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 well over one hundred legitimate funds that call SoCal home and for the first time in almost a decade, SoCal surpassed metro New York in VC funding (over $19Bn which is ~10x of the SoCal dollars invested in 2000). We also have seen the advent of some local mega-funds like B Capital, March, Fifth Wall, Sinai, Westlake Bio, Greycroft (also has NYC HQ), and Upfront all with over $1Bn in AUM.
Despite this growth, SoCal VC firms still only contribute ~10% of the funds going into local companies; while doing better in the early stages, the percentages drop off significantly in later rounds. Part of the issue is that SoCal lacks a credible regional convener for this growing population of capable VC firms. Unlike NorCal where most firms are concentrated on Sandhill Road in Silicon Valley or SoMa in SF, SoCal firms are sprinkled across this massive landscape. This geographic and institutional fragmentation is a hindrance to a tightly integrated and vibrant regional startup community.
When we identified this gap in the ecosystem, we knew we needed to step into the breach and craft an engagement strategy to provide better connectivity within the investor community. After a 10-week research project that included interviews with 40 local VCs to clarify and articulate how best to make an impact, we are officially launching our VC Engagement Program.
We are excited to share the outline of this program and pleased that we have already filled almost half of the 20 Advisory Council slots with prominent firms including Upfront, March Capital, TenOneTen, M13, and Calibrate.
The high-level program includes brand promotion, thought leadership and highly curated networking (details below). We have scaled the “recommended” support contribution to the Alliance (a not-for-profit organization) to match the size and budget of the VC firm (starting at $5k/year). If you are interested in learning more, please contact the Alliance program lead Eric Eide.
Here is an outline of the components of the VC Engagement Program and what to expect as a member of the Alliance VC Advisory Council:
Strengthen SoCal Relationships, Brand & Engage in SoCal Ecosystem
- Promotion in Alliance publications (newsletters, programs, events, website)
- Invitations to quarterly Alliance Board of Directors meetings
- Invitations to Alliance marquis events & programs
- Monthly Alliance newsletters
VC Self-promotion & Thought Leadership
- Elevate your brand in SoCal among startups, other VCs, and corporations
- Position your VC as a thought leader via video showcases on successful SoCal investments, speaking on panels, writing blogs, podcast appearances, hosting high profile events
VC Executive Advisory Council
Chaired by Kara Nortman, Co-Managing Partner, Upfront Ventures
- Meet regularly with top SoCal & NorCal VC leaders
- Annual social event with top VC leaders and SoCal corporate executives
- Invitation to participate in curated dialogues with venture & corporate elites through Leadership Engagement and Discussion (LEAD) roundtable series
- Advisory role and reporting on SoCal Venture Pipeline venture matching program
- Select members (max of 20) representing a cross-section of top SoCal firms
SoCal Venture Pipeline (SVP) brought to you by Silicon Valley Bank
- Opportunity to serve on the SVP advisory board that provides program oversight and receives quarterly updates on the performance of the program providing curated investment opportunities targeting Series A-ready SoCal startups
- Preferred access to present at SVP events and opportunities to advise as a subject matter expert
Strategic University Research Expo
- Invitations to monthly virtual events showcasing university research curated to match corporate technology and life science interests
Why are we doing this? We at the Alliance believe in a collective impact model; that is to say that by aligning both within and across ecosystem players, we can raise our level of play as discrete organizations but also collectively as a region. Specifically, the Alliance serves as a Super Connector — unifying these diverse innovation communities into a powerful network and helping key stakeholders including corporates, VC’s, entrepreneurs, and academia to navigate and strategically engage across our distributed innovation assets, so that they may advance their own critical innovation priorities individually and for the region as a whole. Unlike more concentrated and homogeneous regions, SoCal cannot rely on serendipitous collisions but needs an intentional convener to stimulate more high-value collaborations. Please reach out to discuss how we can connect you to the SoCal innovation ecosystem.