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*Reflections on 2018: Andy Wilson, Alliance for SoCal Innovation

Andy Wilson, Exec Director, Alliance for SoCal Innovation

This reflection by Andy Wilson, executive director for the Alliance for SoCal Innovation, is in partnership with SoCalTech.

The Alliance was created in 2017 to unify the innovation ecosystems of OC, LA and SD. It draws heavily on university-affiliated research and technology. (See related story on the Alliance here).

Wilson is a leader in the SoCal innovation ecosystem as he’s started, led or invested in more than two dozen tech start-ups.

He also serves on the Pasadena City Council and is a founder of Innovate Pasadena, dedicated to advancing the Eastside of Los Angeles as a vibrant innovation center for deep tech.

Following are year-end reflections he provided to SoCal Tech…

What was the biggest lesson you learned this year?

In my new role as the first executive director for the Alliance for Southern California Innovation, I spent a lot of time outside of my home turf of Pasadena — visiting innovation nodes such as San Diego, Irvine, Riverside, Santa Barbara, Venice, Santa Monica, and others. What was most striking was the diversity and breadth of the node-network that defines the region–so complex and at times, overwhelming. I met with many deeply talented entrepreneurs, researchers, investors, community organizers and professionals who are thriving in these separate yet overlapping (and interdependent) ecosystems. To more fully realize the abundant innovation potential of the region, we must not only thrive as individual communities but also collaborate/strengthen our cross-community connectivity.

What was the biggest news for your organization in 2018?

In the Spring, we publicly released the Boston Consulting Group’s extremely thoughtful strategic assessment of the SoCal region. Their report crystallized the opportunity and pathways to moving SoCal forward as one of the leading global innovation ecosystem. Their recommendations served as the foundation for our 2019 work plan that includes: 1) continuing to collaborate with BCG to more fully map out and better develop the SoCal innovation network 2) partnering with the Milken Institute to bring together node leadership to address regional issues and policy advocacy 3) matching sources of capital to the best startups across the region by taking SDVG’s wildly successful venture pipeline program to other communities across SoCal (more details on our blog).

Are there any technology innovations, gadgets, devices, software, that you found most interesting in 2018?

Though both VR and Amazon Alexa aren’t new anymore, I was excited to see that both are becoming mainstream – moving beyond novelty to a number of high value applications. In my home we have a network of Alexa’s that provide news, information and music but have also become our de facto home intercom system. Through VR headsets I have enjoyed virtual walk-throughs, visited foreign lands, and immersed myself in rich data rooms. So while new product introductions are exciting, often there is a delay until we see meaningful benefit to everyday life.

Finally, what’s your prediction on what will be most important thing for the technology industry in the coming year?

Of course, I’d like to believe the important community building work we’ll be doing at the Alliance will be transformational to SoCal. But at a higher level, I think we are going to see a continuing reconciliation of the “move fast and break things” attitude that has historically fueled hyper growth of tech companies with the growing need to both anticipate and mitigate societal impacts of new technologies. Just as entrepreneurs need to have thoughtful answers about business models and customer acquisition, I think they now will also need to be prepared to address issues on community impacts and equity. The tech industry has become too important and policymakers and regulators are paying attention. The era of unfettered growth and figure out on the fly is coming to an end.

About The Author

Deirdre Newman is a long-time journalist, who's covered OC startups for a few years.

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