Nonprofit Venture to Support College Startups, Spur Innovation

Oct, 2022
College of the Redwoods and Cal Poly Humboldt signs

Two highly experienced Silicon Valley executives announced today the launch of a Northern California nonprofit angel venture aimed at supporting a unique group of budding entrepreneurs: students, faculty, and staff from Cal Poly Humboldt and College of the Redwoods.

Lost Coast Ventures (LCV) was founded by Cal Poly Humboldt alumni John Ballard and Dan Phillips. Ballard is the former president of SPX Communication Technologies, and Phillips is the former chief technology officer for Hulu. 

LCV will source and provide seed capital to commercialize promising concepts that have the potential to become scalable businesses. LCV will support projects in all disciplines, with a priority in engineering, marine biology, aquaculture, computer information systems, data science, water and energy, specialty agriculture, environmental sciences, and manufacturing and construction. 

In addition to injecting seed capital, LCV will assist promising businesses by providing advising engagements and sustained mentoring activities, and  will help businesses seek additional funding to support their growth when needed.

Ballard estimates that by 2027, LCV will fund at least five early-stage, scalable business concepts that show promise.  LCV is anticipated to provide seed capital that returns more than $5 million in equity to Cal Poly Humboldt and College of the Redwoods, while adding more than 250 jobs to the local region. 

“This initiative is about giving people a shot at bringing novel, scalable businesses to fruition with the support and expertise they may not otherwise receive,” Ballard says.  

“We expect LCV to help create an environment where some of the world’s next successful enterprises can get their start on the North Coast and call this special place ‘home,’” says Phillips, who attended College of the Redwoods and transferred to what was then Humboldt State University. 

Members of the LCV board include Cal Poly Humboldt's Shawna Young, dean of the College of Professional Studies; Chris Gaines, a Humboldt and College of the Redwoods faculty member; and Humboldt alumnus and entrepreneur Matthew Cendejas.

Ballard and Phillips, who have been inspired by their Cal Poly Humboldt educations, have already given more than $1 million to Cal Poly Humboldt. Their contributions have created scholarships that benefit students from local high schools, College of the Redwoods, and Cal Poly Humboldt. They also each serve as volunteers, leading efforts to raise additional funds for the University.

Ballard and Phillips announced that they will match, dollar for dollar, donations to LCV of up to $200,000, which will be used to support experiential learning programs at both Cal Poly Humboldt and College of the Redwoods.

Leveraging their 30 years of experience in multiple industries, Ballard and Phillips created LCV with the bigger picture in mind: to enhance the educational experience for Humboldt and College of the Redwoods students, inspire invention, and, in turn, invigorate the local economy. 

For Ballard and Phillips, they’re not only investing in ideas, but also an area with a bright economic future. In fact, LCV builds on several high-profile projects in the region. One of those is the designation of Cal Poly Humboldt as the third polytechnic institution in California. A project by Nordic Aquafarms, a Norwegian aquaculture company, aims to clean up a superfund site on the Samoa Peninsula and build a $400 million fish farm facility. A subsea fiber-optic cable, connecting Singapore to the United States through Eureka, is in the works. There are also plans by the federal government to sell offshore wind leases 20 miles off the coast of Humboldt Bay.

Learn how you can support the students and programs at Cal Poly Humboldt at or by calling  (707) 826-5200.