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EvoNexus: A Novel Startup Incubator Doing Great Things in San Diego and Greater Southern California

Written by Patrick Henry

“We cannot seek achievement for ourselves and forget about progress and prosperity for our community… Our ambitions must be broad enough to include the aspirations and needs of others, for their sakes and for our own.” – Cesar Chavez

EvoNexus Patrick Henry

I sat down with Rory Moore, the CEO of EvoNexus, at his office in University Town Center last week. I have known Rory for over a decade, and I have been on the board of directors of EvoNexus for over five years now. Rory is a serial entrepreneur, and a competitive aerobatic pilot. His energy, passion, and enthusiasm for life along with the great things he is doing with EvoNexus always amazes me.

When I moved to San Diego in 2003 to run Entropic, I got involved with the San Diego Telecom Council. At the time, the SDTC was a non-profit organization that provided a forum for networking and training to the San Diego tech community. Over the years, the SDTC evolved in to CommNexus, and eventually into EvoNexus.  EvoNexus still serves as a community resource for startups, entrepreneurs, and tech professionals, but a current significant focus of the organization is the EvoNexus Startup Incubator.

Entrepreneur Magazine defines business incubators as organizations “geared toward speeding up the growth and success of startup and early stage companies. They’re often a good path to capital from angel investors, state governments, economic-development coalitions and other investors.”

In my meeting with Rory, his mind was moving at a million miles per minute, as it almost always does. His assistant Kayla was almost continuously involved to keep him on schedule. After we had a chance to sync-up on life and things relevant to me as a board member, Rory launched into his current thoughts about the direction and trajectory of the EvoNexus Startup Incubator. Currently there are three locations in Southern California incubating companies: downtown San Diego, UTC, and Irvine, up in Orange County.

This biggest thing that makes the EvoNexus Incubator unique is that it is a 100 percent pro bono incubator. EvoNexus empowers motivated entrepreneurs to turn their transformative ideas into fundable, commercially viable companies. EvoNexus leverages community resources to provide what entrepreneurs need, without requiring them to surrender equity. The pro bono nature of the incubator has spurred investment by Qualcomm, ViaSat, and other local tech companies. It has also been the catalyst for a substantial in-kind investment of “free” real estate office and lab space provided by the Irvine Company for EvoNexus and the companies it has in the incubator.

Ever since its inception in 2009, EvoNexus has become a leading startup incubator in Southern California. The performance of the EvoNexus Incubator has been outstanding:

  • $626M raised in total funding outcomes
  • 100+ jobs created
  • Nine acquisitions
  • 55 companies currently incubating
  • 1060 total applications received
  • 105 companies in the portfolio
  • 88% of all portfolio companies are still active

Rory has been approaching major universities in Southern California and they are very receptive to launching their ideas into EvoNexus, for a variety of reasons, but especially since it is a pro bono incubator. In the case of EvoNexus, university deans and professors don’t see the inherent conflict that exits with other for profit incubators. I personally believe EvoNexus’ pro bono concept is fantastic for entrepreneurs, emerging growth companies, startup investors, and the broader community alike. However, it is a concept that requires financial support from the established ecosystem to make it work. The only way this happens is with leadership and hard work from Rory and his primary partner in crime at EvoNexus, Walter Davis, a retired Vice Admiral from the U.S. Navy. Rory has also surrounded himself with a hard working and dedicated team that share in his vision.

EvoNexus value proposition for entrepreneurs is pretty amazing:

  • 100 percent pro bono with no surrendering of equity to the incubator.
  • Access to prominent CEOs, investors, and experts just a phone call away.
  • Unprecedented access to capital through strategic alliances, an expansive angel network, and traditional venture capital.

In addition, EvoNexus serves as a hub to the technology community in San Diego. Its events foster valuable connections and knowledge sharing. Companies in the incubator can take advantage of the many events and networking opportunities offered to all Southern California entrepreneurs. Some of the services that EvoNexus as a broader non-profit offers are:

  • MarketLink Events: Connects tech industry giants with emerging technology companies across the globe. Selected companies will meet with top executives in an hour-long, 1 on 1 setting to discuss potential partnership opportunities. This comes at NO COST to the companies in the incubator.
  • Headliner Events: Nationally and internationally renowned keynote speakers and panelists that feature topics on current industry trends and technology road maps.
  • Special Interest Groups (SIGs): Panel events comprised of over a dozen vertical technology sectors in a setting that allows for more intimate interaction and networking.

The mainstream press has placed an emphasis on the for profit incubator segment. As you can see in the following lists, from Inc. Magazine Top 10 Hot Incubators to Join in Silicon Valley, Startup Weekend Incubator List, and Seed DB Accelerator List, EvoNexus is not present.

However, if EvoNexus continues to see the same success rate with young companies that it has historically, then it will surely be on all of these lists very soon. The center of gravity for technology and life science startups is still the San Francisco Bay Area, but Southern California continues to be a prominent area for startup activity, and EvoNexus is emerging as a critical part of that business fabric. EvoNexus is providing an important and missing part of the ecosystem for these startup and emerging companies to grow. EvoNexus only chooses the best of the best entrepreneurs and companies, and they are committed to the success of every portfolio company, so not everyone will get a spot.

As Rory said to me, “I feel like I am the first major league baseball scout to discover the emerging talent in the Dominican Republic.” For those folks that don’t follow major league baseball, check out 2014 Opening Day Rosters Feature 224 Players Born Outside the U.S. The article states, “As it has each year since MLB began releasing this annual data in 1995, the Dominican Republic again leads the Major Leagues with 83 players born outside the United States.”

It is an exciting time for EvoNexus and for the Southern California startup community. I am happy and proud to be a small part of it, and I’m grateful that we have someone with Rory’s passion, knowledge, leadership and experience at the helm.

Patrick Henry Entropic

This is Patrick Henry, CEO of QuestFusion, with The Real Deal…What Matters.