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A Rapid Start, and a Winning Formula to Create California Jobs

Thursday, Mar. 31, 2011

A business-school program that got off to a rapid, but highly successful, start last year has proved to be quite a boost for the nearly 20 participants who attended the California Program for Entrepreneurship, or CAPE.

CAPE was the brainchild last year of the new dean of Leavey School of Business, Drew Starbird. He was looking for a program that would incorporate the business school’s renewed focus on entrepreneurship, integration with Silicon Valley and the broader California community, and job creation. With the Great Recession keeping unemployment stubbornly high in California, CAPE was put on the fast track.

CAPE, which is run by the business school's Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, was modeled after another highly successful SCU program, the Global Social Benefit Incubator (GSBI). Like GSBI, the CAPE program is competitive and fully funded; matches up participants with mentors from SCU faculty for one-on-one guidance; features Silicon Valley speakers; and includes an intensive period of back-to-back classes, with an emphasis on creating a marketable and winning business plan.

Already, alumni are seeing benefits from the fully funded, six-month program:

* One alumnus, Ted Biala of BialaMeris, who makes a specialized industrial roasting oven, turned down an offer to buy out his business, and is in the midst of getting $5 million in “angel” funding.

* Another alumna, Charlene Davis of Tablescape Magic, got her all-in-one tabletop-decoration products into a local Costco.

* Matt Lehr, founder of iCoupon, won last year’s Plug and Play University Expo prize for best business concept, sponsored by the Plug and Play business incubator.

*Barbara Ely of Pivot Furniture was featured on HGTV’s Design School.

“CAPE helped me write my business plan, figure out how to better deal with customers and vendors, and improve my marketing,” said Biala. “It was a very helpful program.”

Not bad for a program that took fewer than six months from conception to launch, and which was putting the finishing touches on the curriculum even as the participants were chosen, matched up with mentors and given assignments.

“We could not be happier with the success of the CAPE program, and we are looking forward with high hopes for this year’s class of entrepreneurs,” said Daniel Aguiar, the executive director of entrepreneurship programs at the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

Applications are now being accepted for the CAPE class of 2011, which starts in June.

Up to 30 California-based companies will be selected by May 1. Like last year, selection will be based on the following criteria: a well-developed business idea (or business in startup mode); experienced leaders, and a high potential to make economic contributions within a year of completing the program.

The online application ( includes several exercises to assess potential for a successful launch. Applications will be screened by a committee of veteran entrepreneurs, funders, and faculty.

Businesses interested in applying can find out more about CAPE at and at


March 31, 2011



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