NEWS: New Incubator and Fund

Melinda Kim, Executive Director, PeopleSpace

A co-working space in Irvine is diversifying with an incubator and a fund. PeopleSpace is looking for three more companies for the former (it’s already selected the first three from its pilot incubator program). And its PeopleSpace Ventures fund is raising money, Executive Director Melinda Kim told OC Startups Now, adding that she cannot disclose the precise amount of the goal.

For the incubator, PeopleSpace places a premium on the ability of founders and their teams, as well as their compatibility quotient with the community environment Kim hopes to foster.

“We want to create this community of founders,” she said. “You just know they’re going to become something. It may not be today. (But down the road)…we know that three ideas from now, they will be successful.”

The fund is “dedicated to supporting social entrepreneurs with the resources needed to bring sustainable and impactful solutions to social, economic and ecological challenges,” Kim said.

It will be comprised of angel investors with an eye for early-stage companies. PeopleSpace itself will not take any equity in those companies, Kim said.


PeopleSpace has been testing out various incubator models for the past year-and-a-half. Three companies are already there. Those are Hareshare, a community-based kids rideshare network and TrackRecord, a networking platform for artists, entertainers, venues and fans to facilitate communication and event planning.

The third came from Applied Innovation’s Wayfinder incubator. Applied Innovation is UCI’s innovation center. Brix is creating software using artificial intelligence for team building and project management.

All the incubated companies will get free space for about six to nine months. PeopleSpace can afford to give free space by continuing to operate its co-working space, which first opened its doors in 2013. Kim co-founded PeopleSpace with Daniel Lee, who serves as the managing partner of the fund.

The 15,000 square-foot building can accommodate about 15 companies. It’s at full occupancy so PeopleSpace is no longer advertising the co-working spaces. Instead, it’s focusing more on teams than individuals and, to that end, carving out some of its upstairs area to be a private space for teams.

“We have always loved businesses and growing businesses, so we have decided to focus more on teams and startup companies,” Kim said.

Global Reach

PeopleSpace already has a global reach by creating three programs for its partners abroad: a student exchange program, with workshops and internships; a startup market validation program; and a startup global launchpad.

The student exchange program is with South Korea, and has evolved over the past year-and-a-half. PeopleSpace has developed a relationship with some universities and government agencies there.

“Our first batch of interns last year went back to Korea, have all won awards for innovation and have been placed in top companies as software engineers,” Kim said. “We just graduated our (most recent) batch of 23 students.”

One of the companies that went through the market validation program just got funded and plans to launch in the U.S. soon, Kim said. That company is QARA, a South Korean fin-tech startup, which announced in mid-February that it raised $1 million in a pre-series A funding round, according to news reports.

The market validation program is an approximately three weeks and focuses on topics like growth marketing and data analytics.

The launchpad helps startups and “scale-ups” (startups that have solved the challenges of market research, development and identifying a repeatable, scalable business model) in their international expansion in the U.S.

“We have adapted the traditional processes of internationalization to the reality of startups, creating a faster and more efficient model to enter the U.S. market,” Kim said.

With these three programs, PeopleSpace can help startups and students around the world, one of her goals.

“Most of us can’t think beyond SoCal,” she said. “If we don’t start thinking globally now, and build our bridges, we’re the ones who will be hurting later.”

About The Author

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

You don't have permission to register