Making San Diego America’s Finest Entrepreneurial Ecosystem

Igniting The San Diego Startup Community from johnnychan on Vimeo.

This blog post will give you my take on the key dimensions that will evolve San Diego from America’s Finest City into America’s Finest Entrepreneurial Ecosystem.

Time to read: 4 mins.

UPDATE: I’ve created a hackpad that we will use to design a way to mobilize San Diego as a thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem. I’ve segmented the list into “Problems” and “Solutions” and filled in my takes. There are certainly more ideas that aren’t on the list yet. So please go take a look and add anything that you think is missing. As it gets updated, I’ll publish the listing.

Today, I’m taking a break from talking about the types of startup business risk to address a fascinating and relevant topic: startup communities. I’m writing this post driving back energized from a vibrant back-and-forth with Jason Mendelson, Managing Director of The Foundry Group. My friend Eric Otterson, SVP of Business Development of Cooley LLP, organized a collaborative between San Diego’s elite entrepreneurial influencers (investors, founders, mentors, and advisors) and Jason to centralize a buzzing conversation about how to build San Diego into an incredible startup community. This is a conversation I’m very much invested in and can’t thank Eric enough for being a central hub of this large initiative. It’s a question-hypothesis that I have been dancing with for a few years.

Portland has a great playbook to run from (perhaps operating at a higher trajectory than Boulder, CO) and New York’s recent rejuvenation both leave clues. The following is my hypothesis on the key dimensions that will mobilize San Diego into a key startup community.

1. A location that centralizes serendipity. Choose an epicenter and build around it. Location is critical, particularly with strong public transportation, and a vibrant urban feel. Aside from the live/work feel, this is important to facilitate serendipity. Meaning, the bump-into-you serendipity that comes from running into someone from a startup at the local coffee shop or deli. Serendipity matters, and it must be planned.

2. A thorough matchmaking of mentors and entrepreneurs. San Diego is not short of excellent mentors. Getting them all in the same place working towards a same group is simple, but having them match the category/space that the entrepreneurs they are mentoring is not as simple. What we’re seeing is a need to connect mentors to entrepreneurs who are both in the same space. That’ll accelerate the learning curve and mentor impact of both parties.

3. A city that lubricates. The city needs to make it easier for entrepreneurs to grow. My good friend Ben Brooks, SVP/Global Director of Marsh, explains it New York’s resurregence aptly:

New York is making it hard NOT to be an entrepreneur. We already have access to capital. Now we’re building out a large engineering presence and making it tax-friendly for talent imports and entrepreneurs alike. The city is shouldn’t make itself too important, but the detriment is that it makes itself not important at all. At its ideal, the city should lubricate the flow of entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurs will take it from there.

I fully agree.

Special thanks to Eric for the invite to the event, it was great to be in that dialogue, and to Jason who challenged me to prove we could. I accept.

Any other takes? Feel free to drop them to the San Diego Startup Community Hackpad.

Jason Mendelson and San Diego's Startup Community

2 responses to “Making San Diego America’s Finest Entrepreneurial Ecosystem

  1. Exciting news indeed! As an engineer, I’d love to find a great way to meet UX design experts to improve the workflow of our SaaS site. This is just one example of the need to mix talents from multiple disciplines. Big companies can support all or most talents in house. Startups/Entrepreneurs often need missing pieces of their puzzles.

    • David – have you met Matt Reilly? He directs All UX work for our investment portfolio companies and is leading his own charge with his site: freeuxreview(dot)com. He’s leading a charge to make great UX accessible to everyone. You should link up with him and see how you can combine the engineering and UX side together. Let me know if you’d like an intro.


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