SAN DIEGO

TL FOUNDATION

Building a Better San Diego for Future Generations.

This is the TL Foundation: A testament to the enduring spirit of San Diego’s entrepreneurial leadership and commitment to community. We are not just supporting projects; we are investing in the future, the ideas, and the people that will shape our tomorrow. We are building the best inclusive innovation ecosystem on the planet.

Welcome To The TL Foundation

The Fund

The individuals behind the TL Fund care deeply about San Diego. They also happen to be some of the most established investors and leaders in San Diego, with extensive backgrounds across both tech and life sciences.

Unlike any other fund, TL operates without a management fee, and without any single person getting a carry. All returns go right back into the foundation’s fund, so that it grows exponentially. It is designed to give back to future generations of San Diegans in perpetuity.

Early-stage seed and pre-seed investments are the focus. Across tech and life sciences. In San Diego. Our accelerator approach will leverage our extensive community of venture-backed CEOs and domain experts to help advance the portfolio of companies. Not just for eight weeks – but uniquely throughout the company’s life cycle.

As the fund gets larger, we will invest in more companies. Because it is a nonprofit 501(c)3, donations are tax-deductible. Companies and individuals can donate shares as well.

We start investing in San Diego June 2024.

For more information about the TL Foundation, email Mike Krenn <mkrenn@connect.org>

Board of Directors & Team

The team consists of some of San Diego’s most established leaders. Experienced in investing, startups, tech and life sciences – the group’s collective network is second to none, and will be actively engaged to help our portfolio companies succeed.

Andy

Andy Ballester
Board Chair

Mike

Mike Krenn
CEO

David Titus
Fund Manager

Carin

Carin Canale-Theakston

Eric

Eric Otterson

James

James Mackay

Mary

Mary Walshok

Rick

Rick Valencia

Sureel Sheth

Tim Scott

The Mission

San Diego’s innovation economy is more than a sector. It’s foundational to every region’s future on the global stage. There will be winners and losers. We are positioning San Diego to not only thrive, but to be a better community as we grow. We aspire to create economic opportunity for families across the entirety of our megaregion.

The TL Fund is a BIG idea.

We’ve already helped San Diego grow from a $1B venture market to one that is now $5B annually, the fifth largest venture investment market in the country. TL is admittedly a small investor as a “fund.” But our focus is distinct. Others simply seek “bigger.” We will fill gaps, do the work, engage leaders, and focus our efforts to make San Diego “better.”

We are building the best inclusive innovation ecosystem on the planet.

The Backstory

A relatively small group of folks (Conrad Prebys, Irwin & Joan, The Rady’s, Malin, and others) helped make this city what it is. They inspire us. We want to continue their legacy, and make San Diego better for future generations.

Before those philanthropists, there was Kate Sessions. When Kate came to town, San Diego was essentially a desert. She discovered trees that would thrive here, and changed our city forever.

The metaphor is simple and aspirational. Kate started with one tree. She inspired others. Together, they transformed San Diego forever.

We can do the same. Our economy is foundational for the region. While the fund will enable thoughtful investment for generations, the “Tree Lady Club” can be even bigger than the fund. We are gathering leaders – leaders who care about the future of our region. Working together, we can help create the change we want for our region’s economic future. The goal is simple: to create the best innovation ecosystem on the planet.

Frequently Asked Questions
How is this different from a traditional venture fund?

From the company’s perspective – not much at all. Companies will receive a traditional, founder-friendly investment. From the fund’s perspective – it is entirely different. No one gets rich, but San Diego. The investors will not get their money back, their investment is 100% philanthropic. Similarly, the managers of the fund will get neither a carry (typically 20% of the returns), nor a management fee (typically 2% of assets under management. Instead, all returns will go right back into the Foundation to be redistributed back into the ecosystem.

How / Why is this good for San Diego?

Our goal is to build a large evergreen fund that continually gives back to San Diego in perpetuity. Hopefully a $15M fund becomes $30M, which grows to $100M years from now. Those dollars will get invested back into the startup community, creating high-quality jobs across the region. We believe a strong, diverse base of innovation companies creates a strong macro economy. Our intention is to be a tier one global innovation hub. Not necessarily the biggest – but the best inclusive innovation ecosystem on the planet.

Does any other region have anything like this?

No, San Diego is the first. This is for San Diego by San Diegans – people who are passionate about the future of our region, and making it better for generations to come. San Diego is awesome, and we intend to make it even better.

How is this different from a traditional accelerator?

There isn’t an 8-week cohort approach. Working with Connect, we are there to help your company scale well beyond the 8 weeks, for many years ahead. We can access different industry experts and advisors over the lifecycle of the company, depending on the needs and stage of the company. Connect is uniquely successful with a long history of helping local companies raise venture funding, further enhancing the trajectory of companies selected.

What kind of companies are you seeking to invest in?

Much like traditional venture firms, we are looking for tech, life science and CPG companies that are highly scalable. This is an early seed investment. We expect to help these companies raise venture capital. We will seek to build a diverse portfolio across the tech and life sciences arenas. We will actively seek out companies with diverse founders and management teams.

What are the near and long term goals of the Foundation?

Admittedly, the early years are focused on getting positive returns, and growing the size of the fund. Once we get to sufficient size, the board has the ability to make grants and other investments to help the broader mission of creating economic opportunity across the region. The bigger the fund, the greater the impact the Foundation can make.

Who can be a philanthropic investor and why is it important?

Anyone who believes that a strong innovation economy is important to the future prosperity of San Diego and all families across our megaregion. If you’re interested in learning more, we’d love to talk to you. We are extremely grateful to our initial backers, Buzz Woolley and Malin Burnham.

Nonprofits designed to support economic opportunity are strangely hard to build. We’re just not high on philanthropic radars. Yet what we do, building a strong diverse economy, is foundational to the region’s future.

Who is running the fund?

Mike Krenn, who is CEO of Connect, is also CEO of the Fund, with zero upside. Mike is the former founder of Tech Coast Angels (now NuFund) and has helped more than 100 companies raise venture capital, well in excess of $800M. Dave Titus, a former venture capitalist who has a long history in San Diego as the founder of Windward Ventures, will oversee the application and investment process. A separate investment committee will approve all investments.

How do companies apply?

For this cycle, companies must apply through the Connect Cool Companies program. The application and more info on Cool Companies can be found on the Connect website at connect.org. There are typically thirty Cool Companies every year, of which five will be selected for investment.

When will the first investments be made?

At present, the TL Fund is anticipating a first wave of investments to be made this Summer.

What is the inspiration for creating the Foundation and taking it forward?

Connect was founded by amazing individuals – people like Buzz Woolley, Irwin Jacobs, David Hale, and Mary Walshok – who paved the way for San Diego to have an amazing innovation ecosystem. At the same time, San Diego has benefited from the generous philanthropy of a handful of individuals, people like Buzz, Malin Burnham, Irwin Jacobs, Ernest Rady, Conrad Prebys, David Hale and Denny Sanford. These people largely created the San Diego we love. We hope to inspire the next generation of leaders in their likeness.

Join The TL Foundation Community

STAY IN THE KNOW WITH THE TREE LADY FOUNDATION BY FOLLOWING CONNECT’S NEWSLETTER AND SOCIAL MEDIA. START THE CONVERSATION AROUND DONATING TODAY!