Xconomy San Diego’s First Year Anniversary Brings the Benefits of Hindsight on the Local Innovation News with the Biggest Global Impact
Those of us who are lucky enough to work as journalists (and who get to write the first draft of history) often remember the dates when the important and even not-so-important events went down. After 30 years in the news business, it’s become almost second nature for me. Today marks a special day, both personally and professionally, because it’s been exactly one year since we officially launched Xconomy’s San Diego website.
My Xconomy debut began with “San Diego 92037,” a curtain-raiser that sought to explain why the prestigious La Jolla zip code that encompasses Torrey Pines Mesa represents the epicenter of technology innovation here—and it’s been more-or-less non-stop ever since. In the past year, we’ve published close to 1,415 news stories, briefs, and commentaries about the innovation leaders, businesses, technologies, and trends that make up the “exponential” part of the San Diego economy.
With the launch of our San Diego website last year, Xconomy founder and editor-in-chief Bob Buderi wrote: “Smart, in-depth local coverage of an innovation community is, we think, central to the health and vitality of that community. But we also believe that good local stories—the ones we aim to tell in each of the three cities we now cover—can yield important insights into national and global trends.” Bob likes to say that the focus of our coverage is on local stories that have a global impact.
Hindsight isn’t always 20-20, but looking back over the past year certainly can add some perspective to the stories where the impact has become more apparent.
This week, for example, the Algal Biomass Association will convene in San Diego for its annual biomass summit at least partly because this region has become a global hub for algae-based research, technologies, and industries. For Xconomy readers, this became clear as we got an exclusive interview with the CEO of San Diego’s Sapphire Energy, charted the formation of the San Diego Center for Algae Biotechnology, and chronicled the partnership that San Diego’s Synthetic Genomics struck with ExxonMobil, which plans to spend $600 million to develop algae biofuels.
A few other stories from our first year also exemplify Xconomy’s mission of pursuing local stories with global impact:
—The ouster last week of Sequenom (NASDAQ: SQNM) CEO Harry Stylli, along with several other top executives and employees, followed a five-month internal inquiry that has left the San Diego diagnostics company reeling. This has been one of many San Diego biotech stories where Luke Timmerman, Xconomy’s Seattle-based national biotech editor, has made major contributions. Sequenom first disclosed in April that it had mishandled data that was used to support a prenatal test for Down Syndrome.
—Retired SAIC founder J. Robert Beyster discussed for the first time how the San Diego defense contractor parlayed its $4.7-million acquisition of Herndon, VA-based Network Solutions into a multi-billion dollar windfall during the Internet boom of the late 1990s. After observing its 40th anniversary earlier this year, the company also known as Science Applications International Corp. announced it has moved its headquarters from San Diego to Mclean, VA.
—Luke has chronicled the race to develop the new generation of obesity drugs is playing out mostly in San Diego, where Arena Pharmaceuticals, Orexigen Therapeutics, and Amylin Pharmaceuticals are vying to enter the lucrative U.S. market. Today, roughly two-thirds of Americans are obese or overweight.
Since the debut of Xconomy San Diego, our company also has grown through its existing network of websites in other cities that are hotbeds for innovation—and we hope to expand even more. Our flagship Boston website (which is technically in Cambridge, MA) marked its second anniversary on June 27, and Xconomy Seattle celebrated its first anniversary on June 16. Xconomy’s nationwide network now counts more than 150,000 unique visitors each month.
Today the Xconomy network includes a National website that brings together the news from all three cities, unveiled Xconomy mobile, and recently launched “channels”—Xconomy Startups and Xconomy Life Sciences—that feature all the stories produced by the Xconomy network in those specific segments. As Xconomy co-founder, COO, and executive editor Rebecca Zacks put it: “We recognize that there are some of you out there who just don’t want any software-industry chocolate in your life-sciences peanut butter.”
Earlier this year, Xconomy San Diego also hosted its premiere event, a presentation on “Physics for Future Presidents” by UC Berkeley’s Richard A. Muller, and we are laying plans for more events to come. Since we launched Xconomy San Diego, we also have arranged to provide a specialized news feed to media partners that include The San Diego Union-Tribune and its website, SignOnSanDiego, as well as the new San Diego News Network.
It’s also important to note, though, that Xconomy’s news coverage of technology innovation only represents part of the whole picture. Each website also includes an Xconomist Forum—think of it as an online office water cooler—where many of the most prominent voices in our technology communities gather to post their own commentaries and articles about the issues and events on their mind. The Xconomist Forum serves as a kind of social networking platform for the technorati in each city, enabling them to share ideas and post comments about the news of the day or others’ ideas. Many of the leading innovators and business mavens who write for the forum also are supporting our efforts by serving as advisors, or “Xconomists.”
This online interaction represents the sort of “virtual-physical culture” that Larry Smarr described for me recently when he outlined his four big ideas for the future of the Internet. Smarr, who is director of the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology and a San Diego Xconomist, is predicting “an incredibly rapid pace of change” over the next decade. He says the physical trips you once made between your job and your home will increasingly become virtual journeys, as you use the Internet more and more for both work and entertainment. Smarr also sees more and more people collaborating online, as employees who live in different parts of the country come together to work virtually on various projects. At Xconomy, that’s something we already do every day.
In this spirit of physical-virtual collaboration, we want feedback—in person or online. We encourage you to comment on our stories and to talk to us at our events. Our contact information is available on every story we publish, and you can always reach us at email@example.com, or send us story ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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