Q&A: Valuable Insights from Investor Howard Mirowitz
OC Startups Now will periodically run Q&A’s with interesting entrepreneurs, investors and other key players in the OC startup/innovation ecosystem, in their own words.
This Q&A is the third of a series with Tech Coast Angels OC investors. It features Howard Mirowitz, who joined the OC chapter in 2015.
Tech Coast Angels (TCA) is is the leading source of funding to early-stage companies in SoCal, as well as the second-most active angel investor network in the U.S. in terms of funded deals.
Individual investors typically invest between $25,000 and $50,000 per deal, although they can invest more.
TCA has five chapters: OC, LA, SD, Central Coast and the Inland Empire.
See related story about recent TCA investments here.
OCSN: What was the catalyst for becoming a member?
Mirowitz: I had known about TCA for many years and had worked with some of its members on investments, but I finally decided to join the group when I became active at UCI Applied Innovation, UCI’s innovation hub, at the Cove.
OCSN: How did your prior work experiences prepare you to be an angel investor?
Mirowitz: I came from a high-tech background in software development and shifted into the startup world about 35 years ago when I joined Mitsubishi Electric, where I launched several businesses that achieved leading market shares in PCs, computer displays, and color printers. The PC business built a factory in Torrance that shipped over a million units by its second year of operations in 1984.
After several years, I moved to Western Digital where I was involved in the acquisitions of Paradise Systems, which grew after acquisition to become the market leader in PC display controller devices, and Faraday Electronics, which became the leader in PC core logic devices.
I then returned in 1989 to Mitsubishi to start that company’s new business incubator in Sunnyvale. This incubator was largely dedicated to the development of what would become the first smart phones. It funded, at the seed level, startups working on different smart phone technologies, connected them with Mitsubishi’s own cell phone R&D projects, and introduced them to strategic partners from within Mitsubishi’s own customer base – many of which co-invested in the startups alongside Mitsubishi.
The incubator also worked with Sun Microsystems on the development of Java for smart phones. The results included several major exits, one being OpenWave, as well as the first two commercially successful smart phones: the AT&T PocketNet and the NTT DoCoMo iMode.
After retiring from Mitsubishi, I went into private equity and venture investing and served on Razorfish’s board prior to the acquisition of its parent company by Microsoft. (That was a $6 billion cash purchase of parent company aQuantive. Razorfish is a web development agency, which has since been acquired and sold a few times.)
All these experiences gave me the skill set to add value in many aspects of the businesses in which I invest, which, hopefully, increases the probability of their success.
OCSN: What is your investment strategy as a TCA member?
Mirowitz: I tend to focus on high-tech because it leverages my own background. But I’ve also invested in some med-tech deals, if I understand the tech and, especially the team, well enough. As a result of my involvement with the Cove funds, I also have invested in and serve on the boards of a number of startups are in other fields, like media and toys. Overall, I have a somewhat eclectic and diversified personal portfolio.
OCSN: Please discuss any synergies you have with TCA, the Cove funds and other local investment groups/entities
Mirowitz: I am one of the fund managers of Cove Fund II and I’m also a member of the investment committee of Cove Fund I. Both Cove funds syndicate deals frequently with TCA, as well as with other angel groups locally (i.e. the Pasadena Angels, Wharton Angels (who are affiliated with the University of Pennsylvania), and Harvard Business School Angels) and nationwide. In addition, I’m a member of the Wharton Angels and OCTANe, a life sciences and tech accelerator in Aliso Viejo.