Jason Mendelson, the Elvis of Innovation, Offers Some Lessons for San Diego’s Tech Sector

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infinitely, as the program places a high priority on recruiting “superstar” mentors in each city.

Spencer, who has volunteered in the past to mentor startups here, says San Diego suffers from a lack of such true mentoring. What he saw, Spencer said, were a lot of other mentors who “either had an agenda or were out-of-work CEOs looking for their next job.”

Boulder also has benefited enormously from the energetic efforts of CU’s faculty, Mendelson said. In particular, he cited J. Brad Bernthal, an associate clinical professor of law who leads the Silicon Flatirons Entrepreneurship initiative, which is a cross-campus platform that ties itself into the community as well. Some of the programs that Bernthal spearheads include an entrepreneurial law clinic that gives free legal services to startups, crash courses that have industry experts teach the community and students relevant topics for startups, discussion roundtables, and “entrepreneurs unplugged,” where well-known entrepreneurs come to speak regarding their life experiences. All the events are free.

Interestingly, a former adjunct assistant professor in electrical engineering at CU, Tom Lookabaugh, was a leading player in this Rocky Mountain hubbub of activity until he recently relocated to San Diego as the chief technology officer for Entropic Communications (NASDAQ: ENTR).

It’s also possible that the many local organizations that provide entrepreneurship mentoring are contributing to the fragmented nature of tech startups in San Diego. In addition to Connect, which is a kind of umbrella group for entrepreneurship and innovation, the telecom group CommNexus offers events and startup mentoring through its free tech incubator, called EvoNexus. The San Diego Software Industry Council, MIT Enterprise Forum and San Diego Venture Group also offer events and services, along with a few private programs like the Founder Institute and Startup Circle.

In this respect, it might be a mistake for TechStars to join in San Diego’s cacophony of well-intentioned voices for innovation—even if it could expand here. But the right kind of leader could help San Diego’s tech community coalesce around some common goals, Mendelson said. It might be necessary, however, to get all the different stakeholders in one room to talk specifically about the most efficient ways to broaden and energize software and IT innovation in the region.

“I think it’s possible to come up with an executable game plan,” Mendelson said. “And we want to share everything we know with other cities.”

So what’s the next step? It probably begins with getting all the different stakeholders in one room. I’ve asked Mendelson if he’d consider making the trip.

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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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12 responses to “Jason Mendelson, the Elvis of Innovation, Offers Some Lessons for San Diego’s Tech Sector”

  1. Am I the young, good looking Elvis, or the old, fat one?

  2. Hah! I guess Bryan Abrams of Men Colored Badd would have been more apt. But readers would go “who?” And to tell you the truth, I had never heard of Men Colored Badd before your parody. Then I was thinking Justin Timberlake… but Nah…

  3. Nik Souris says:

    Good meeting you this evening and thanks to you and Jeb for sharing the San Diego landscape while bringing some outside perspective.

    Getting those people in a room would be interesting for sure.

    To me there is something about the SD landscape / culture / mindset possibly the water or people that gravitate here that keep those ingredients of big tech companies like Intuit/Qualcomm/HNC, great Universities and great wealth from forging a reputation for San Diego as a tech destination.

    Perhaps it is an inherent defense of the City from congestion and talent wars. Interestingly, despite the perceived absence of unbiased mentors or Tech Stars or Y-Combinator or Plug-n-play or VCs – internet companies do start and grow here – in several cases reaching that “ultimate” investor exit like internet dot-bomb survivors Provide Commerce and Active Network.

    For me tonight’s get together at Flud exemplifies SD – quiet, casual, reserved, friendly, mindful of its own business, “how can we help you”. It wasn’t Disrupt or Demo Days or Deal Pitch and I am certain the “excitement” will be self-contained to the folks that participated.

    More importantly, I believe tonight’s crew left with a great feeling about themselves, what they have and where they’re at – part of San Diego’s technology sector – not necessarily missing those tech start-up wizards, and most definitely not about to let that keep them from succeeding.

    So did Mendelson respond to you? FYI, Boulder has over 300 sunny days per year more San Diego or Miami :)

  4. Nik, it was great meeting you as well, and thanks for this thoughtful comment. As you might guess, Jason describes his schedule as “a wreck,” but we’re workin’ on it.

  5. Tom says:

    > FYI, Boulder has over 300 sunny days per year more San Diego or Miami

    Let’s see, it’s January: partly cloudy and 70 degrees or sunny and 15 degrees… which do I choose?

  6. 300 Sunny days, 70 degrees in January, and a truly international marketplace. Jason is welcome in Miami for his next concert.