WBT Conference Draws Eclectic Innovation Mix, San Diego Included

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offers online instruction of English as a second language. In his presentation Tuesday afternoon, TalkList CEO Andres Abeyta explained that the program uses a network of low-cost tutors and provides Skype-like classes for students in foreign countries.

To me, the San Diego-based company’s online technology didn’t seen particularly innovative, and I was unmoved when Abeyta said, “Over the past two years, we’ve been successful with the [U.S.] Marine Corps and Navy.”

TalkList also faces competition that ranges from established old media companies like Berlitz International, McGraw-Hill, and Simon & Schuster to Arlington, VA-based Rosetta Stone (NYSE: RST), which has been expanding its online offerings by acquiring startups like Seattle’s LiveMocha and Boston’s Lexia Learning Systems. TalkList also faces online competition from foreign rivals like 51Talk, based in the Philippines, and EnglishTown, based in Switzerland.

TalkList CEO Andres Abeyta (right)

TalkList CEO Andres Abeyta (right)

On the other hand, Abeyta contends that the market opportunity is enormous, especially in Asia. TalkList is focusing initially on China, where millions of college students are expected to learn “American” English as China pushes ambitiously into the globalized economy. Abeyta said TalkList can also provide its online tutoring services at a low cost, and the company plans to recruit American tutors, whose pronunciation represents the gold standard for Chinese ESL students.

“We don’t need [to recruit] 1 million students in our first year,” said Abeyta, who was seeking $500,000 in startup funding. “We only need 20,000, and they will be incentivized to bring more people into the program.”

In other words, there seemed to be a lot of room for a variety of innovations in this market.

Here is a rundown of seven other San Diego startups that presented during the WBT Innovation Marketplace.

Agency for Student Health Research

Charlie Wund

Charlie Wund

With about 8 million U.S. high school students competing in sports—and sustaining about 2 million injuries each year—this startup has developed Web-based software to collect athletic injury reports. CEO Charlie Wund said the system would eliminate the need for paper-based injury reports currently filed by roughly 22,000 U.S. high schools. More importantly, data would be aggregated into the startup’s database, enabling health systems, insurers, and others to analyze trends in sports injuries. Schools, looking for ways to eliminate injuries and reduce insurance price hikes, could subscribe to the Software-as-a-Service for $450 a year, while health systems and insurance companies would pay for data analytics. Wund is looking for about $400,000 in equity funding, as well as licensing or strategic partnership deals.


Rolf Muller, co-founder of San Diego-based Biomatrica, spun out Cyternity to commercialize breakthrough “cellstable technology” for ambient cell preservation, in which cells stored anhydrobiotically (alive without water) maintain their viability and potential to proliferate. Aside from cryopreservation, which requires temperatures below -80°C, Muller contends that no other technology can preserve eukaryotic cells at ambient temperature. Cyternity’s technology would … 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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