Innovate Pasadena in 2020

Ka-Yun Lau
Innovation Insider
Published in
4 min readDec 29, 2020


A global pandemic. Social injustice. Working from home. Endless Zoom meetings. Economic uncertainty. It’s safe to say, it’s been quite a year for all of us.

Innovation & Libations at SPACES, January 2020 Photo credit: Nick Boswell Photography

Co-Working and Working From Home

Innovate Pasadena started 2020 with our signature Innovation & Libations mixer at the newly-opened co-working space, SPACES, located in Playhouse Village. Attendees sampled local appetizers, won raffle prizes donated from local shops, and explored SPACES’s two-floor facility. Since not everyone is equipped to work from home co-working spaces provide a safe and controlled alternative. Fortunately, during the pandemic, SPACES and Pasadena’s other co-working spaces (CTRL Collective, Cross Campus, WeWork) continued to keep their spaces open with additional safety and sanitization protocols in place so members could continue to work and operate their business.

COVID-19 made the headlines for several months as the entire world tried to flatten the curve and reduce the spread, which initiated work from home (WFH) status for non-essential workers. Many feared WFH situations would result in lower productivity. While it disrupted daily work life for many and took some adjustment, it became clear that WFH status doesn’t always hurt the bottom line. This past June, studies showed how 65% of Americans enjoy WFH because they didn’t have to commute to work and 62% actually spent more time on their jobs when telecommuting. Since the stats show some current jobs will continue to be remote, there’s no doubt the future of work post-pandemic will be quite different than pre-pandemic times.

Pasadena Extravaganzooma!

Pasadena extravaganzooma showcasing 30 tech and start up leaders of the Pasadena innovation community

To celebrate innovation during the new normal, Innovate Pasadena organized an “Extravaganzooma,” which showcased 30 leaders from the Pasadena community. Each presenter shared information about their companies or organization and was invited to make a request to help attendees network, like checking out their products or promoting on social media. If you missed it, you can watch the recorded session on YouTube.

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

We cannot ignore the cries of social injustice across the nation. Innovate Pasadena Vice President Rob McClinton interviewed Allen Edson, President of NAACP’s Pasadena chapter, about Black entrepreneurs and the ways everyone can collectively contribute to support members of our Black community — especially within the worlds of technology and innovation. You can read it here. While Innovate Pasadena has always been a proponent of equity and inclusion, this was the first time our organization directly addressed the topic of diversity. But, it won’t be the last. We encourage you to visit the NAACP-Pasadena website for ways you can get involved, including contributing to their stimulus program to support local businesses. In support of the Black innovation community, we made a statement across our social media:

Our goal has always been to showcase Pasadena’s innovative resources and people. We are committed to helping amplify those working for change and equality in the Black community. In order to be an innovator, one must listen and learn. We are listening. We are learning.

Ask Me Anything

To stay connected with, and help support, our broader community, we launched Innovate Pasadena AMA (Ask Me Anything) programming, inviting innovators and thought leaders to answer questions live on various topics. Harrison Tang, CEO of Spokeo, kicked it off by answering the multiple questions about pivoting business models, which was on the mind of several entrepreneurs when the pandemic started. Other guest speakers have since discussed topics such as, climate change, getting creative, and more. Watch all sessions here.

Connect Week 2020

As we do every October, all our attention was focused on Connect Week. When the state of California went into quarantine mode, it was clear that hosting an all-virtual event series would be the safest option and we were happy to offer more than 30 different virtual events during our weeklong series. Topics ranged from what to entrepreneur’s expectations after the U.S. presidential election to climate change and the next ten years and being Black in the blockchain industry. One of our favorite things about past Connect Week events was the chance to get a peak at some of our region’s most innovative creative spaces. This year, in lieu of in-person tours, we offered a number of virtual tours that you can “explore” today.

Looking Ahead

What’s next for Innovate Pasadena? As we do at the top of every year, Innovate Pasadena looks forward to welcoming a new slate of Board members, who join a group of dedicated volunteers committed to connecting Pasadena’s tech, design, science, business, and entrepreneurial innovators. We’ll continue to program events (virtually and in-person when the time comes) that educate and inspire, including a continuation of our AMA series and opportunities to strengthen ties with the Black innovation community. The first AMA is on January 6th featuring Minnie Ingersoll on the topic of “SoCal Venture Capital Today.” RSVP

What would you like to see Innovate Pasadena offer in 2021? We invite you to get in touch with us. We’re always open to your suggestions and ideas to build a better and stronger innovation community in Pasadena.

Have a safe and wonderful holiday season and we look forward to seeing you in the new year!