Cool Companies FAQs
Learn more about the annual Cool Companies program from Connect with these Frequently Asked Questions.
Who should apply?
We’re looking for companies that are gearing up to/thinking about raising their first round of institutional funding within the next 6 to 12 months across all industry verticals in both the tech and life sciences fields.
What can a company expect from the program, and what do we expect from Cool Companies?
We want to get to know you, and better understand your business, so that we can find the right investors/partners/supporters for you and your team. There will be a round of first meetings and then regular touch points through the rest of the year.
Do I need to be a Connect company in order to apply?
Nope! We’re hoping to find the best and brightest upcoming companies in San Diego and we know that new innovative companies are getting started all the time. We want to get to know you and even if you’re not ready for Cool Companies quite yet, we want to help you get there or find the local resources that can help you on your startup journey.
Does it help to know someone at Connect?
It can — it’s always good to have a champion in your corner, whether it’s at Connect or any market influencer. Is it a requirement? Not even close, no. We choose companies every year that we’ve never heard about. We love reading pitch decks!
What VCs do you reach out to?
Throughout the year, we keep in touch with hundreds of VCs all around the country, and a few from all over the world. This yearly selection of companies helps us stay up to date with what’s on the rise in San Diego so that we can share SDs best and brightest with investors everywhere.
Is there a cost to the program?
Nope! Connect offers the Cool Company program (as well as Springboard, Meet a Mentor, Office Hours, and virtual sessions of our Frameworks workshops) free of charge to our San Diego startups. Thank a sponsor!
How do you do all this for free?
Our generous sponsors and grantors enable our nonprofit to provide free and subsidized resources to entrepreneurs like you. So if you have a chance, thank a Cool Company sponsor — Mintz, Perkins Coie, Marsh McLennan, BDO, Moss Adams, JLL, Cox Business, or Qualcomm Ventures — for providing fiscal and industry support at a time when it is needed now more than ever.
We are an official Small Business Development Center (SBDC), allowing us to offer services for free to startup businesses, and part of the San Diego & Imperial SBDC Network. We are funded in part through a cooperative agreement with the US Small Business Administration, and in part through a Grant with the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development.
Additionally, we offer a discounted membership rate for all startups to become Connect members and startups selected for the Cool Companies program will receive a free year of membership during the year they are selected.
Should I apply if I’m pre-revenue or pre-clinical?
Sure! Every industry is a little different, and each company will take a different path.
Can I re-apply if I’ve been a Cool Company in the past?
Absolutely! Some companies have even been Cool Companies in back-to-back years.
What are the key criteria you consider for selection?
There is no “grading system.” We believe it’s both art and science. Do you need to have key metrics — of course, but every company is different. Different industries, markets, stage of development, and management. We do our best to try and select companies across multiple verticals, that we believe will be of interest to VCs.
What is the competition like to become a Cool Company?
Is it hard to be a Cool co? — yes. Should it be a high bar? Of course. We receive around 300 applications a year and usually select around 30 companies to participate in the program. VCs see 2000-3000 deals per year. They’ll invest in less than 10. It’s supposed to be hard. A lot of companies don’t make it in their first attempt.
What happens if I’m not selected this year?
We still want to help! If you’re not at the right stage for Cool Companies, we have other programs that you can take advantage of to help get your company there. Check out our year-round Springboard Accelerator program, our new Meet a Mentor program, our workshop & educational series of events called Frameworks, and Office Hours for free one-on-one assistance.
Many Cool Companies are not selected the first year they apply. We still want to get to know you. We regularly help companies at various stages of growth with more than just connections to capital.
You only get to make a first impression with a VC once, and we want you to be ready for that meeting.
What is the big picture thinking behind Cool Cos?
By presenting VCs with high quality deal flow – their broad opinion of SD goes up. VCs nationally look to the Cool Companies as representative of the innovation in San Diego. Every time a company like Airspace, or Truvian, or Cloudbeds raises money, whether the intro is from us or not — it makes it easier for 3 companies behind them to attract interest. That’s how SD has gone from $1.4B to $3.6B to $4.6B. We create VC FOMO.
Even if you’re not a Cool Co this year, we believe you are benefiting the macro tech and life sci market.
Do I have to be a San Diego-based company?
The goal of Cool Companies is to help elevate the stature of our local innovation economy. There have been Cool Companies selected from Utah, Arizona, and even Mexico, but the bar is admittedly a little higher for companies outside of Southern California.