Wednesday, October 13, 2004
A Look at Southern California's Up and Coming Companies
I had the opportunity to attend The Southern California Software Council's VentureNet event -- one of two major events the Software Council holds each year, on top of their regular stable of great chapter meetings (socalTECH.com was also a sponsor of the event). VentureNet brings together a select group of companies to present to a panel of venture investors, and attracts a steady following of both local and Northern California venture capitalists. The event showed that Southern California's startup environment continues to be robust, and that venture investors are increasingly interested in Southern California as a source of companies. This year's event was held at the Four Seasons Hotel in Newport Beach, and had nine companies pitching their story to a room full of venture investors. Irvine-based Client Dynamics; Santa Barbara-based CrystalVoice Communications; Santa Monica-based Meaning Master Technology; Santa Monica-based Play It Now, Beverly Hills-based RightsLine; Marina del Rey-based Storactive; Los Angeles-based Teresis Media Management; Westlake Village-based Troika Networks; and Pasadena-based Integrien all pitched their story and their funding needs to the audience. The event featured a keynote, a morning company presentation session, a lunch panel, and an afternoon company presentation session. Among the panels, the lunch panel stood out with several Northern and Southern California venture capitalists debating . The luncheon, which was moderated by Shivbir Grewal of Stradling, Yocca, Carlson & Rauth, featured Ira Ehrenpreis, of Palo Alto-based Technology Partners; Greg Martin of Redpoint Ventures here in Los Angeles; Phil Sanderson of San Francisco-based Walden; and Sriram Viswanathan, a strategic investor from Intel Corporation. The panelists debated such topics as the most important criteria in companies (Intel's Viswanathan saying that how it fits Intel's roadmap being the most important; the others stressing the technology's team and flexibility); outsourcing (Ira Ehrenpreis telling the story of how a PhD costs $18-$23K in Shanghai versus $200-$300K here in the US; Viswanathan heavily promoting the promise of India and China; Redpoint's Martin stating that China and India are the biggest threat to the US venture capital business today); and approaching a VC fund (the usual: go through a trusted referral). Conferences such as VentureNet (as well as similarly well done conferences such as Larta's Venture Forum) offer an invaluable opportunity for entrepreneurs and others to network, and this year's conference showed the vitality and diversity in Southern California's venture environment.