A new nonprofit group led by former state Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner, a serial tech entrepreneur, aims to make Southern California a viable alternative for startups to the increasingly congested north.

“Silicon Valley is a phenomenal place,” said Poizner. “I started a bunch of companies there. But it is reaching saturation. It is harder and harder for a startup company to afford competing against Google and Apple and Facebook.”

The Alliance for Southern California Innovation, which Poizner formed with local universities, research institutions and tech company heavyweights, faces an uphill battle to reach its goal of making the region a second Silicon Valley by 2025.

The biggest hurdle is venture capital. Silicon Valley is jammed with homegrown venture funds that lure entrepreneurs. Southern California has relatively few. Consequently, Silicon Valley startups typically corral six times the amount of the venture money as Southern California young companies.

But Poizner, who came to Southern California after two of his startups were acquired by Qualcomm, thinks the region has a lot to offer tech entrepreneurs.

Poizner has lured several big-name tech veterans to advise the Alliance, including Alphabet Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt. Qualcomm Founder Irwin Jacobs is on the Alliance’s board of directors.

The Alliance also entered into an agreement with Section 32, a $150 million San Diego-based venture fund led by Bill Maris, founder and former CEO of Google Ventures. The Alliance will provide referrals to the fund.

Seven Southern California universities and research institutions, including UC San Diego and the Sanford Consortium for Regenerative Medicine, have joined the Alliance’s board of directors.

“To catch up to Silicon Valley is enormously challenging, but if successful it would have a trillion-dollar impact,” said Poizner. “It can be done because Silicon Valley is full and Southern California has almost all of the pieces in place.”

©2017 The San Diego Union-Tribune Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.