WBT Conference Draws Eclectic Innovation Mix, San Diego Included

Can innovation come in more than one flavor?

We have become so accustomed to the Silicon Valley way of doing things that it’s easy to forget that ingenuity engenders a million flowers to bloom. The WBT Innovation Marketplace, an annual tech conference that moved to from Texas to San Diego last year, provides a stage for entrepreneurs from the far corners of the world to present technology innovation from both beaten, and not-so-beaten paths.

“This is what I call hard tech; it’s very different from your usual software and Web technology conference,” said Ping Wang, a co-founder of San Diego’s Ansir Innovation Center (a technology incubator), during a break in the proceedings Tuesday.

“This conference appeals to a different kind of investor,” Wang added. “A lot of the shoppers are large corporations looking for deals.”

The two-day conference, which ended yesterday at the Sheraton San Diego Hotel & Marina, included a Federal Lab Consortium Regional Meeting with representatives from the U.S. Department of Energy, NASA, Department of Agriculture and other federal agencies. The conference also was scheduled to follow Monday’s Global Connect Summit, which draws organizations from around the world that are working to nurture their own regional technology clusters.

As a result, the WBT Innovation Marketplace features an eclectic mix of speakers and topics. The defense contractor Northrop Grumman is the biggest conference sponsor, and retired Vice Adm. James Zortman, who oversees Northrop’s aerospace systems operations in San Diego, outlined his view of the innovation ecosystem from 38,000 feet. By contrast, Bill Reichert of Santa Cruz, CA-based Garage Technology Ventures provided more of a “street view” of the hot markets and innovation sectors.

The main attractions of the WBT Innovation Marketplace, though, are short presentations by nearly 70 startup founders and research scientists. The 6-minute pitches were pre-screened by a WBT selection committee that included technology and life sciences investors from San Diego to New York, and they offer a great opportunity for tech investors who are searching for great deals in unusual places. But here again, the eclectic mix of technologies and startups can pose challenges.

Take The TalkList, for example. The TalkList is a software platform that … 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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