Orange County’s Growing Tech Community

Posted on December 26, 2015 · Posted in News

A concerted effort is being made to make Orange County a hub for technology, similar to Silicon Valley and Silicon Beach. Efforts are being made connect entrepreneurs and investors in the Orange County area as a way to spur growth in the technology sector.

At recent events, entrepreneurs are pitching their companies, hoping to chat with local business leaders, venture capitalists, and tech executives. These events are being backed by UC-Irvine, helping young entrepreneurs both inside and outside the university grow locally, so they won’t feel like they have to move to other tech-heavy areas to continue to grow their businesses.

Ultimately, the goal of UC-Irvine is to be the spark that helps create hundreds of companies and jobs, creating a new tech hub on the west coast. This effort is being helped by a $5 million endowment given by the Beall Family Foundation, a group in Newport Beach.
A grand opening for the events was held at the Cove, a 31,000 square foot space that has an incubator for those just starting businesses, as well as accelerators to help them grow. All of this is buoyed by a network of 400 mentors, with seven investment firms maintaining offices to help with start-up funding. The Small Business Administration helps to provide business advisory services.

In many ways, this event space may be the most integral part of the entire movement, providing a central gathering spot for the Orange County tech industry, helping make connections that could lead to new ideas and companies. Giant flat screen TVs as well as game rooms make it a low-key environment to hang out and meet people, further helping to make connections more easily.

While Orange County has an established reputation in the tech industry in sectors such as healthcare and hardware, it is known less for start-ups and more for established companies that employ thousands of people and are worth billions. However, a more robust start-up community is forming.

Through three quarters of 2015, there was $722 million put into Orange County companies by venture capitalists, which was an increase from $448 million a year earlier. While that pales in comparison to the $23 billion of Silicon Valley financing and $1 billion in Silicon Beach financing, it’s still a significant step of progress.

Among companies in the area are CrowdStrike, a cyber security firm, and Kareo, a healthcare billing software firm. They ranked first and second in third-quarter venture funding. CrowdStrike received $100 million funding, while Kareo receivied $55 million, according to a report from PitchBook. Companies are still spread out in the area, however, leading to companies such as Airware ( a drone software firm) to leave for places like San Francisco.

The Cove is similar to the Vine, a development by Irvine Co. and University that has tried to cluster tech firms near the campus over the past decade. In the Vine are working spaces as well as an incubator by EvoNexus which opened in Irvine last year. EvoNexus also holds event at the Cove.

The Cove is helping companies like Datavia connect with potential clients, allowing them to get a customer base ready when their product is ready. In Datavia’s case, they will sell hardware that processes large amounts of data much more quickly and cheaply than normal computers. The Cove can help companies get more leads in minutes than they could get in weeks otherwise.

SketchTogether is a company that sells software allowing co-workers to write on a shared digital whiteboard remotely, no matter where they are physically located. The founder of the company works at shared workspace at the Cove, and has received mentoring on how to pitch prospective clients. Other start-ups may find the product itself useful, further helping increase the benefits of the Cove.
All in all, it’s an exciting time for the growth of the Orange County tech community.

Photo Credit: Heisenberg Media