It’s been about a month since our new Executive Director, Alexa-Rae Navarro, joined the organization so we decided it’s time to get to know her a little better!
After 7 years with the Bixel Exchange Center for Innovation & Tech (Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce) supporting the LA tech ecosystem, Alexa-Rae returned to America’s finest city to take on this leadership role with Startup San Diego.
“I remember having a super reflective moment driving up the 5 freeway on the day of my big move to Los Angeles,” she said. “I looked at myself in the mirror and said, ‘I don’t know when and I don’t know how, but you’ll be back someday…’ Almost 8 years later, that someday is now.”
If you’ve spent any time with Alexa-Rae talking about her professional background, it’s obvious that she’s extremely passionate about the teams she has built in the past and the connections she’s made as a result. She’s definitely one of the most dedicated non-profit leaders I’ve ever met and that claim is backed up by her impressive portfolio.
“When I first started with the Bixel Exchange Center for Innovation & Tech, I created the fundamental infrastructure to run the Startup LAunch Tech SBDC & Incubator, including an application and vetting process, startup-advisor matching, and community building, amongst other things,” Navarro said. 7 years and four promotions later Alexa-Rae has built the Center into a more than successful program.
“So far the Center has helped 600+ entrepreneurs collectively raise $30+ million in investments, supported the creation of 1,200+ jobs, placed 459 youth in paid internships, and engaged 15,500+ underserved community college youth through work-based learning.”
Not bad for someone who started with the organization as an intern right?
If you talk to Alexa-Rae about her time with the Bixel Exchange Center, she doesn’t try to hide her emotional attachment to the organization she called home for so many years, but nevertheless, she says she was ready to leave.
“I felt like the role with Startup San Diego was made for me.”
“I was happy where the organization was and when I saw the job posting for this leadership role with Startup San Diego, I felt like it was my time,” she says. “I’m a UCSD Alumni and I always knew I wanted to come back home and make an impact in my own backyard.”
Luckily for us at Startup San Diego, the Executive Director job description was perfect for Alexa-Rae. “I recall thinking that it was the perfect match for my skillset, my extensive non-profit management background, and startup ecosystem/community building experience,” she says.
Alexa-Rae not only brings several years of non-profit management experience to the organization, but she has a passion for entrepreneurship that will no doubt be a huge benefit to Startup San Diego. “My very first experience with entrepreneurship dates back to my childhood when I used to bus tables at my Grandma’s restaurant in Mexico,” she says.
“Her hustle was so real and inspiring. Every time I think about entrepreneurs I think about my grandparents and I get a second nature feeling of wanting to roll up my sleeves and get stuff done.”
“My real passion for startups was born in Los Angeles,” Navarro says. “Every time I was on the phone with a startup founder, I would get that roll up my sleeves feeling all over again. When you get to connect startups with the right people and the right resources, and continue to pay it forward it yields a healthy, thriving, and authentic community. What’s not to love about that?”
Alexa-Rae on the future of Startup San Diego
There are so many things Alexa-Rae is excited about when it comes to Startup San Diego, including the team, the board, and the grassroots nature of the community.
“I’m really excited for the potential that lies ahead for the local startup ecosystem as a whole because I truly believe that building a community by entrepreneurs, for entrepreneurs requires alignment around all of those areas,” she says.
“It requires a give-back ethos and genuine desire to support. I’m thrilled to bring my superpowers to the table to further cultivate, support, and amplify the community through my capacity at Startup San Diego.”
Now that’s she’s had about a month in the role, Alexa-Rae is impressed with the team and excited to continue to work with and grow the group. “The organization is powered by rockstar volunteer directors and additional organizers who dedicate their time, energy, expertise, and enthusiasm toward creating quality and meaningful Startup San Diego experiences to grow our local startup ecosystem,” she says.
“Everyone is so anchored in community and I couldn’t be more thrilled to work alongside such a mission-aligned team to connect, educate, and inspire founders and local talent to grow our innovation economy.”
Fun Fact: Johnny Knoxville + the Michelin Man
“When I was 15 I was hired to be the Michelin Man for some of Michelin’s corporate events. I was in the midst of having a dance off with a party guest one night when Johnny Knoxville walked into the room with a camera crew. He had a plan to tackle the Michelin Man and get it all on camera, but as he was about to run up and tackle me, one of the event producers told him there was a 15 year old girl in the suit.”
“I was actually really bummed I didn’t get tackled by Johnny Knoxville but I did get to meet him and get a fun photo with him.”
Although Alexa-Rae’s days of moonlighting as the Michelin Man are over, her new journey as Startup San Diego’s Executive Director is just beginning and we couldn’t be happier!
Marketing Director, Startup San Diego