News Release

The Moxie Center Closes On a High Note

San Diego, CA, July 10, 2015 -- The Moxie Center for Student Entrepreneurship capped its 2 ½-year life by winning the “Excellence in Entrepreneur Mentorship” Award from San Diego Startup Week 2015. Created with a gift from the Moxie Foundation, the Moxie Center opened its doors in January 2013 as an entrepreneurial space, education program and resource for all UC San Diego students. The Center developed and delivered programs to teach students how to turn their ideas into businesses in the Entrepreneur’s Academy, to advise and mentor student startup teams in the Incubator program, and to provide opportunities to practice pitching their business ideas through quarterly Pitchfest prize competitions.

Without further philanthropic support to fund its operations, the Moxie Center officially closed on June 30, 2015, and its student teams have now transitioned into The Basement, a new student incubator space managed by Alumni and Community Engagement. Moxie Center Executive Director Jay Kunin, PhD, will continue to teach entrepreneurship and commercialization classes as a Lecturer in the Jacobs School of Engineering and in the von Liebig Entrepreneurism Center.

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Dr. Jay Kunin, Executive Director of the Moxie Center, receives 
the Award for Excellence in Entrepreneur Mentorship from 
Austin Neudecker, Co-Founder of San Diego Startup Week, June 19, 2015

During his time at the Moxie Center, Kunin introduced entrepreneurship and commercialization to over 500 students in multiple classes in several Engineering departments, as well as the Social Innovation classes offered by the Center for Student Involvement, and numerous student professional groups. He also developed and taught the Center’s Entrepreneur’s Academy, and managed a corps of over 20 volunteer advisors and mentors from the San Diego business, investment and entrepreneur community.

“Dr. Jay Kunin and advisor Dr. Jay Gilberg are rare gems who helped foster and empower the students in the Moxie Center and Moxie Incubator,” said Joyce Sunday (Chemistry ‘15). “They taught us to not only be dreamers, but doers and innovators.” Joyce’s startup, Wastelights, began as a Moxie Center Incubator Team and is now providing power to underserved communities by converting sewage into electricity and turning kitchen waste into biofuel and biochar.

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Moxie Center students pose for a celebratory photo after 
the 2014 Zahn Prize Competition

Since opening in 2013, the Moxie Teaching Incubator Program admitted 46 teams, including over 150 students from across the campus.  Students came to the Moxie Center with majors from all six departments in the Jacobs School of Engineering (Bioengineering, Computer Science & Engineering, Electrical & Computer Engineering, Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering, NanoEngineering, and Structural Engineering), as well as from Biology, Chemistry, Economics, Psychology, Cognitive Science, Music, Urban Studies & Planning, Communication, the Rady School of Management and the School of Medicine.

“The Moxie Center welcomed students from all departments and provided anyone interested in innovation with tremendous, genuinely motivated resources,” said Jane Henderson. “I am a Physical Chemistry PhD student and admit I was lured to my first Moxie Center Pitchfest competition on account of the free pizza. Jay Kunin welcomed me to the event and was a great host, encouraging all of the students in attendance to stand in front of the audience and share their ideas.”

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Entrepreneur’s Academy is the open, non-credit experiential class that was offered by the Moxie Center to teach entrepreneurial thinking

In Spring Quarter 2015, Jane also took part in the Moxie Center’s Entrepreneur’s Academy, an open, non-credit experiential class to teach students how to turn an idea into a business. The Moxie Center offered the course every quarter since Spring 2014, introducing entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial thinking to over 160 students.  “As a scientist, I greatly appreciated the instruction of the scientific method of innovation taught by Jay Kunin and Jay Gilberg,” said Jane. “It was an exceptional opportunity to listen to and learn from their experience as both entrepreneurs and investors. The Academy's inherent value to the students of UCSD is exceptional and I am very grateful for the experience.”

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The Moxie Center hosted Bill Aulet - managing director of the Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship and senior lecturer at MIT - for a Distinguished Lecture in November 2014

The Moxie Center also sponsored Distinguished Lectures by leading entrepreneur educators including Bill Aulet (MIT) and Steve Blank (Stanford). Though each lecture was presented to standing-room audiences of over 200 students, staff and faculty, many students were able to personally meet and connect with the lecturers after each session.

The Moxie Center helped inspire many student entrepreneurs, but was also able to help jumpstart some of their careers. Many of these successful students are already well on their way to commercializing the very products they incubated at the Moxie Center. 

Uzair Mohammad (Bioengineering ‘16) saw the Moxie Center as “the perfect first step” and the key to accessing UC San Diego’s numerous resources as a freshman. “In my experience at UCSD, the Moxie Center was exactly what I needed to move forward and turn my idea into an ongoing serious venture. UCSD has a lot of resources available to its engineers and entrepreneurial students, but understanding where to start proved to be one of the most difficult portions of the process,” Uzair said. “In addition to the many services it provided (advice, work space, fabrication workshops, computers, etc), it made it easy to find and approach other resources, both on and off campus.”  Uzair’s startup, Saaf Engineering, is creating innovative bacterial water filters, using fibers created through bacterial metabolism.

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Uzair Mohammad (BE ‘16) receives a Zahn Prize award at the Moxie Center’s grand opening in 2013

“The Moxie Center's overall purpose was to act as an incubator for undergraduate entrepreneurial ventures, and it accomplished this and much more by presenting us with extremely useful tools and spaces, and by acting as a hub for all other resources we could reach out to,” said Uzair.

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Daniel Lee, co-founder of Hush Technology, pitches Hush smart earplugs at the EvoNexus incubator Demo Day, which he won

Hush Technology, founded by a group of UC San Diego students known for creating the world’s first smart earplugs, also began as a Moxie Center team and utilized its resources to create their company. “The Moxie Center was one of the fantastic UCSD entrepreneurship programs that were critical for Hush to get started in the first place,” said Hush Technology Co-founder Daniel Lee. “The infrastructure and programming that they set in place was very important for learning how to create a startup, and I'm truly grateful for the groundwork that they helped lay for me to become an entrepreneur.”  Hush graduated from the Moxie Center to the EvoNexus incubator in San Diego.

In only a few short years, the Moxie Center became an invaluable student resource and innovation space for interdisciplinary collaboration, and at its close, Kunin is glad to see the Center’s students and teams continue their work and transition into The Basement.

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Winning Moxie Center teams with the judges at the 2015 Zahn Prize Competition

“The Moxie Center provided a wonderful opportunity to introduce entrepreneurial thinking to UC San Diego students and to mentor students in starting up their businesses,” said Kunin.  “It’s been a great joy for me to work with the next generation of entrepreneurs – I learn so much from each of them, and believe we’ve been a useful resource for them. I think the Moxie Center has greatly enhanced entrepreneurial education and opportunities for UC San Diego students, and I’m hopeful that The Basement will be able to expand on the Moxie Center’s success.”


The gift from the Moxie Foundation that created and sustained the Center for three years has run its course. Entrepreneurship, however, is alive and well at the Jacobs School of Engineering. It is a key part of the Jacobs School’s mission to transfer discoveries for the benefit of society. 

The Moxie Center has been a tremendous resource for students at the Jacobs School of Engineering and for the campus as a whole. The Moxie Foundation made a significant investment in entrepreneurship at the Jacobs School of Engineering, for which the Jacobs School is sincerely grateful.

The UC San Diego entrepreneurship ecosystem includes the following:

Von Liebig Entrepreneurism Center

*entrepreneurship classes 

*entrepreneurship mentoring

* Innovation Corps (I-Corps) at UC San Diego (funded by the NSF and administered by the von Liebig Entrepreneurism Center). Read a story about the NSF I-Corps program at the on Liebig Entrepreneurism Center.

Gordon Engineering Leadership Center at the Jacobs School of Engineering

The Gordon Center offers a novel, end-to-end set of leadership and training curricula for students at the high school, undergraduate and graduate levels, as well as for professionals working in technology fields.

The Basement at UC San Diego In February 2015, UC San Diego opened The Basement, a co-working space for all UC San Diego students. The Basement serves as a resource and meeting place for entrepreneurial students from across all of UC San Diego. 

UC San Diego Entrepreneurship and Innovation Minor

*administered by the UC San Diego Rady School of Management

*open to engineering undergraduates (and all other UC San Diego undergraduates)

The Triton Fund

*venture capital focused on innovations coming out of UC San Diego

UC San Diego Entrepreneur Challenge

*student-run organization that organizes entrepreneurship events and competitions throughout each academic year. Each year’s events culminate in high-profile business plan competitions.

*learn more about the mission of the Entrepreneur Challenge here

Film Project Highlights Entrepreneurship at UC San Diego and on Torrey Pines Mesa

Media Contacts

Brittanie Collinsworth
UC San Diego Center for Microbiome Innovation