Category Archives: News

Episode 69: Raising VC for “Deep Tech” Startups in Southern California



Embark Ventures is a pre-seed and seed stage fund focused on “deep
tech” – companies with proprietary and highly defensible technology
that is a strong competitive barrier. Particularly interested in
cyber-security, robotics, advanced manufacturing, materials, and
bio/med tech but open to other opportunities that have a highly
technical/proprietary core. We invest early (generally first
institutional round) with check sizes between $250k and $1M typically.
Most of our companies are pre-product, and our goal is to get them to
first customer/revenue on our round of financing. Will discuss the
Southern California eco-system for “deep tech” startups and bridging
the gap between R&D and engineering

BIO:

Peter Lee is the Founding Managing Partner at Embark Ventures, a seed
stage venture capital fund based in Los Angeles focused on “deep tech”
companies in industries such as robotics, advanced manufacturing, and
cybersecurity. Prior to entering venture capital, he was the VP of
Product at a venture backed startup in the digital media space. Peter
was a manager with McKinsey and also worked as a product manager at
Microsoft. Peter earned his BS and MS at MIT, and an MBA from Harvard
Business School.

https://twitter.com/ptlee


Episode 68: Lies and Hardware Startups



If you have ambitions to create a company, but scared because someone said that hardware is hard, allow me to prove to you otherwise. Pretty much everyone funds hardware and it can be bootstrapped. There are a lot of ways to get off the ground and I am more than happy to debunk the myths. By managing expectations and translating hardware phases to stakeholders, everyone chills out and things get produced. Trust me. Here are some things that are awesome: Kickstarter, makerspaces, Arduino, robotics, rockets, CRISPR Cas9.

Bio:

Shaun Arora is an angel investor and entrepreneur who has grown NEO Tech as part owner. He’s on the board of several successful startups, and brings his experience to help hardware startups scale and be resource efficient at Make in LA. After graduating from Washington University in St. Louis, Shaun went to work as a cultural anthropologist for consumer packaged goods companies. In parallel he was active in starting several non-profits focused around mentoring. In 2005, he joined the electronics manufacturing business, NEO Tech, and worked to scale the business. As a result of his leadership, the business has grown 40X in that time and has over 3400 employees servicing the aerospace, industrial, and medical device industries. In 2015, Shaun official spun off Make in LA from the contract manufacturing business to improve learnings and outcomes for hardware startups. He remains a director at NEO Tech. At Make in LA, Shaun focuses on leveraging NEO Tech’s resources to support the startups, leveraging his portfolio for best practices, providing world class programming, and building strategic partnerships for the benefit of the startups.

@ShaunFromLA


Episode 65: The Future of Augmented Reality



Until recently, augmented reality has been the stuff of science fiction. In 1956, Philip K. Dick’s “The Minority Report” predicted the coming of AR as literally being able to have information at your fingertips. Like Dick’s AR display, the 1977 hologram image of Princess Leia in Star Wars is now a reality. That said, the first appearance of AR actually goes back to 1862 and the concept of Pepper’s Ghost, an illusion effect made for amusement parks and museums. In the early 1950’s, Pepper’s Ghost was used in the early development of the teleprompter.

Since then, advances in both AR and virtual reality have progressed from military uses in the 80’s such as the virtual training cockpit to today’s consumer wearables and mobile apps. The trend of heavy investment in augmented reality by Google, Apple, and Facebook are indicative that distinct from VR, AR benefits from a pre-existing install base of smartphones and is not dependent on external display systems. According to Deloitte, AR stands to potentially be marketing’s next trillion-dollar business with annual revenues expected to be almost $700 billion by 2025.

Bio:

Ziggy Kormandel, Founder/CEO of Augmently

Sagi “Ziggy” Kormandel has been an accomplished art director, creative director, 3D consultant, and digital marketer since the “dot com boom” starting in 1995. He began his career in visual entertainment as an art director with clients including many Fortune 500 and 100 companies like Universal, Nestle, Warner Brothers, and Nike.
In 2011, Ziggy founded 3DX where as CEO, he used his 18 years of experience to assemble a dream team of 3D marketing experts and secured his first patent. He has continued to successfully serve some of the largest global brands with industry leading technology and now has multiple patents.

As VP of Business Development and Innovation for ISBX, Southern California’s leading web and mobile application development agency, Ziggy brought his experience with technology innovation to a new level. To date, ISBX has designed, developed, and launched over 250 apps on iOS, Android, Windows, and BlackBerry.
In 2014, Ziggy founded Augmently with ISBX as its development partner. The company is not only a service provider, but a creative agency that has delivered winning campaigns for many global brands. With its patented AR technology, Augmently has been recognized from Techcrunch to Apple as an innovator with the kind of patented solutions that distinguish the company in the crowded AR marketplace.
Most recently, Augmently has entered the health and wellness sector in partnership with Stayhealthy, a leader in healthcare technology since 1995. In addition to his role at Augmently, Ziggy now serves as President of Stayhealthy where he is driving a number of AR enhanced, app-based healthcare programs and solutions.

ziggy@getaugmently.com


Episode 64: Venture Capital – What they look for in funding a startup



Find out what venture capitalists look for in a startup and what makes a company fundable. One size does not fit all! Will also cover alternative funding sources and why venture capital isn’t right for many types of businesses.

Bio:

John Waller is a partner at Okapi Venture Capital. Okapi is a local, early stage, tech venture fund. Prior to joining Okapi, he co-founded such companies as Resume.com (acquired by Adecco S.A.) and 24/7 Real Media (NASDAQ: TFSM), and was CEO for X1 Technologies, Managing Director of New Ventures Group for Idealab, and Strategic Development and M&A for Mattel. He is also the founder and Managing Director of Green Thumb Ventures.


Episode 58: 3D printing a Colony on Mars



As humanity moves closer to our vision to settle the moon, and then Mars, the ability to generate critical infrastructure “on site” in space becomes increasingly important for cost control, timelines and safety. 3D printing with indigenous Mars materials in an autonomous robotic way, before humans set foot on Mars may be the key. My team has been participating in the NASA Centennial Challenge to 3D print a Mars Habitat for the past 3 years to develop this concept and technology.

In this presentation I will first illustrate how our adventures started from the garage, while being unfunded and understaffed. We borrowed key hardware components, including a pasta machine that substituted for a clay printer extruder and a 10 foot robotic arm, from industry and academic partners. We even generated our own Mars regolith simulant based on volcanic basalt rocks we handpicked in Northern Israel.

Despite many challenges, ranging from limited access to materials, short deadlines, and zero dollars in funding, we were able to print the first physical deliverable, which significantly outperformed the NASA required minimum in initial mechanical testing. In delivering the second physical deliverable, we struggled with optimizing the curing time and heat exposure to the printing nozzle. However, we overcame operational challenges, recruited new team members from around the world, and increased the printing accuracy.

The BubbleBase team was recently “adopted” by Caltech, in a strategic move to enhance our US presence and increase manpower working on the project, especially in the field of robotics and autonomy. The talk will elaborate on additional challenges currently facing the team, including: merging teams from different disciplines and cultures, technology challenges in material science, robotics and civil engineering, funding requirements, and operational challenges. It will conclude with the team’s plans for the future (on Earth, and on Mars) and how you can follow our work and get involved in the project.

Bio:

Helen Wexler is an award winning “ArchiTech,” positioned at the intersection of architecture and technology. She is the founder of Caltech-BubbleBase, an aerospace project developing technology to 3D print and robotically assemble housing on Mars for the NASA Centennial Challenge. She has served as architect in leading New York and Austria based firms before becoming a technology analyst in the VC industry.

Helen was previously Director of the The Jnext Hi-Tech & Entrepreneurship Program at the Jerusalem Development Authority, where she oversaw the emerging tech ecosystem of Israel’s capital city, while innovating economic development policy. Ms. Wexler holds a degree in Architecture from the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design where she is Lecturer on “Technology Paradigms in Architecture.” She is a graduate of the MEET MIT Computer Science Program and Israel Academy of Arts and Sciences (outstanding honors). Helen was named to Forbes Israel 30 under 30 list and has recently completed the International Space Studies Program as an Ilan Ramon Scholarship Fellow.


Episode 53: Interview with Vince Major & Jorge Garcia of Alpha Token.



This is the first episode of a new segment for the Friday Coffee Meet-Up Podcast. I’ll be interviewing tech start ups in Pasadena and around the Los Angeles area. In this inaugural episode I spoke with Pasadena start up Alpha Token about how they’re creating a brand new ecosystem for content creators powered by a new cryptocurrency.


Episode 52: Mentor, Advisor or Coach? What’s the Difference and Which One Is Right for You.



In the world of advice giving, how do we know we are getting something valuable? Often, our ability to move forward or level-up professionally requires assistance, but we aren’t always sure what kind of help we need. Pressure, stress, new frontiers and blind-spots influence our judgment and ability to make distinctions among service providers. It is important when engaging in new professional relationships we take some basic steps to prevent misfires and misunderstandings.

In this session, senior leadership consultant and executive coach, Dan Stover, will offer tips and guidance in choosing wisely in our engagement in professional service relationships. In his decade of providing mental health crisis intervention, emotional intelligence and leadership development services, Dan will share with Innovate Pasadena the most important considerations when it comes to finding the right help.

Bio

Dan Stover is the Senior Consultant and Manager of the Los Angeles office of Integrated Leadership Systems. His work as an executive coach and organizational consultant for entrepreneurs, mid-market and publicly traded companies increases profitability through emotionally intelligent leadership and business unit alignment.

He was born and raised in rural Ohio, lives in downtown Los Angeles and has three degrees. He is deeply passionate about mental health, community development and nature conservation. He spends his free time indulging the arts and the outdoors.


Episode 51: Stars Aligning: How Southern California Could Be the Next Great Tech Ecosystem



As a twenty year veteran of the SoCal tech/start-up ecosystem, Andy brings a thoughtful perspective about SoCal’s journey to becoming a vibrant tech hub. In his new role as the first executive director of the Alliance for SoCal Innovation ( http://www.alliancesocal.org/ ) Andy is chartered with helping accelerate SoCal’s ascendancy to becoming the world’s next great tech ecosystem. He will share a comprehensive assessment and key insights based on a newly published report by Boston Consulting Group commissioned by the Alliance for Southern California Innovation (full written report at https://www.bcg.com/publications/2018/stars-aligning-southern-california-next-great-tech-ecoysystem.aspx ). Learn about how SoCal stacks-up, where we are doing well, where we need help and the role for organizations like the Alliance and Innovate Pasadena to “bend the curve” on this vital effort to create start-ups, quality jobs and address key challenges facing society.

Bio:

Andy Wilson

Executive Director

Alliance for SoCal Innovation

Andy is a leader in the Southern Californian innovation ecosystem and has started, led or invested in more than two dozen tech start-ups. In addition to leading the Alliance (www.alliancesocal.org (http://www.alliancesocal.org/)) as Executive Director, he serves on the City Council for the City of Pasadena and he is a founder of Innovate Pasadena (www.innovatepasadena.org(http://www.innovatepasadena.org/)), which is dedicated to advancing the Eastside of Los Angeles as a vibrant innovation center for deep tech.

Previously, as founder of Momentum Ventures, an early stage tech accelerator and venture fund, he personally led more than a half dozen SoCal tech start-ups and invested in almost a dozen others. He previously held senior executive roles (President, SVP Product, CIO, COO) at Overture Services/Yahoo!, RiverOne, Bowne & Co and RR Donnelley & Sons. He has extensive board experience in not-for-profit and community organizations such as Pacific Oaks College, Pasadena Heritage and STEAMCODERS. He is on the board or an advisor to a number of tech firms including Virtualitics, Expanse3D, Vincente Capital and Bryce Capital. He is a regular speaker at entrepreneurs’ events and business schools and was named one of the 50 Most Innovative Men in the San Gabriel Valley. Andy holds an engineering degree with honors from Dartmouth College and received his MBA with a concentration in operations and technology management from Harvard Business School.


Episode 50: Coffee with the Mayor



Description: While Pasadena is consistently named one of the best cities to live year after year, City leaders also want to make it a great place to work. Mayor Terry Tornek and City Manager Steve Mermell will be stopping by on May 4th to check-in with Pasadena’s innovators and talk about the latest developments and initiatives happening in Pasadena. But, they’ll also want to hear from you! This is your chance to engage with local officials and share your thoughts on ways the City can make Pasadena even more attractive for business and talent.

Bio: Terry Tornek

Terry Tornek was born and raised in New York City and moved to Pasadena from Massachusetts in 1982 to accept the position of Planning Director. He was hired because of his history of neighborhood improvement and historic preservation while serving as Planning Director of Springfield, Mass. He also served as a member of the Springfield City Council. Terry was Pasadena’s Planning Director for 3 years and helped to rewrite the Zoning Ordinance, the General Plan and establish the redevelopment plan for Old Pasadena. After leaving city government, Terry built a career in real estate as a developer and manager of residential & commercial properties all over Southern California.

He remained active in Pasadena affairs through his 20 year service as a Board Member of Pasadena Neighborhood Housing Services, a non-profit organization devoted to affordable housing in Northwest Pasadena.

In 2005, Sid Tyler appointed Terry to the Planning Commission. He also served as a member of the Design Commission. He was elected to represent District 7 on the City Council in April, 2009, was reelected in 2013 and was then elected as Mayor in April, 2015.

Mayor Tornek serves as Chairman of the Finance Committee, is a member of the Municipal Services, Public Safety, and Legislative Policy Committees, is the City Council appointee to the Fire and Police Retirement Board, is Pasadena’s representative to the San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments, and is President of the Burbank Airport Authority. He is deeply involved in the City’s financial planning, affordable housing and the City’s planning and development decision-making process. Terry graduated from Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School with a degree in Public and International Affairs. He also earned a Master of Science in Urban Planning from Columbia University’s School of Architecture. He served in the Army National Guard and Reserves for 6 years. Terry and his wife Maria have been married for 50 years. They have 3 children and 7 grandchildren.

Bio: Steve Mermell

Steve Mermell was appointed City Manager by unanimous vote of the City Council and assumed his duties February 15, 2016. As City Manager he is the Chief Administrative Officer of the City and is charged with supervising, coordinating, and administering the various functions of the City. He has direct responsibility for all departments, divisions, and offices of the City with the exception of the City Attorney/Prosecutor and City Clerk which are separately appointed by the City Council.


Episode 49: 13 Questions to Help You Cut Out Small Talk and Build Genuine Connections



Topic: 13 Questions to Help You Cut Out Small Talk and Build Genuine Connections

Tom Amestoy, Founder & CEO of Focus Out, talks about the missed opportunities to genuinely connect with others when we engage in “small talk.” Scientific studies have revealed that the types of conversations we have truly impact our wellbeing. These findings show that the good life is social and conversationally deep rather than isolated and superficial. Tom will tell us about groups that have banned small talk to great effect. He will offer tips on how to host such an event and will share 13 questions to start great conversations that lead to deep and genuine connections.

Bio

In 2011, Tom left a 19-year sales career for a national print manufacturer to become Director, Business Development at InnerWorkings (NSDQ: INWK), a global marketing services agency that disrupts his former industry. He quickly realized he needed to network in a new way and connect at a different level than he previously had. He found he was faking it as he was floating through rooms full of people gathered to network. He decided that there was a better way and along with his cofounder, he created Focus Out with the intention of facilitating genuine connections between businesspeople who could help each other without expecting anything in return.

Focus Out (www.focusout.co) was the first “other-focused,” pro-social business membership organization in Pasadena. The organization now has 6 chapters from Burbank to Claremont, with plans to expand to DTLA, OC, the South Bay and anywhere else networking is broken.

There are plenty of other fascinating things about Tom and he is excited to help you genuinely connect with him to find out.

Twitter: @TomAmestoy

LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/thomas-amestoy-abb8093

tom.amestoy@focusout.co

thomas.amestoy@inwk.com