Explaining Southern California's economy

VC in SC: A panel discussion at KPCC

CFF VC Panel

Venture Capital in Southern California panel. From right, KPCC's Matthew DeBord, Rustic Canyon Partners' Nate Redmond, Idealab's Alex Maleki, and Ben Kuo from socalTECH.

Last night, I sat down with Nate Redmond of Rustic Canyon Partners, Ben Kuo of socalTech, and Alex Maleki of Idealab's newly formed New Ventures Group to talk VC in SoCal.

We enjoyed a lively and informative 90 minutes of discussion at the Crawford Family Forum with plenty of good questions from the full-house audience (Thank you, KPCC community!)

I'm going to post some outtakes from the event, but one of things that struck me, for whatever reason, was a recent grad who asked the panel about how to break into venture capital as a career. This got my attention because VC is a relatively new option in professional finance (dating back to the late 1960s and early 1970s) and because, well...most young people seem to want to start companies, not fund them.

That said, in my experience VCs, at every level, are interesting people, glad to share their knowledge and committed to the idea of entrepreneurship, innovation, and a positive future. I wasn't surprised that Nate Redmond's advice was simple but insightly. 

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Building the biomedical future in Orange County

TPO-Banner-MDB

Matthew DeBord

TechPortal Orange will provide space and access to services in an incubator environment. The location at the UC Irvine Medical Center campus provides startups with the opportunity to work with high-level medical talent.

TPO-Elevator-MDB

Matthew DeBord

TechPortal Orange occupies space on the second floor of a building at the UC Irvine Medical Center campus. Startups in residence at the incubator will also have access to additional labs.

TPO-Levin-MDB

Matthew DeBord

Jacob Levin, PhD, Assistant Vice Chancellor of Research Development at the UC Irvine Office of Research. He has been instrumental in setting up the TechPortal Orange incubator.

TPO-Lab Sign-MDB

Matthew DeBord

This is where cutting-edge biomedical research will be transformed into commercial applications.

TPO-Lab1-MDB

Matthew DeBord

The "wet" lab area has room for 14 individual companies. More complex equipment is located elsewhere in the building. The overall space is 3,100 square feet.

TPO-Lab2-MDB

Matthew DeBord

Each 150-square-foot lab area has bench space for 4 researchers, as well as instruments for cell culture, microscopy, biochemistry, and molecular biology.

TPO-Lab3-MDB

Matthew DeBord

Valves! Biomedical research may be high-tech, but there are still some elements that are sooooo 20th century.


There's a problem in the venture capital world. The amount of venture funding flowing into startups has been reduced by the financial crisis, but VCs are still looking to make money off new technology businesses. Biotech is another story. A mobile application or social networking website can turn to gold far quicker than a biomedical play. 

"[Information] technology has faster exits than biomedical," said Dr. Jacob Levin, Assistant Vice Chancellor of Research Development at the UC Irvine Medical Center. "The burden of the FDA approval process isn't there. It can take eight years to get a new technology or treatment approved."

According to Levin, the dreaded "valley of death" — the point at which a startup moves from early stage funding to more serious investment, commercialization, and revenue — for biomedical is "expanding." This is a major challenge in Southern California, where biotech is often viewed as the region's answer to Silicon Valley's tech juggernaut.

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