Plenty of successful companies exist in San Diego. But when you examine the methods each one used to get to where they are, something clear stands out: There’s no magic formula. They each traveled a different path.

It’s useful, then, to look at how a handful of local startups have cobbled together money-saving methods and harnessed local resources to build successful companies.

Here are a few:


Startup watchers might learn a lot from one local company, EcoATM, a startup that helps people recycle used electronics.  They were purchased recently by Outerwall (owners of Coinstar and RedBox) for $350 million in cash. How they found success is instructive: They didn’t just leverage one or two local resources – they used a bunch, including incubators Commnexus and Connect, as well as UCSD’s Rady School of Management.


Austin Neudecker, a startup expert, identified several other local resources for tech entrepreneurs in a recent blog post. They include:

• Mentor hours and mentor nights: One-on-one mentoring sessions with successful entrepreneurs
• Domain experts: One-on-one topic-specific meetings with service providers (design, legal, HR, etc.)
• Seed San Diego: Dinners and events with local investors
• CEO forum: Trusted startup leaders discuss their latest challenges
• Poker 2.0: Monthly poker tournaments with founders and investors
Startup SD website: News, calendars, ecosystem info and sign-ups
Business R&D Growth Lab: Partner with a startup that’s investing capital to innovate


Two downtown startups, Tiny Factory and Variable Action, have built companies that provide a cash flow that can support the creation of other technology platforms.

Over the last few years Tiny Factory has been specializing in designing and developing web and mobile applications, building large-scale applications for Fortune 500 companies including General Electric, Scholastic and Nike.

Co-founder Alex Rolek talked about how he is able to create technology and jobs in San Diego.

“We love building products and so we started testing various ones in the market. The cash flow from Tiny Factory has allowed us to bootstrap and validate our current product, Brandisty, a cloud-based brand management tool,” said co-founder Alex Rolek. “You quickly figure out how to be scrappy with marketing, manage resource expenditures and become very effective at business development.”

Variable Action, another development company with an amazing team, has come up with Zesty, a way to make it easier for developers and business owners to more easily control their website with a cloud-based backend to update and change content.


 “San Diego proved to make a ton more sense than the Bay Area (where half of us are from) as the headquarters,” said Tien Nguyen, co-founder and director of technology at CPC Strategy, a digital marketing company. Nguyen said his group bootstrapped it from Day 1 and have funded everything themselves. Nearly all of first 20 hires or so were students from UCSD and SDSU.

“All sales are inbound and come from the content we wrote, which ended up ranking high on Google searches. A great example was a client like Verizon read our content, opted in and signed up with us.”


The point: There’s no silver bullet. But each of these startups found a way to grow successful companies in San Diego. It is possible.

If you have updates or news about your tech company, email me.

Blair Giesen

Blair Giesen is a VOSD contributor, serial entrepreneur and founder. Join the conversation by following...

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