*OPINION — Collaboration vs. Competition – Tony Sarris, Executive Director of Tech Coast Angels OC Gives His Opinion…
This is the fifth in a series of opinion pieces about whether OC’s startup/innovation ecosystem is more prone to collaboration or competition? Today’s opinion is form Tony Sarris, executive director of the OC chapter of Tech Coast Angels (TCA).
Tech Coast Angels is a leading source of funding to early-stage companies in SoCal. TCA has over 300 members and is also one of the largest angel networks in the world.
OCSN: Do you see TCA as collaborators or competitors within the OC startup ecosystem?
Sarris: I don’t see TCA as a competitor in any way, including relative to other investment groups. Most entrepreneurs will need investment from multiple groups and benefit from having that diversity of investors.
In cases where TCA is simply not the best fit as an investor for a given startup, we actively try to connect them with other investors who may be a better fit.
In a way, startups do compete among themselves for our funding, but that is healthy competition wherein the best, most promising startups get funded.
If there are a lot of great startups, that can actually pull in additional investment rather than divide a fixed pool of funding in more ways.
Overall, I think TCA is a collaborator in the OC startup ecosystem, helping to connect both early startups and our portfolio companies to resources that will help them either get to the point where they are invest-able or move into their next phase of growth based on investments TCA and other groups have made.
OCSN: Where do you see room for more collaboration?
Sarris: Post-funding. We’ve always had our members who invest in a company be involved both formally as board members and informally just providing experience and advice, but we are trying to extend that in ways that provide additional value to our portfolio companies. That includes helping them get to an exit or to additional growth funding.
OCSN: Do you see the OC startup ecosystem as fragmented? If so, why?
Sarris: Because there isn’t a central business center or economic hub in OC, the startup ecosystem tends to be spread out a bit into geographical pockets. It’s also fragmented by market segments, which is understandable on the one hand, but may be missing cross-pollination opportunities in some cases. Certainly, the Cove @ UCI Beall Applied Innovation has helped to connect a lot of the OC tech ecosystem and TCS is proud to be located at the Cove, as a key hub. But we’re also trying to get out to less familiar areas of the county and smaller events, to initiate additional networking opps in areas that are under-served.