We will periodically run opinion pieces from key players in the OC startup ecosystem with their thoughts on its strengths and weaknesses and what they believe is necessary to take it to the next level.
Here’s the opinion of Bill Carpou, CEO of OCTANe in Aliso Viejo, which focuses on the growth and support of high-tech and med-tech companies with its LaunchPad accelerator and Visionary Venture fund, which invests in ophthalmology companies.
Collaboration is Key
Historically the OC ecosystem has been too fragmented. That’s much improved in the last two years, due to several organizations leveraging each other and regional leadership supporting innovation and growth. The entire SoCal region should collaborate in order to compete with ecosystems such as New York’s and Northern California’s. The former is comprised of North Jersey, Manhattan, Long Island and Westchester Counties. The latter is comprised of Silicon Valley, the Peninsula, downtown San Francisco and the East Bay, including Oakland. It makes more sense for us to operate with a unified strategy; it makes no sense for us to remain fragmented.
OCTANe is an organization that can convene and unify the counties of Los Angeles, Orange and San Diego, as well as Riverside and San Bernardino counties. Capital continues to be difficult for many entrepreneurs in SoCal. However VC firms are now paying attention to SoCal and this trend is beginning to reverse. We have had to go out of the area to Boston, New York City and globally, to help companies raise capital, which has worked very well.
Talent and access to talent are absolutely critical — not just engineering talent — but operational talent, such as strategy, sales and marketing, operations and manufacturing. We continue to see growth in med-device, cyber-security, gaming, AR/VR and AI.
University relationships are critical and no one single university in SoCal competes with a Stanford or MIT. But we have a better alternative and a distinct advantage when you pull together Chapman, Cal State Fullerton, UCI, UCLA, CalTech, USC, UCSD and USD. That is power and OCTANe has organized relationships with all these institutions. It is because of the diversity of these great universities that they are all a huge impetus for our ecosystem, which requires leadership that has broad perspectives, geographic reach and community support.
The state of the ecosystem is better than it’s been, but still far from the effectiveness it can be. That will require an additional level of collaboration, self awareness and humility. It requires a convening organization to emerge as the undisputed leader and the business community to rally around supporting this strategy. This will drive innovation and job growth, which then brings capital, and the cycle continues.
OCTANe is “Building the SoCal of Tomorrow.” Orange County is the epicenter of Southern California, so why not take advantage of San Diego, Los Angeles, and the Inland Empire? After all, OC sits in a uniquely competitive position. With that in mind, OCTANe has been creating collaborative and strategic relationships with many organizations that are integral to the region’s ecosystem.
Close to 40 companies that graduated from our LaunchPad accelerator have been acquired. One example is SecureAuth, acquired for $225 million last September by a private equity firm. SecureAuth went through LaunchPad in 2013. (SecureAuth, with HQ in Irvine, develops cybersecurity software. It was then merged with Core Security, pending regulatory approval, which was already in the portfolio of K1 Investment Management with HQ in El Segundo. Core Security, with HQ in Roswell, GA, focuses on threat-awareness, access, authentication and vulnerability management, according to its website. The merger was also backed by existing investor Toba Capital with HQ in Newport Beach. The merged company also announced that it had raised more than $200 million back in September, according to news reports.)
The goal for OCTANe is to unify SoCal into a globally-recognized powerhouse, not a region of disconnected organizations.
2018 has begun a growth period for us as we move to our Vision 2025 Strategy. The cornerstone metric of this is the creation of 22,000 high paying jobs by 2025.