Local Startups Could Use Some Local Kickstarting

Local Startups Could Use Some Local Kickstarting

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Does anybody really believe in San Diego technology? How many successful mobile platforms or apps were made in San Diego? Where there any?

The fact that local companies don’t often work together is one of the biggest hurdles facing San Diego’s startup scene. When I pointed this out, I got tons of responses pondering why this was true.

Blair-GiesenChris Corriveau, CTO of local company StockTwits, thinks one reason is that companies simply “don’t know each other exist.”

That’s a problem with a solution. Here are some great resources to help existing and startup tech companies.

They may not be the whole answer – so let me know in the comments what you’re doing, or who’s taking action to fill the gaps.

Plug and Play

Recently seven local startups received $25,000 each from Plug and Play San Diego. Plug and Play Tech Center, an accelerator specializing in growing technology startups, created its local accelerator program specifically to grow entrepreneurship in San Diego late in 2012. Since that time, it has provided two rounds of funding that have allowed local businesses to go to the Bay Area, where it’s easier to get funding and help.

There were seven winners in the first pitch competition and eight in the more recent round, said Gabriela Dow, a spokeswoman for the group. That translates into $375,000 in seed money to help local entrepreneurs tap into even greater resources in the last year alone.

Dow said that despite programs like Plug And Play, there’s still a basic disbelief in San Diego regarding the availability of capital. Dow said Plug and Play didn’t receive as many applicants as it had hoped in its most recent round. She thinks people may be unaware or even fearful of the process.

“We don’t see it as often here in San Diego, and we do see that funding is often easier in other ecosystems,” said Dow. “The availability of more easily obtained startup money in a useful amount is something the entire region has to get accustomed to.”

These six startups were selected in May 2013, completed the StartupCamp program in September, raised over $2 million collectively and are back in San Diego continuing to grow: eFinancial Communications, Vioozer, Santech, Tip Network, Pcsso and Rock My World.

Feb. 28 is the application deadline for its third startup pitch competition. Applications are available here.

International Possibilities

Dow also noted an advantage San Diego offers startups not available in Silicon Valley: proximity to Mexico.

“For companies based in San Diego, they can benefit by proximity to Mexico because of such things as Mexico’s talent pool, lower costs of living and options for some approvals and trials that may be easier there,” she said.

When it comes to Mexico, Avi Stieglitz, co-founder of Nulu, a ground-breaking language learning application, also sees options for funding and support.

“For Nulu, the concept resonated stronger in Mexico,” said Steiglitz. “There, business supporters better understood the need for English instruction.”

Nulu founders were able to parlay that understanding into funding:

“We discovered that funding came more easily from non-native English speakers and individuals involved in business outside of the U.S.,” said Stieglitz. “People who grasped the concept were outside U.S. or were people here now who weren’t born here.”

Fostering Local Funding

Other champions of the local startup environment note the important role that successful area businesses and entrepreneurs must play in expanding business funding.

“I would tell anyone who wants to start a company to do it in San Diego,” said Kelly Abbott, managing director of San Diego Livefyre. (Abbott also helps run Voice of San Diego’s website.) “San Diego has it all: talent, lifestyle, climate, location. Now, it’s starting to have more capital and attention to funding.”

Abbott is helping create more funding for startups. In November 2013, he established the San Diego Tech Founder Pledge, a way for locally successful entrepreneurs to pay their success forward by pledging money to help other area entrepreneurs. The pledge form, available as a Google doc, says: “I will invest 10 percent of my earnings from my successful San Diego companies exit back into another San Diego startup.”

Abbott said he believes entrepreneurs who make the pledge will help address two issues currently facing San Diego startups: access to funding and creating more local companies. He said that when businesses have more funding, they can attract and keep local talent as well.

“When you pledge, you agree to be put on list,” said Abbott. “Our goal and job is then to connect entrepreneurs, to help new founders make connections to those who have pledged to support new business.”

The program hasn’t been up and running for too long, but Abbott said he’s been heartened by the response of entrepreneurs from the San Diego startup community.

“Entrepreneurs here are saying, ‘Absolutely, it makes perfect sense,’” he said.

Have something to add to this story? Share it in the comments below. If you have updates or news about your tech company, email me. I might feature them in tech news updates.

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Blair Giesen

Blair Giesen

Blair Giesen is a VOSD contributor, serial entrepreneur and Zambig.com founder. Join the conversation by following him on Twitter or emailing him at blair@zambig.com.

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5 comments
European American Enterprise Council
European American Enterprise Council subscriber

The great/reputed San Diego Venture Group should probably be inspired from (and eventually work with :)) StartupCircle who has been supporting and promoting PlugNPlay in San Diego for the now two years… We need more Silicon Valley institutional investors and accelerators to commit sustainable funding to our San Diego entrepreneurs; a little like PlugNPlay did by opening its acceleration program (twice a year) to select groups of San Diego startups, as you just explained. Bridging and “Sealing” the Silicon Valley investor community and the San Diego startup community is an essential step to fuel the San Diego collaborative ecosystem that we are talking about and that seems to be on its way.


StartupCircle
StartupCircle subscriber

I do not fully agree that the reason Startups or Entrepreneurs do not collaborate is because they do not know each other exist.


From my perspective what I notice since 2006 in San Diego from local founders is a mindset of I do not need anyone else to make it work and meeting other Entrepreneurs for the most part is a waist of time.  Most Entrepreneurs locally spend their time looking for funding or engineering their product.

Until we create a community feeling the value of collaboration at all levels we will then start seeing people engage each other more frequently.

I am very optimistic for a lot of the new relationships being created late 2013 among agencies, organization and colleges and 2014 could be the year things come together.



Ping
Ping subscriber

Nice article... Plug and Play is a great resource for startup entrepreneurs in the region, in addition to others such as CONNECT, Evonexus, Founders Institute, Tech Cocktail, Startup SD, and many many more, including some focused within universities.   Moreover, i'm glad that the crossborder connection was mentioned, and I think we will be hearing more about new programs that organizations such as AVM (angel ventures mexico), Ansir Innovation, Fablab, and others are focusing on developing....  With this litany of programs, we're well on our way to building a robust entrepreneurial ecosystem...save for one of the main points of the article...that we can't afford to splinter and that greater collaboration is needed, given that our community is much smaller than the Bay Area or other hubs.  I wonder if anyone has any ideas on how to create that cohesion  (without simply creating more events and programs, to which there seem to be an ample supply of ?) 

Blair Giesen
Blair Giesen author

@StartupCircle  Thanks for the feedback. As far as collaboration, I was talking more about established companies embracing new startups for the great new technology they are building. 

Blair Giesen
Blair Giesen author

@Ping  I agree these are all good places for startup entrepreneurs. I think they all need to take a few steps further. I'm sure we will be hearing more about cross boarder opportunities.