Innovate Pasadena: Enabling the Future

President/Co-Founder Mike Giardello and Vice President Beth Kuchar. – Photo by Gus Herrera / Beacon Media News

By Gus Herrera

Innovate Pasadena recognizes that collaboration is key to progress.

At the dawn of the 20th century, when the world first laid eyes upon Henry Ford’s Model T or the Wright brothers’ bi-plane, it quickly became apparent that travel would never be the same.

But in order to achieve their full potential these inventions would need a complex system of connectivity. From roads and runways, to airports and gas stations, the journey of modern travel required a quite literal network of infrastructure.

Collaboration is key: Innovate Pasadena’s variety of meetups and events provide the forum for passionate, like-minded individuals to come together and drive towards the future. – Courtesy photo / Innovate Pasadena

Fast forward a century later and the exponential progress of technology has ushered in the Information Age, with seemingly endless possibilities. Similar to the advent of the car and airplane, today’s innovative institutions and companies will also require a form of connectivity to accelerate their growth and progress.

Innovate Pasadena (IP), a non-profit founded in 2013 by Mike Giardello and Andy Wilson was created to fill this role: to function as a fertile ecosystem that connects the realms of business, academia, and beyond – all to help innovation reach its greatest potential. Innovate Pasadena serves as a facilitator for innovative groups of all sizes to collaborate – whether you are an executive from a national company or a young entrepreneur looking to begin a startup, all are welcome.

Although IP’s events cover a wide range of topics, there are two common denominators: great speakers and an engaged audience. – Courtesy photo / Innovate Pasadena

IP cultivates cooperation a couple of different ways. First, there is the literal form connectivity they provide – the meet ups, morning coffees, and various events they host allow curious individuals to come together under the same roof, listen to great speakers, and exchange thoughts. Like the coffee shops of revolutionary-era France or the beer halls of industrial-era Germany, IP’s events enable the cross-pollination of ideas from all sectors, inevitably spurring growth, progress, and success.

“Once you bring everyone in a room together and get them talking, it doesn’t stop,” reveals Beth Kuchar, vice president.

Why Pasadena? Well, Northern California has Silicon Valley, the westside of Los Angeles has “Silicon Beach,” but here, in the “626,” we have the “Silicon Suburbs.”

Sure, locals know that Pasadena is the home of JPL, Caltech, and Art Center, but, prior to IP, the city lacked the metaphorical roads to connect all the talent and developments birthed from these world-class institutions.

“Pasadena has always been very asset-rich … but [something] that was missing was the connectivity that could really allow the sum of those assets to be greater than the parts,” says Giardello.

In addition to hosting events, IP also acts as a counselor and resource. From the vast network they have developed locally, IP can pull from a full rolodex of lawyers, faculty, students, designers, researchers, venture capitalists, and more. The folks at IP facilitate connectivity like a good point guard, setting companies and individuals up with the appropriate players – thus placing them in the best position to score.

IP also supports organizations that reach out to children, particularly through the STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, math) fields.
– Courtesy photo / Innovate Pasadena

Ultimately, when you bring this arsenal of capability under the umbrella of being a non-profit, IP effectively allows early-stage startups, who would otherwise be unable to afford collaboration with high-end talent/institutions, the access to world-class resources.

Interested in getting involved? Visit IP online at their website (, on social media, add one of their many events to your calendar, or simply sign up for their newsletter. As Giardello says, the best way to get started is “to dip your toe in the water.”

May 10, 2017

About Author

Gus Gus Herrera was born in Los Angeles and raised in Pasadena. He attended Flintridge Prep in La Canada for high school and then spent four years on the East Coast at Boston University where he graduated with a bachelor's in philosophy. He first began covering the City of Pasadena for the Pasadena Independent in February 2016.

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