SoCal Venture Pipeline gets 500th application and maps out a compelling vision for its future
With a large year-over-year decline in early stage venture capital investment in Los Angeles/OC (-58%) and San Diego (-54%), it is no surprise that we’ve seen an increase in startups applying to our SoCal Venture Pipeline (SVP) program to get matched with investors. In these tighter economic conditions, founders who lack access to funding look to us to connect them with investors. What has been a little surprising is the massive spike in applications over the past two months where we saw a nearly 300% increase in application volume. Market tailwinds on sourcing startups is only part of the story. Most of our sourcing success is due to our compounding investment in outreach and intentional deepening of referral partnerships throughout the region which has led to increased momentum in the market as a trusted provider of high quality connectivity for founders and investors. We’ve earned credibility with startups by ramping up our outreach efforts via a series of online and in-person events where we bring founders and investors together in their local communities. In addition, more and more investors continue to value our matchmaking introductions to startups due to our focus on quality over quantity and curating the deal flow to precisely match their investment thesis. It is pretty clear that even in a good economy, we’d be providing an invaluable service to the ecosystem.
A Journey of Empowering Innovation
Since March 2021, the SoCal Venture Pipeline has become a lifeline for hundreds of founders in the region. To date, the SVP has engaged with over 1,800 founders of whom over 520 have formally applied to the program seeking a combined >$1 billion in venture capital. Through the program’s selective vetting process, we’ve accepted 66 startups (12.6% acceptance rate) and connected them with venture investors that precisely match their profiles (sector, stage, ask, raise, etc). So far, 15 of these startups have collectively raised an impressive $65 million in investments, and another three have exited through acquisition which by any standard is a terrific win-rate.
These funded founders serve as a testament to the diversity and vibrancy of the SoCal startup community. Geographically, they hail from a wide array of locations, including Santa Barbara, Los Angeles, Orange, and San Diego counties. The industries they represent are equally diverse, spanning AI, consumer products, cybersecurity, health & wellness, healthtech, medtech, software/SaaS, and more. Furthermore, the founders applying to SVP are diverse: 57% founders of color and 43% female. The founders who’ve received funding so far are 25% founders of color and 33% female. This is in stark contrast to national tallies where 4.6% of the $139 billion invested in 2022 went to companies with founders identifying as women, Black, or Latinx (Source: PledgeLA Venture Data Report 2023, p13).
Pioneering the Future: The Catalyst Fund
The SVP program is completely free for startups and investors who participate because the cost of running the matchmaking is underwritten by sponsors and a multi-year government grant. The generous support of program sponsors Pacific Western Bank, WSGR, and KPPB (and a new one, TBA soon) means that we can focus on selecting and connecting the best startups with the highest potential.
With a solid track record of selecting great investable startups, the Alliance is taking the next step by launching a co-investment fund that will enable us to invest in the startups we help get funding through the SVP program. We will participate in the round with a small investment alongside the institutional investors leading the round, so as not to compete with other funds but exclusively co-investing once a round has been initiated by a lead investor. The aptly named “Catalyst Fund” will be co-managed by Pasadena Private Financial Group, a well respected local investment services firm who will run the administrative components of the fund. The Catalyst Fund aims to embrace the full scope and diversity of SoCal’s most talented founders, regardless of their background, location, or technology sector. Operating as a de-facto fund of funds, it will invest in the diversity of SoCal, without incurring the double management expenses typically associated with such funds.
In conclusion, the SoCal Venture Pipeline is not just a program; it’s a catalyst for change and a symbol of what’s possible when innovation, diversity, and inclusion come together. The future of Southern California’s entrepreneurial landscape is indeed bright, and with the Catalyst Fund, it’s destined to shine even brighter. Whether you’re a founder or an investor with a passion for innovation and diversity, stay tuned to the SoCal Venture Pipeline and the Catalyst Fund. They are propelling Southern California toward a more inclusive and prosperous future.
If you are a qualified investor who would like to learn more about the Catalyst Fund or you know “venture-ready” SoCal-based entrepreneurs seeking Seed or Series A funding, please don’t hesitate to reach out to Eric Eide (Eric at AllianceSoCal.org).