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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 ...
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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 ...
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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 ...
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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 ...
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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 ...
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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 ...
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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 ...
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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 ...
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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 ...
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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 ...
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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 ...
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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 ...
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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). ...
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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 ...
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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 ...
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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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