An Xconomy Analysis: Five Ideas to Boost San Diego’s Software Sector
Like a lot of cities, San Diego is jealous of Silicon Valley.
Not jealous of Silicon Valley as a place, but jealous of the tech innovation and startup activity that happens there. As ServiceNow (NYSE: NOW) CEO Frank Slootman said earlier this year, the Bay Area is “one beehive of talent that is constantly reconstituting itself into new generations of companies.”
In explaining why he moved ServiceNow’s headquarters from San Diego to Santa Clara, Slootman also showed how the Bay Area exerts a kind of gravitational pull on innovative technologies and companies outside Northern California. At ServiceNow, Slootman said, “We have had a ferocious appetite for talent and we felt constrained on talent quantity, diversity, and quality in Southern California.”
So San Diego, like a lot of other places, has been working in recent years to cultivate some of that Silicon Valley magic—or rather, to develop some magic of its own. San Diego has most of the important ingredients, including great universities and research centers, talented innovators, and educated workers. There is far more startup activity here nowadays than there was in 2012, when Techstars David Cohen told San Diego tech leaders, “I don’t know anything about San Diego, but I will tell you, I can’t hear you. I don’t know what your successes are.”
Since then, local entrepreneurs stepped up their grassroots efforts to strengthen the tech ecosystem, especially in downtown San Diego. It takes a village to raise a startup. So density is important. Proximity is important, and community interaction, ideas, and cross-pollination are important. Yet the startup community in San Diego still remains fragmented and disorganized. Much of this is due to a bandwagon phenomenon: As entrepreneurship gained its current cachet, a multiplicity of startup programs have arisen throughout the region, sometimes working at cross-purposes by competing for the same financial resources and trying to recruit the same entrepreneurs.
At the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corp. (EDC), staffers have sought to bring these different elements together and to create a more cohesive message about San Diego’s innovation economy. One solution is a social media campaign that encourages local entrepreneurs to act as “digital ambassadors,” and use the hashtag #GoSanDiego as a way to unify the startup community through an “open-source dialog” about innovation and entrepreneurship. Work also is underway to create a website that can serve as a resource for local entrepreneurs and to show people outside San Diego that the startup community here is more than an inch deep.
As one EDC staffer puts it, “We don’t want to be exactly like Silicon Valley. We love our beaches, but we’re more than that. We want to solve different problems. We want to be known for solving hard problems.”
San Diego has been solving a lot of hard problems in the life sciences, which is reflected in the success of … Next Page »
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