A little more than a year ago, amid a resurgence in San Diego’s software sector, Xconomy identified a baker’s dozen of local tech companies to watch in 2016. The results were so encouraging, we’re doing it again.
The idea was to feature early stage companies in the region that have not attracted much attention or raised a substantial amount of startup capital. Such lists can be entirely relative, but I sought to adjust for the capricious effects of subjectivity. I started with a list of companies already screened by the San Diego Venture Group’s annual venture summit, and consulted with investors and startup mentors to refine the list. Within the realm of “most-promising,” these are companies with the elements that tech investors and mentors look for—innovative technology, an outstanding team, and/or an impressive business plan.
Our list was far from definitive, but some noteworthy outcomes from last year’s selection suggest we’re taking the right approach:
—Cypher Genomics, founded in 2011 with software to rapidly identify the genetic variations amid billions of gigabases of genome sequencing data, sold last November to San Diego’s Human Longevity. Financial terms were not disclosed.
—Colorado-based Webroot said in September it had acquired CyberFlow Analytics, the 2013 startup developing analytic software and machine learning technology to monitor the data flowing in and out of networks for anything that looks out of the ordinary. (Webroot withheld terms of the deal.)
Other companies also demonstrated why they made our 2016 list of companies to watch: Classy recently raised $30 million for software-as-a-service that helps nonprofits run crowdfunding campaigns and raise donations online; Seismic raised $40 million in May to advance its software for updated corporate sales and marketing material; GovX, with revenue up nearly 40 percent over last year, raised $3.8 million in a Series D round of investment capital, according to founder and chairman Tony Farwell.
The startups selected for this year’s list began, as it did last year, with a master list of companies screened by the San Diego Venture Group for its annual venture summit. I am grateful to Mike Krenn, the venture group’s president, for his help on this project.
I widened my net this year. Longtime tech entrepreneur and angel investor Marco Thompson, who is closely associated with San Diego’s EvoNexus incubator, contributed a number of companies to the list. Tim Rueth, a UC San Diego entrepreneur in residence and member of the EvoNexus selection committee, also screened the list, and offered his perspective. I met with Seed San Diego partners Taner Halicioglu and Eric Gasser, who also reviewed the companies and provided their feedback. With the benefit of all their insights, I winnowed the list to 12.
Generally speaking, the companies selected this time are at an earlier stage than last year’s list. Four of the companies here were founded in 2014, another three were started in 2015, and two—CureMatch and Lymber—debuted earlier this year. Most of the companies on this year’s list also have resided or are currently enrolled in EvoNexus, the incubator supported by San Diego tech companies that offers free office space to startups with no strings attached.
Four of the companies on this year’s list also reflect how San Diego’s tech and life sciences communities have been coming together in interesting ways. CureMatch is using analytic software to help doctors optimize cancer treatments; CureMetrix is applying artificial intelligence to medical imaging and diagnostics; Trials.ai is providing back-office support for clinicial trials; and Clarify Medical has developed technology that simplifies the current treatment for psoriasis and eczema.
Much of the innovation in San Diego is taking place along this interface between technology and life sciences, a trend that is likely to continue.
Bruce V. Bigelow was the editor of Xconomy San Diego from 2008 to 2018. Read more about his life and work here.