With Tepid Growth in Software Startups, San Diego Turns to “Swarm”

San Diego’s software sector, struggling to gain some footing against a litany of setbacks, might be taking a step forward—but it will take a collective effort.

A proposal to establish an investor forum that would draw dozens of local software and Internet investors to meet with selected Web entrepreneurs and tech founders is gaining momentum. The inaugural session has been set for May 8 at the Cooley law firm’s San Diego office, and at least three-dozen angel investors and venture firm partners have been invited to attend.

Jeb Spencer

Jeb Spencer

Jeb Spencer, the founder and managing partner of San Diego-based TVC Capital, says he proposed the idea, dubbed Swarm, to create a rally point for local software entrepreneurs and investors at a time when local investment capital has been evaporating. Spencer says he wants to apply swarm theory to improve the state of software investment in San Diego.

By swarm theory, he means something akin to the wisdom of the crowd.

Swarm theory argues that a colony can solve problems that would be unthinkable for individual bees or ants. Using “swarm intelligence,” thousands of ants can quickly and effectively determine the shortest path to the best food source, allocate workers to different tasks, or defend their territory from attack.

In an e-mail yesterday, Spencer cited a National Geographic article, writing, “The central tenant of swarm theory is that no one’s in charge.” As the article describes it:

No generals command ant warriors. No managers boss ant workers. The queen plays no role except to lay eggs. Even with a half million ants, a colony functions just fine with no management at all—at least none that we would recognize. It relies instead upon countless interactions between individual ants…

These frequent interactions enable swarm intelligence to work and solve problems.

Spencer hopes to make such interactions more amenable for both investors and entrepreneurs by keeping the … 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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