Cancer Claims Fred Cutler, SD Internet Executive and Connect Leader

Fred Cutler, a longtime San Diego marketing executive and consultant who spent several years as director of Connect, the San Diego nonprofit group for technology entrepreneurship, has died after a battle with cancer, according to a memorial website sponsored by his family.

Duane Roth, who was named in 2004 as Connect CEO, disclosed his predecessor’s death at a luncheon Friday for the 2012 Connect Most Innovative Products awards. In an e-mail this evening, Roth says Cutler “loved San Diego and the culture and especially fast cars and surfing. He died at the all too young age of 67 from lymphoma which reinforces the need for innovation to cure cancer. He will be missed.”

Cutler died in Madison, WI, on Dec. 2. He had a doctorate in marketing research and social psychology from the University of Southern California, and spent most of his career in marketing and management.

His family is planning a memorial service this Saturday in Oak Park, IL. “We will celebrate Fred’s life the way he wanted and deserved later this spring with a traditional surfer’s ‘paddle out,’” his family says on the memorial website. “We will spread his ashes on the Southern California waves, the place he especially loved, where he can surf in peace for eternity.”

After working with Houston-based Compaq, Cutler was recruited in 1995 to lead sales and marketing at San Diego-based DigitalStyle Corp., according to his LinkedIn profile. He stayed on after Netscape acquired DigitalStyle in 1997, chiefly for its expertise in Web development and in creating a digital layout engine now known as Gecko, and through America Online’s $4.2-billion buyout of Netscape in 1998.

UC San Diego named Cutler to lead Connect in September 2000, and his experience in riding the dotcom boom was a key factor. But Cutler’s three-year tenure came at a particularly difficult time for the nonprofit organization and for San Diego’s innovation economy.

Cutler took over following the death of Bill Otterson, Connect’s charismatic founding director. Otterson’s 15-year history with Connect had created high expectations—and a reluctance to change the magic that had helped to create San Diego’s thriving startup community. At the same time, however, administrators at UC San Diego sought to make Connect more responsive to advancing the innovations originating from UCSD labs. Cutler’s Internet credentials also became less relevant after the dotcom bubble popped, and the economy toppled into recession.

In 2005, Connect was spun out of UCSD, becoming an independent nonprofit organization with a broader mandate to serve San Diego’s innovation community as a whole.

After leaving Connect, Cutler’s LinkedIn profile shows that he served as interim president of Island Data and as CEO of Santrio, a Web-based software services that helps small business use Intuit QuickBooks, and as a business consultant.

On his memorial website, Cutler’s family says, “For those of you who would like to honor Fred’s memory with a donation, we encourage you to donate to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.”

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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