StartBlue is an 8-month blue tech focused accelerator program launching in 2021 that is part of UC San Diego’s StartR accelerator program and offered in partnership by Scripps Institution of Oceanography and Rady School of Management. Since 2012, StartR has graduated 198 companies, and Scripps and Rady have worked together to support over 80 new environmental startups out of UC San Diego through entrepreneurship education and pitch competitions.

San Diego has a vibrant Blue Economy with unique oceanographic resources, a regional workforce of nearly 46,000 individuals and over 1,400 companies producing $14 billion of direct sales (2012 San Diego Maritime Industry Report). StartBlue expands the San Diego Regional Blue Economy by supporting startup formation, including but not limited to UC San Diego spin-outs. StartBlue provides its annual cohort of startups a curriculum, 1-1 mentorship, and facilitated access to potential partners, investment, and customers. Active participation of partners integrates startBlue into the pipeline of regional blue tech resources from formation to scale including The Port of San Diego and its Blue Economy Incubator, U.S. Coast Guard Blue Tech Center of Expertise, National Defense Industry Association, SDMAC, AIIM Partners, AltaSea at the Port of Los Angeles, TMA BlueTech and its Blue Tech Incubator, CA Sea Grant, The Brink SBDC, and Ocean Visions.

The startBlue Method

StartBlue focuses on company formation bringing Scripps science and Rady entrepreneurship curriculum to teams that are in the midst of developing a new business around a science and engineering solution to an ocean challenge. October to December will feature 8, weekly classes with expert guest speakers. Teams will get to know the San Diego Blue Economy through 11, biweekly site visits and workshops January through May. Workshops will focus on skill development core to garnering funds such as grant writing and pitching. Conferences, pitch competitions, and industry association memberships available to participants offer teams valuable visibility and connections. One-on-one industry mentorship provides custom guidance through the duration of the program. And, access to scientific expertise and technical resources help teams refine their minimum viable product.

StartBlue is offered at no cost to participants. Each team’s time and active participation are its most valuable assets and required.

Meet the Team

Vanessa Scott |Director of startBlue

Vanessa Scott leads industry and innovation initiatives at Scripps Institution of Oceanography and has supported Scripps research innovations and industry collaborations for nearly 3 years.  Her background is in business development, marketing and communications in the biotech industry with over seventeen years of experience cultivating strong industry partnerships and facilitating opportunities for collaboration and growth. She also has extensive experience working in non-profit fundraising and marine conservation organizations.  Vanessa completed a Masters in Advanced Studies in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation from Scripps Institution of Oceanography where she developed a business and marketing plan for Smartfin, an ocean-focused startup, to support the launch from lab to market.  Her passion and expertise is at the intersection of climate and ocean science, innovation and industry with the goal to identify, develop and support the commercialization of solutions that improve the health of people, the ocean and the environment.

Karen Jensen | startBlue Program Manager

Karen Jensen has 20 years of experience in program management in the non-profit and education sectors. She has been with UC San Diego’s Rady School of Management since 2015 where she has worked closely with student entrepreneurs to help them launch their startups. She has managed business plan competitions, including the Triton Innovation Challenge geared at encouraging researchers to take their commercially viable, environmentally-focused technologies out of the lab and bring them to market.

Chris Ward | Executive in Residence

Chris Ward is the Principal Consultant at Delawarde Consulting where he focuses on providing strategy, marketing, and business development services for organizations involved in ocean, water, and environmental technology. In prior roles, Chris served as an officer in the NOAA Commissioned Corps and more recently a was a Vice President of Strategy and Business Development for the Analytics Growth Center of Xylem. Chris has over 30 years of both practical and commercial experience working with sales, marketing, and distribution of analytical instrumentation used for measuring and monitoring environmental parameters. Chris has a B.S. in Applied Physics from the University of Delaware and resides in San Diego, CA.

Srishti Dasarathy | Fellow

Srishti Dasarathy is a PhD Candidate at UC San Diego Scripps Institution of Oceanography (SIO, UCSD). Before pursuing graduate study, she attended UNC Chapel Hill and received her BS in Biology with minors in Marine Science and Chemistry in 2016. As a PhD candidate, Srishti has cultivated her passion in the interdisciplinary sciences. Her research focuses on utilizing an array of in silico techniques to examine multiple processes of polar ecosystems using methods from satellite oceanography, modeling, and data analytics. Beyond her graduate study, Srishti has also worked to represent the interests of students and has been elected as Student Representative and later as Co-Chair of the SIO Graduate Student Council. She is looking forward to continue learning outside her role as a graduate student and is excited to serve as the Scripps Industry Relations & Innovation Fellow.


Dennis Abremski
Executive Director, Institute for the Global Entrepreneur
Brad Ack
Executive Director, CIO, Ocean Visions
Mary Ann Beyster

Manager, Beyster Foundations; Film Producer, Retired Executive


Peter Bryant

Senior Program Officer, The Builders Initiative
Zac Dobbin

Program Advisor, Southern California Energy Innovation Network


Phil LeBlanc

Blue Economy Incubator Consultant, Port of San Diego 

Luis Martinez
Founder, CEO, We Tha Plug

Shauna Oh

Director, California Sea Grant
Mysty Rusk

Executive Director, Free Enterprise Institute, University of San Diego

Shally Shanker
Founder and Managing Partner, AiiM Partners

Jennifer Smith, PhD

Professor, UC San Diego Scripps Oceanography

Paula Sylvia

Blue Economy Incubator Director, Port of San Diego