EvoNexus, San Diego’s Pro Bono Incubator, Expands to Orange County

CommNexus, the longtime industry group for San Diego technology companies, is expanding its “no strings attached” EvoNexus business incubator program into Orange County.

CommNexus began the nonprofit incubator in mid-2009, as waves of layoffs decimated the economy and venture capital funding in San Diego was at low ebb. A few years later, commercial office space provided by the Irvine Company enabled EvoNexus to move from its original home in Sorrento Valley and expand into two locations—in downtown San Diego and in University City.

The Irvine Company has now made space available for a third EvoNexus location at its University Research Park, near UC Irvine. The 12,000 square-foot space is roughly equivalent to the EvoNexus space in downtown San Diego, enough to house 15 to 20 startups. The incubator in University City has room for about 10 to 12 companies.

Companies selected for the EvoNexus program get rent-free space for as long as two years (depending on their progress), along with access to EvoNexus programs and mentors. The Irvine Company provides the space at no cost to the tenants, and CommNexus member companies cover additional costs. With the new location, Broadcom (NASDAQ: BRCM), which is based in Irvine, and Verizon are providing additional support, CommNexus CEO Rory Moore told me by phone.

CommNexus CEO Rory Moore

Rory Moore

“We’ve been working on it for about a year,” Moore said. EvoNexus plans to issue a solicitation for applications in late July. Building improvements begin August 1 at EvoNexus Irvine, and the incubator should be move-in ready by November, Moore added.

He was less certain about the innovation focus at EvoNexus Irvine, or the type of startups the program would attract.

“We’re not sure at this point,” he said. “The OC is a lot like San Diego, with a lot of life sciences and medical device companies, and tech stuff. But not so much of the Web 2.0,” which Moore said tends to migrate to Santa Monica. In general, the innovation ecosystem in Orange County suffers from the same deficiencies as San Diego, including a very fragmented angel community, Moore said.

In a separate development, San Jose, CA-based Cisco Systems (NASDAQ: CSCO is bringing its “Cisco Entrepreneurs in Residence” to San Diego under a collaboration with EvoNexus. The Cisco program works to connect early-stage business-to-business (B2B) startups with Cisco and its global partner ecosystem.

Cisco agreed to provide some seed-stage funding for startups designated for the [email protected] program. Qualcomm Labs, a subsidiary of San Diego-based Qualcomm (NASDAQ: QCOM), established a similar collaboration with EvoNexus in 2012. In addition to rent-free office space at EvoNexus, startups selected by Qualcomm Labs can receive as much as $250,000 in seed funding from Qualcomm.

In a statement, Tom Yoritaka, managing director of Cisco Entrepreneurs in Residence, said, “We expect [email protected] to play an important role in accelerating the growth of early-stage startups in San Diego and advancing the Internet of Everything, cloud computing, Big Data, enterprise mobility, and other strategic areas for Cisco.”

EvoNexus’ incubators in University City and downtown San Diego have graduated 32 companies since 2009. In mid-June, EvoNexus selected nine startups from 104 applications for the San Diego incubators.

Bruce V. Bigelow was the editor of Xconomy San Diego from 2008 to 2018. Read more about his life and work here. Follow @bvbigelow

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