San Diego Seeks to Remedy Scarcity of Homegrown Venture Capital

Since the Berlin Wall fell 20 years ago, San Diego has morphed from a Navy town into a capital of innovation that is renowned for its wireless industry, burgeoning biomedical community, and research institutions set like a city on a hill.

Yet it seems like there has always been a dearth of homegrown venture capital firms in San Diego.

Recruiting VCs to the area was a key goal in the early years of Connect, the San Diego nonprofit group started by a feisty entrepreneur named Bill Otterson in 1985 to promote technology and entrepreneurship. Under Otterson, Connect helped recruit Mission Ventures to San Diego in 1997 and launched an annual “financial forum” that brought out-of-town venture firms to San Diego to hear local business plans.

Now, in the midst of the worst recession in decades, and the dramatically lowered profile of some local venture firms, the relative shortage of local VCs has again come to the fore.  Connect, which ended its financial forum three years ago, hopes to address the issue in a new way.

Data from Dow Jones Venture Source shows that VCs headquartered in San Diego were involved in just 8 percent—13 of 158—of the venture-backed deals that were recorded in the region in 2008. That’s almost half the amount in 2003, when San Diego-based VCs were involved in 15 percent (27 of 177) of the venture deals in the local region.

Including the participation of out-of-town venture firms that have an office in San Diego office, such as Domain Associates of Princeton, NJ, increases the percentage of local deals to 18 percent in 2008—and 25 percent in 2003—according to the Venture Source data.

The reduced activity reflects the downsizing that has occurred in recent years at two of San Diego’s most-prominent firms, Enterprise Partners Venture Capital and Forward Ventures. At Service-now, a fast-growing software-as-a-service startup in Solana Beach, CA, CFO Andy Chedrick says he’s fielded inquiries from … Next Page »

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Bruce V. Bigelow was the editor of Xconomy San Diego from 2008 to 2018. Read more about his life and work here. Follow @bvbigelow

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