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Rock Stars of Innovation Present: Have You Ever Seen the Rainmakers?

Xconomy San Diego — 

Not everyone who goes into the biopharmaceutical business gets to catch lightning in a jar. It took Carol Gallagher only about 28 months to experience one of those life-changing moments as the CEO of Seattle’s Calistoga Pharmaceuticals—and she has a story to tell.

So does Tom Lee, a professor of electrical engineering at Stanford University, entrepreneur, and innovator who has worked in semiconductor design and wireless technologies for more than 25 years. He wrote the textbook on designing wireless integrated circuits with conventional silicon technologies—and he had a Ben Franklin moment of his own when Microchip Technology of Chandler, AZ, acquired the wireless company he founded. Lee is especially interested in peering into the future of the wireless communications.

Gallagher and Lee are just two of the rainmakers who will be speaking at the 2014 Rock Stars of Innovation Summit—San Diego’s showcase for new ideas and companies developing innovative technologies. The half-day summit will be held April 4 at the Andaz Hotel in downtown San Diego, and will be preceded on the evening of April 3 by a jam session and networking event at the San Diego House of Blues, featuring the Left4Dead band.

Gallagher, the opening act for this year’s summit, said earlier this year that she’s becoming more and more convinced that innovation is a team sport. She sees a need for both diversity and experience on a startup’s board of directors as well as the founding team, and she’s spent time thinking about women entrepreneurs and gender equity.

After earning her doctorate in pharmacy from the University of Kentucky, Gallagher worked for eleven life sciences companies—if you don’t count her current status as a San Diego venture partner for Frazier Healthcare. Her résumé includes stops at San Diego’s Agouron Pharmaceuticals, CancerVax, and Anadys Pharmaceuticals. Some of those jobs turned into gigs at Big Pharma (Pfizer) and Big Biotech (Biogen Idec). She joined Calistoga as its first CEO in late 2008, and the success of the Calistoga team in developing a new cancer drug for certain lymphomas and leukemias resulted in a 2011 buyout that could ring up to $600 million.

Lee will be closing out the show. He has spent much of his career thinking about the future of the chip industry, the rapid growth of wireless infrastructure, and the Internet of Things. In the past few years, Lee was a founder of Sunnyvale, CA-based ZeroG Wireless, acquired in 2010 for an undisclosed amount by microcontroller vendor Microchip Technology. In 2011, Lee took a leave of absence from Stanford for a tour of duty at DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Products Agency, as director of the Microsystems Technology Office. He’s now back at Stanford and a co-founder of Ayla Networks, a Sunnyvale, CA-based startup developing technologies that enable manufacturers to turn appliances, heating and cooling systems, and other devices into intelligent devices that can be managed in the cloud.

Between the beginning and the end is everything else:

Who’ll Start the Rain? With a drought of venture capital afflicting many parts of the country (outside Silicon Valley), summit organizers are bringing together some local rainmakers with some pioneering ideas in alternative investment platforms. They are: Howard Lindzon, a super angel and hedge fund manager who founded StockTwits in San Diego, and who makes tech investments through his Social Leverage fund; Audrey Jacobs, a San Diego-based executive for the Israeli crowdfunding platform OurCrowd; and David Coats, the founder and managing director of Correlation Ventures, a venture firm that uses predictive analytics to choose its deals.

Brain Rock: In a session showcasing San Diego’s “rock stars of research,” Ralph Greenspan, who oversees the Center for Brain Activity Mapping at UC San Diego, will discuss advances in neuroscience with Casimir Wierzynski, a senior staff engineer at Qualcomm Research who has been designing computer chips that emulate the way the human brain processes information. My neurons are already tingling with anticipation.

Surf Music: It seems like everyone from the Notorious B.I.G. to Wilson Phillips has a song about California. Yet where would Jack Johnson or the Beach Boys be if there were no surfers—or surf culture—to write music about? This year, the Rock Stars of Innovation Summit has invited several leaders of San Diego’s burgeoning community of recreational sports innovators to discuss how innovations in sports medicine, action sports branding, and online social media platforms are sending waves through the action sports industry. Speakers include VAVi CEO Steve Stoloff, Dr. Christopher Wahl, the chief of sports medicine at UC San Diego Health, and John Lee of the Wasserman Media Group.

Between sets, the 2014 Rock Stars of Innovation Summit has arranged for a number of “garage band” startups to give a quick-pitch demo for investors in the crowd. Those presentations include the early stage technology companies Dagogo, DineLogik, and Mobile Learning Networks; the life sciences startups AnaBios, Nephosity, and Trefoil Therapeutics; and the lifestyle startups California Fruit Wines, Polara Golf, and ScanBright.

More information and online registration is here.