Are Qualcomm Layoffs a Disaster for San Diego—or an Opportunity?


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really comfortable for Irwin and his team to stay where they were, doing work for a Massachusetts company that still exists today, albeit with 900+ employees world wide, and a market capitalization 1/60th of Qualcomm’s? What if Irwin and the team that helped start Qualcomm had stayed put, collected nice salaries and benefits, and had retired to the beach or bike paths ten or fifteen years later?

Would San Diego have ended up being arguably the wireless capital of the world?  Would UC San Diego and its engineering school (aided by hundreds of millions of dollars from Joan and Irwin Jacobs) be racheting up the list of the world’s top universities?  Here’s a time-worn link to the list of companies that can be traced back to Irwin Jacob’s first company. As a Qualcomm alumni, it’s clear to me that there are dozens more companies that keep on being founded, nurtured, funded, and grown by current Qualcomm alumni—a process that will only accelerate in the months and years to come.

Will another Qualcomm come out of this process?

I don’t know, and frankly it doesn’t really matter—as long as the San Diego wireless community continues to coalesce, drive innovation, and find ways of integrating this amazing new pool of talent. That means all of us—the trade groups (EvoNexus, BioCom, San Diego Venture Group, and others), local universities, and others, need to reach out to these folks and put them to work as volunteers, mentors, and budding entrepreneurs.

And Qualcomm, I’ve got challenge for you!   You have established venture funds in China, South Korea, and elsewhere around the world, that target digital health and other specialized fields of innovation. How about establishing a fund that targets innovation in San Diego?

As for my former colleagues at Qualcomm, I just want to say, it’s going to be OK!

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Jeffrey Belk was at Qualcomm for almost 14 years, in positions including senior vice president global marketing, and senior vice president, strategy and market development. He serves on the boards of the Wireless Life Sciences Alliance, the UCSD Alumni Association, and the EvoNexus advisory board. He is founder and chairman of Velocity Growth, and has invested several other local companies. Follow @

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