Alliance for SoCal Innovation Makes Impact in 2021 – Update From the Board

By December 20, 2021February 25th, 2022No Comments

The Alliance for Southern California Innovation (the “Alliance”) is a not for profit formed in 2017 that has successfully brought together the heft of Southern California’s top research institutions, local business leaders, and world-class advisors to focus on bridging critical gaps in the SoCal innovation ecosystem. The goal of the Alliance is to engage and unify SoCal’s compelling diversity of talent, ideas, and perspectives in order to optimize the conditions for the region’s innovators to bring breakthroughs to the world.

Alliance programs focus on developing and connecting SoCal’s diverse innovation communities while attracting new capital to Southern California by identifying, nurturing, and matching high potential startups to leading venture investors. By working together with community leaders, the Alliance will tackle more regional issues including retaining top STEM talent and growing the base of local institutional capital. Our efforts have the potential to generate 200k direct jobs and more than 1MM indirect jobs in Southern California.

We are proud to share with the Southern California community an update on our key objectives and progress made in the past year.

The Alliance for SoCal Innovation’s Objectives:

  • Improve access to venture capital
  • Promote & champion SoCal’s compelling diversity and tech capabilities
  • Engage & strengthen innovation communities
  • Foster collaboration across key stakeholder groups
  • Engage corporations & venture capitalists to connect and invest in the region



We are pleased that the VC Engagement Program now boasts 22 funds, including two new funds, Petra Griffin from Wedbush Ventures and Molly Kang from Switch Ventures (both recipients of our new emerging manager scholarship program). Looking ahead to Q1, 2022, we are excited to host our first Venture Summit that will take place in-person and will include VCs and SoCal Venture Pipeline companies. Our Q1 VC Council meeting will be structured as an in-person dinner following the VC Summit. If you know of investors who would like to participate in the VC Summit that aren’t yet involved on the VC Council, please let Eric Eide ([email protected]) know so he can extend an invitation.


To date, we have received 88 applications from interested start-ups. Eleven of those companies have been accepted into the Pipeline and one of the accepted companies, VNTANA, announced their $10.5M series A funding. The program now has 31 companies in our “Not Yet” category, which means they are of quality and will likely be Series A ready in the near future. We are excited to profile many of these companies at our Q1 Venture Summit and facilitate impactful connections with investors. The Alliance has recently added founder testimonials and accepted company profiles on the  SoCal Venture Pipeline webpage to provide a more comprehensive understanding of the program to founders who are considering applying.

If you know of high quality companies that are seeking their first institutional check of $4M or more please encourage them to apply.  If you haven’t already seen our snazzy promotional video for the program, make sure to watch it and share with your network. 



The Tech Track Spotlight Oct 26th focused on Understanding & Influencing Human Behavior and  showcased a wide range of presenters and schools who tackled the topic from diverse perspectives including imaging brain physiology (Caltech); tools to aid in memory/cognition (UCR); analyzing large data sets (eg social media posts) to predict behavior (UCI); and the limits of machines to interpret nuanced human communications (UCLA). You can read more about it in Sue’s blog post or watch the video. Thanks to Krisztina ‘Z’ Holly for innovating on our format and pulling together the threads in a panel discussion at the end.

The Life Science Spotlight on Immunology on Nov 16th featured special guest Ajay Nirula, VP Immunology at Eli Lilly who along with moderator Juliesta Sylvester, contributed to an engaging discussion of each research presentation that revealed the market potential and future implications of the research. This format was extremely powerful and insightful, thus showcasing the value of the RISS program to drive collaboration and learnings between academics and industry. A special thanks to all who were involved.

If you are interested in attending a spotlight, please contact Steve Gilison ([email protected]). You can see replays of our former sessions here: 


This Is SoCal is our region’s rallying cry and communications vehicle. The name affirms what the region is all about in a confident way and correctly implies uniqueness. It’s extremely definitive and functions as a stamp for the ecosystem, uniting it effectively under an ownable banner.

It functions as an aggregator. It enables the deep expertise in each of our communities to unite, turning us into a superhub for each of our specializations—from AI to biotech and far beyond. 

It celebrates the ways we live, work, communicate and behave. It also provides an umbrella for consistency while allowing flexibility for communities and specializations. It has a timeliness to it that can frame successes and breakthroughs of the moment while still being able to refer to where we’ve come from. And it has appeal to all of our audiences—from investors to talent to media to entrepreneurs.

To learn more and get involved, visit 

BYOB (Bring Your Own Bias) 

As part of our 2022 programming, we look forward to bringing you a 3 part series on implicit bias and what our corporate leaders can do to overcome it. We will be working to finalize the details and the scheduling of the series over the next few months. We welcome your feedback, interest and suggestions whether as a participant or as a contributor or presenter. If you are interested in being a part of a fascinating exploration of our implicit biases and how to affect changes in ourselves and our companies, please contact Katie at [email protected]. Note, attending all three is not a requirement – each evening stands on its own as an open, insightful, and important discussion.  


F.I.N.D. PROGRAM (Fueling Innovation through Node Development)

Developing, engaging and connecting local communities across SoCal

Ventura: Microsite announced at Startup Weekend hosted by Community partner Hub101 and Techstars to drive awareness and engagement on Ventura community microsite.



The Alliance Partner Leadership Council met on November 17th. The topics of discussion included the Build Back Better applications in the region; and the various initiatives and events that each of the community organizations were involved in. The council members also discussed the SELF event and there was a brief discussion on how critical in-person events are for innovation. Several new collaborations took place during the session and we look forward to seeing how those play out in the year to come.


The final LEAD event for 2021 took place on October 27 and focused on Women Founders & Leaders. One of our most lively LEAD conversations to date took place as Katherine Hunter-Blyden helped facilitate the discussions from VernaGrayce Chao;  Maria Salinas and Martha Saucedo along with each of the guests. The participants were eager to speak on the issue of the ‘mass exodus’ of women from the workplace since the pandemic and what to do to accommodate women’s needs to create more equity. Since there was so much more to discuss, the participants agreed to reconvene to continue the conversation. The date for that reconvening is still pending, but will be set in the near future.


During the week of November 15th, Andy Wilson and Steve Gilison, in his role as Academic Stakeholder Lead at the Alliance, met with our university Board members to evaluate how the Alliance can better serve their needs. Based on their input, we are expanding our engagement with universities and academic leaders while rebalancing the Board so that all stakeholder groups share the governance obligation of the organization. This will be reflected in our programming plans during our annual 2022 team offsite planning (on December 7th) and the presentation of a 2022 budget to the finance and audit committee.  


On November 11, we gathered in Irvine for our first in-person event since the pandemic began. We hosted 45 innovation leaders from across the region who were abuzz with the excitement of getting back together and reconnecting with structured conversations and plenty of time for conversation. The theme of the day was to share best practices and identify key accelerants and decelerators for adoption. The primary conversation topics were: Getting back to work post-pandemic (where are we now and where are we headed); Funding the next wave of SoCal startups; and Attracting and Retaining SoCal talent.  Here are some photos of the day as well as the beautiful drawings that captured the content:  

Thank you to our lead sponsor, The Irvine Company for hosting us at their recently built state-of-the-art conference venue — it was the perfect setting for the workshop. We are also very grateful to our other sponsors who all played key roles in the event: Amazon, Annenberg Tech | Annenberg Foundation, and Verizon. 


We hosted our wildly successful inaugural Allies in Innovation celebration December 2nd at the Cove at UC Irvine that brought together more than 60 amazing leaders who have leaned into our efforts to connect and energize the SoCal region, so that we can truly become a global leader.  As we found to be so evident at the SELF event, connecting in real life is critically important. We hosted an insightful panel addressing the challenges and opportunities that Covid has brought to our region.  The panel was followed by a festive sit-down wine-paired dinner.  It was truly a special event (more here).  A special thanks goes to Techstars, UBS, Edison and KPMG for underwriting this important event. 



We have completed our cycle of virtual discussions this year on topics ranging from internal innovation to investing in startups. Next year we hope to expand our program topics to include the next wave of innovation such as remote/hybrid workforces and the challenges to creating internal culture and collective problem solving. If you have other ideas on topics around corporate innovation you’d like us to explore, please reach out to [email protected].


Introductions are one of the ways that the Alliance can help those in our ecosystem remove obstacles and keep up with the latest trends. In the past few months we’ve been building an enhanced CRM system to keep track of the needs and interests of our constituents. By using the concept of Asks and Offers, the Alliance can proactively suggest connections to resources that can address their needs. The Alliance is grateful for the generous financial support of the corporate partners and welcome introductions to others who want to partner with us to help make SoCal live up to its potential as an innovative, inclusive, diverse, green, humane and thriving business community.

To learn more about the Alliance for SoCal Innovation and get involved, visit 


Karly Simpson

Author Karly Simpson

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