News Release

Ignite @ UC San Diego Extends Innovation Conference to Two Days in Year Two

Photos by Erik Jepsen/UC San Diego Publications

Annual event connects campus and community entrepreneurs for two days of jam-packed networking, competitions, and hands-on learning

San Diego, Calif., Feb. 9, 2018 -- On March 6 and 7, hundreds of investors, innovators, entrepreneurs, and activators will converge at UC San Diego for the second annual Ignite conference. Launched in 2017, the signature innovation event brings universities across Cali-Baja together with leading community partners to support life-changing entrepreneurship. Now the initiative is expanding to feature programming and competitions spanning across two days.

With more than 400 startups launching annually in San Diego, the conference connects young innovators with seasoned entrepreneurs. Last year’s inaugural event drew more than 1,500 registrants from across the region.    

Co-hosted by the Office of Innovation and Commercialization and the student-led Entrepreneur Challenge, this year’s conference is set for Tuesday and Wednesday, March 6 and 7, 2018 at UC San Diego’s Price Center. Entrepreneurs, investors, students, and community members across the Baja-California region are invited to attend the conference. Tickets can be purchased at

“UC San Diego is a critical component to the San Diego region’s economic and innovation ecosystem,” said UC San Diego Chancellor Pradeep K. Khosla. “Ignite @ UC San Diego moves us forward by opening the doors to regional collaboration among young talent and experienced entrepreneurs.”

As one of the top 15 research universities in the world, UC San Diego receives $1 billion in annual research funding. Faculty, students and alumni have launched or created technology for more than 650 companies and developed ideas leading to the second highest number of U.S. patents of any UC campus.

This year’s conference invites keynote speakers leading in innovation within their fields and across disciplines.

Ashvin Bachireddy is a founding partner of Geodesic Capital, a Silicon Valley based growth stage venture capital firm and graduated from UC San Diego in 2002. Bachireddy will return to San Diego to share his experience on how he became an investor and the path that led him to invest in Facebook, Airbnb, and Snapchat.

Kimberly Kovacs was elected as the first woman to the board of directors for OCTANE, a startup accelerator in Orange County, dedicated to connecting people and ideas with capital and resources to fuel technology and growth to create jobs. Kovacs’s keynote will look at choosing how to invest time and resources as an innovator and risk-taker.

Social innovator and actor, Todd Grinnell, rounds out the list of keynotes featured in this year’s Ignite conference and will detail his journey in starting one of the country’s fastest-growing social-impact brands, This Bar Saves Lives. The healthy snacking brand applies the model that for every snack bar sold, the company will provide life-saving nutrition to a child in need.

“UC San Diego is a university that leads in innovation with purpose. Ignite @ UC San Diego will spur the regional economy bybringing the campus and regional communities together to spark new ideas, share expertise and generate new opportunities for collaboration,” said Sandra K. Brown, Vice Chancellor for Research, who also oversees the Office of Innovation and Commercialization.

The conference includes three pitch competitions allowing individuals and teams to “sell” their ideas to successful entrepreneurs and investors. One contest, The Pitch @ Ignite, will invite friendly competition among students from the Cali-Baja region and beyond as they present to investors for a chance to win upwards of $15,000 in cash prizes and more.

Other events include an Elevator Pitch Competition, where early stage ideas will compete for $10,000 in prizes and services, and a variety of hands-on workshops, with experts and mentors will facilitate sessions on storytelling, personal branding, team-building, and more. In one highlight session, teams will race to build free-standing marshmallow structures, with practical team-building lessons along the way.

In addition to the keynote speakers and a startup fair with more than 30 company demonstrations, networking and mentoring opportunities, attendees can select from breakout sessions including:

  • So You're Not a Techie? Business is Booming Outside the Tech World
  • SOS! The Entrepreneur's Guide to San Diego 
  • Planning for World Domination: Regional Strategies and Best Practices 
  • Clearing Up Cleantech: An Interactive Discussion 
  • More conference information is available on the Ignite event page.

This year’s conference will feature a newly-added startup battle open to all startups and founders to add a new twist on the usual competition model. Modeled as a rap battle, the Startup Battle is Ignite’s newest featured community competition, setting the winner up for bragging rights and prizes.

“UC San Diego is looking to the future,” said Brown. “Ignite at UC San Diego is a unique opportunity for campus and the San Diego region to drive collaboration and innovation.”

Nurturing young innovators is a campus priority with numerous resources supporting the development of fledgling concepts into solid business models. Financial support for Ignite comes from Musick Davison, with broad campus support, including the Office of Innovation and Commercialization; the Jacobs School of Engineering; the Rady School of Management; Student Affairs; the Colleges; Equity, Diversity and Inclusion; and more than a dozen other departments across UC San Diego. 

Media Contacts

Danica Sirmans
VC Research, Communications