Business Entrepreneurship and Career Education On the Rise at DVC


DVC Piranha Pool Flyer

Jenny Orme, Staff

In 2019, the winners of Diablo Valley College’s first ever Piranha Pool Pitch Competition presented a fitness matchmaking app, PalFit, which connects fitness partners and helps form communities of people who coach each other.  

The winning team members Brandon Samoranos, Mansu Kim and Rafael Grande were business administration majors who met through DVC’s business club Phi Beta Lambda.

“The opportunity allowed us to work in a team environment and pushed us to the limit,” said Samoranos.

Modeled after the popular TV program “Shark Tank,” the Piranha Pool Pitch Competition offers teams the chance to come up with an original business idea, develop it with the help of workshops and lectures,  then pitch it to a panel of industry professionals. Cash and other prizes are awarded to the winning teams.

The trend toward entrepreneurship, coupled with the soaring cost of four-year university tuition, has placed community colleges in the forefront of career education, providing students with the knowledge and skillsets they need to succeed in their own businesses.

California’s community colleges are the largest providers of workforce training in the world, with more than 200 programs crafted in collaboration with business and labor and taught by industry professionals. At $46 per unit, they present an unequaled opportunity for students to enhance their career options and strengthen their skills to earn better salaries in the long term. 

Through the development of personal computers, followed by cell phones and the internet, a new world of business opportunities has opened up over the last 40 years, helping to make starting a business easier and more attractive than ever.

The success of earlier startups such as Google, Facebook, Twitter, Uber, Airbnb and others has inspired a generation of entrepreneurs to follow in their footsteps – and DVC is doing its part to help spur the trend.

Through Strong Workforce Program grants funded by the Community Colleges of California Chancellor’s Office, professors Charlie Shi and Mariam Worsham of DVC’s business administration department have developed a three-track program to accelerate students along the path to entrepreneurial success. Shi said the goal is to create an innovation and entrepreneurial ecosystem that goes beyond the business department to the various fields of interest and career opportunities available at DVC. 

In 2017, the CCCCO launched a campaign focusing on career education that offers grants to colleges to develop career opportunities for students. The goal was to give students an affordable, accessible way to acquire the skills they needed to enter exciting, new and well-paid fields.

In the process, Shi and Worsham in 2019 were awarded an Entrepreneurship and Innovation Grant of $225,000 to use over a three-year period in which they would seek to develop career education pathways, job training skills,  entrepreneurship training and certificates for students at DVC. The three track program includes:

1) Entrepreneur Certificate programs in collaboration with other departments. DVC offers a wealth of opportunities for students to follow their inclinations and develop skills in ways previously untried. For example, entrepreneur certificate programs are currently underway in the departments of horticulture, music industry, kinesiology, tech theater, food truck culinary and other fields.

2) Experiential learning such as the Piranha Pool Pitch Competition along with its workshops and speaker series. The competition will continue to be held online during the pandemic. 

3). Diablo Valley Tech Initiative (DVTI),  managed by Ryan Buckley, a DVC alum and instructor. The initiative includes developing the region around DVC as a center for tech industry, innovation and startups with a possible location at the former Naval Weapons Station in Concord. 

Since its introduction two years ago, the Piranha Pool Pitch Competition has moved online and will continue to be offered in the Fall 2021 semester to all currently enrolled students. The competition has evolved in response to participants’ feedback.

For example, each team is now assigned a professional mentor, extra academic credit is offered to some participants, and an app allows the audience to vote for its favorite teams.  

The 3rd Annual Piranha Pool Pitch Competition Fall 2021 is already gearing up, with an informational online meeting set to take place on Thursday, May 6, from 5pm to 6pm. Interested students can register here