The engineer-turned-entrepreneur uses his media platforms to highlight innovation in Southern California.
Serial entrepreneur Neal Bloom champions innovation while wearing several hats across the Orange County business ecosystem.
He is the founder of Fresh Squeezed Tech, a multimedia outlet that covers all the latest technological developments in Orange County, as well as the CEO of Fresh Squeezed Tech’s parent company, Rising Tide Partners (not affiliated with Rising Tide magazine). He is also an investor at Tech Coast Angels, the largest angel investment group in the U.S., and an Innovation Advisor at UCI Beall Applied Innovation, where he mentors startups in the Wayfinder program.
Although Bloom worries he is spreading himself too thin with his myriad involvements, he hopes his diverse set of roles ultimately benefits all the business communities he serves.
“I’m always interested in what else is going on,” said Bloom. “So, I’ve had to rein in and make sure that all of it acts as a funnel and still has some long-term impact for me and my mission, which is building good startup communities.”
Despite his experience as an investor and an entrepreneur, Bloom’s background lies in mechanical engineering. Fresh out of UC San Diego, Bloom started out as an aerospace engineer for Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, a company that designed and produced rocket engines. There, Bloom helped launch 84 astronauts into space by building rocket engines for the NASA Space Shuttle program.
“I don’t think they should allow 23-year-olds to have that kind of power or experience, but I loved it,” said Bloom. “I ate it up.”
When the Space Shuttle program retired, Bloom embraced entrepreneurship. He recalls that about 60 percent of the Space Shuttle team lost their jobs once NASA ended the program.
“I didn’t get laid off, so I actually had some survivor’s guilt,” said Bloom. “These 20-, 30-, 40-year vets working on manned space [vehicles] had no idea how to retool and remarket themselves. That’s when Portfolium was born.”
Portfolium, founded by Bloom and his co-worker at Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, is a social networking platform that allows job applicants to visually showcase their skill sets. Last year, tech company Instructure bought Portfolium for $43 million. However, Bloom had already parted ways with the company four years before.
“My founder breakup was super eye-opening,” said Bloom. “It almost feels like a classic textbook of all the things that could go wrong. We had verbal agreements; we had founders with the exact same background. We were living together and working together. It was very intense and shocking at the moment. But looking back, I realized we set ourselves up for failure.”
It took some time before Bloom could recover from losing his company. However, he used the lessons he learned when founding both Fresh Squeezed Tech and Fresh Brewed Tech, another one of his media outlets that covers all things tech in San Diego.
“I learned to channel that failure toward pushing me forward,” said Bloom. “Having a chip on your shoulder is actually super motivating. You want to make sure company number two is going to be even more successful because of whatever happened with number one.”
Today, Bloom and his team at Fresh Squeezed Tech write blogs, produce podcasts, create social media posts and curate newsletters for tech and startup communities of Orange County. Bloom hopes to eventually expand and create similar media outlets for Santa Barbara and the Inland Empire.
“I’m really passionate about making people proud of the community that they are in and raising awareness, which will attract more talent and more capital,” said Bloom. “I just know I’m passionate about making Southern California the place to grow a tech company.”
Learn more about Fresh Squeezed Tech.
Main Photo: Neal Bloom, founder of Fresh Squeezed Tech, angel investor and innovation advisor at UCI Beall Applied Innovation, has many roles in bringing together Orange County’s business and entrepreneurial communities.
Photos: Celina Bhandari, UCI Beall Applied Innovation
Watch: “Mentor Minutes: 3 Things Every Entrepreneur Must Know”
Produced by UCI Beall Applied Innovation
Directed by Julie Kennedy
Filmed & edited by Celina Bhandari
Animations by Celina Bhandari, Julie Kennedy & Rachel Noble