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Monday, May 29, 2023

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Eddie Rodriguez Eddie Rodriguez

Words of Wisdom — and Other Help — for Entrepreneurs

Eddie Rodriguez is supporting SDSU’s ZIP Launchpad with a gift that will promote diversity among its teams of budding startups.
By Jeff Ristine

Before you go out to change the world, put it in writing.

Eddie Rodriguez, who has provided San Diego State University with a new gift supporting diversity in its Zahn Innovation Platform (ZIP) Launchpad, said college students who dream of starting new companies sometimes are unaware of the potentially daunting obstacles facing young entrepreneurs.

“Corporate governance, the formalities of running a business, being responsible to shareholders, all the basics,” he said. “You’re going to have to form a legal entity.”

Rodriguez is one of the founding partners of Teal Ventures, a San Diego venture capital company that provides early stage investing in health technology and currently has five companies in its portfolio. He previously co-founded San Diego-based Ivera Medical Corp., a medical device manufacturer that was sold to 3M in 2015, and worked with start-ups as a mergers and acquisitions attorney.

He has been lending his expertise to ZIP Launchpad as a member of its advisory board, visiting campus regularly to provide students with legal advice. He also contributed to fundraising for the Engineering and Interdisciplinary Sciences Complex, which opened in January 2018 and houses the incubator for aspiring entrepreneurs, with a conference room bearing Rodriguez’s name.

Rodriguez never attended SDSU; he earned his undergraduate degree from the University of California, Los Angeles and graduated from  Stanford Law School. Even so, he characterizes his contributions to the Launchpad as “a great way to give back.”

“I’ve visited a lot of incubators at different universities, and they’re all very good in their own right,” he said. SDSU’s ZIP Launchpad “is one of the best (and) well-run.”

Launchpad interns

Rodriguez’s latest gift supports the Aztec Cooperative Fund, started in 2019 to assist both entrepreneurial teams and students who want to get involved with ZIP Launchpad but don’t have their own idea to pitch.

Cathy Pucher, ZIP’s executive director, said the fund supports students working as paid interns to the entrepreneurial teams. “The idea is that it would help in a way that lines up with their major,” she said.

Students from a graphics design class have helped teams develop branding identities, she said. A computer science major might write code for a software application for a team that doesn’t have a coder; a finance student might contribute to a business model. For a social media campaign, marketing students are a resource.

Rodriguez’s $25,000 gift could support as many as 25 interns working 70 hours to support a Launchpad team. It is specifically designated for students from diverse backgrounds in the interest of a more diversified entrepreneurial community.

“The great thing about working with student entrepreneurs is they’re very appreciative of the support you give them,” Rodriguez said. “They don’t have much access to resources.”

He likes seeing the special kind of excitement students bring to their ideas.

“Sometimes as you get older you see more of the obstacles in your way, that’s just human nature,” Rodriguez said. “But when you’re young, you’ll do some crazy stuff, and as an entrepreneur there’s a lot of upside to that.”

And that’s where Rodriguez sees a chance to step in with his own life’s experience.

“There’s a responsibility, and a proper way to run a legal entity,” he noted. “There’s no reason why an 18-year-old college student should know any of that.”