A view overlooking UC Riverside with snow-covered Mt. Baldy in the distance
September 17, 2021

Inaugural Riverside Angel Summit brings region together to invest in its own startups

The most promising startup as judged by Angel Investors will receive over $100,000 in investment

Author: UCR News
September 17, 2021

The Riverside Angel Summit initiative led by UC Riverside in partnership with the City of Riverside and local community leaders aims to strengthen the angel investment culture in Inland Southern California by connecting investors to high-quality, vetted entrepreneurs. 

The program seeks to demystify the process of equity investment by providing interested potential angel investors a combination of training, workshops on best practices, and networking opportunities with seasoned investors and business executives who will guide them through the angel investment process. Through the creation of a special purpose vehicle managed by Citrus Seeds LLC led by Sean Varner, managing partner of Varner & Brandt LLC Riverside; and Kevin Kelly, former CFO for Johnson Machinery, who will serve as fund manager; the Riverside Angel Summit will provide early-stage angel investors the opportunity to invest as a group and enhance their investment skills and network.  

“We have seen how entrepreneurship transforms communities. The Riverside community has worked for years to find the right platform to encourage local investment in emerging businesses and retention of entrepreneurs in our community. The Riverside Angel Summit and Citrus Seeds represents the most viable opportunity to achieve these goals we’ve seen yet. I am excited to see this platform make significant contributions to the Riverside entrepreneurial ecosystem,” Varner said.

Startups that participate in the Summit will benefit from a two-month educational program, due diligence process, and a chance to compete in a final pitch competition for a $100,000 investment by Citrus Seeds LLC.  

The program officially kicked off on Sept. 6 and will culminate with The Summit Conference on Thursday, Nov. 4, 2021, where the six startup finalists will pitch.  

The event is co-chaired by Riverside Mayor Patricia Lock Dawson and UC Riverside Chancellor Kim A. Wilcox.  

“Our goal with this initiative is to continue our momentum toward making Riverside an innovation hub that will gain international recognition,” Lock Dawson said. “As a co-chair of the Riverside Angel Summit, I look forward to strengthening Riverside’s entrepreneurial ecosystem, one that supports new discoveries and development of innovative high-tech solutions to worldwide problems.”

UCR’s Office of Technology Partnerships through its EPIC Small Business Development Center will lead the organization of the summit and the delivery of the educational program. The initiative is supported in part by a three-year grant from the Economic Development Administration’s Regional Innovation Strategies Seed Fund Support, or SFS.  The SFS grant, awarded to UCR, aims to increase access to capital to inland Southern California.

“Access to capital is essential for startups to scale and succeed as businesses,” said Rosibel Ochoa, UC Riverside associate vice chancellor of technology partnerships. “A robust local investment community is critical to help startups grow and roots them in a location where they can thrive. The Riverside Angel Summit will bring together funding and startups to strengthen the region’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.”


The Inland Empire has seen significant growth in technology-focused entrepreneurship over the past five years. UCR has contributed to this effort by leveraging over $22 million in federal, state, and private funding to bolster the region’s innovation ecosystem. Its portfolio of entrepreneurial programs, including the EPIC Small Business Development Center, combined with its more than 15 experience Entrepreneurs-in-Residence has helped launch over 45 startups that have raised more than $70 Million in private capital and grants with the majority of investment coming from outside the region.

“UCR is proud of its continuing efforts to leverage the talent of our world-class research, faculty, and students,” Wilcox said. “The Riverside Angel Summit will help build support for those same scientists and scholars as they commercialize their discoveries.” 

The Riverside Angel Summit will hold a series of 13 workshops to help prepare startup founders to become more proficient in pitching investors and raising equity capital.  For more information visit  riversideangelsummit.com .


About Citrus Seeds LLC 

Citrus Seeds LLC is a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) fund with $130,000-plus committed to date by local angel investors. The fund is managed by Kevin Kelly, past CFO of Johnson Machinery, and advised by Varner and Brandt LLP of Riverside. Click Here for more information about the fund.  


About UCR’s Office of Technology Partnerships 

UC Riverside’s Office of Technology Partnerships (OTP) facilitates the development and commercialization of ideas emanating from UCR and the community for the benefit of society. OTP provides faculty, students, and the community with an integrated approach to protect, validate, and transfer intellectual property; support corporate collaborations and industry sponsored research; as well obtain entrepreneurial education and startup development support. For more information, visit techpartnerships.ucr.edu.

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