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SoCal Ecosystem Leadership Forum 2021

November 11, 2021 @ 10:00 am 5:00 pm

Spectrum Terrace Conference Center

17520 Laguna Canyon Road
Irvine, California 92618 United States

This annual regional planning workshop is focused on uniting and catalyzing the leadership of Southern California’s diverse and compelling innovation nodes which define the SoCal innovation network. To accomplish this, we convene a diverse cross section of leaders from across the region for a professionally facilitated one-day intensive workshop to generate clarity of purpose, goals, and a coordinated strategy to tackle shared challenges and opportunities. This year we convened in person at a single location which is a welcome return to the format we enjoyed in 2019 prior to the pandemic.

Why are we doing this?
There are common challenges and opportunities that unite the often fragmented, geographically dispersed innovation hubs throughout Southern California. The Alliance’s analysis of the region, in partnership with the Boston Consulting Group, has revealed that there is little coordination among these compelling pockets of innovation to address common issues. However, the Alliance believes aligning best practices, external messaging, and delivery of services and resources are necessary to harness the collective potential of the region’s innovation assets to make Southern California the next great innovation ecosystem.

The Workshop
The core of the event was a workshop where key stakeholders from across the region – e.g. CEOs, founders, investors, local government, economic development experts, academics, and regional planners — discuss critical regional challenges & opportunities. For a recap of the event, check out our blog post.

The Alliance engaged leader, author, and facilitator Val Wright to help guide our discussions and was supported by graphic recorder Michelle Boos-Stone who captured the day’s output in dynamic hand-drawn tableaus pictured below.


10:00a:   Welcome

10:15a:   State of the Region Report: Assessing our progress and current landscape
Featuring presentation by Andy Wilson, Executive Director of Alliance for SoCal Innovation

10:45a:  Warm up: Introductions, expectations, asks & gives
Getting acquainted! An opening exercise where we introduce ourselves through a framework of what we can contribute (“gives”) and what we hope to accomplish and receive (“asks”). This grounds us in action and sets the table for making productive connections.

11:15a: Conversation Round 1. Emerging from the Pandemic: what’s changed and what’s next
All attendees participated in unstructured small conversations related to the seven ‘spectrum’ topics placed throughout the room.
We are all uniquely adapting to rapid disruption and shifting landscapes including factors like reliance on geography/physical locations, organization life cycle stage, and needs of constituents within our communities. What does “going back to work” look like for you vs the region as a whole?

12:15p:  Lunch Break sponsored by Annenberg Tech | Annenberg Foundation

1:15p: Conversation Round 2. Funding the next wave of SoCal startups
There’s a flood of capital but where is it going, will it continue, and how is it getting allocated? How do the shifts in capital allocation impact our innovation economy and how do we ensure a more equitable process for the diversity of founders and communities looking to benefit in the rising tide? 

1:30p: Discussion within breakout groups

  • Group 1: Alternative Paths to Growth Beyond ‘traditional’ VC funding e.g. Opportunity Zones, SBIR/Non-dilutive grant funding, Crowdfunding, Debt Funding, Corporate Partnerships. Discussion led by Stacy Cumberbatch, Managing Director of Blended Impact.
  • Group 2: How a funder finds its fit: building a holistic and authentic approach to effectively expand the funding aperture. Discussion led by Natalie Charney, Chief of Staff for Clocktower Ventures.
  • Group 3: Promoting Funding Equity and Access to Capital: Leveraging public data, philanthropic partnerships, and non-dilutive funding to create a more equitable innovation ecosystem. Discussion led by Calvin Selth, Program Manager for Annenberg Tech, Annenberg Foundation.

2:20p: Lock in the Learning — report back from breakout groups, capture feedback

2:45p: Break

3:00p: Conversation Round 3: Creating compelling innovation communities that attract talent
The challenge of retaining local STEM talent is not new but now there is an opportunity to change the narrative and shift the flows of talent in SoCal.

3:15p: Discussion within breakout groups

  • Group 1: Engaging talent in Higher Education: best practices for connecting employment, investment, and IP creation at centers of higher education and research. Discussion led by Ron Blanchard Solutions Manager, E2W & Marianna Holliday, Global Lead of Academic to Workforce Solutions, Amazon Web Services
  • Group 2: Community-based recruitment and retention of talent: engaging the broader ecosystem to attract top talent. Discussion led by Mark Percy, President and Jasmine Pachnanda, SVP at CLA – OC
  • Group 3: Improving representation of women and underrepresented minorities in the innovation ecosystem workforce and leadership roles. Discussion led by Donald Grant, Executive Director at Mindful Training Solutions and DEI advisor to the Alliance for SoCal Innovation

4:05p: Lock in the Learning — report back from breakout groups, capture feedback

4:25p: Wrap up & Next Steps

5:00p: Reception provided by host sponsor The Irvine Company

Thank you to our sponsors