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Can startups have it all in Orange County?

Ahead of Splash LA on May 30, a look at different startup tech hubs

Lessons learned from entrepreneur by Carey Ransom
May 6, 2013
Short URL: http://vator.tv/n/2f49

When asked to describe life in Orange County as a startup guy, I quickly call it the place where I can “have it all.”   With world-class universities, some of the best weather and beaches anywhere, and a diverse technology scene that spans consumer products, medical devices, semiconductors, storage, enterprise software, SaaS, mobile and consumer Internet, Orange County has examples of startups and innovation in virtually every business category.  If I were to pick a common mindset among OC entrepreneurs, I’d call it a stubborn belief that we can be successful here and live in a wonderful place at the same time. 

Add in the action sports and lifestyle brand innovations also resident here (examples Quiksilver, Volcom, RVCA, Rainbow & Stance), and I’ll argue that nobody understands “work hard, play hard” more than an Orange County entrepreneur.

(Editor's note: If you want to know more about the southern California tech scene, be sure to go to Vator Splash LA on the evening of May 30. Top local and out-of-town VCs, incubators will be there from Amplify, DFJ, Javelin, Lightbank, Lowercase, Science, MuckerLab, Rustic Canyon and more.  Register here before tickets go up!). 

There are creative, brilliant, successful technology entrepreneurs here, with earlier successes Ted Smith at FileNet (acquired by IBM for $1.6B) and Henry Samueli at Broadcom (top 10 semiconductor company), and more recent ones like Vinny Smith at Quest Software (acquired by Dell), Chad & Ryan Steelberg at dMarc Broadcasting (acquired by Google which established their presence here in Orange County), and Stuart Frost at DATAllegro (acquired by Microsoft).  All of these successful entrepreneurs are continuing to invest in new companies here, as founders, advisors, board members, investors, and even incubators.

Orange County startups raised over $750 million in funding in 2012, according to PWC/NVCA, which was down 16% over a very strong 2011, but still almost double the investment level in 2009.  

While industrial/energy deals attracted more than half that capital, software (17 deals) and medical devices (14 deals) were the largest deal categories.  Other areas in the region had larger raises in 2012 (Los Angeles: $1.3B, San Diego: $1.1B), but also have traditionally attracted more venture capital.

And while we lack the local capital of other startup areas, even within Southern California, local investors such as Miramar Venture Partners and Okapi Venture Capital are visible, approachable and helpful to local entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs here are proving adept at attracting capital from all over the country, whether institutions - Khosla Ventures (Sand Hill Road) is here in an investment in SignNow;  OpenView Venture Partners (Boston) is active in Southern California, including Irvine-based Kareo; or multi-million dollar angel rounds - AnyMeeting has raised money from a number of angel groups throughout California as well as Europe; Payoff counts FirstMark Capital (New York), both domestic and international angel investors, including some prominent Wall Street executives.

Resources and networking are alive and well here, too.  Tech Coast Venture Network (TCVN) has been around since the 1980s to help match startups with knowledge, capital and service providers.  About a decade ago, UC Irvine, several large local technology & medical companies, and angel and institutional investors started OCTANe OC, whose mission is to “connects people and ideas with capital and resources to fuel technology growth in Orange County.” 

And they’re doing it, by helping 110 companies receive more than $346 million in investment and equity exits since its inception.  Additionally, UC Irvine and Chapman University here are developing entrepreneurs on campus, adding incubators, events, classes and business plan competitions to help develop the next generation of entrepreneurs.

Technology entrepreneurs are spread throughout Orange County, as you can see on this map.  Many more are forming and working out of incubators and accelerators here, or flex offices such as TechSpace.  While you’re not as likely to run into a tech entrepreneur at a coffee shop here as you might in Silicon Beach or San Francisco, you may meet one at The Wedge or The Camp, surfing or hanging with their friend building the next cool brand. 

And that diversity of interests and thoughts serves all of us well as entrepreneurs here.

Do you think startups can have it all in Orange County? I'd love to hear your thoughts. 

(Editor's note: If you want to know more about the southern California tech scene, be sure to go to Vator Splash LA on the evening of May 30. Top local and out-of-town VCs, incubators will be there from Amplify, DFJ, Javelin, Lightbank, Lowercase, Science, MuckerLab, Rustic Canyon and more.  Register here before tickets go up!). 

(Image source: thepmcompanies)


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