Alliance Blog

Looking Ahead: The SoCal First Look Showcase Will Build on Success of Alliance Debut Event

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 to learn how to access these emerging opportunities. To see photos of the day, check out our photo gallery.

With the Silicon Valley event in the rearview mirror, we have shifted focus to our next event: the SoCal First Look Showcase on June 20 at the Luskin Conference Center at UCLA. This event picks up where the last event left off, by showcasing 30 early-stage companies commercializing scientific breakthroughs discovered and developed at top SoCal research universities and institutes. Here investors will have the opportunity to get a “first look” at innovative frontier tech startups seeking seed and initial funding.

In addition to the startup teams presenting, we’ve enlisted Bill Gross (Founder & Chairman of Idealab, which has spawned more than 150 start-ups) to keynote, followed by a panel of prominent VC’s [Rick Smith (CrossCut Ventures), Kara Nortman (Upfront Ventures), Shahin Farshchi (Lux Capital) and Jay Goss (Wavemaker Three-Sixty Health)] who will share insights about investing in SoCal-based startups.

The First Look event has a successful track record (over a decade) of showcasing research-driven startups which aligns perfectly with the mission of the Alliance, so we partnered with the Los Angeles Venture Association (LAVA), who have been running First Look since 2013. This year, we’ve made a few refinements to the format that we believe will make an even larger impact, especially for the investors, innovators and entrepreneurs attending.

We’ve broadened the focus of the event to include companies from across the entire Southern California region. This meant expanding outreach to research institutions like UC San Diego, USD, UC Riverside, Harvey Mudd, Sanford Consortium, Chapman, and CalPoly. The historically LA-focused event already included Caltech, USC, UCLA, and Cal State LA, among others, as well as non-L.A. schools like UCSB and UC Irvine.

We also implemented a selection process to ensure the best of the best early tech companies are on stage. We received over 60 applications that we sorted into three domain tracks: Computer Science, Life Science and Physical Science. The teams were then evaluated by a blue-ribbon selection committee for each track, comprised of domain experts and early stage investors (e.g. NEA, Lux Capital, Upfront, CrossCut) who reviewed the applications and helped us pick the top 10 in each track to present. A complete list of the companies is on the Alliance website.

The event is now free of charge for a hand-picked, invite-only audience in order to increase the opportunities for the participating startups to connect with relevant investors, as well as experienced entrepreneurs who could serve as board members and mentors. We look forward to welcoming a capacity crowd of over 300 attendees of which, as of today, more than 100 are investors who represent 75 investment firms.

Our ability to make this event exclusive on every level (i.e. hand-picked presenters and attendees, all free of charge) is made possible due to the generous support of our engaged sponsors Goldman Sachs, Google, Silicon Valley Bank, and Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, as well as invaluable pro-bono services from partners such as Latham & Watkins, the Boston Consulting Group and design agency Envoy. Our ability to forge these partnerships and attract financial backing are a testament to the strength of our board of directors and advisors, comprised of business leaders from NorCal and SoCal, and the heads of innovation at the top research universities in the SoCal region.

This caliber and breadth of support is one of the key elements that enables the Alliance to do the difficult work of uniting the entire SoCal region and bridging the critical gaps in order to create the best possible conditions for SoCal’s innovators to bring their breakthroughs to the world.

We hope to see you on June 20 or at a future innovation event!

@Steve Gilison is Head of Programs and Operations at the Alliance for SoCal Innovation. You can also find him on LinkedIn.