CITRIS in a Nutshell: Innovation, Community, Teamwork, and Social Purpose

CITRIS in a Nutshell: Innovation, Community, Teamwork, and Social Purpose
KNOX Medical Diagnostics

Dear Friends of CITRIS,

Most issues of the CITRIS Signal focus on new research conducted by our top faculty scientists and engineers. This edition looks instead at two impressive projects populated mostly by students. The first article, CITRIS Foundry Season Two, profiles two extraordinary Foundry cohorts: our first graduates, the class of 2014, and their successors, the incoming class of 2015.

The companies created by the 2014 cohort have already made their way into the world, establishing CITRIS Foundry’s prestige as they go. But their contributions to us are more fundamental than that; while we were helping them start their businesses, they were helping us start CITRIS Foundry itself. Reciprocity at its best. I am extremely impressed by the progress all five Foundry companies made, both on the technical and business sides of their development. If any doubt remained that engineers and scientists can make the best entrepreneurs, we have proof positive that it is so.

The second Signal story, The Mobile App Challenge: Inventing Small Ways to Make a Big Difference, looks at CITRIS@Berkeley’s first Mobile App Challenge, another effort to equip our students with skills not usually gained through coursework alone. Based on a program pioneered at UC Merced, the Mobile App Challenge uses hands-on, student-driven projects to teach the agility, perseverance, and creativity necessary to succeed. But what made this group extraordinary is their commitment not just to succeeding, but to launching enterprises that address important societal challenges, to making the world a better place. We are proud of the work of all 15 teams.

In questionnaires and interviews, participants in both programs reported that of the many valuable resources provided them as participants, the most important was the vibrant, supportive, and challenging community of peers and mentors. As Foundry co-Director Patrick Scaglia says, many startups perish on the reefs hidden below the surface of entrepreneurial environments. Having someone in your boat who has successfully navigated those reefs before is invaluable. And then there is teamwork, a prevailing ethic in both The Foundry and the Mobile App Challenge. Teamwork is the secret sauce of almost every successful venture I’ve come across.

Innovation, community, teamwork, and social purpose: CITRIS in a nutshell.


Costas Spanos
Director, CITRIS and the Banatao Institute