J. Craig Venter Gets Some Federal Stimulus Funding, Out-of-Town VCs Get Better Results, Third Automaker Parks Downtown & Other San Diego BizTech News

The recession may be resetting our expectations, but technology innovation could be re-arranging our thinking about the importance of hometown VCs. And the arrival of a new venture-backed automaker in our region also raises an interesting question: Could San Diego become America’s new “Motor City?” Forthwith, the highlights from last week’s news:

The V-Vehicle Company, which emerged from stealth mode to announce it plans to manufacture an “environmentally friendly and fuel-efficient car” in Northeastern Louisiana, became the third automaker to establish its headquarters in our region. V-Vehicle joins Aptera Motors, based in Carlsbad, CA, and Fisker Automotive, which is just a little farther up the road, in Irvine, CA. Does this mean we should start thinking of San Diego as the next Detroit?

—I attended Xconomy’s inaugural XSITE (the Xconomy Summit on Innovation, Technology, & Entrepreneurship) conference at Boston University last week, where Synthetic Genomics’ co-founder Juan Enriquez raised profound concerns about out-of-control federal spending. But Enriquez also pointed to a way out, saying that the technology innovation embodied in the 100 universities scattered throughout the Boston region represents “an incredible engine for economic growth.” He also argued broadly that venture capital is crucial to economic recovery because it represents 0.2 percent of GDP but 17.6 percent of U.S. economic output.

—Another Synthetic Genomics co-founder, founding chairman and CEO J. Craig Venter, was in Stockholm, Sweden, last week, where he talked with Xconomy contributor Erik Mellgren. Venter, who became known as one of the world’s leading scientists for his work in sequencing and analyzing the human genome, told Erik he’s optimistic about receiving federal economic stimulus funding for the J. Craig Venter Institute. The next day, a scientist at the institute’s Maryland campus got $8.8 million as part of the government’s economic stimulus package for research that focuses on the microscopic organisms in our bodies.

—At a time when San Diego’s hometown venture capital firms seem to be evaporating, a group of researchers are suggesting that the importance of local VCs investing in local technology startups could be overblown. Researchers from the Harvard Business School, the National Bureau of Economic Research, and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York found that the portfolios of VC firms that invest in distant technology startups may actually perform better than those of VCs who keep their investments close to home. The findings may go against the grain of conventional wisdom, but the researchers suggest that VCs demand more from their out-of-town investments.

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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