UPDATE: SoCal Venture Pipeline Expands to Support Women and Minority Founders and Announces First Showcase
When the Alliance for SoCal Innovation first created a pipeline of VC funding, it was seeking startups that were Series A-ready.
What it found was certain demographics of founders that were not ready; instead, they were still seeking seed funding.
Not surprisingly, these demographics include categories that have historically been excluded from VC funding — women and minority founders. As well as geographically-underserved areas like Riverside County, Raychel Espiritu, the Alliance’s venture outreach manager, told inter-TECH-ion
So the alliance is now expanding its pipeline criteria to include seed-stage companies. And, its hosting its inaugural SoCal Venture Pipeline Showcase on May 19.
Seed vs. Series A Funding
Many leaders involved with the SoCal innovation ecosystem have lamented for years about the challenge of getting VC money to SoCal startups in general, as well as the specific challenge of getting Series A rounds funded in this region.
According to research conducted by dot.LA, using Pitchbook data, between 2017 and 2020, VC firms made approximately 33% fewer Series A deals in SoCal than seed deals.
Many local organizations are well aware of this and are working diligently to bring awareness to, and invest more VC money, into SoCal startups, in addition to the Alliance.
Origin of the Pipeline
The alliance is a nonprofit that brings together SoCal’s top research institutions, as well as local business leaders and advisors, in an attempt to close the gaps in the region’s innovation ecosystem.
The pipeline is a venture matching program, enabled by “generous” funding from Silicon Valley Bank, said Eric Eide, the alliance’s director of ecosystem development. Law firms Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, as well as KPPB are also funders.
The pipeline is now open to seed-stage startups raising $1 million-plus of institutional capital. No fees are attached. Nor does the alliance take any equity in, or compensation from, the selected startups.
Since its launch, the pipeline has funded 13 companies. Two of those have received more than $18 million of combined funding.
One of them, with a female co-founder, most recently closed a Series A round, so it does happen. That startup is VNTANA. Espiritu declined to disclose the other one because it hasn’t publicly announced its funding yet. She also declined to disclose how much the pipeline invested in VNTANA.
VNTANA created a software system that enables e-commerce retailers to showcase products on their sites in 3D, while also letting them view items with AR (augmented reality) and try on items virtually, according to this TechCrunch article.
VNTANA has raised more than $12 million in total, over seven rounds, according to Crunchbase. Its latest funding — the Series A — closed in November, with $4 million. Ashley Crowder is a co-founder and serves as CEO.
Overarching Goal of the Pipeline.
The goal of the SoCal Venture Pipeline program is to create access to funding for entrepreneurs, which in turn drives job growth, economic prosperity and a stronger SoCal innovation ecosystem.
The guidelines for tech startups to be considered for the Venture Pipeline program are:
– they must be based in SoCal
– they must have a dedicated team of two or more
– for seed-stage: raising $1 million-plus of institutional capital; have already raised at least $250,000 through angel funding and/or friends/family and/or have a product in market and demonstrated customer traction along with potentially early-revenue generation
– for Series A: raising institutional capital of $4 million-plus of institutional capital with a scalable business model
How to Apply
For SoCal-based tech startups that meet the guidelines above, apply here.
The pipeline is selecting 30 companies to meet, in-person, with top VC’s. Only those founders who have already applied to the pipeline will be eligible to attend.