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Choi’s Irvine Tech Valley Initiative Not Responsible for Millions in Venture Capital


In March, Irvine Mayor Steven Choi sought the endorsement from the California Republican Assembly (CRA) in his race for AD-68, which eventually went to former Villa Park Council Member Deborah Pauly.  Choi was asked about his Business Advisory Council and what it has accomplished and Choi said, “… it gathers opinions from business leaders, which led to the Tech Valley Initiative, which brought $636 million of business and jobs to Irvine.”

Irvine is the technology hub of Orange County with hundreds of companies employing thousands of people.  And $636 million in venture capital funding did come in to Irvine which created new jobs.  Unfortunately, none of those dollars and none of those jobs can be attributed to the work of the Tech Valley Initiative or Mayor Choi.

Irvine’s PIO Craig Reem offer this explanation for the data: “The Mayor has reference the $636 million in venture capital funding at least once publicly in this year’s State of the City.”

The source of the data was this story in the Orange County Register.  From the story:  “Leading the VC charge countywide last year were companies based in Irvine, which nabbed 63 percent – nearly $636 million – of all investment dollars. Seven of the top 10 biggest deals in the last three months of the year went to companies in the “City of Innovation,” the PwC data show.

Venture capital in Irvine has increased 85 percent since 2010, according to PwC. In those five years, Irvine companies saw a 120 percent increase in the dollar amount invested, owing in large part to the CrowdStrike deal.

Other sizable deals in 2015 in the city included Alteryx, a maker of analytical software for businesses like Starbucks and Unilever, which received $85 million. Axonics Modulation Technologies, the maker of an FDA-approved implant, landed $38.5 million. Another cybersecurity company, Cylance, raised $42 million, and rechargable battery maker Enevate received $30 million.

Growing companies and VC companies both point to several reasons why Irvine stands out: UC Irvine spawns innovation; the city has a history of hosting successful companies; and Irvine is more affordable than tech hubs in the Bay Area and Silicon Beach in Santa Monica.

“It’s a business address, it’s a technology address and it’s an international address now,” said Jeff Ingham, a senior managing director at commercial real estate company Jones Lang LaSalle.

Others say established companies help to lure new talent to the city.

“High-tech companies want to gravitate to Irvine because there are so many high-tech companies here,” said Richard Sudek, the executive director of UCI Applied Innovation, formerly known as the Institute for Innovation.

My work involves tech companies.  I spoke with several about the Mayor’s Tech Valley Initiative in addition to a couple of the VCs.  They declined to be identified but none of them were aware of the Tech Valley Initiative and we unclear how it would have made any significant impact on their decision to invest in Irvine-based technology shops or locate to Irvine.  The city’s quality of life, great schools, and talent pool  — all things long in place before Choi was ever elected to the city council — have far more to do with tech investment and growth in this city than anything the mayor has done.

But it is election season and Dr. Choi wants voters to think his work brought in $636 million in VC funding to the city.  The last letter I got from the city of Irvine asking for details on Choi’s claim had this paragraph: On March 23, you requested “any evidence of venture capital being raised by the program.” Staff has conducted a thorough research and review of City records and has no additional documentation other than what has been previously provided.”   So all you have as “evidence” is a well-reported OC Register story.  If you’re going to tajke credit for something — back it up.