Co-hosts Brandon Cardwell (i-Gate Innovation Hub and Startup Tri-Valley) and Yolanda Fintschenko (Co-founder of FounderTraction, LLC and the East Bay Bio Network), talk to Lynn Wallace Naylor, CEO of the Innovation Tri-Valley Leadership Group (ITV).
With her passion for brand building and placemaking, Lynn has positioned the Tri-Valley as The Heart of California Innovation. Her experience across the corporate, start-up, public-private and philanthropic sectors has enabled her to lead significant organizational growth while driving economic and social impact. Among her many honors, in 2021, Lynn was named one of the Most Influential Women in Bay Area Business by the San Francisco Business Times, and an Agent of Change by Diablo Magazine.
In 2021, ITV published the Tri-Valley 2040 Vision, a roadmap for the future health of the region, with more than 1,000 points of input across workshops, webinars, surveys, focus groups, and interviews. Lynn discusses ITV’s mission, activities, and the five themes driving the 2040 Vision. This discussion with Lynn highlights how the Tri-Valley can achieve the community’s transformational goals, particularly in concert with the startup community.
Read the Episode Transcript
Brandon Cardwell: This is the startup Tri-Valley Podcast, featuring in-depth conversations with the leaders who are making the Tri-Valley the go-to ecosystem for science-based startups.
Welcome to the Startup Tri-Valley Podcast. I’m your host, Brandon Cardwell. Our guest today is Lynn Naylor, CEO of the Innovation Tri-Valley Leadership Group, and in addition to Lynn, we have a special guest host on the show today, Yolanda Fintschenko, who is the co-founder of the East Bay Bio Network, FounderTraction, the digital marketing agency and our collaborator on Startup Tri-Valley, so our first guest host on the show, so that’s a lot of fun, and Lynn’s the perfect guest to come on and join us, so thank you both for being here.
Lynn Naylor: Thanks, Brandon.
Brandon Cardwell: All right, so Lynn, I thought we’d start with a little bit of a personal introduction of your background and how you became the CEO of the Innovation Tri-Valley Leadership Group, and what the Innovation Tri-Valley Leadership Group is.
Lynn Naylor: Great. Thank you both so much for having me, I’m thrilled to be here. This is such an amazing innovation hub and i-Gate and ITV have been joined at the hip for 10 years, more than 10 years now, so it’s really a pleasure to sit and tell some of the stories that we tell to each other all the time with your listeners. So really thrilled to be with the region’s hottest podcast.
Yolanda Fintschenko: For sure.
Lynn Naylor: My story is fun, I grew up in the Midwest in a teeny tiny town that was a natural community development project in itself, because it was so tiny. We needed each other for everything, to get dug out of snow banks, and to be in the parade, because it took all of us to make enough of a parade. And at one time my dad was actually the town dentist and the fire chief at the same time, so community development’s in my DNA.
And then I went on to get a degree in journalism to figure out what was happening in the rest of the world and feed my curiosity. So, armed with those two passions, community development, and words, and storytelling, and place-making, my career’s been shaped really by some incredible opportunities to work on big projects. I’ve been incredibly grateful. So community marketing campaign in Columbus, Ohio, then I went on to work on a 320,000 square foot science center that was being developed in the core of that downtown, wildly creative group of people that I got to be a part of, built by a famous Japanese architect, and really fell in love with how communities build attractions, tell their story and how community development people really take on the responsibility of urban planning. What does it mean, financially and environmentally, and what are the social impacts of really building community?
So I was totally hooked at that point and I got lucky and was able to move west to work at the Presidio Trust, a really stunning project at the base of the Golden Gate Bridge, 1500 acres decommissioned military base, transitioning into a national sustainable park for all of the people of the United States.
Pretty fun, dramatic politics there, Presidio Trust board is appointed by the US president and the US Department of Interior, so fascinating politics, lots of arms and legs, loved that, very honored to serve there, and then I went on to work on a couple of other key projects in the city, Sony’s Metreon project at Fourth and Mission, a really fascinating urban development experiment, I would say.
And finally, at that point, the sentence that we all hear so often, the daily commute to San Francisco really got to be old, and I was very lucky to get an invitation to come out and work in Livermore Valley wine country, and those people, as you know, wine growers are passionate warriors. I’m really lucky to have many of those people as good friends, and that’s where I met Dale Kaye and the Livermore community, and was introduced to the branding and storytelling that’s coming out of this region as the Tri-Valley with Innovation Tri-Valley Leadership Group, so…
Yolanda Fintschenko: Amazing.
Lynn Naylor: Really fun.
Brandon Cardwell: Yeah, that’s good. I didn’t know a lot of that about your bio, so we’ve already done good work here today. That’s good. So what is Innovation Tri-Valley? What’s its mission? Why was it created? i-Gate and Innovation Tri-Valley (ITV) were birthed at the same time, and I know over the years there’s been some comparisons of the organization. I think we know that we have really fundamentally different mission spaces, aimed largely at creating similar types of things, but we attack it from different ends, so from your perspective, what is Innovation Tri-Valley’s reason for being?
Lynn Naylor: We exist to drive a thriving economy, powered by innovation, and then great quality of life. And it’s a really unique story because most innovation hubs can’t say that, so it’s both things, drive the economy by innovation, but also deliver that wonderful quality of life.
So, we’re led by 150 companies all across the community, and as a collective of leaders and influencers who are really dedicated to aligning all of the innovation assets in the region and using that power to be sure that we advocate so that every business, the startup businesses in your ecosystem and the largest employers, the big companies in the region, everybody gets what they need to thrive here.
And so, that’s why ITV exists, and we’re so fortunate that the elected officials loved the idea because it brought together two concepts, an innovation hub and a quality of life. And for that reason, was universally embraced, and it’s a very distinctive brand personality. We’re really lucky that we’re not the daily grind innovation hub that so many other people are trying to build brands around.
Yolanda Fintschenko: Right, it’s a great point.
Lynn Naylor: Yeah.
Brandon Cardwell: So, you mentioned the elected officials and the large businesses, so who else is a part of Innovation Tri-Valley?
Lynn Naylor: So all of the educational institutions, the research labs were at the table first, civic leaders in the community and the nonprofits. Everybody is at the table together to tell the story of the region and the reason the region is different, and that’s why the collective is so powerful because everybody has a voice at the table, and you really will hear in the meetings, here, all boats must rise. That’s part of the core of the technical and intellectual brand, is the humanity. It’s that authenticity about this place, its optimism, and its humanity. And I think that’s why it’s so exciting for your startup community because this is a place they can count on that as they launch here, this is the fabric of the region and this is why it’s different, and this is what they can count on here.
So it’s really thrilling to be able to slingshot that brand forward, because it’s real, and for that reason, it’s attracted so many people. There were many investors at the table in the early days, in addition to the elected officials. And I just want to do a quick call out to Bob Carlin, who’s still a council member in Livermore, who is one of the founders at the original kitchen table of four people, but also SAP and Sybase, Chevron, Bridgelux, Adept Technologies, and both the national labs, Sandia, of course, and Lawrence Livermore National Labs, they were the major players in driving the vision forward. And we’re so lucky it’s such a collaborative region.
Brandon Cardwell: Well, Bob Carling is definitely near and dear to my heart as well. He sits on our board as the representative from Livermore, and was a founding board member of i-Gate also when he was at Sandia, and then, now as a council member in Livermore, and there’s a long tradition in Livermore of laboratory employees becoming city council members, which I think, creates a whole bunch of great second and third-order effects for us in terms of having complex engineering minds focused on running a community. But Yolanda, you know Bob a little bit as well, so why don’t we use that, actually, as a way for you to introduce yourself and join that conversation.
Yolanda Fintschenko: Sure. So yeah, so Bob actually was my boss. He hired me as a manager when I was still at Sandia, and I can speak very personally to what a fantastic mentor he was as a young scientist and a young manager and just a great colleague. So it was unsurprising to see that Bob was such a driving force in building community. Community has been super important to him. And yeah, so listening to you talk, one of the things that I’m really curious about, is the incarnation of all this community good will. How did you get from that kitchen table and people who have this great vision… How did that become what you do, not just who you are?
Lynn Naylor: Oh, what a great question. Well, I think it has a lot to do with the woman who founded the organization, what a powerhouse Dale Kaye was, and is, the founder of our organization. And there was something, and I think Brandon has the same magic, there’s something about the way you tell this story about why this is important, and the fact that Dale Kaye figured out a niche, a brand for an innovation hub that had never been done before. You don’t talk about brand-building innovation, hard tech and empathy in the same sentence, those things don’t go together. And so, there was a natural fascination with a conversation, and we are so grateful, literally thousands of people have worked with ITV, attended events, pushed things forward over the last decade. We’re just so grateful that it was a compelling story and it has attracted terrific traction in the region, that we hope to just keep building on together with all the startup community and i-Gate and Daybreak and all that big community’s enormous.
Brandon Cardwell: Yeah, so, maybe Bob Carling’s going to be a through-line through this entire episode. He said to me, it was a couple years ago, I think it was when he was first elected, and we were talking about community, and we’re specifically arts and culture community, and Livermore has this robust arts and culture community that probably is more than what a traditional community of that size could come to expect.
And his theory on why that was the case was that you had this very large employer in the national labs, two employers in the national labs, and so many people worked there and lived in Livermore, and so when they got off work at 5:30, they were home by 5:45 and they had the rest of their evening to dedicate to civic engagement activities, like being a part of the opera or the symphony or whatever your volunteer, rotary, whatever your volunteer organization was.
And I think that’s a really powerful idea, is how much… We talk about disposable income a lot in economic development, but we don’t talk a lot about disposable time, and I think there’s this really interesting phenomenon that ITV’s been talking about empathy, been talking about quality of life, been talking about these things that are harder to quantify than productivity, or venture capital, or what have you, and they’re things that when you see in a community, when people are really involved from a civic standpoint. And I think COVID focused a lot of attention on that, as you saw a lot of people wanting to move into our region when they weren’t having to go into the office every day, and some of the bigger employers in the central business districts, and they’re like, “That looks like a really great place to live, and now I can do it without having a two-hour commute, necessarily.”
And I think that idea of creating a place where people really want to live, and people who have a lot of choices about where they live, runs through all of our work. So that place-making side, which I know we’ll get to, because it’s a big part of the 2040 plan, which I want to talk about. But Yolanda, also for you, in founding the East Bay Bio Network, a big part of that push, I think, was linking this talent pool in the East Bay, in the life sciences specifically, to opportunities to work closer to home.
Yolanda Fintschenko: Absolutely, I think it came… So Kristen Slawinski is really the founder, with Neeraj Sharma, and then I came late to the table. They had the first East Bay Bio event at a bar in Hayward, and as soon as I saw that there was a life sciences event that I didn’t have to cross a bridge for, I was just like, “I’m there.” They could have had it in the parking lot and I would’ve attended. And it was a fantastic group of people, because everyone experiencing the same frustration.
Yolanda Fintschenko: Which is, “I work with some element of the life sciences industry, and the only way I can connect and network with my peers has been to go to the peninsula or to San Francisco, and yay, there’s something where it’s in my backyard. “And that energy, I basically just said, “Do you need help?” And Kristen was super generous and like, “Of course, and let’s start working together.”
Yolanda Fintschenko: And so, then we went to Brandon right away and said like, “Hey, what if we put a focus on life sciences here, and life sciences startups, and just help to connect the dots.” And so we launched the NextTech series together with Brandon and i-Gate. But I think what made it so popular is, these things were already happening, just like ITV shining a light on what’s already happening. It’s just, nobody knew, nobody… We knew because we worked in the industry. We’re like, “Well, a lot of my peers don’t actually work in the peninsula, but all our events are in the peninsula. But having that, I think, community come together and say, “We can actually just get together here.” It felt like a revelation, even though, honestly, it was already there.
Brandon Cardwell: Yeah, and that’s, I think, the catalyst, that catalytic effect that an organization like ITV can have with an event like GameChangers, for example. So to that point, #GameChangers, and we just had the 2022 #GameChangers, which, my opinion the least, I think it’s the best event you’ve ever done, period, full stop. It was so much fun, and the quality of the companies was so high, and the speakers were… They almost seemed scripted, even though they weren’t, because they shared so many of those same themes of building companies here, and quality of life for employees, and all of that. So that catalyzing effect of, we’re going to create a place where local people can come together and meet each other… So some of it is shining a light on what’s already happening, and then some of it is creating the sparks for what will happen by bringing all those people together. So talk about how ITV convenes people in all these various ways through events and advocacy a little bit, because I think it’s a really important part of what you do.
Lynn Naylor: Oh, great. It’s in such a complex growing web, it’s really fantastic. So if you’re working to drive an innovation hub with great quality of life, that has lots of legs, so we’ve got groups of people working on different parts of that story, so there’s advocacy that has to be done, our businesses have to have better transportation, more homes for our workforce. There’s an infrastructure component that’s tough policy work. There’s also an educational component that brings people together from all the universities, all the school districts, attracting people into the conversation. How do we drive world-class talent? And we’ll talk a little bit about that with the 2040 plan. And so, there are groups of people that are coming together around themes and big ideas, hard projects, the most recent one I’m so excited about is a DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) council that we’ve created to focus on diversity, equity and inclusion in the region.
So there are all kinds of projects, there are all kinds of ways people can be involved in ITV. Come to our events. I’m so glad you had a great time, Brandon was on stage and did a fantastic job.
Yolanda Fintschenko: You did.
Lynn Naylor: Talking about Startup Tri-Valley and that piece of the community, but there’s a great vibe when these folks get together and share stories, and that just gets richer and more fun all the time. So watch for the events, look for us on our website, find us, reach out, I’d love to talk to you and bring you into the community and find a good way for everybody to connect. The work is immediate and really fun.
Brandon Cardwell: Right, the work is immediate. That’s a great… I’m going to use that regularly. So in addition to the advocacy piece, and it is really critical, there’s a tremendous housing shortage and not a lot of agreement about how to solve it on the ground. I think there’s a lot of agreement on how we could solve it, but the actual implementation is tough, so you being at the table for that conversation has been really helpful.
Brandon Cardwell: But there are some other things that you do, the Tri-Valley Rising plan, the original one, which I think was 2014, and then revised in 2018, I want to say. I think we all leaned really heavily, we all, meaning everybody in the region who was talking about what was happening here in terms of shining that light, like you were talking about. That was, I think, a really critical and seminal moment for us to realize how powerful the region’s economy was. So can you talk a little bit about what sparked that original desire to capture that information, share it with everybody and what it says about who we are?
Lynn Naylor: Yeah, I think there were two Tri-Valley Rising reports that really gave us a baseline of assets, who are we? What’s the depth and breadth of the region? And I think people were stunned. These five little communities are producing a $42 billion GDP from their innovation economy, really? We’re still struggling, not everybody can even name all five of the cities that are in the region. So it’s been super fun to have that data and know that there are 450 tech companies, and that’s all pre-pandemic numbers, so we’re waiting to get new data, but it was really important to understand who we were, and as part of that process, we worked on that project with the Bay Area Council Economic Institute, a super-smart group of people, Jeff Bellisario, leading that team.
Looking at the Tri-Valley helped us know that if the current growth rates continued, both jobs and population, we could potentially add a hundred thousand people to the region by the year 2040. Big sentence, really important data to have, and the next sentence is, so you really ought to get together and use all of that talent in the epicenter of solutions, which you are, Tri-Valley, and focus on what do you want to be, where do you want to go, and plan for it now, so you can bring that to life and don’t do it by accident, because we can all point to other communities who grew really quickly and didn’t think through all of those implications. So that’s how the 2040 plan came to be.
Yolanda Fintschenko: I did not know that. That’s such an important number, that really makes sense.
Brandon Cardwell: Yeah, so there’s the eye-catching data piece, which Yoli is a digital marketing person, I’m sure you can appreciate. But it strikes me how prescient a lot of that work was, in ways that we couldn’t even predict. So if you think about the mega-region, which is a term that started being popularized, I think mostly Bay Area Council and ITV’s work of identifying, well, why do we call the Tri-Valley the heart of California innovation? Well, because we’re in the middle of this mega-region that runs from Sacramento to the San Francisco Bay Area and comes down I-5 and runs right through us. And I think it was a lot easier at that time to say, “Yeah, but really, the Bay Area is the Bay Area, is it really a mega-region?” Well, look at it now, right. Obviously, that trend line was already going, you were seeing people get on buses and take two-hour commutes from Modesto to Silicon Valley every day, which is just a crushing thing to have to envision.
Brandon Cardwell: But post-COVID, talk about being on the money, the people who have moved from the inner Bay Area to the Tri-Valley and beyond, and up to Sacramento, the mega-region has, I think, fully matured at this point, putting us directly in the center of that. So you were talking about the mega-region before it was cool, and now you’re taking with this 2040 plan, I think, this really thoughtful approach to, if we are going to add a hundred thousand people to the region by 2040, how do we do that in a way that is not only palatable and acceptable to our communities, but adds a lot of value to those communities, how do we bring those people in and build the housing that they need, and the amenities that they need, the educational infrastructure that they need?
And I think that’s really what the 2040 plan was about, was ITV’s the only organization that has the cross-sector characteristics and those people all at the table to think deeply about those questions now, so that we’re not reacting to it as it happens to us collectively. So it’s my long intro to tell us what the 2040 plan is.
Lynn Naylor: Well, it happened over a long period of time. Because of COVID we got a longer… We got 18 months to really work on it. So more than a thousand people brought their ideas to those conversations, interviews, workshops, was a fascinating process. And we did have a little bit of fun, I have to say, along the way, talking about some of the pop culture concepts, flying cars and robot butlers, and all that stuff. But the work was very intentional and addressed some of these real issues. We obviously don’t know how much we’re going to grow by the year 2040, but we do know we’ve got widening income gap, we’ve got climate change, we have workforce development issues that we really want to stay on top of. So I guess it’s just important to preface it by saying, this region is so optimistic and so positive about planning for its future, and we really believe if you’re not growing, you’re shrinking, we’re not interested in that.
So positive energy can change the world, so let’s use that proactive, thoughtful approach to what we want the community to look like. So Yolanda and I were talking about it this week, the plan is really transformational and aspirational, but it’s also achievable, it really is achievable to make some of these things happen. We are a nationally significant innovation hub, and we deserve to prove our story, that outrageously positive things really do happen when people and companies have what they need. We’ve proven that here, so the thesis has been delivered, we’ve proven that, and so where do we go from here? So there are 24 recommendations in the plan, so I can’t talk about all of them, but I’d love to just mention the five themes, because they’re exciting to keep in your head and think about.
Number one, world-class talent. We absolutely have to have a robust ability to produce, attract and retain talent, nothing more important.
Number two, critical connections, maintaining and building transportation connections to that broader Bay Area, the mega-region, and especially the Northern San Joaquin Valley, really close connectivity there.
Number three, vibrant place-making. We make great places here, we make great places. We’ve got five incredibly diverse communities that compliment each other, give us unmatched character. We need to be sure we hang onto that and still add some housing, and that there’s some fantastic ideas in the plan about place-making and pioneering walkable, smart, green communities. That’s what our young people want, that’s doable. Brandon, you’re doing it right now, out at Isabel, it’s happening at Bishop Ranch, we can do this, and this is what the next generations want from us. We don’t have all the answers, but it’s doable, it’s very doable.
Number four, opportunity for all. We have to create a place where there’s enough for everyone to thrive. We can do that, and we are moving forward with that. The new DEI council I just mentioned, and we also have the first success story coming out of the vision plan. We have established, happened in parallel to the plan, but the Three Valleys Community Foundation launched just in the last few months, that’s helping us connect local resources to local needs, so that opportunity is… We are working on that really well together as a region.
And number five, green economy. We have to be a model community for how to grow in a sustainable way, and some of the projects and ideas on the table are so exciting. The valley Link Project, right now the model for it is hydrogen-fueled for great self-producing green energy, that’s really a model for the region. So as valley Link goes forward and some of these other walkable communities go forward, we can make some great progress on green economy.
So we can provide better healthcare and education by solving the digital divide, we can create walkable communities, we can absolutely create economic mobility for the historically excluded if we do this work together and focus on the dream of the 2040 plan and bring it to life together.
Yolanda Fintschenko: That’s really inspirational. Having the 2040 plan, what next? How does the 2040 plan go from a plan and a vision to the achievement, that it is achievable, so how do we get to that achievement?
Lynn Naylor: I like to think of the 2040 vision plan as our true north. This is where the region has decided it wants to go together. The plan was funded 50/50 public/private, the business community’s at the table, the economic developmentally directors are all at the table, the companies are all at the table. So this is the plan, this is the vision of where we want to go. We don’t have an exact roadmap, because we want the community to be involved in all of those conversations between here and there. But what I like to say about the 2040 vision plan, is the thrill is right now, we have to stay open and really alive with the possibilities. How do we do smart, green, walkable communities? Well, there are lots of ways to do that together, but we have to stay open to the possibilities.
I had a really lucky experience with a major film producer, one time in one of the projects I worked on, and as you walked into his living room, it was a big, tall, huge room, and very high up on the wall, in 20 foot hand pounded, metal letters was the word “now.” And it was so powerful, everyone who walked into that room had the sense of, gosh, this is how this guy’s driving his business, his great success, he’s really focused on what we can do now, today. And every one of us standing there felt like, “Oh wow, what are we doing today?” That’s important, and I think that’s where we are with the 2040 plan, giving air and energy to the conversation. So first call to action, read the plan, get excited about it, it’s really a great read. You can find it on our website, innovationtrivalley.org, it’s on the homepage, big button, bottom left corner, can’t miss it.
Brandon Cardwell: We’ll link to it in the show notes.
Yolanda Fintschenko: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, link to it.
Lynn Naylor: And then, join the ecosystem, whether you want to be part of the start community that’s driving the ecosystem, or ITV, or one of the groups that Yolanda’s bringing together, be part of the ecosystem. Find a way where you want to show up in the plan and let us know, we’ll invite you and get you connected.
Brandon Cardwell: And there are a number of these subcommittees, and this is getting down into the process piece, which I think is, anytime you want to drive an aspirational vision into implementation on the ground, you have to have some process, and ITV has some subcommittees of the group, I sit on one, I sit on the business innovation subcommittee and we focus a lot on business attraction, business development, things like that, but there’s a housing infrastructure and transportation committee, there’s the education committee. What am I missing?
Lynn Naylor: The DEI council.
Brandon Cardwell: The DEI council?
Lynn Naylor: Yeah.
Brandon Cardwell: So for listeners, if there’s a particular thing that you care a lot about, and Yolanda and I have talked about this, part of our collaboration started around this NextTech speaker series and the Life Sciences Summit, and all that, but it’s broader than that, Yolanda’s a Tri-Valley resident, and has kids who she’d like to be able to come back and live here, which is increasingly challenging. I have kids who are a little bit younger, but I also want them to be able to come back and live here, and so, we talk about how do we make that happen in this sustainable way?
I think in economic development, there’s not enough discussion of the role of optimism. If people don’t believe that this place, whatever place, is on an upward trajectory, that there’s room for them to grow and build and contribute to the economy, to the community, they’ll just go other places. There are many great places in this country, in the world, and none of them are better than here, obviously, but there are lots of great places,, and if people don’t think that there’s room for them at the table, then we’re going to lose a lot of that talent, and a lot of them will be younger and early career, and I think that’s one of the things the 2040 plan does symbolically, is say, we’re planning to make room for you at the table.
And then there’s just the implementation piece, which comes back down to something that I know we’re already working together on, which is, across the cities, what initiatives are already underway? How do those map to what we have discovered are the things that really matter through the 2040 plan? How do we create feedback from the business community into those city initiatives, whether it’s the Isabelle neighborhood plan in Livermore, downtown Dublin, housing policy in East Pleasanton, whatever it is, all of these things that are like big, long levers that the communities can pull.
So I think there’s the symbolic thing about the 2040 plan, which is creating the optimism. You’ve got a bunch of really smart, dedicated people working on creating the future that they want, and then there’s the implementation piece, which we’re working on, figuring out how do we map the opportunity to the capabilities and then put people to work on collaboratively solving these problems.
Yolanda Fintschenko: Well, and I just want to… Building on what Brandon said, listening to you talk about those five categories, obviously, one of the things we wanted to hear about is how does this connect to the Startup community? And as you’re talking, I’m realizing, for those founders, or founders to be in our audience, these are areas where we desperately, in the Tri-Valley, need innovation. If there is a solution, that you think your idea, invention, whether it’s an organizational innovation, or an actual thing that you think can address any of these issues, this is a great place to start.
And I know that existing founders are pretty much, right now, probably going full bore on whatever their existing business plan is, and we do have some founders who I think were honored in #GameChangers, who are behind technologies that are helping, I guess, act on in a more walkable city.
Lynn Naylor: Yeah.
Yolanda Fintschenko: This micro transportation is, that’s such a great way to make a city more walkable.
Brandon Cardwell:Or Monarch Tractor with electric tractors.
Yolanda Fintschenko: Yeah, so a lot of.
Brandon Cardwell: DE&I, through CrossCheck, all of these great companies at game… And if you want to talk about the Game Changer companies, by all means, because I think they’re really exciting.
Yolanda Fintschenko: Yeah, so maybe talk about what’s already happening. And then, I just want to… A shout-out to our audience, hey, take a look at these five areas and maybe innovate there.
Lynn Naylor: Absolutely. And know that this is valued by the community. You’re doing this in a place where, not only can you work every day to make the world a better place, and 10X Genomics, that I love listening to those guys about the passion of their work, but not only can you do passionate work, but you can make the world a better place and live a better life, maybe, because we are this place that values people and values those founders who will step up and bring them to life here in our community.
So yeah, a couple that I loved, and we’ve talked about him a little bit, but IrisVision, Ammad Khan, co-founder and COO, serial entrepreneur, started his first company right out of high school, met the co-founder of his current company in Pleasanton, a neuroscientist from UC Berkeley, but they are synthesizing neuroscience and augmented reality in wearable mobile devices that you just put on your face, and at the award ceremony, he told this incredible story about how powerful it was for him personally, to put those glasses on someone and stand them in front of their family and see them be able to recognize the faces of their loved ones for the first time in years.
Unbelievable stories of strength and humanity happening right here in the company. So that company’s already been on Fast Company’s World-Changing Ideas list, and the Forbes Next 100 list, and they’re going to be fun to watch. But great storytelling, the other one I’ll just tell quickly. Raydiant Oximetry, a company founded in 2015 by Neil Ray in San Ramon, developed a non-invasive biomedical device that me measures oxygen levels in fetal blood, so making the whole process of childbirth so much safer. And they just recently announced they’d raised an oversubscribed series A2, so doing really well in the region, also funded in part by Tri-Valley Ventures, and they’re such an important part of this ecosystem.
Brandon Cardwell: Absolutely.
Lynn Naylor: But when we honored Raydiant, Russ DeLonzor, the president, was with us, and he told this amazing story from the podium about how terrified they were when they founded the company in San Ramon, he was thinking, “Oh my God, I’m moving out to the outskirts of the technology world in the Tri-Valley.” But that, in fact, turned out to be the very best thing he had ever done, they had ever done as a company, because the talent pool, as he confirms, every engineering discipline is available right here in the Tri-Valley now. And I think that was so exciting for us all to hear that night, almost every founder and CEO said, the talent is all here right now, one after the other at the podium, and so, really exciting to see what they can bring to life. I think the other one, if you want to talk about it just quickly, is AI, because you incubated them.
Brandon Cardwell: Yeah, and actually, I just interviewed Luis Dussan, the founder and CTO. That episode may publish before this one, I’m not sure. They’re developing autonomous vision systems, basically, for transportation and other applications. And again, it’s an example of a deeply technical founder coming and connecting to an ecosystem where all of the rest of what was needed to build out the company, and Louis and I just talked about this, that he incubated with us at our first i-Gate incubator. And that’s where he met Greg Hitchan from Tri-Valley Ventures, he met Jordan Greene, who’s now a senior executive in the company.
When we have a tightly networked ecosystem of resources, people, institutions, capital, all of it, you can get a lot done really quickly. And time is always death for startup companies. It’s like running out of money is the big concern, and what Louis said to me back in 2013, 2014, when he had just relocated the company, it was him and his CFO, the company to our incubator, and then Pleasanton, and then subsequently Dublin. He said back then, “I want to start this company in a place where my future employees are going to be able to afford to live.”
Now, the Tri-Valley has its own affordability challenges, but still, relatively speaking, to other parts of the Bay Area, just like then, it’s still more affordable. It’s still a place where you can raise a family and you can have the space that you need, and you have the high-quality schools that a lot of people are moving here for, the amenities, the downtowns, the wine countries, all of those things that people have come to love. Now the cost is high, and I think your opportunity for all component of the 2040 plan gets at some of this.
So what moves me in particular, what excites me about those five objectives in the 2040 plan, is how connected they are to each other. So they’re not arbitrary, they are part of a system. You can’t have world-class talent if you don’t have functional transportation systems and places that have character and a unique sense of place. And you can’t sustain those things if you don’t have green infrastructure in place, as we combat climate change and whatever is going to befall us in the future. So I think there’s this synergy between these objectives, that as we make progress on one, we’ll make progress on others, and that flywheel effect, I think will be really powerful for the 2040 plan.
Robert Morris, who was the founder of TerrAvion, is still one of my favorite founders I ever worked with. We incubated that company back in 2013. I once asked him, and I think I’ve said this on the pod before, but said, “What kinds of incentives might be helpful for startup companies to get them to want to come out here and locate? And he said, this is a family podcast, so I’ll say, he said, “Forget your incentives.” He said, “If you have good systems for moving people and ideas around, then startups will come to you.”
And I think that’s really reflected in what you’re identifying in a 2040 plan, is talent wants to go where the infrastructure is modern, the attitudes are modern and contemporary, and people are valued, and where they believe, going back to this optimism piece, where they believe that their contributions are going to be lucrative for them financially, people have to work for a living, but also that they can make this big impact like companies like Raydiant Oximetry and IrisVision and others you’re talking about.
So I’m excited, definitely, to see where we can plug in from a city governance and planning standpoint, how we can help to convene communities, particularly within the startup network and connect them to some of your larger enterprise institutional members, because there’s such a strong interplay there, but I think this is definitely hitting a lot of the right notes that we need to be focused on.
Lynn Naylor: Great. It’s so fun to be able to sit in a community where you can just look around and see what we’ve proven out by supporting our startup community and people entering the region. You think about some recent investments, it’s very exciting to think about, look what 10X Genomics… We’ve mentioned them several times, but $29 million in their headquarters here, starting in a garage, because they had what they needed here. Stanford Healthcare came to the community with a promise of a $50 million investment, and because they see what’s happening here and how exciting it is, they’ve now invested more than 300 million in the Tri-Valley community. And you can go on and on ZEISS, a 180 million in their new innovation center, Workday’s Investment. So we see these things are all proving themselves out. If we can keep our eye on the ball, of these goals and these objectives that are so important to the community, it is a really exciting time.
I have to mention Tim Sbranti, who’s just a masterful… On the policy side of some of these things, and really helping to weave the five cities together into the thinking of how do we execute this? And he’s been out on the road talking about the 2040 vision plan for months now, and there are people that are ingrained in the community, that do the two things you’ve always said, Brandon, it’s shine a light on others, tell stories of success, and then connect people and connect ideas. And both of our organizations are doing that, and that will keep us on the road to 2040.
Yolanda Fintschenko: This has been a great discussion, and I think one of the things that I’m really hearing loud and clear, is if you’re in the Tri-Valley, you’re invited. It’s now, and if you’re looking for some guidance, check out the 2040 vision. And there are multiple calls to action, and it sounds like we’re all in agreement, whoever you are, we want you.
Lynn Naylor: Yeah, and if we stay aligned, we can do amazing things together.
Yolanda Fintschenko: Absolutely.
Lynn Naylor: So that’s the thrill of now.
Yolanda Fintschenko: That is the thrill of now.
Brandon Cardwell: And that is a great place to leave it. So Lynn, thank you so much for coming on, talking about the 2040 plan. Yolanda, thanks for joining as a co-host.
Yolanda Fintschenko: It was my pleasure. Thanks for the invite.
Brandon Cardwell: This will not be the last time. Yeah, so thank you both for the conversation, and we’re going to do it again real soon.
Lynn Naylor: Great, thank you both. What a great day in the Tri-Valley.
Yolanda Fintschenko: Thank you, Lynn.
Brandon Cardwell: Thanks for listening. For more information, go to startuptrivalley.org.