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How One Santa Barbara Venture Capital Firm Mentors Startups

Julie Henley McNamara and Jason Spievak of Entrada Ventures. | Credit: Daniel Dreifuss

This article appeared in the Santa Barbara Independent's Tech Talk

Founded in 2018 by a who’s who of veteran Santa Barbara tech operators, entrepreneurs, and investors, Entrada Ventures focuses on early investments that help startups develop into strong businesses ready for their first round of institutional financing. The firm and its team’s list of affiliations include ACT (Medtronic), Apeel Sciences, Aurrion (Juniper), CallWave, Invoca, Local Market Launch, SmartReceipt (Mobivity),, ValueClick (Conversant), and Web Ignite, among others.

Entrada was started under the principle that there was not much investor support in Santa Barbara. “There’s money, but not a lot of support about how to navigate fundraising, building a company, operations, financials, marketing, and all of that,” explained Julie Henley McNamara, Entrada’s operating partner and a Cal Poly grad. “We want to give money but also be helpful to the community with our portfolio of companies. It’s all about the 805.”

When business is not restricted by COVID, the VC fund team holds regular office hours at UCSB, Cal Poly, and the downtown Kiva Cowork space. “Julie is really the inspiration behind some of this,” said managing partner Jason Spievak. “We want to make that capital conversation more accessible to small businesses here in the region.” They aren’t necessarily looking for proper pitches, just an introduction. “The office hours are also a way to put less pressure on young people if they just want to talk.” 

Once Entrada invests, the collaboration is geared to the need. That ranges from becoming part of the board and meeting weekly to a much less active role. “It really kind of depends on the company,” said McNamara. “The way we like to work with them is to be as helpful as we can but not be interfering and not be intrusive.” And if she’s the interface but the need is something she cannot provide, McNamara can call on one of her partners or search through her extensive network to find the right solution. 


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