Accelerating success: 5 startups chosen to jump-start businesses

John Tauriac
John Tauriac is the founder of Santa Cruz Wave Works, which collects wave energy raw data and converts it into safety information for surfers. (Photo by Carolyn Lagattuta)

UC Santa Cruz is supporting the launch of an off-campus accelerator to jump-start technology businesses. Three campus-connected ventures—Fuzz Stati0n, Santa Cruz Wave Works, and Scoot Science—along with a fourth startup, PhotoBloomAR, will begin a pilot cohort with Santa Cruz Accelerates this month. 

The UC Santa Cruz Office of Research will provide $500,000 for the accelerator program to serve early-stage technology businesses that have a product but haven’t started selling it. The accelerator will be run by Santa Cruz Works, a local nonprofit that supports science and technology companies.

Mohamed Abousalem, assistant vice chancellor for the Office of Research, Industry Alliances and Technology Commercialization, said the University of California is committed to ensuring that the knowledge and research developed on its campuses are used to the fullest possible extent so the benefits reach the public.

“UC Santa Cruz is supporting Santa Cruz Accelerates in an effort to further UC’s educational and scientific research purposes through an accelerated commercialization mechanism that provides entrepreneurial education, training, support, mentorship, and funding opportunities,” said Abousalem, who joined campus a year ago. “This will help generate economic development in the community through our intellectual capital and innovation.”  

The accelerator is one of seven programs supported by UC Santa Cruz that will help local entrepreneurs take their businesses to the next level. The effort is supported by a $2.2 million innovation-and-entrepreneurship investment from the state and matching funding from outside private sources.

Operating under the umbrella of the Support Program for Long-term Innovation, Commercialization & Entrepreneurship (SPLICE), the other initiatives include:

  • two business incubators, Startup Sandbox in Santa Cruz and SVLink at the Silicon Valley campus;
  • the IDEA Hub, launched by the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship Development (CIED);
  • a new arts program, Internship for Creative Entrepreneurship (ICE);
  • another arts program called Games Grant Opportunity (GameGO); and
  • a “proof-of-concept” grant program for researchers called Launchpad.

Accelerators were started in the U.S. a dozen years ago to provide advice, guidance, and resources to startups. The local model will operate as an intensive boot camp with a compressed timeline of six months, shared office space on the West Side, assigned executive mentors, networking events, workshops, and panel discussions. Santa Cruz Accelerates will give each company $10,000 in seed money in exchange for a 2 percent equity stake granted to Santa Cruz Works.

“The accelerator is unique because it is highly dependent on volunteer experts who will mentor these young startups,” said Heather Putnam, executive director of Santa Cruz Works. “We’re really excited to support entrepreneurs who wouldn’t otherwise get the help and support they need to start and grow their businesses in Santa Cruz.”  

Putnam is building the mentor network from volunteers locally and over the hill. She’s also developed its curriculum, which uses the Lean Business Model Canvas, to have participants generate value propositions and test them with potential customers, adjusting their business plans based on what they learn.

Participants in Santa Cruz Accelerates are chosen in a competitive application process that prioritizes diversity and is open to startups in biotech, ag tech, creative technologies, internet of things/hardware, action sports/transportation tech, social good tech, and green technology.

"I am very stoked and honored to have been selected to join the Santa Cruz Accelerates inaugural cohort,” said David Moore, who got his bachelor’s degree in Computational Mathematics from UC Santa Cruz in 1991 and founded Fuzz Stati0n ten months ago. “The mentorship, development program, and networking opportunities will drive our growth and make us a more robust startup. As a solo founder, I am also looking forward to meeting and spending time with the other founders in the accelerator."

Jonathan LaRiviere, one of the founders of Scoot Science, said, “As a new venture, our resources are extremely limited, but with help from Santa Cruz Accelerates and their network in the Santa Cruz business community, we’ll be better able to efficiently tackle the kinds of problems that often have new founders stumped. And, of course, we’re also very excited to be a part of a cohort of new founders having shared experiences.”

The following ventures were chosen for the pilot program:

  • Fuzz Stati0n helps unearth programming errors with a cloud-based, automated security procedure for code; founded by David Moore, a UCSC alumnus, with the help of Joe Carlos, a UCSC software engineer intern.
  • Santa Cruz Wave Works — Collects wave energy raw data and converts it into safety information for surfers about waves and climate change; founded by John Tauriac, a UCSC student.
  • Scoot Science generates critical ocean data using autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs); co-founded by UCSC grads Jonathan LaRiviere, Ph.D., in Ocean Sciences, and Evan Goodwin, Master’s of Science, Ocean Sciences.
  • PhotoBloomAR creates enhanced photo prints with digital components using augmented reality; founded by Justin Lemus.   

Another startup, Cruz Foam, co-founded by Marco Rolandi, associate professor in the Electrical Engineering Department, and Ph.D. candidate John Felts, will join the accelerator in September, along with two other companies. It transforms shrimp shells into surfboards in an effort to shape the future of sustainable surfing.

Santa Cruz Accelerates will take applications on an ongoing basis. The deadline for mid-September entry is July 1. For information email