Santa Cruz Tech Beat


Eighteen entrepreneurs pitch to active investors at Startup Investment and Community Capital Expo

By Jennifer Kuan
Assistant Professor, College of Business, CSUMB
Special to Santa Cruz Tech Beat

October 10, 2019 — Seaside, CA

(Photo above: Honey Blossom Retreat Garden displays their products at the Startup Investment and Community Capital Expo. The startup seeks to “expand the potential of small-scale regenerative agriculture as an educational space for community-based farm tourism.” Contributed.)

Annual event connects start-ups to investors but also attracts students and others who are curious about entrepreneurship

Now in its third year, the Startup Investment and Community Capital Expo may have just outgrown its home at the Monterey Bay Embassy Suites. Ballrooms, hallways, and lobbies were abuzz with over 200 people attending a variety of panels and presentations on September 27, 2019  in Seaside). The annual Expo, organized by CSUMB’s Institute for Innovation and Economic Development, tries to help local start-ups by connecting them to investors. But the annual event also attracts students and others who are curious about what entrepreneurship is all about.

As seasoned investor and keynote speaker Nick Zaldastani explained, start-ups begin with a problem and a solution. He exhorted entrepreneurs to stay focused, invoking an image of a dandelion growing through the pavement on an airport runway. One seemingly small, focused effort can disrupt a large, established system. In this day and age of fraudulent “unicorns ”– privately-held firms worth over a $1 billion — Zaldastani stressed that integrity and transparency are the most important things he looks for as an investor.

Slow money?

Panels took up a variety of topics, including women-friendly investing, “slow money” investments in the local community, stages of financing, and success stories from the tri-county area. A recurring theme was the way investors work with entrepreneurs to achieve their dreams. Chrissy Meyer, of Root Ventures in San Francisco, explained how she and her partners go the extra mile for the entrepreneurs they invest in, even helping them move furniture on a Saturday afternoon to new offices.

Sweaty-palmed entrepreneurs

In three sessions, 18 sweaty-palmed entrepreneurs presented their start-ups to panels of active investors. They needn’t have worried about the tenor of the conversation, though. Investors were casual, curious and helpful. Companies were selected from over 30 applicants and were an impressive cross-section of local talent and ingenuity.

Here are a few companies that pitched:

  • Cephasonics promises to make ultrasound as easy to read as MRIs, but much cheaper and usable in surgery.

    Joshua Resnick (left) of Parallel Flight Technologies talks about his company’s drone at the Start-up Investment and Community Capital Expo in September 2019. (Contributed)

  • Levered Learning was started by an elementary school math teacher who developed a software-based math-teaching system that has the potential to end math anxiety and close the achievement gap.
  • Peek Technologies is a group of scientists with a solution for home brewers and vintners: instant chemical analysis. But with some modification, the technology could be developed to test for lead and other contaminants.
  • Parallel Flight Technologies, founded by a former Tesla engineer, makes drones with a hybrid gas-electric motor to carry mid-sized payloads to help fire-fighters in mountainous areas.

Learn more about all of the companies that pitched:

Save the date for next year: September 25, 2020. Location to be determined!


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