Alliance Blog

Tech Coast Angels & the Alliance Collaboration at Work: The Start of Something Big

photos courtesy of Susanne Hayes at the Pasadena Angels

We concluded early in the formation of the Alliance that embracing partnership and collaborations was the only viable way that our small organization could “bend the curve” on the innovation and entrepreneurial success of such a massive region as Southern California. Though we now count more than 130 institutional partners in our consortium, we are particularly fond of our strong relationship with Tech Coast Angels (TCA) and Pasadena Angels who agreed in January 2022 to join forces. Now a year later they held their combined annual meeting to which the Alliance had the privilege of attending and participating as the Keynote speakers. It is rare that we get to spend the better part of a day with 100 top SoCal angel investors to learn about their plans while also getting a chance to share our assessment of the SoCal ecosystem and the growing impact of our SoCal Venture Pipeline program.

Thoughtfully organized by Dave de Csepel (former Chair of Pasadena Angels) and David Friedman (current chair of TCA), the day included three intriguing panel discussions and we were delighted to be asked to provide some insights during the lunch Keynote. During the opening remarks by the organizers we learned that TCA is actively expanding its membership, seeking to add new licensees in select geographies and continuing to innovate internally to support their portfolio companies.

The morning panel on “Trends in Angel Investing” revealed insights into how the venture market has changed dramatically in the last year, and it was great to hear several highly experienced angels including ACA Board Member and TCA Chair Emeritus John Harbison reflect on valuations, leadership, and cash management. The following panel focused on “Trends in Healthcare” moderated by new TCA affiliate MEDA Angels (healthcare-focused nationwide angel investor group) Co-founder Elizabeth Cho-Fertikh and featured a lively discussion about value-based care and the ongoing ripple effects of Covid in healthcare delivery, reimbursements, and investing. 

The Alliance took the stage during lunch. Given the commitment of TCA to become more unified as “One TCA” and create a powerful national network, I spent most of my time discussing the nature of the region and sharing key learnings and tactics that we have employed at the Alliance to achieve something similar with our efforts to unify the SoCal innovation ecosystem. Eric Eide followed my remarks with an overview of the SoCal Venture Pipeline program and highlighting our successful collaboration with TCA, largely consisting of identifying opportunities to pass along startups between our respective organizations since there is a natural synergy for their angel investments looking for Seed and Series A funding through the SVP program. In our role as regional booster and catalyst, our success at the Alliance is directly correlated to the success of our frontline partners – we are particularly enthusiastic about TCA and its future given its large and growing footprint and proven commitment to early stage startups. 

Our session was followed by another panel of seasoned investors who shared “Silver Bullets/Lessons Learned.” The group shared some of their greatest success stories as well as a few misses. Our long time friend and collaborator Stender Sweeney mentioned the benefits of a diversified portfolio for generating returns, since it is difficult to know which ones will be successful. He also suggested that angels decide how much they can afford to lose and then divide that number by 30 and then make 30 similar sized investments over time. Other silver bullets shared by the panel included the importance of: investing in balanced management teams who have an ability to pivot and really know their customers; identifying a process for vetting investment decisions and sticking with it; and taking the time to do the diligence process with other angels as a way to learn and improve investment skills. 

I know the Alliance team found the day to be tremendously valuable. We learned more about TCA and angel investing but more importantly were able to strengthen key relationships and develop some new ones with important SoCal angel investors. I often say that innovation is a team sport composed of a diverse set of stakeholders. Events like this are incredibly valuable and often too rare due to the geographical friction inherent in our massive and diverse geography.  So please keep us in mind when planning your events especially if you want a broad-based perspective on innovation and entrepreneurship across SoCal . . . we live and breathe that every day at the Alliance and are pleased to share our learnings.