1st Mondays of Summer powered by J.P. Morgan – Recap, Recording & Photos

Posted: June 27, 2024

By Ella Napata

1st Mondays Of Summer 2024

This past Monday, nearly 300 attendees came to the 1st Mondays of Summer – Networking and Expert Panel powered by J.P. Morgan  at the UCSD Design and Innovation building! We had a night focused on Investor and Founder relationship building, fundraising how-to’s, and networking. This was the opportunity for early to late-stage founders to find out how to get funding for their startups, learn from seasoned investors and founders, and find the resources they need to jumpstart and grow their ideas. 

David Loseke, Executive Director at J.P. Morgan and Startup San Diego board member, welcomed local investors and founders to the panel: 

Lisa Barnhouse, Executive Director of Startup San Diego, and Paul Roben, PhD, Vice Chancellor of Innovation and Commercialization at UC San Diego, said opening remarks. Also, thank you to our capital groups and VC firms that participated in the Investor AMA sessions:

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The Current Funding Environment and Investor Perspectives

The panelists discussed the current funding environment, which they described as challenging compared to the booming market of 2021. Investors emphasized that while deals are still happening, the bar for funding has been raised significantly. Gary Benittt noted that only about 5-10% of companies seeking funding are likely to succeed in the current climate. The focus has shifted from rapid growth to more sustainable metrics, with investors paying closer attention to factors like profitability, cash efficiency, and runway.

Maria highlighted the importance of proving product-market fit and showing early signs of traction. Investors are now looking for companies that can demonstrate not just growth, but also a path to profitability. The panelists advised founders to be prepared for a longer fundraising process and to focus on building relationships with potential investors well in advance of actually seeking funding. They also stressed the importance of having a clear vision and articulating how the company will use the funds to achieve specific milestones.

Founder Experiences and Advice for Fundraising

Kate Dilligan of Cooler Heads Care emphasized the importance of networking and leveraging pitch competitions to build relationships with investors. She described her journey from raising initial funds through friends and family to securing more significant investments from angel networks and venture capital firms. Kate even said that she was able to meet some of her first investors by winning the 2018 San Diego Startup Week Pitch Competition. 

Doug Hecht of  Walla discussed the evolution of metrics investors focus on as a company grows. He noted that revenue growth was the primary concern in the early stages. Still, as the company matured, investors became more interested in factors like customer acquisition costs, retention rates, and overall business efficiency. 

Both Kate and Doug stressed the importance of regular communication with investors, providing updates on progress, and being transparent about challenges. They also  touched on the advantages and disadvantages of building a startup in San Diego compared to Silicon Valley. They highlighted the tight-knit community in San Diego and the availability of engineering talent while acknowledging that access to capital might be more limited compared to the Bay Area. However, they noted that the increasing prevalence of remote work and virtual networking has somewhat leveled the playing field for startups outside of traditional tech hubs.

The Role of AI and Future Trends in Startups

The discussion also touched on the role of AI in startups and how investors view AI-focused companies. While the panelists acknowledged the significant interest and investment in AI, they cautioned that simply adding AI to a product isn’t enough to guarantee success. Investors are looking for AI applications that significantly improve existing solutions and have a clear path to monetization.

Doug Hecht shared how his company incorporates AI into various aspects of their business, from improving coding efficiency to enhancing customer service. The panelists emphasized that AI is increasingly becoming a tool that startups are expected to leverage rather than a standalone differentiator. They advised founders to focus on how AI can solve real customer problems or significantly improve existing processes rather than treating it as a buzzword.

Looking to the future, the panelists discussed emerging trends in the startup ecosystem, including the growing importance of sustainability, the potential of biotech and healthcare innovations, and the increasing focus on enterprise software solutions. They encouraged founders to stay adaptable and to continually reassess their value proposition in light of rapidly evolving market conditions and technological advancements.

1st Mondays of Summer Takeaways

While the funding environment has become more challenging, opportunities still exist for startups that can demonstrate strong fundamentals, clear vision, and the ability to execute. This 1st Mondays emphasized the importance of building relationships, focusing on sustainable growth, and leveraging new technologies like AI strategically. Make sure to stay tuned for the next Startup San Diego 1st Mondays happening September 9th, and join us for ticket sales drop for San Diego Startup Week on July 1st!