Irvine’s Tech Week co‑founder
Melinda Kim is the entrepreneur who co-organized Irvine’s successful Tech Week in March, when hundreds of ambitious entrepreneurs converged to learn, network and advance their ideas by engaging with the city’s thriving startup community. Kim is also executive director of PeopleSpace, a nonprofit tech hub with its own subscription newsletter on LinkedIn.
Tip: “Don’t fall into the trap of spending too much time on research! Be prepared, but at some point – preferably ASAP – you need to start doing.”
Nurturing future entrepreneurs
UCI Chief Innovation Officer Errol Arkilic works closely with University Lab Partners, the largest of Irvine’s 15 incubators and accelerators providing office space and other essential resources to local innovators. He also coordinates with managers of a $600 million university research budget that seeds scores of new ventures in technology and life sciences.
Tip: “When on any innovation-led journey, focus on the value being created. Obsess over how to deliver that to your customers in ways that make them want more.”
An angel who really flies high
Orange County hosts a growing community of “angel investors” offering seed money to early-stage businesses in return for equity. Lisa Walker, a serial entrepreneur who also chases risk as a skydiver, presides over the county chapter of Tech Coast Angels, one of the nation’s largest angel networks.
Tip: “Make sure your product is unique and has a large enough market for a reasonable return. We see a lot of good ideas that could provide a nice income for the founders but aren’t right for us.”
Helping to accelerate local startups
Bill Carpou leads Octane, a star among Irvine’s many accelerators, with 65 startups currently under its wing and a commitment to create more than 55,000 jobs throughout Southern California by 2030. It seeks to do that by connecting innovators with resources, mentors and capital.
Tip: “Practice your skill at telling a story about your company. If you don’t or can’t get out there in front of people, and you don’t know how to discuss your product or service, don’t bother trying to be an entrepreneur.”
Devoted mentor to innovators
After finding success on Wall Street and in Silicon Valley, Scott Fox now devotes himself to supporting OC innovators. In 2018, Fox launched the OC Startup Council, which maintains a directory, map and event list for startups and their support services. He also runs monthly Masterminds Startup Accelerator Workshops, offering free advice to anyone with a startup-related question.
Tip: “Founders of early-stage firms need to build relationships. You have to be out in the ecosystem before you ask an investor for a check.”