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Changing of Guard for Startup Accelerator Partners

The economic chief at a Southern California city that’s a partner in a technology accelerator is joining another partner, a management and investment firm, to drive similar ventures.

In a move with broad implications for nascent IT startups, there’s a leadership change at a key partner in a Southern California technology accelerator aimed in part at driving replication of that organization statewide.
John Keisler
John Keisler

John Keisler, the veteran Long Beach executive who has been its economic development director for more than five years, will become CEO of capital management and investment firm Sunstone Management effective April 1. Together with the Institute for Innovation & Entrepreneurship at California State University, Long Beach, the city and Sunstone founded the nonprofit Long Beach Accelerator (LBA), an individualized four-month program of guidance and funding for startups, in April 2019. Keisler’s last day at Long Beach, where he has worked since April 2008, is March 31.

As CEO, he and Sunstone founding partner John Shen told Techwire, a major focus will be the establishment of public-private partnerships similar to LBA around the state — wherever there’s interest from a municipality and a university. Sunstone is working with the University of California, Irvine, to stand up a second such technology accelerator this year and onboard its first cohort of startups as soon as this summer.

“We’re excited because John Keisler brings in incredible leadership. I think on top of that, I really like John’s passion of supporting the grassroots entrepreneurs and his ability to develop unique businesses,” Shen said. “When John comes onboard, I think our goal is to continue to develop this accelerator program and maybe expand the business gradually to everywhere in California.”

Three areas of focus during his first year, Keisler said, will be identifying partners, informing investors and educating “early stage startups” on potential opportunities.

“We’ll be working to communicate with those key partners that helped us start the Long Beach Accelerator here in Long Beach, and identify the opportunities to build a network of nonprofit accelerators across the state of California, anywhere there’s a university and a city that’s a willing partner,” Keisler said, noting that the Cal State and University of California systems between them are educating more than 700,000 students at 33 campuses. The CEOs and chief administrative officers at the state’s 482 cities and 58 counties, he added, “are all seeking a new vision for business development, business attraction and job growth. And Sunstone is going to be providing that vision. And the operational and capital behind it so that those 482 cities, those 58 counties will have an economic development strategy for the future.”

LBA has worked with more than 20 startups in three cohorts to date, and four companies have received acquisition offers. Its fourth cohort starts in July. On Feb. 15, LBA announced the LBA Hyper Growth Capital Program, a new program exclusive to current and previous cohort companies, offering a half-million dollars “in direct equity funding for hiring talent and investment in other core business areas.”
Theo Douglas is Assistant Managing Editor of Industry Insider — California.