ideas, the Forum contributed to the continued growth and success of Orange County’s innovation landscape. With its powerful influence, the Tech Innovation Forum served as a catalyst for transformative change and positioned Orange County as a thriving hub of technological advancement and entrepreneurial excellence.


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