Celebrating the Spirit of Innovation: CSUF Student Team Shines at Sunstone CSU Startup Competition

The Center for Entrepreneurship at Cal State Fullerton (CSUF) proudly congratulates our stellar student teams, Sangha Strong and Talon Locks, for their remarkable performance at the Sunstone CSU Startup Competition. Competing against a diverse and talented field of teams from 18 California State Universities, Sangha Strong and Talon Locks showcased their innovation, resilience, and entrepreneurial spirit, making us incredibly proud.

A Strong Showing at the Sunstone CSU Startup Competition

The Sunstone CSU Startup Competition brought together the brightest entrepreneurial minds from across the CSU system. The event began with a tradeshow format, where each team pitched their products at their booths. The setup varied widely, with some teams boasting elaborate displays featuring multiple computers and big screen TVs. Our teams stood tall with their straightforward setups.

As John Bradley Jackson, Director of the Center for Entrepreneurship and Professor of Entrepreneurship at CSUF, noted, “[Their} hard work was obvious to all the attendees, judges, and directors at the CSU Startup Launch event. I received many comments about [their] professionalism and obvious preparation.”

The Journey of Sangha Strong

Sangha Strong, comprising Thanh Van and Roy Sahachaisere presented a unique web-based platform aimed at revolutionizing mental health and wellness. Their concept integrates online resources with face-to-face activities, fostering a holistic approach to mental health. Despite facing stiff competition, the team remained focused and dedicated.

Roy Sahachaisere shared his reflections on the event: “The event was a fantastic experience with a unique format that I found quite refreshing. Initially, it resembled a tradeshow where participants pitched their products at their booths. Admittedly, it was a bit daunting to see the elaborate setups of other booths, which featured multiple computers and big screen TVs, especially since our setup consisted only of a simple website displayed on a couple of computers beside a poster board.”

Overcoming Challenges and Gaining Insights

Although Sangha Strong did not advance to the final pitch round, their participation was far from a loss. The team gained invaluable experience and insights that will undoubtedly shape their future endeavors. Thanh Van expressed gratitude for the support received: “Thank you to all the mentors and professors, that put their valuable time into us! I think everyone did their best in the circumstances, and we really didn’t lose but gained a lot from this experience.”

The competition was structured in two phases: the tradeshow-style presentation and a final pitch round. Judges evaluated each booth, selecting seven teams to advance to the next round, where they delivered a concise pitch in a ‘Shark Tank’-like setting, complete with a Q&A session. Roy elaborated on the intense competition: “The teams that made it to the pitch stage had impressive products and performed exceptionally well. There wasn’t a single weak link in the competition, which speaks volumes about the quality of the entries and the intensity of the contest.”

Talon Locks Learns and Grows

Participating in the Sunstone CSU Startup Competition was a significant learning opportunity for the Talon Locks team, represented by Adrian Vasquez. Adrian received constructive feedback from judges and attendees, which has already influenced Talon Locks’ business model and vision. Adrian highlighted the positive impact of the experience: “The competition was a fantastic experience – although we didn’t win. We benefited from the experience as it had a really good competitive nature. This competition excited me to continue my journey, and I would love to give it another shot!”

Acknowledging the Mentors

The success of Sangha Strong is a testament to the dedication and support of their mentors. Roy expressed deep appreciation for Mr. Orin Abrams, their mentor: “Our mentor, Mr. Orin Abrams, was phenomenal, and we wouldn’t have gotten as far as we did without his help and guidance in helping our minds be clear about our vision-which was half the battle. He has had a ton of experience in this field, and plenty of work life experience as well. He was invaluable to us, and he now sits on my board of advisors. He will also be a lifelong friend and mentor from here on out.”

Looking Forward

The teams are already looking ahead, eager to apply the lessons learned and continue their entrepreneurial journey. They are committed to refining their business models and better serving their customers. Their advice to future competitors is to embrace the challenge, prepare thoroughly, and take full advantage of the networking opportunities such events provide.

As John Bradley Jackson aptly summarized, “To say that the event was competitive is a gross understatement with 18 CSUs represented with multiple teams each. What an amazing field of competitors with brilliant ideas. CSUF was very well represented because of you. I am very proud of all of you.”

A Bright Future for CSUF Students

While they may not have brought home the prize this time, the experience has fortified the students’ resolve and vision. Their journey exemplifies the spirit of entrepreneurship that we celebrate at Cal State Fullerton. We look forward to seeing their continued growth and success in future endeavors.

Congratulations, Talon Locks and Sangha Strong! Your hard work, dedication, and innovative spirit are an inspiration to us all.