Winning Startups Receive $25,000 through Sunstone Innovation Challenge at CSULB


LONG BEACH, Calif.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–The 11th annual Sunstone Innovation Challenge announced the 2021 winners after its final pitch presentations Wednesday, April 7 over livestream. Sunstone Management, an international investment firm based in Long Beach, partnered with California State University Long Beach (CSULB) to sponsor the university’s annual startup competition.

Four teams of students from the colleges of health and human services, business and engineering participated in the finals to present innovative ideas and full business plans. Each team also benefitted from independent professionals and university mentors. The finalists were judged by a panel of successful entrepreneurs and investors in the local startup scene.

According to Dean Michael Solt, “Even though the competition was held virtually this year due to the pandemic, we had excellent submissions from our students. I am very proud that all of the preparation and mentoring that occurred online was beneficial to the teams competing in the Sunstone Innovation Challenge. It is heartwarming to know that the creativity and innovativeness of our students was not diminished in the virtual world.”

The 2021 winning startup was VITALINK, a biotech smartwatch accessory that utilizes existing monitoring and a dermal caffeine dosage system to manage users’ energy levels. Second place went to UNWIND, an affordable, personalized meditation program that grows with you. The other finalists included PPLE, a platform that offers group experiences hosted by locals to provide on-demand experiences as well as income for hosts and QMMUNITY, a healthcare app aiming to make care more equitable, accessible and transparent for the LBGTQ+ community.

The competition, first launched in 2009 by the Colleges of Business and Engineering and soon after joined by the College of the Arts to encourage college entrepreneurship, has grown significantly since Sunstone signed on in 2019. This year Sunstone presented the first place VITALINK with $15,000 in seed funding as well as wraparound support in the form of co-working space, marketing, legal and accounting services totaling up to $35,000. The runner-up, UNWIND, received $10,000 in seed funding as well.

“Sunstone’s partnership with CSULB to support young entrepreneurs is a cornerstone of our efforts to invest in high-impact, innovative programs,” said John Shen, Sunstone’s founding partner. “We are proud to fund this meaningful program and promote next-generation ideas.”

“The structure, support and financial resources we’re able to provide through the Sunstone Innovation Challenge supports entrepreneurs of the future as they look to move forward into the business innovation space and successful commercialization,” said Wade Martin, CSULB’S director of the Institute for Innovation & Entrepreneurship.


About Sunstone Management

Sunstone Management, with subsidiary Sunstone Venture Capital Fund, is a diversified private capital management and investment firm offering comprehensive wealth management solutions worldwide. Focusing on investments in U.S. based small businesses and lower middle markets, its offerings are carefully structured to meet targeted investor goals ranging from short term senior debt products to longer term, equity, growth capital, and venture capital investment strategies. Sunstone is also extremely active as an investor in tech startups as a founding member of the Long Beach Accelerator.


Founded in 1949, California State University, Long Beach is among the top 1% of all public universitiesbest-value four-year colleges and universities, and those institutions that are “Most Transformative” in the country. The 322-acre campus enrolls more than 39,000 students and boasts more than 325,000 alumni, who positively impact the community, state and nation.

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