NEWS/EVENTS/INNOVATION: SoCal Startup Day Draws More Than 1,000 and Unifies SoCal Innovation Ecosystem

Nearly 1,200 people convened in Irvine on Wednesday for the first SoCal Startup Day.

Stephen Silver and his partner at Funding Post, Joe Rubin, organized the event at Hangar 244 in the Great Park, former home of the El Toro Marine Base.

The day culminated Silver’s decade-long effort to unify the entire SoCal innovation ecosystem, from the epicenter of OC.

“I started my journey here in Southern California,” Silver told OC Startups Now. “Having grown up in San Diego, launched my first startup in Irvine, and leveraged incredible resources in Los Angeles, I realize the importance of pooling our resources. This event is about uniting our region and working together to create a force to be reckoned with.”

In addition to putting OC on the map as a heavyweight contender in the SoCal innovation ecosystem, the event also illustrated that the entire regional ecosystem can be unified, with willing and eager collaborators. Those that only focus on highlighting their own regions were noticeably absent.

Supporting the Entire SoCal Innovation Ecosystem

Who was there from OC?

Stalwarts who support the OC ecosystem, like Octane, EvoNexus and Tech Coast Venture Network.

Octane CEO Bill Carpou was on the opening panel, and the Aliso Viejo multi-faceted organization, which includes an accelerator and a soon-to-be-launched incubator, had a booth and three employees there.

Irvine incubator EvoNexus, Tech Coast Venture Network and more were also there representing OC.

Who was there from outside of OC?

Tim Draper, the legendary venture capitalist from Silicon Valley, who recently joined forces with LA investors to form Draper Goren Holm in Santa Monica, which has already invested in an OC crypto-currency startup. See article on that here.

Tim Draper, legendary Silicon Valley venture capitalist and partner in Draper Goren Holm

Draper gave attendees his email address, saying that he always answers his emails. Draper Goren Holm focuses on early-stage blockchain and cryptocurrency companies.

Expert Dojo, which runs international and domestic accelerators out of LA was there.

Brian Mac Mahon, who manages Expert Dojo and calls himself a “sensei,” spoke on one of the panels and said that it was “refreshing to see such a large crowd from SD and LA come to OC to celebrate the entire SoCal startup ecosystem.

“It was also great to see so many quality startups from all three regions in one place,” Mac Mahon told OC Startups Now. “The key to having a better ecosystem than our Northern friends is to unite the Southern regions, and this event is a small advance in this objective.  Well done to the organizers and everyone who attended.”

Startups from as far away as Florida came and put up booths. As did a startup that used to be based in Mexico, that caters to native Spanish speakers, and is now based in San Clemente.

The eight-hour event also hosted a pitch contest where 40 startups pitched.

Pitch Contest Winners

Voters picked the top three winners: first place went to RxBra, second place went to Float and third place went to FlipTix.

(Silver, the organizer of SoCal Startup Day, is the co-founder and runs daily operations for RxBra. Joe Rubin, his partner at Funding Post is an advisor. Silver said they both abstained from voting at all.)

Rachael McCrary is the main founder of RxBra, which maintains its HQ in West Hollywood and has an office in NYC.

As the first place winner, RxBra will receive more a package of services, memberships, etc, valued at more than $45,000.

Prizes for RxBra

As the first place winner, RxBra won prizes including:

– $20,000 worth of branding strategy services from Gigasavvy

– $15,000 worth of legal work from McCarter & English Law Firm

– $10,000 worth of patent mapping, competitive landscaping, and preparation of one US Provisional Patent application from Makoui Law

– an $899 “premium” membership in the OC Startup Council

More About RxBra

RxBra launched in 2016. The patent-pending bra was designed by McCrary, who’s been working in the lingerie industry for 20 years, with input from plastic surgeons.

It’s designed for women after surgery, including those recovering from breast cancer surgery and those who underwent breast augmentation/enhancement.

McCrary was recently on Entrepreneur Elevator Pitch where she received three offers. She won the Pitch Force pitch competition a few weeks ago.

Silver told OC Startups Now that there was absolutely no conflict of interest in terms of RxBra entering or winning the pitch competition, based on his and Rubin’s involvement with this company. He said McCrary is a “seasoned entrepreneur who has won many startup competitions and awards.”

McCrary, who’s spent a lot of time in Silicon Valley, meeting with investors and pitching to Ycombinator, said she did not expect to win this pitch contest. (Ycombinator is a seed accelerator that’s helped launch successes like Stripe, Airbnb and Dropbox. The combined valuation of the top YC companies was over $155 billion as of October 2019.)

She told OC Startups Now that she spends a lot of time working on her pitches, and she also pays it forward by helping young entrepreneurs with their pitches.

“I did not expect to win, but I have won a lot of them lately,” she said. “I’m asked to pitch to a ton of groups. The California startup ecosystem is something I hold near and dear to my heart, and I’ve worked tirelessly as an entrepreneur for a decade. I’ve been a large contributor and support the ecosystem in any way that I can, so I’m very happy to continue and support the ecosystem I care so much about.”

How the Voting Was Handled

Attendees were able to vote for the winners. Silver said he and his Funding Post partner, Rubin, did not vote in the pitch competition. The voting was handled by the Hio Social app.

Hio Social co-founder and CEO Jason Craparo said “RxBra didn’t just win narrowly, they won by a 10% margin, with 35% of the vote.”

Other Winners

Float, the second place winner, created an app that gives users free access to their credit reports, while also enabling users to help friends and family keep track of their credit also.

Fliptix, with HQ in Newport Beach, rewards fans that leave events early. And those who want to get in late. It created an app that allows event-goers the ability to “flip” unused portions of their tickets for cash or other rewards. It was founded by family members Brian Siegel, Jaime Siegel and Seth Siegel. It’s received an investment from Sea Purity Investments, a family office out of San Clemente.

Silver has been running Funding Post for the past decade. It’s an organization that hosts VC and angel investor conferences across the nation, geared toward educating and connecting startups to investors.

He also manages the ARC Angel Fund, a member-based, seed-stage fund based in NYC.

The Main Winner was the SoCal Startup Ecosystem

Silver summed it up when he told OC Startups Now the following:

“I am really just lost for words in describing the way I felt. I was overwhelmed with so many feelings when the doors opened, and the hangar filled up… I was thinking to myself this is what I’ve spent the past 14 years working towards, and we’ve done it! Then the room kept filling up, so much so, that I was getting a little worried we might have to shut the event down, but after about an hour people started to fan out throughout the rest of hangar and outside concourse. Once things settled down, I started to notice the smiles on people’s faces, the unbelievable amount of networking and conversations happening.

I feel fulfilled in my passion for entrepreneurship. I feel proud, the community is uniting. We did what we set out to do and this is just the tip of the iceberg. Stay tuned for our next SoCal Startup Day!”

Photos From the Event

For a portfolio of photos from SoCal Startup Day, please see OCSN’s Facebook page here.

About The Author

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

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