*OPINION – Collaboration or Competition? Mario Leone, Who Runs Chapman’s Incubator, Gives His Opinion…

This is the fourth in a series of opinion pieces about whether OC’s startup/innovation ecosystem is more prone to collaboration or competition. Today’s opinion features Mario Leone, director of the Ralph W. Leatherby Center for Entrepreneurship and Business Ethics at Chapman University.

OCSN: Do you see Chapman as a collaborator or competitor within the OC startup ecosystem?

Leone: Clearly Chapman is a proactive collaborator with emerging, in-place firms and new business sponsoring groups within Orange County. Competition is a natural part of any endeavor but for us it is defined as working across university and business borders to improve and enrich products and services for the community.

OCSN: Where do you see room for more collaboration here in OC?

Leone: More collaboration may be available to all OC stakeholders, particularly in leveraging meeting facilities (space) at an affordable cost for our OC entrepreneurs who need to offset the high cost of startups in their formative stage in an expensive region of the country.

OCSN: Do you see the OC startup ecosystem as fragmented? If so, why?

Leone: Fragmentation of the startup ecosystem is common and not a bad thing. It encourages diversity of ideas/opportunities. If we look back in time to the classic Fortune 500, many suffered from NIH, (an acronym for “Not Invented Here syndrome) – ignoring or suppressing innovation that was outside their companies. Fortunately this has changed as many of the same companies look for innovation outside the corporate walls and take stakes in a broad spectrum of small and up-and-coming firms to increase their idea generation.

OCSN: Anything else you’d like to add about competition vs. collaboration in OC?

Leone: Both competition and collaboration can coexist as long as the rules are fair and respected for all players.

OCSN: How do you prevent UCI Beall Applied Innovation from enticing staff away from Chapman’s Launch Labs incubator? (Richard Sudek, who leads UCI’s innovation platform, and Matthew Hanson, who’s the director of new ventures, both left Chapman for UCI.)

Leone: Actually the strength of any new business or startup environment is to adapt to change (economic, organizational, etc.), improve the mix of resources, engage new talent and finally, to share experiences with our students.

We are excited that other organizations come to us for talent and, more importantly, in a fast moving market it also provides us the opportunity to enrich our program with new and higher-skilled players. For example – the number of new ventures started and the number of students beyond the business school who are electing to take a minor in entrepreneurship – are all increasing dramatically at the Chapman Launch Labs – a very good sign and bodes well for our future.

Finally, the competition we see on the horizon is not a crosstown university, but rather expanding our network on a national and global scale.

About The Author

Deirdre Newman is a long-time journalist, who's covered OC startups for a few years.

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