Entrepreneurship center gets $300,000
Foundation’s gift to benefit Cal Lutheran, community

A Camarillo couple’s foundation has made a $300,000 donation to California Lutheran University’s Center for Entrepreneurship to expand opportunities for students at the college and throughout Ventura County.

Entrepreneur Dave Gross and his wife, Cal Lutheran alumna Dawn Gross, provided the gift on behalf of NewCo Foundation, which they started to further entrepreneurship and career technical education for students in Ventura County.

Part of the five-year donation will fund cash prizes for the center’s annual New Venture Competition, which provides Cal Lutheran undergraduate and graduate students from all disciplines with the opportunity to learn entrepreneurial skills, experience the challenge of launching a startup business, and connect with mentors and investors. The gift will also cover expenses for students to travel to regional and national pitch competitions and to study entrepreneurship in other countries.

The donation will also enable the center to co-fund a pitch competition for elementary through graduate school students in Ventura County in collaboration with the Ventura County Office of Education and Aspire3, a Ventura startup that provides programs and tools for aspiring entrepreneurs. Cal Lutheran, which also runs a Start-Up Kids program, will work with other institutions that teach entrepreneurship to host the competition in May on the university’s Thousand Oaks campus.

Since 2014, Dave Gross has mentored student entrepreneurs at Cal Lutheran. He also volunteers daily and has taught engineering and entrepreneurship classes at Rancho Campana High School in Camarillo. A year ago, the Grosses launched RCMAKES, a student-operated makerspace and job shop at Rancho Campana.

Dave Gross co-founded and is a managing partner of Persistence Partners, a local early-stage venture fund. Its investments include cloud-based software company Procore Technologies, biomedical company Sirigen and wellness software platform BioIQ. He co-founded and served as CEO of digital advertising firm Connexity, which was bought by Shopzilla. He also co-founded internet advertising firm Fastclick, which was bought by ValueClick. He founded his first company after earning bachelor’s degrees in mechanical engineering and environmental studies from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and working as an engineer for a decade.

Dawn Gross, a Braille transcriber and nationally recognized advocate of Braille literacy, earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Cal Lutheran and is the Braille program manager with the Alternate Text Production Center of the California Community Colleges. She has served as treasurer or controller of Fastclick, Connexity, Persistance Partners and RCMAKES.

For more information on the center, visit CalLutheran.edu/entrepreneurship. For information on NewCo, visit newco.foundation.