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Starting from scratch

Business: Local tech entrepreneurs hope new group will help residents with big ideas build successfu

Posted: December 15, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: December 15, 2011 1:55 a.m.

Erick Arndt, left, creator of SCV Startup, explains his vision to the group at a meeting Tuesday at the Embassy Suites Valencia.

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When Valencia resident Erick Arndt had an idea for a startup two years ago, he sought out the tech startup and investing communities in the Santa Clarita area — and found none existed.

After reaching out to entrepreneurs and investors in Los Angeles, he realized many of them were from Santa Clarita, and were traveling over the hill to make connections and do business.

"I was surprised," said Arndt, who now runs timesharejuice.com, a website he created for timeshare owners to swap vacation sites. "Why don’t we have something here?"

So, Arndt began SCV Startup, a tech-oriented group of entrepreneurs, developers, designers and investors with two goals in mind: mentorship and resource sharing.

Within just a couple of weeks, the growth of the startup group has tripled in size and is attracting the attention of professional mentors and venture capitalists.

 

Modeling success

"This is not just a networking thing," Arndt told a group of about 15 at SCV Startup’s second meeting Tuesday night in the lobby area of the Embassy Suites Valencia.

"This is to move your business forward or to find who you can plug into to add value to your business."

SCV Startup’s model is based on the experiences of Brad Feld and David Cohen, two entrepreneurs who built a technology industry from the ground up in Boulder, Colo., and run TechStars, a mentorship-driven startup accelerator.

The two wrote Arndt’s bible for the local group, "Do More Faster," which provides practical advice from various successful entrepreneurs.

Arndt hopes to see something similar to TechStars give birth in Santa Clarita by creating what he calls "an MBA in ‘Startup."

The model gathers qualified group members and guests together. The guests are experts in the start-up and investment fields, guiding the members of the group in all aspects of a startup — marketing, development, design and funding.

"If we have the mentorship, if we have the interested investors, the community will form," Arndt said.

 

Presentations from professional mentors

One of Arndt’s goals is to have members of the capital-venture or angel-investment communities present at the monthly meetings — not so members can "scare them" with pitches, but to provide guidance and input on how to best prepare and present your startup in the future.

"There’s a lot more they can offer instead of just writing a check," Arndt said. "They play a part in the mix just like everyone else does."

Bob Aholt, vice chairman at Pasadena Angels, an angel group, explained that members will benefit from developing a 30-second pitch that has all of the information that an investor would need to hear about the startup.

"The only objective is to get to the next meeting with them," he said.

Aholt also said that members should use the second goal of SCV Startup — resource sharing — to build a solid startup team.

"You need the hacker tech guy, the business developer, the designer/builder and the visionary that pulls it all together," Aholt said.

Among Arndt’s plans for future meetings, he will have investors who will run through tips for an impressive pitch.

 

Triple growth

As the participants introduced themselves Tuesday night, the members explained a range of skills they were bringing to the table as well as the needs they were hoping to fulfill through SCV Startup.

Maitali Adhikari recently completed her Web development certification from College of Canyons and was having trouble finding employment opportunities that weren’t on a freelance basis. She said she was looking for such opportunities in SCV Startup.

Soyolab Baasan is developing a community job board application and, as a startup veteran, said he hoped his product would be one of the first successful startups out of the group.

The community job board app may be one of 12 startups that Arndt hopes to see come out of the group within the next 12 months.

Arndt hopes the group continues to grow in size — the attendance tripled from the first to the second meeting — and he is looking for a larger space in Santa Clarita for the monthly meetings.

The next meeting will feature a handful of successful tech entrepreneurs who will share three or four "uncensored pearls of wisdom" from their experiences in building a startup, Arndt said.

From there, the group’s focus will flesh out more as he gauges what resources the group needs to build these businesses.

"We can start to build some productive companies," Arndt said. "Can you imagine if we had more high-tech jobs right here in Awesometown? That’s the point."

For more information or to join SCV Startups go online to www.meetup.com/scv-startup.

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