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On June 29th, on a rooftop in downtown LA (DTLA), the Alliance helped global accelerator and VC firm Plug and Play launch a new Work Live Play accelerator that will help SoCal founders access additional support and capital as they build their businesses in a vibrant and maturing SoCal innovation node. The launch event highlighted the opportunity that the 1010 Wilshire space will provide founders, corporates, and innovators working in downtown and included remarks by prominent LA leaders, such as Lew Horne at CBRE, Martha Saucedo at AEG, Maria Salinas at the LA Area Chamber, Brent Bushnell at Two Bit Circus, Ryan Kelly at Virgin Hyperloop, Jack Brody ...
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Corporate VC-backed funding soared to an all-time high in 2020 (over $73 Billion, up 24% and representing almost 50% of all VC dollars invested) despite the pandemic. This was top of mind during our recent virtual Corporate Venture Capital (CVC) discussion where we hosted top innovation leaders from across the SoCal region as part of our invitation-only Corporate Innovation Discussion series. Discussion attendees represented corporate venture funds that had just launched, were decades old and some that were newly exploring potential opportunities in this critical area of innovation leadership. Corporate venture arms allow companies to get exposure to new ...
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I feel lucky to call Brad Feld both a collaborator and a friend. We both share a deep passion for supporting entrepreneurs and strengthening the startup ecosystem, yet we take different approaches. For me, it entails building and leading the Alliance and mentoring select entrepreneurs; for Brad, it’s the continued pursuit of his venture investing (which I dropped almost a decade ago) and supporting the on-going evolution of Techstars. He has been a staunch supporter of the startup ecosystem in a variety of ways, but most prominently for me is Brad’s deep commitment to writing on these topics through his regular blog Feld Thoughts , and his growing oeuvre ...
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On Tuesday, May 4th, the Alliance for SoCal Innovation virtually hosted 18 top corporate leaders from across the SoCal region for a discussion on Corporate Innovation, focusing on disrupting from the inside-out and generously sponsored by Mach49 . This event was part of our invitation-only Corporate Innovation Leadership series. The theme for the evening was set by Paul Holland , Managing Director and VC-in-Residence at Mach49; Kevin Lemke, Head of Strategy and Operations at Stanley Black & Decker; and Todd Brinton , Vice President, Advanced Technology and Chief Scientific Officer at Edwards Lifesciences. Each shared insights and case studies demonstrating ...
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As an entrepreneur building something new, we often latch on to sound bites that we think best represent what we are trying to accomplish. Eighteen months ago I published a blog post that attempted to try to explain how a small startup not for profit could truly have an impact on the massive and diverse ecosystem that defines SoCal. The good news is that sometimes you get it right. The essence of my thesis was the Alliance needed to be a strategic super-connector as I explained then and which I’ll share here for convenience: “By having a high-level architectural view of the entire region, the Alliance will have its greatest impact by acting as a ...
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On a recent Friday, the Alliance convened the second edition of our Bring Your Own Bias (BYOB) workshop generously sponsored by Amgen. We were again led by UCI Law School Dean, Song Richardson, a national expert on implicit bias, and Julie Hill, Board Member of Anthem as well as Lord Abbett, and Vice-chair at the Alliance for SoCal Innovation. The theme of this BYOB was “Leadership Lessons from the Frontline” and was focused on the actions and solutions that can be taken to achieve a truly inclusive workplace. I knew the group we convened was sincere and genuine in their visions for diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). I wasn’t surprised to hear ...
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I guess I need to admit it - I am an old-timer when it comes to the SoCal startup and venture ecosystem. I led my first venture-backed startup in 1999 (RiverOne in Westlake Village) . . . the original tech boom. Those were crazy days - we raised more than $50m in VC in 24 months and were drafting our IPO prospectus (with minimal revenue) when the bubble burst. At that time, the local VC community was so small that you could count all the players on your fingers and toes - it was a very small club. Since then, I have run a number of other VC-backed startups and even launched and ran my own fund (Momentum Ventures). Fast forward to today, there are now ...
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Despite 2020 being one of the best funding years for SoCal startups in total dollars raised -- we eked by New York to take #2 spot in the US -- there is still a serious logjam when it comes to Series A rounds. In fact, this past year, despite additional new funds and little downward pressure on valuations overall, the region actually saw fewer startups raising early growth rounds; much of the funding bump was due to larger checks to later stage startups. That’s why we’re extremely excited to announce that the Alliance has partnered with Silicon Valley Bank to launch a new program called SoCal Venture Pipeline to help connect local startups ready for ...
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We’re probably one of the few organizations who is fortunate enough to grapple with the question: what does it mean to be a Super Connector for a region? It’s a role we took on over a year ago because as a small team with limited resources, it makes most sense for us to leverage the power of relationships to drive our mission. Like Malcolm Gladwell’s “Connectors” , we are “people with a special gift for bringing the world together." We focus that gift exclusively on the SoCal region as we did on December 10 when we virtually gathered a diverse group of over 70 leaders for our second annual SoCal Ecosystem Leadership Forum. Attendees of the professionally facilitated ...
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Last week, Verizon Media officially announced their partnership with the Alliance that includes a committed investment in the SoCal ecosystem by generously underwriting our digital platform that we launched earlier this year to connect the region’s compelling and diverse SoCal innovation communities into a powerful network. Verizon Media’s involvement will help the Alliance carry out its mission of increasing access to valuable SoCal resources, connecting the diverse ecosystem of leaders and stakeholders, and driving engagement for Alliance and regional partner programs. The Boston Consulting Group has identified SoCal as the 3 rd most important ...
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Many of us know that SoCal has a diversity advantage through its breadth of people, industries, and technologies. I like to say that our diversity is our “regional superpower.” Our population is among the most diverse in the US in terms of breadth of ethnicities and origins – 67% non-white and 30% foreign-born. Though we are most often known to be the global center of media and entertainment, those who live here know that we are also a global center for trade, tourism, biotech & healthcare, aerospace, transportation, and sustainability. We lead in the production of talent with more than 1 million students in higher education (just behind Metro New York) and ...
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Bring Your Own Bias

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No one has to be reminded that our country has been deeply affected by the renewed awareness of the mistreatment of our Black citizens. The police violence directed at members of our Black community has given rise to greater awareness, protests, policy debate and some policy changes. As we concurrently face down a pandemic, the inequities in basic healthcare and security have also been laid bare. Furthermore, we’ve been reminded that other types of racial injustice persist including lack of access to economic opportunities. Our fundamental belief at the Alliance is that “Diversity Fuels Innovation,” but having that as our tagline is not enough. We must ...
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To those of us focused on building startup communities and innovation ecosystems, Brad Feld stands out as our unofficial “spiritual leader.” I vividly recall Brad speaking at the Cahill auditorium at Caltech in 2012 just as he released his seminal book “ Startup Communities ” where he defined his foundational “Boulder Thesis” and the “#givefirst” mindset. His framework and philosophy provided the blueprint for my efforts to better organize and resurrect Pasadena’s startup community which ultimately led to the creation of Innovate Pasadena , an organization that has had a transformative impact on the vibrancy of the East Los Angeles startup community. ...
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All Together For Good

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Here at the Alliance for SoCal Innovation, we are fortunate to work closely with a number of leading corporations in the SoCal region who are aligned and committed to elevating the region as a global center for innovation and entrepreneurship. It’s a credit to many of these companies that they continue to lead through action during these difficult times marked by pandemic, social upheaval over civil injustice, economic recession and record unemployment. One such example is the data automation juggernaut Alteryx , based in Orange County. In response to the already existing data analyst shortage combined with the massive disruption in general employment ...
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50 milliseconds. That is the communication delay between the surgeon and the surgical robot in telesurgery. 50 milliseconds of error seems imperceptibly small but it can cause a lot of harm during a surgery. Fortunately researchers at UC San Diego created a system that uses augmented reality renderings to predict events that could help surgeons overcome communication delays between the remote console and the surgical robot, reducing overshoot and increasing the safety of telesurgery. Meanwhile, innovators at UCLA created gloves with sensors that can translate hand movements like sign language into voice with near-perfect accuracy. So what is the ...
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The American Dream: the ideal by which equality of opportunity is available to any American, allowing the highest aspirations and goals to be achieved. (source: lexico.com ) I am no philosopher, but as a former engineer and lifetime entrepreneur I believe in the power of dreams, especially the “American Dream”. Heinous acts of violence and oppression of Black Americans, like the horrific murder of George Floyd and the many who came before him, are wildly antithetical to the principles of this country and deny access to that shared dream which has been routinely and systemically denied to Black people in America for far too long. ...
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From all of us at the Alliance, we hope that you are safe and healthy. In general, we’re an optimistic bunch so we look for silver linings and try to focus on what’s ahead, especially during difficult times like these. We are extremely lucky that our team and families have not been physically impacted by Covid-19 and although we’ve had to make some big adjustments to our programs, we’ve been able to retain our staff thanks to timely underwriter support received in Q1 and an SBA PPP loan. Like many of you, we are trying to plan for a future with a lot of uncertainty -- but plan we must, and carry on, we do. Therefore, I thought it would be a good time to ...
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It is hard to believe it was only 30 days ago that my team and I were sitting in a tech-enabled board room at the gleaming new headquarters of one of our corporate partners for the Alliance's quarterly Board of Directors meeting. The idea of 25 people meeting at an office board room almost feels like a vestige of a bygone era. Now it is all about Zoom meetings, social distancing, and remote work. Mother Nature has brought to us not only a novel coronavirus, but a radical transformation in how we live our lives. I suspect some of these unanticipated behavioral changes will stick well after the storm has passed. I thought I might share my perspective on some of ...
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A few weeks ago we held another one of our intimate business leader dinners, this time at Shady Canyon in Irvine to connect leaders from business and academia to discuss the amazing assets as well as the challenges of the Orange County innovation ecosystem. The group immediately jumped into an intensely productive conversation that didn’t end until the dessert dishes were cleared. These leaders were not only highly engaged, but were actively organizing to implement solutions locally that can help ensure their community becomes a thriving business center that supports entrepreneurship. For example, UC Irvine Chancellor Howard Gilman reported that the university ...
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It appears that British Columbia residents are starting to get used to their newest A-list immigrants from the UK — Prince Harry, Meghan, and baby Archie — who have chosen to make a new life for themselves in Canada. It’s a bold move. Reinventing yourself is difficult in the best of conditions. Imagine trying to do it with the added burden of roles steeped in the traditions of monarchy and indelibly linked to your identity. So, when Haeghan (sorry-not-sorry for lame ‘ ship ’ name) find they have outgrown the tranquility of British Columbia — fyi, Canada’s 24th ranked city for innovation/startups — I propose they relocate to SoCal where we ...
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When we think of “innovation”, we typically envision caffeinated startup founders working through the night in a basement or garage, bootstrapping their ventures and stretching every penny of funding they scraped from friends and family. But, in reality a lot of innovation is driven by larger corporations and so I propose that in 2020 we resolve to broaden our view of innovation to include these pillars of our communities who contribute so much to the ecosystem. I was reminded of this during a recent visit to a Southern California Edison (SCE) Lab based in Westminster, CA. SCE has several labs where teams of engineers look for innovative solutions to crucial ...
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We were thrilled to see San Diego included in the top five superstar metropolitan areas in The Brookings Institution’s new report The Case for Growth Centers . The study calls attention to five superstar metro areas — Boston, San Francisco, San Jose, Seattle, and San Diego — that are capturing a greater national share of innovation sector jobs. Metro areas like San Diego have reason to celebrate — innovation sectors create high paying jobs and provide economic benefits to their metros, including additional tax revenue. At the Alliance we seek to nurture and accelerate the growth of a vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem across Southern California and ...
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When describing how the Alliance serves the entrepreneurial ecosystem in SoCal, we often like to compare ourselves to NATO because we act as a neutral organizing body to coordinate efforts between the local innovation hubs in the region and help them build out their infrastructure. Also, in most respects we work directly with the leaders (“Generals”) and not the soldiers who, in this analogy, are the founders and entrepreneurs. And like NATO, we occasionally convene a large group of leaders for a Summit, which we successfully accomplished on November 14th at the Research Park at UC Irvine for our first annual SoCal Ecosystem Leadership Forum . The ...
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At our recent Alliance advisory board dinner, Larry Sonsini (Advisory Board chair and the evening’s host) asked the group how to best unlock the potential of SoCal’s innovation ecosystem so that it performs in line with its potential (i.e. the mission of the Alliance). The 20 guests tasked with this whopper of a topic included VCs, corporate leaders, and startup CEOs who largely agreed that the ingredients are in place but that we have a problem with our “story”. This notion of story is nuanced — nobody was suggesting we enlist fictions and special effects to obscure the reality and gloss over our shortcomings. This was a call for a strategy with tactics that ...
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Every great start-up is built around a bold idea — usually one that most people think is either crazy or impossible. The bold idea behind the Alliance is to fully realize the amazing innovation and start-up potential of the SoCal region. Really? A humble non-profit, just starting out, is going to “bend the curve” on the number and quality of SoCal start-ups that bring break-through ideas to the world? That’s both crazy and impossible! Or is it? After two years of analyzing, mapping, meeting, connecting and planning we have, indeed, found a path to bring this bold idea to life. Believe it or not, there is a way for a small organization to punch ...
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What happens when you gather a Nobel Prize winner, CEOs of highly successful start-ups, and industry leaders for a delicious meal and a thoughtful discussion about innovation? We found out earlier this summer as we gathered a distinguished group of guests at the historic Hale Solar Laboratory for the first of a series of intimate SoCal innovation leadership dinners. The site is a local architectural gem, tucked away on a tree lined residential street in Pasadena, in the private backyard of distinguished local architects Stefanos Polyzoides and Elizabeth Moule. Our evening’s guest of honor was Frances Arnold, 2018 Nobel Prize winner in Chemistry and Professor ...
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A key principle at the Alliance is that innovation communities must focus on the founders’ journey while solutions must remove friction and obstacles to entrepreneurship and startup growth. In my last post, I mapped the distinct SoCal innovation communities and discussed the different community types based on the presence of key stakeholder groups. In this piece, I turn from where startup activity is concentrated in SoCal to how these communities can grow. In collaboration with the Boston Consulting Group (BCG), we interviewed over 60 community members across SoCal innovation stakeholder groups to understand the range of frictions entrepreneurs ...
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While Silicon Beach is home to nearly 600 startups, which include high profile unicorns such as Bird and Snap, it is but one concentrated tech hub within SoCal (Santa Barbara to San Diego) that contains an additional 3,000 innovative startups. The diversity of ideas and people working within a wide range of increasingly converging industries such as agriculture, biotech, entertainment, and information technology, are assets that fuel innovation in our region. Nonetheless, the region’s sheer size with over 24 million people stretching across 50,000 square miles can make it difficult for residents and outsiders alike to navigate. In order to unlock the region’s ...
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A recent family vacation to Israel and Greece forced me to briefly step back from my single-minded focus on our upcoming Diversity Innovation Forum on April 30 ( click here for more info and registration ). However, the powerful themes of the event colored my reflections while touring these ancient cradles of civilization, especially on the long plane rides and downtime that I spent reading Yuval Noah Harari’s brilliant NY Times best selling book Sapiens (Harper). I had also been thinking about a recent Frances Arnold speech where she mentions biology’s embrace of diversity as the key to survival. She related it to her journey to being awarded the ...
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As an Alliance devoted to “innovation”, we’ve done a lot of thinking about the meaning of the word and how to best harness it to create economic gain for the region. Last year we engaged Bulldog Drummond , an extremely talented brand agency based in San Diego, to help us articulate the power and essence of SoCal’s unique innovation ecosystem. Among the many insights they uncovered, here’s one that has proven prescient: “Whether it was Hollywood of the 50s, the cultural revolution of the 60s, the green movement of the 70s or the tech revolution of the last few decades, SoCal innovators have always lived and breathed new ideas. From Santa Barbara to San ...
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Diversity Fuels Innovation

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There are a lot of places where you’ll find people who look the same, dress the same and talk the same but that’s probably not how you think of Southern California where conformity is more elusive than the endzone in the Super Bowl (ahem, Rams). Unlike some of the other innovation epicenters around the globe, we’re not into just one thing — we’re into exploring the frontiers of personal genomics, the furthest reaches of space, the intersection between content and media, the future of our global food supply — and that’s just to name a few. When you layer in the massive abundance of cultures, nationalities and perspectives that reside in the region, SoCal is arguably ...
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Alliance Commits to Integrated Program Strategy to Enhance Ecosystem Since our launch in 2017 , community members have often asked how a small non-profit like the Alliance could possibly have a meaningful impact on a region of almost 20 million people spread across 6 counties and 10,000 square miles with an economy of $1.2 trillion dollars (15th largest economy globally). A very reasonable question and one that I frequently contemplate myself. Though we had some hunches informed by BCG’s strategic consulting work , we decided it was best to take that question to key SoCal community leaders and see what recommendations they might have. In the months ...
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It seems like every day there’s another huge funding or acquisition announcement that, while awesome, makes one wonder how this pace can be sustainable. According to Pitchbook, US VC firms are on pace to set a fundraising record this year with over $40B raised so far. Exhibit A: in one week in October, we saw announcements of mega-funding like TigerGlobal ($3.75B), Thrive Capital ($1B), Bessemer’s 10th fund ($1.85B). Later this year, Sequoia is expected to announce an $8B growth fund. Wow. Thanks in part to mega-deals in the first three quarters of 2018, investors already broke the record for annual deal value and are on pace to deploy over $100B ...
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The recently published article in the Economist titled “ Why startups are leaving Silicon Valley ” expertly describes the waning dominance long held by Silicon Valley, especially the larger forces at work in the rise of the global innovation economy. This was echoed days later by panelists at TechCrunch Disrupt who cited similar data points like cost of living, the availability of good talent outside of SV and SF, and the impact of the mega companies sucking up all the resources which has started to make scaling a company in the Bay Area less attractive. So, is Silicon Valley becoming a gigantic incubator that spawns great startups who then need to leave ...
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After hosting the SoCal First Look event at UCLA on June 20, the Alliance staff took a beat to reflect on the progress we’ve made so far and to plan the next phase of our fledgling organization. Our first two events showcased some of the top SoCal startups and entrepreneurs — prime examples of the region’s strengths — in order to educate and connect investors directly to opportunities in SoCal. The rationale for these events was based on the invaluable analysis and recommendations from The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) who compared the SoCal region to other leading tech hubs around the world using a variety of criteria (see graphic below). Source: ...
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Left to right, Steve Poizner, Larry Sonsini, Gene Sykes, and Mark Stevens On May 24th, the Alliance for Southern California held its debut event at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, in the heart of Silicon Valley. The day featured a lineup of exceptional Southern California-based thought leaders and exciting companies who collectively delivered a compelling message about the vibrant innovation ecosystems in the region. The event drew over 160 attendees, including more than 50 local venture investors, plus a blend of entrepreneurs, executives and innovators who came to connect with representatives of SoCal’s numerous innovation centers and ...
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It’s an exciting time in California. Things are changing, and fast. According to Federal data released earlier this month, California is now the fifth largest economy in the world surpassing the United Kingdom. And growth opportunities around technology are reaching far beyond the Bay Area and Silicon Valley . SoCal mints more PHDs in tech fields than anywhere else in the US; Caltech produces the most patents and UCLA the most spin-outs. From entertainment and media, to science, the opportunity for innovation is significant, and it’s happening here in Southern California. A year ago , when we formed The Alliance for Southern California Innovation (the ...
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Unprecedented collaboration of leading universities, research institutes, and business leaders to unlock the region’s full potential as a start-up hub Southern California ., June 22, 2017 – Serial tech entrepreneur and former California Insurance Commissioner, Steve Poizner, working with a group of prominent tech, university, and research institute leaders, today announced the formation of the Alliance for Southern California Innovation (Alliance), a nonprofit established to nurture and accelerate the growth of an entrepreneurial ecosystem in Southern California. As the challenges to starting and growing new companies in Silicon Valley continue to mount, ...
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