Reflections on 2016: Rob Freelen, Silicon Valley Bank

All this holiday season, we have been sharing the reflections on 2016 from the movers and shakers in Southern California's technology ecosystem. Here, we have the thoughts of Rob Freelen of Silicon Valley Bank ( Silicon Valley Bank is big supporter and has been a sponsor of socaltech for many, many years. You can see all of our holiday reflections here.

What's the biggest news from you or your‏ firm this year?

Rob Freelen: Silicon Valley Bank's footprint continues to grow in LA. In 2016, our Santa Monica office more than doubled market share of early-stage companies. Though we bank companies large and small around the globe, here in L.A. we're proud to be part of one of the world's most vibrant innovation ecosystems with some of the fastest growing companies and most creative entrepreneurs.

What's the biggest lesson you learned this year?

Rob Freelen: The best lesson I learned in 2016 is that a well-managed company can succeed in any funding environment. Despite the Q1 correction in valuation, and subsequent drop in VC funding, we saw numerous LA companies not only survive, but thrive - despite the macroeconomic trends. One example is Santa Monica-based hardware company, Ring, who transitioned to a hybrid business model that now includes recurring revenue. Other examples include media tech companies ZEFR and GumGum – both having record years and positioned extremely well for continued growth in 2017.

What's your favorite technology gadget, device, or innovation you ran across this year?

Rob Freelen: In a year of political and social disruption, I discovered Headspace, a meditation app. I studied East Asian religions in college and was intrigued to hear that a Buddhist monk was delivering meditation and mindfulness via a mobile app. Then I found Headspace - founder Andy Puddicombe's soothing voice was for me, love at first listen. “True peace of mind is always there, you just have to learn how to find it,” says Andy, who became a Buddhist monk after a series of personal tragedies. In the interest of full disclosure, Headspace is a client of SVB Santa Monica.

Finally, what do you think will have the biggest impact on the technology industry in 2017?

Rob Freelen: Focus. Traditional venture capitalists will focus on leading larger rounds of equity in fewer companies. This is a trend from 2016 that should gain momentum in 2017. Then, as a new administration takes hold, investors will look to support companies who have already achieved some manner of success. Given the concentration of SoCal companies in entertainment and consumer-focused tech, where revenue often comes early in a company's life, entrepreneurs should expect investors to scrutinize initial revenue traction.

Rob Freelen is Silicon Valley Bank's Los Angeles Market Manager, where he leads a team of bankers working with a thriving team of early-stage technology companies. Based in Santa Monica, his team delivers SVB's full platform to clients, including venture debt, corporate cash management, foreign exchange, strategic payment solutions, strategic analytics, private equity fund banking, private banking, wealth management and venture capital. Prior to taking the LA Market Manager role, Rob served as SVB's first Chief of Staff where he facilitated the reorganization of SVB's sales organization, and headed up Business Development for SVB's Life Sciences Practice in the Western United States. Since joining SVB in 2005, Rob has led debt transactions for more than 100 public and private companies. Before SVB, Rob worked at marketing startup Impower and as investment manager at Fisher Investments. He earned a B.A. from Whitman College in Walla Walla, WA and hopes to own a winery there someday. He enjoys spending his free time cycling and chasing his three young daughters in the surf around Santa Monica.