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High Schoolers Pitch their Businesses in Innovation Summit in San Jose


As part of National Small Business Week, San Jose hosted the Youth Entrepreneurship & Innovation Summit, an all-day competition with more than 100 high-schoolers, largely from East Side Union High School District. The event took most of May 4, featuring semi-final pitchoffs, “Shark Tank”-style, as the students presented business plans for products and services they had envisioned. Local business leaders served as coaches for the student teams, and also provided the VIP judges who heard the finalist pitches at the end of the day. Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship, (NFTE) partners in the event included Bank of the West, the Citi Foundation,  Diana Davis Spencer Foundation, EY PayPal, and the City of San Jose’s Business Owner Space and Work2Future.

Mayor Liccardo and San Jose local judges

“I’d like to thank NFTE for their commitment to helping San Jose youth develop critical career skills that will help them participate in and benefit from the Silicon Valley innovation economy,” said Mayor Sam Liccardo, as he congratulated the winner of the San Jose competition Jalen Butcher, for his company Power Bikes. Jalen is headed to NFTE’s Regional Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge and the National Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge that takes place in NYC in the fall.

Winner Jalen Butcher, pitching his company, Power Bikes

Power Bikes envisions a selection of custom-built bicycles that can charge electronic devices two ways — using solar collector panels built into the bike, and by means of a dynamo that is powered by the rotation of the wheel.  Local VIP judges for the finals were Dean Sivara, VP, Innovation & Digital Transformation, SAP; Seth Catalli, Regional VP, SAP; Junaid Razak, Senior Director, PayPal; Marco Chavarin, VP Community Development, Citi Foundation; Kathaleen Miller, VP, Bank of the West; and  Ibi Krukrubo, SJ Managing Partner, EY.

“It’s a great privilege to showcase these exceptional students as part of the City of San Jose Youth Entrepreneurship & Innovation Summit because they’ve all developed the entrepreneurial mindset,” said Alfredo Mathew, Director of Programs for NFTE Bay Area. “They really are the future of global innovation, financial inclusion and prosperity and we’re delighted to partner with the City of San Jose to share their talents and businesses.”

“Our work with NFTE Bay Area is just one way we can help inspire and support future generations of business leaders in taking their first strides into the formal economy,” said Ibi T. KruKrubo, Managing Partner of EY San Jose, who will be a Final Round judge at the Summit. “At EY, we invest time, effort and resources to create programs and solutions that fuel the spirit of entrepreneurship in an inclusive manner across the globe and we are proud to support the City of San Jose to empower all local young entrepreneurs to succeed.”

Innovation Summit contestants enjoy the lunch break in the City Hall Rotunda

NFTE is an internationally recognized nonprofit that activates the entrepreneurial mindset in young people. Research shows that the entrepreneurial mindset—skills including innovation, self-reliance, comfort with risk, communication, and problem-solving—prepares young people for lifelong success. Equipped with the mindset, as well as the business and academic skills that NFTE teaches, NFTE students are ready to thrive in the innovation economy no matter what path they choose. NFTE focuses its work on under-resourced communities. Through its nationwide network of U.S. offices, NFTE programs reached almost 35,000 students in over 1000 schools last school year. Partnerships in eight other countries allowed NFTE to serve an additional 40,000 young people internationally. Learn more at nfte.com.