What does it take for a tech startup to be considered “cool?” In the eyes of the San Diego Venture Group, the key element is readiness for venture capital backing.
It’s through that lens that the nonprofit organization, whose mission is to connect local startups with venture capitalists who are looking to invest, annually vets tech companies that apply for its “Cool Companies” program. Startups that are accepted are highlighted at SDVG events, including its well-attended annual Venture Summit, and, perhaps more enticingly, invited to a private meet-and-greet with a group of about 100 angel investors and VCs, some of whom will travel to the event from out of town to meet with San Diego companies.
Past classes of “Cool Companies” prove that SDVG has insight into which companies are ready to raise (or, raise more, for those that have already taken some investment): Of the companies accepted in 2016 and 2017, for example, 25 have together raised more than $100 million in institutional Series A financing. Some of the startups, including Approved and Lymber, have been acquired.
Of course, fundraising following inclusion on a “cool companies” list is far from a given: Dozens of other companies that also got SDVG’s nod haven’t managed to secure Series A financing.
The program dates back to at least 2011, when 25 companies were selected from among about 60 applicants. This year, SDVG received about 260 applications for the program, roughly 40 percent more than the year prior. One, Mexico City-based startup Apli, which connects flexible workers to job opportunities, is the first to be named to the list from outside the country. San Diego’s startup community has been making an effort to work more closely with entrepreneurs in Tijuana and other areas of Mexico.
SDVG is hosting an April 30 party at Belly Up Tavern, a popular live music venue in the North County San Diego community of Solana Beach, to showcase the latest batch of companies it believes are ready for venture investment.
Mike Krenn, president of SDVG, says the quality of applicants made it difficult to narrow down the submissions.
“We believe there are easily another 30 companies that will be of interest to VCs, and at least another 50 that have a visible path to success—without raising venture,” he said in a statement.
The 2019 “Cool Companies:”
—Trust & Will