Since 2004, the Ojai Valley Century annual bike ride has fostered a growing appreciation of the beauty and serenity of the Los Padres National Forest northwest of Los Angeles. The alluring mountain views and unique opportunity have helped the popularity of the event the grow steadily over the course of the last 12 years. As more routes have been added, the bike ride has drawn national praise. But aside from the view and journey itself, the bike ride has also fostered growth within the nearby community.
This year, the event served as an incubator of sorts. By the end of the 100-mile-long ride, UCLA Anderson Dean Judy Olian had convinced Board of Visitors member Jim Freedman (MBA’ 78) to become the newest supporter of the UCLA Anderson Venture Accelerator, part of UCLA Anderson’s Price Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. Current chairman and managing director of venture capitalist firm Intrepid Investment Bankers, Freedman accepted Olian’s invitation to become an integral new part of the accelerator.
“Having the resources to incubate companies is phenomenal,” he said at a ceremonial event held by Anderson and the UCLA Library. The accelerator is a modern 10,000-square-foot facility in the school’s Rosenfeld Library, launched by UCLA and UCLA Anderson last January.
“Jim’s generosity doesn’t end with what his gift enables here,” Olian said during the event, which also featured several other donors, including General Atlantic Advisory Director William O. Grabe, (MBA ‘63). “It extends to the advice he gives student entrepreneurs as an alumnus. That engagement is as priceless as anything,” she continued.
The event also featured several more recent alumni, including ‘15 EMBA graduate Derek Herrera. The UCLA Anderson alumnus received the coveted John Wooden Global Leadership Fellowship in 2014. Two years prior, Herrera was a U.S. Marines special operations officer but was unfortunately struck in battle and paralyzed from the waist down. Ever the persistent optimist, Herrera chose to view his new situation as an opportunity, enrolling at UCLA Anderson and eventually creating Spinal Singularity—a pre-seed company that helps those with severe spinal injuries and diseases with a minimally invasive, permanent “smart” catheter system dubbed the Connected Catheter.
Other alumni attending the event were AECOM member Rex White (MBA ‘15), investment banker David Feldman (MBA ’06), and Mariana Danilovic (MBA ’94), who now serves as managing director at Hollywood Portfolio, a content aggregate and distribution site specializing in local businesses.
Olian culminated the event, remarking, “We recognize that it isn’t just business skills that go to market. It’s not just about money, it’s about wisdom.”