“No matter the level of sophistication, all technology advancements break down into three business advantages: doing something faster, cheaper or more accurately. However, the improvement cannot be just a mere 10%. As an example, it needs to be twice as fast, 40% more accurate and at 50% of the cost. Any new technology falling into two or three of these advantages is likely to be a potential investment.” Those are wise words from Tech Coast Angels (TCA) Chairman Emeritus, Richard Sudek. With a lifelong entrepreneurial drive and a track record of successful exits, an aspiring entrepreneur would do well to heed his advice.
Richard also resides as Chief Innovation Officer and Executive Director of UC Irvine (UCI) Applied Innovation where he is able to share his expertise with entrepreneurs and inventors and bridge the gap between seasoned executives and eager beginners. To Richard, his position is not a job, it’s a passion. “It’s really a give back. As an entrepreneur, I’ve made basically every mistake in the book in small business,” Richard remarked. “If you’re an entrepreneur, you’re going to make mistakes, but taking advantage of such valuable resources, like the ones at UCI Applied Innovation, will really help stimulate the entrepreneurial ecosystem.”
Since its inception in 1997, TCA has invested over $213 million into over 375 companies. The nonprofit calls Orange County home, located within The Cove at UCI Applied Innovation and with a membership 350 strong and growing, they span into 5 chapters. Next to choosing specific investments, TCA members have an option to invest in the organization’s “ACE Fund.” The fund consolidates members’ smaller investments to allocate toward multiple startups. This accelerates the time of investment for the entrepreneur and allows members to diversify their portfolios.
One of the crucial steps for entrepreneurs to secure funding through Tech Coast Angels is to pass the application stage and move onto a formal pitch stage occurring monthly. This year, TCA has teamed up with San Diego Venture Group and Cox Business to host the largest annual Quick Pitch competition to date. Each group had previously hosted their respective pitch competitions in San Diego and realized the benefits of teaming up. “For entrepreneurs, there is only one application to fill out, the prize money is pooled and they only have to focus on one large event rather than three small events,” TCA Executive Director, Ashok Kamal said.
The organizations share the spirit of collaboration in trying to make the entrepreneurial ecosystem in San Diego better for everyone. “Cox Business is more than just internet and phone. They are a diversified entrepreneurial company that is supporting innovation just like a startup,” Ashok said. Together, TCA, San Diego Venture Group and Cox Business are bringing more than just money to the table. They are providing opportunity for individuals to share their dreams in innovation and to learn from the best along the way.
For aspiring entrepreneurs entering the pitch stage, know this: “The angel stage of investment is often a difficult stage of investment for entrepreneurs as the early stages are the hardest to get,” Richard said. His final piece of advice was to remind the entrepreneur that “an investor pitch is not a sales pitch.” Sure, you have to provide background on the product or service, but your potential investors are not your consumers. What’s in it for them?