We will periodically run opinion pieces from key players in the OC startup ecosystem with their thoughts on its strengths and weaknesses, as well as what they believe is necessary to take it to the next level.
Here’s the opinion of Ray Chan, Managing Director of K5 Ventures with HQ in Newport Beach. K5 is an early- and mid-stage lab and funding platform.
Inspiration and Mentorship is Key
The Orange County startup system has a lot going for it. The community is made up of a lot of good startups and companies that can serve as resources for anyone who wants to pursue entrepreneurship.
There are a lot of investment groups — K5 Ventures, Okapi Venture Capital, Toba Capital, Tech Coast Angels, ACE Fund, and the Cove Fund(s) just to name a few — that can help get startups off the ground, as well as with early-stage and A-round funding. (Tech Coast Angels created the Angel Capital Entrepreneur Funds I, 2, and 3 (ACE FUND) as an investment opportunity to both accredited individuals and institutional investors.)
Between various funds, incubators, and even family offices, Orange County has continued to grow in available resources and mentorship. Over the last two years, it feels like there’s been a lot of movement and momentum in the community. There are more events being hosted that are meant to drive local entrepreneurs at a pace much faster than they have over the last five to ten years.
Even with all of the experienced individuals that are concentrated in Orange County, there’s still a sense of disconnect and disparity with those who are here and the companies that are trying to establish themselves. What we’re lacking in the most is providing inspiration and mentorship from entrepreneurs who have recently gone through the struggles.
Getting advice from people who had been entrepreneurs, or people who can offer advice for how they think things should go is valuable, but it can’t replace the kind of advice that successful active entrepreneurs can offer to those just starting their journey.
We can bring the startup ecosystem to the next level by connecting these successful CEOs with the younger startups and companies throughout Orange County to fill the vacuum of knowledge. Being paired with active CEOs will give entrepreneurs the insight they need to take actual steps. This is the kind of culture that powers the Bay Area. Bringing it here will turn Orange County into its own powerhouse.
In a related vein, there needs to be more resources that will help people actually execute. There are plenty of people thinking about ideas and the solutions to problems, but they need to find and connect with the resources that will help them build their apps or market their solutions to the right audiences. This is why I’ve been spending so much time at The Portal to help turn local talent into a resource that can help companies with web and mobile development, as well as content and digital marketing. (The Portal provides local small business and startups with affordable business services by offering apprenticeships to college students and giving them opportunities to enrich their skills through real-world experience.)