Moving from Opportunity to Action

Alliance Commits to Integrated Program Strategy to Enhance Ecosystem

By Andy Wilson

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 of July, August and early September this year we conducted more than 60 stakeholder interviews (many of them in person) with leading entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, angels investors, non-profit leaders, corporate innovation executives and university/research administrators. Through those conversations and the context set by the BCG work, we have developed a three prong program strategy:

  1. Inventory the SoCal innovation landscape in more detail: Identify high potential centers of excellence and deploy activation teams to work with local stakeholders to energize these centers so they may reach their full potential. BCG has committed to collaborate with us on this project.
  2. Identify top startups in each node and effectively match them with relevant venture capital sources both locally and outside of the region: A similar program has been successfully deployed in San Diego by the San Diego Venture Group (SDVG) headed by Mike Krenn, who will help us take this capability to other nodes across SoCal.
  3. Convene SoCal’s node leadership to create a powerful network: An organized network of leaders can tackle bigger regional issues like the shortage of local institutional capital, the extension of the “SoCal Innovation Brand” and the retention of top STEAM students to work at local technology companies. We are working to engage the Milken Institute as a partner on this front.

We are excited about this approach as it acknowledges the distributed and diverse nature of innovation that is unique to Southern California. It is our hope that as we build out and connect the node network, the region will grow its critically important entrepreneurial density. Great start-ups aren’t created in an abstract place called “SoCal” but in a lab in Riverside, a WeWork office in Hollywood or a garage in El Segundo. By engaging with node leadership, the region will be able to tackle thorny regional issues by taking solutions back to the field where the real action is taking place. Furthermore, we believe the effort to match top venture capital with the region’s greatest startups will, in the short term, increase startup success rates and, longer term, compel more VC’s to call SoCal home.

Now that the Alliance has developed a thoughtful and compelling roadmap that can move the ecosystem, our next task is securing the critical resources to bring it to life. We are seeking funding sources and key partnerships, so if you or your company is committed to helping SoCal reach its full potential as a global innovation hub, please reach out to us and let us know how you might support or fund our important efforts at the Alliance. The regional impacts of the success of the Alliance can be huge — potentially 200k new direct jobs and 1 million indirect new jobs in the next decade!

Andy Wilson is the Executive Director of the Alliance for SoCal Innovation. You can also find him on linkedin.com/in/andywilsoninnovator