🏦 Stifel Bank: Helping Others Succeed

Hi folks,

Excited to share another LA startup profile. This week’s profile covers not a founder or investor, but rather an ecosystem partner without whom, LA’s entrepreneurship scene would not be possible.

If you’re a startup founder or VC in Los Angeles, I can almost guarantee you’re at most two degrees of separation from Al Guerrero. If you don’t know him, someone in your network does. Al is a fixture of the LA tech scene and, more importantly, is one of those people everyone likes instantly – one Zoom call, one conversation at an event, and you feel like Al is your best friend.

After years as a startup banker at SVB, Al is now building his own startup – a bank within a bank.

👦🏻 Early Life

Alejandro “Al” Guerrero’s story starts in San Francisco. Al was a Bay Area kid, raised by parents who emigrated from Mexico, met in English class, and got married soon after. When he was six years old, Al’s parents opened a Mexican restaurant in Berkeley called Guerrero’s, where he spent his evenings after school doing homework and helping out in the restaurant. Working while studying didn’t hold his (or his siblings’) grades back, though. He, his brother, and his sister all excelled in school, and all three attended UC Berkeley as first generation college students.

At Berkeley, Al studied business and, like many of us, didn’t know exactly what he wanted to do with his life post-college.

I majored in business because in my mind, “business people have jobs” and education for me was a path to provide for my family since they had sacrificed so much to put me in this position.

He also participated in Inroads, a non-profit dedicated to helping minority students break into corporate America. The organization marked two of Al’s defining characteristics starting to come into focus. The first is Al’s consummate ability to make meaningful connections in the business world. He’s a networker in the best sense of the word – as I mentioned above, everyone knows Al! The second characteristic is Al’s dedication to diversity and helping immigrants and people of color succeed.

After college, Al moved an hour south to attend Stanford’s Graduate School of Business and then onto investment banking at Merrill Lynch in Los Angeles, a city he hasn’t left since.

👨🏻💼 LA and 2023 Banking Crisis

Like many Angelenos, Al dabbled in Hollywood for a while, leading innovation and eventually starting the venture arm of Technicolor, the storied post production company. Throughout his time there, Al and his teams worked with brands, movie studios, and startups to bring their visions to life.

This servant mission led Al to his next firm, Silicon Valley Bank, where many of you likely met him.

To be honest, entering the commercial banking sector wasn’t something that was on my radar, so it was a bit of a risk (for both SVB and me) when I took the role. But I believed I had found my career calling with that role. I could leverage everything I had done in the past – from my time as a venture capitalist, to my time at a startup, to my finance background. Even my time at my family’s restaurant was relevant as it was instrumental in building a strong belief in customer service.

Al spent six years at SVB in LA as a managing director. Al's time at SVB was marked by unwavering support for the Los Angeles startup ecosystem. He nurtured relationships with founders and investors, recognizing the pivotal role banking could play in supporting innovative ventures. His customer-centric approach and commitment to delivering exceptional service endeared him to the entrepreneurial community. After supporting hundreds of startups and venture funds, Al left the firm following the devastating bank run, which led to the collapse of SVB.

The banking crisis was very stressful for both our clients and the employees of the company. During this time, I felt a huge outpouring of support from the LA startup community, many members of which had reached out to check in on me. I vividly remember being overwhelmed with emotion (and tears) when I read all of the posts on LinkedIn supporting me the day after the bank run. The support I felt reaffirmed my resolve to continue supporting the LA startup ecosystem, both in good and challenging times, similar to how the ecosystem had been there for me.

👨🏻💻 Building Stifel West Coast Venture Banking

But every crisis is an opportunity! Al had relationships and experience, which were now extremely desirable for other banks looking to move into the startup banking space, and Stifel came knocking.

I wanted to find a home that would be entrepreneurial, with the ability to move fast to support a client base that requires that level of responsiveness. I also wanted to go to a place that had experience in venture banking and that had strong CEO support. I found all of that at Stifel. Plus, when I found out that there were a total of 30 former SVBers moving over to Stifel, all of whom were the ‘best of the best’, it made my decision a no-brainer.

So what is Stifel and what does it do differently from its peers?

Stifel isn’t truly a startup – it’s a 130-year old financial institution. Al and the other ex-SVBers are building a startup within Stifel, though. The West Coast venture banking practice is brand new[GA(-LA1] , built from the ground up by Al and his team. In his own words,

Stifel’s Venture Banking is a full service commercial bank serving VC backed companies from inception to exit. After countless conversations with founders and investors, we have learned relationship-focused banking is critical to the venture ecosystem. To a degree, banking can be a commodity, and high-touch, white-glove service is what’s missing in the market. Our goal is to fill this gap and be available to support our clients at all times. For Seed and Series A companies, we are providing them a tailored banking bundle with flexibility, security and they can earn interest at very attractive rates. We are also active lenders to startups – issuing over 100 terms sheets in 100 days. From venture debt for Series A companies to lines of credit for later stage companies, we are here to support startups as they continue to scale.

We also bank venture funds, many of which may be struggling to find a bank that can support them. Our offering includes capital call lines which many banks aren’t as focused on providing in today’s market. Because of this focus, we have deep relationships with VCs that can prove to be helpful for our startups.

Lastly, we are actively supporting the SoCal Tech market. In the short time we’ve been at Stifel, we’ve already hosted over 14 events, and many of them were networking events for founders and VCs.

So who should talk to Al and his team at Stifel? To be honest, I’d say anyone looking for a good conversation, but anyone building a new startup or setting up a new venture fund is who they can help most.

Al has been a pillar of the LA tech scene for almost 10 years now, and it’s exciting to see him wearing his entrepreneurial hat with Stifel Venture Banking.

*This post was written in a paid partnership with Stifel Bank*

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🏰 Disney's Epic Investment Stands Out Amidst Gaming Industry Layoffs

Christian Hetrick

Christian Hetrick is dot.LA's Entertainment Tech Reporter. He was formerly a business reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and reported on New Jersey politics for the Observer and the Press of Atlantic City.

🔦 Spotlight

In the midst of widespread gaming industry layoffs, a glimmer of positive news emerges as Disney announces a significant move: a $1.5 billion investment in Epic Games. 🏰💰🐭

Image Source: Disney

Disney's $1.5 billion investment in Epic Games, disclosed late Wednesday, signals a strategic alignment aimed at expanding the success of "Fortnite." The deal enhances Epic's growth prospects after financial setbacks, including layoffs, and strengthens the partnership between the two companies. With Disney gaining a larger equity stake in Epic, the collaboration will broaden the integration of beloved Disney franchises like Marvel, Star Wars, Pixar, and Avatar into the game, potentially boosting its appeal and longevity. This significant investment underscores Disney's commitment to interactive entertainment and signifies a shift towards games as a primary revenue stream, aligning with the growing trend of digital engagement among younger demographics. Moreover, the potential for crossover sales of physical Disney products within "Fortnite" and the exploration of new content distribution channels are just some of the opportunities arising from this partnership.

For LA tech, the Disney-Epic Games partnership represents a validation of the region's burgeoning tech and gaming ecosystem. The substantial investment in Epic, who maintains a large Los Angeles office with 1,000+ employees (according to LinkedIn), reflects confidence in the LA’s talent pool and innovation potential. Additionally, this partnership between two industry giants fosters an environment for further collaboration, investment, and growth within LA's tech sector. As Disney and Epic Games deepen their ties and explore new avenues for content integration and distribution, it not only elevates the prominence of LA as a tech hub but also stimulates economic growth and job creation in the region. This partnership highlights LA's unique position as a hub where technology and entertainment converge. With its ability to integrate diverse industries, LA is driving innovation and expansion in digital entertainment. 🚀💸🎮

🤝 Venture Deals

LA Companies

  • ProducePay, a financing and marketplace platform for the fresh produce market, raised a $38M Series D led by Syngenta Group Ventures joined by Commonfund, Highgate Private Equity, G2 Venture Partners, Anterra Capital, Astanor Ventures, Endeavor8, Avenue Venture Opportunities, Avenue Sustainable Solutions, and Red Bear Angels. - learn more
  • Blush, an invite-only dating app that drives users to local businesses on dates, raised a $7M Seed Round from individuals like Naval Ravikant. - learn more
  • Mogul, a startup founded last year that provides an overview of an artist's royalty earnings and identifies areas where money is owed but has not yet been collected, raised a $1.9 million seed round from Wonder Ventures, United Talent Agency, AmplifyLA, and Creator Partners. - learn more
  • Avnos, a hybrid direct air capture startup, raised a $36M Series A led by NextEra Energy and joined by Safran Corporate Ventures, Shell Ventures, Envisioning Partners, and Rusheen Capital Management. - learn more
  • AI.fashion, startup whose mission is to help retailers enhance the online shopping experience by providing consumers with virtual try-ons and personalized fashion recommendations, raised a $3.6M Seed Round led by Neo. - learn more
  • Suma Wealth, startup that aims to demystify financial topics and provide culturally relevant content, virtual experiences, and resources to help Latino users navigate financial challenges and opportunities, raised a $2.2M Seed Round . Radicle Impact led, and was joined by Vamos Ventures, OVO fund and the American Heart Association Impact Fund. - learn more
  • 222, a startup that helps users discover their city and meet new people through unique social experiences, raised a $2.5M Seed Round. Investors included 1517 Fund, General Catalyst, Best Nights VC, Scrum Ventures, and Upfront Ventures. - learn more
  • LimaCharlie, a security operations cloud platform, raised a $10.2M Series A led by Sands Capital. - learn more
  • Polycam, an app that uses a smartphone’s sensors to capture 3D scans of objects, raised an $18M Series A co-led by Left Lane Capital and Adjacent, and joined by Adobe Ventures and individuals like Chad Hurley and Shaun Maguire. -learn more.

LA Venture Funds

Actively Raising

  • ReelCall, Inc., an entertainment technology company focused on powerful apps and platforms that help build and maintain the professional network of connections vital to career growth, is raising a $850K Pre-Seed Round. - learn more
  • CZero, a startup building software to decarbonize logistics for logistics businesses and goods business through a vetted marketplace and optimization software. - learn more
  • Couri, a technology startup addressing last-mile delivery issues, is raising a $450K Pre-Seed Round at a $2.2M post money valuation. - learn more
  • Sweetie, a marketplace to help people plan date nights, is raising a $1.5M Pre Seed Round. - learn more
  • StartupStarter, an investment platform that provides real-time data and analytics on startups, is raising an $850K Angel Round. - learn more

If you’re a founder raising money in Los Angeles, give us a shout, and we’d love to include you in the newsletter!

Venture Waves, Climate Tech Wins, and Silicon Beach's Ongoing Evolution

Christian Hetrick

Christian Hetrick is dot.LA's Entertainment Tech Reporter. He was formerly a business reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and reported on New Jersey politics for the Observer and the Press of Atlantic City.

Anduril Seeks $1.5B in VC Funds

Defense company Anduril Industries Inc., based in Costa Mesa and founded by Palmer Luckey, is seeking to raise $1.5 billion in fresh funds to boost its valuation to $12.5 billion or more, according to sources quoted by The Information. This fundraising effort, if successful, would mark one of the largest venture capital rounds of the year.

Image Source: Anduril

Anduril recently secured a contract to develop and test small unmanned fighter jet prototypes under the Air Force’s Collaborative Combat Aircraft (CCA) program, beating out major defense companies like Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and Northrop Grumman. Alongside General Atomics, Anduril will design, manufacture, and test these aircraft, with a final multibillion-dollar production decision expected in fiscal year 2026. This program aims to deliver at least 1,000 combat aircraft to fly in concert with manned platforms and is part of the Air Force’s Next Generation Air Dominance initiative. Central to Anduril’s success in this contract is the Fury autonomous air vehicle, acquired through the purchase of Blue Force Technologies. This victory underscores Anduril's rapid advancement in the defense sector, aligning with Luckey's vision of building faster and more cost-effective defense assets. - learn more

Los Angeles Ranks Number 1 in Emerging Climate Tech Hub

The 2024 Emerging Climate Tech Hubs Report by Revolution highlights Los Angeles as a burgeoning center for climate tech innovation. LA's growth in this sector is driven by its diverse talent pool, strong research institutions, and a culture of environmental consciousness. The city's unique mix of legacy industries, such as entertainment and aerospace, alongside emerging tech companies, positions it as a pivotal player in the climate tech landscape. This shift reflects a broader trend of decentralized climate tech funding across the U.S., reducing the historical dominance of California's traditional hubs. - learn more

Silicon Beach: Looking Back, Moving Forward

Assessing the overall health of the startup market is challenging, especially as venture capital funding has decreased by an average of 61% from 2021 to 2023 across the top VC markets in the US. Markets with robust ecosystems in AI, SaaS, Biotech, Healthtech, and Fintech appear to be weathering the downturn better than those focused on Consumer and Gaming industries, areas where Los Angeles traditionally excels.

Percent Change In VC Funding By Region

CB Insights

LA Times paints a rather bleak outlook on the Los Angeles tech scene noting venture capital funding in Greater Los Angeles plummeted 73% from 2021 to 2022. Silicon Beach, once a vibrant tech corridor, currently faces high vacancy rates and lacks late-stage financiers, especially in the AI sector. However, there are positive signs, including growth in aerospace startups and increased venture capital investment in early 2024, suggesting a potential rebound for LA's tech ecosystem.

While LA may not be exceeding expectations during this period, its tech ecosystem warrants a nuanced evaluation, given the broader market dynamics and its strong performance in specific sectors. Reach out to us with your thoughts.

🚀 SpaceX gears up for another stellar year, active raises, and more

Christian Hetrick

Christian Hetrick is dot.LA's Entertainment Tech Reporter. He was formerly a business reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and reported on New Jersey politics for the Observer and the Press of Atlantic City.

Happy Friday Los Angeles! You made it through the first week of 2024!

🔦 Spotlight

Elon Musk may be a divisive (albeit entertaining) figure, but the continued success of SpaceX is pivotal for the aerospace industry in Los Angeles and more broadly around the world.

Image Source: SpaceX webcast

What happened with SpaceX in 2023?

  • Elon Musk challenged Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg to a cage fight.
  • SpaceX launched 96 successful missions with its Falcon series of rockets, a 57% increase over its previous annual record.
  • SpaceX conducted two test flights of the largest and most powerful rocket ever built, Starship.
  • Roughly two-thirds of SpaceX's launches in 2023 were devoted to building out Starlink, the company's satellite-internet megaconstellation.
  • Isaacson’s Elon Musk biography was published in September including everything from Musk’s tumultuous relationship with his father to his work ethic and “demon mode”.

Moving forward what can we expect from SpaceX and its controversial founder? Continued innovation pushing the aerospace industry to new limits? Yes. More drama? Without a doubt.

Here is some of what is to come in 2024:

🤝 Venture Deals

Just Announced

Check back next week!

LA Exits

  • CG Oncology, an Irvine, CA-based developer of immunotherapies for bladder cancer, filed for a $100M IPO. It plans to list on the Nasdaq (CGON) with Morgan Stanley as left lead underwriter, and has raised around $317m in VC funding. - learn more
  • McNally Capital agreed to sell Advanced Micro Instruments, a Costa Mesa, CA-based maker of gas analyzers and sensing technologies, to Enpro (NYSE: NPO). - learn more

Actively Raising

  • ReelCall, Inc., an entertainment technology company focused on powerful apps and platforms that help build and maintain the professional network of connections vital to career growth, is raising a $850K Pre-Seed Round. - learn more
  • CZero, a hard-tech startup that is developing a technology for decarbonizing natural gas, is raising a $1.5M Seed Round. - learn more
  • Couri, a technology startup addressing last-mile delivery issues, is raising a $450K Pre-Seed Round at a $2.2M post money valuation. - learn more
  • Sweetie, a marketplace to help people plan date nights, is raising a $250K Angel Round. - learn more
  • StartupStarter, an investment platform that provides real-time data and analytics on startups, is raising an $850K Angel Round. - learn more

If you’re a founder raising money in Los Angeles, give us a shout, and we’d love to include you in the newsletter!

📅 LA Tech Calendar

Sunday, January 7th

Wednesday, January 10th

  • Startup Cafe: Networking with a Kick - Entrepreneurs, Startups, and Tech Enthusiasts join together to meet and connect with like-minded people, industry professionals and investors, while enjoying a nice cup of coffee in Venice at The KINN. This week’s interactive discussion about AI’s evolution in entertainment will feature Dr. Sam Khoze and Rachel Joy Victor.
  • Venice Tech Happy Hour- Join Startup Coil and FoundrHaus Wednesday evening and enjoy the sunset from the rooftop, grab a bite overlooking Abbot Kinney, and mingle with other tech enthusiasts and entrepreneurs by the bar on the patio.

Have an awesome event coming up? Reach out to be featured on next week’s Newsletter!

📙 What We’re Reading

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