It is an impressive statistic: at $113,345 per year, Pleasanton's median household income is the highest of all mid-size American cities (population 65,000 to 249,999). An economic engine fueled by innovation is one of the main reasons behind this prosperity. A year-old estimate identified roughly 37 venture-capital-backed companies in the city, ranging from a few connected virtually from the proverbial kitchen table to brick-and-mortar firms with employees and real products.
The Bay Area attracts some 35 percent of all venture capital invested in the United States. Translated into real numbers, the inflow of VC money into the region's companies reached $9.5 billion in 2006. "Of that, we know somewhere between $260 and $270 million went to Pleasanton-based firms," says Scott Raty, President and CEO of the Pleasanton Chamber of Commerce.
The Chamber and the City are joining forces to explore the best ways to leverage this information. "If Pleasanton has been somewhat of a magnet to venture capital, we want to know whether new ideas take root here by accident or by design. If we understand the process, we can replicate it," Raty explains.
Step #1 begins on Thursday, October 30, with a first-time event for Pleasanton, a half-day gathering on "Innovation & Entrepreneurship: Our New Local Economy." The event has been designed to parse the success of the community's "substantial emerging industry cluster," which appears to have received little nurturing from either government or the private sector.
The Innovation event will bring representatives from the fledgling businesses together with "the folks who deal in VC funding and the selection of companies to invest in, and related stakeholders - financial institutions, intellectual property attorneys, and so on," Raty points out. "People in one room will be talking about venture capital, the angel process, and the trials and tribulations of the start-up. Listening to the challenges they face, we can ask what kind of public sector policies might help them grow and what areas in the private sector we might look at to help them along."
There is ample motivation for the proactive stance, especially with an evolving global economy luring many traditional businesses out of the Bay Area, or even out of the country. "What's the next wave of business that might come in and occupy the buildings and replace some of those who left?" Raty asks. One answer might lie in the late-afternoon presentations on several new technologies which Lawrence Livermore Laboratory is making available for licensing as part of an aggressive plan to become more self-sustaining.
The Innovation & Entrepreneurship gathering will take place in the auditorium at CarrAmerica Conference Center, 4400 Rosewood Drive. Registration opens at 1:15 p.m., with the program running from 1:30 to 5:00 p.m. and a reception from 5:00 to 6:00 p.m. "We will start with an open-table format, and we'd love to see 100 or more folks attending," Raty enthuses. For an invitation, call the Chamber at (925) 846-5858.
Summing it up, Raty notes,"We're looking forward to what might come of this in the long term. Hopefully it will lead to more and more opportunities for this low-profile industry cluster."
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