SD Venture Group Opens Bay Area Office as Part of “Cheeky” Campaign

The San Diego Venture Group has established a beachhead in San Francisco, and it’s opening for business Tuesday.

After years of trying to persuade Silicon Valley venture capital firms to establish more of a presence in San Diego, or to at least hear more startup pitches here, the venture group has decided to open an outpost in San Francisco. The idea is to provide a home away from home for San Diego startups looking to do deals in the Bay Area.

The group’s satellite office, known officially as “The Beachhead,” is the latest move in what San Diego Venture Group CEO Mike Krenn calls a “cheeky” offensive, which includes a job fair for San Diego companies set for February 1. The job fair, and a related billboard advertising campaign that begins Tuesday, are intended to entice Silicon Valley engineers and programmers to San Diego.

Krenn conceived the broad incursion on the Bay Area’s tech turf, asking in a mountain-and-Mohammed kind of way, “Why should it be that Silicon Valley always recruits from San Diego—and not the other way around?”

The billboard campaign, which uses a big digital billboard along U.S. 101 in Palo Alto, CA, is intended to promote the job fair and tweak the dark side of Silicon Valley by asking such questions as, “Hey Engineers: Enjoying Traffic?,” and “Hey Engineers: Did You Check the Surf Report This Morning? (Of Course You Didn’t).”

“The billboard was just a fun idea,” Krenn explained. “It’s a little bit brazen. But we decided we should do it.”

Mock Billboard Prepared by San Diego Venture Group (Image used with permission)

Mock Billboard Prepared by San Diego Venture Group (Image used with permission)

Krenn has drawn financial support for the Beachhead office from a local nonprofit group, the Legler-Benbough Foundation, the City of San Diego, and a GoFundMe crowdfunding campaign that has raised over $72,000 of a planned $100,000 target.

“It’s kind of cool to see the community coming together,” Krenn said. “We’re trying to get to $200,000, which would cover our cost [for the Beachhead] for 20 months.”

The venture group has leased space for five desks in the WeWork co-working space on California Street in downtown San Francisco. Krenn said local startup leaders can use the space as a temporary office and to host meetings with Bay Area venture firms and industry VIPs.

To use the Beachhead, San Diego companies would apply to the venture group. Krenn said startups would be selected according to their readiness and need, and what they’re trying to accomplish.

As part of the stratagem, which is intended to benefit San Diego’s startup ecosystem as a whole, Krenn says the venture group also would allow San Diego entrepreneurs and CEOs to access a proprietary database on more than 80 Bay Area angel and VC investors. Each investor profile includes such details as deal size, stage of development, and investment preferences—and Krenn said the San Diego Venture Group can make high-level introductions in a targeted way.

Under a related initiative billed as “Tacos + Tech #UltimateLifeHack,” Krenn has helped organize a job fair for more than 40 San Diego technology and life sciences companies on February 1 at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, CA. The event, which includes a keynote talk by Qualcomm CTO Matt Grob, is aimed at recruiting engineers and software developers, especially those who graduated from UC San Diego and were lured away by job offers in Silicon Valley. They understand that in San Diego, you can make a respectable living, work at an industry-defining company, and embrace the coastal Southern California lifestyle, Krenn said.

Participating companies include San Diego-based heavyweights like Qualcomm (NASDAQ: QCOM), ViaSat (NASDAQ: VSAT), Illumina (NASDAQ: ILMN), ResMed (NYSE: RMD), and Mitchell International; San Diego area divisions of Teradata (NYSE: TDC), Amazon (NASDAQ: ticker:AMZN]]), and ThermoFisher Scientific (NYSE: TMO); and local startups like MindTouch, SmartDrive, Seismic, Human Longevity, Portfolium, and GoFormz.

“People want out of Silicon Valley,” Krenn said. “It’s a relatively new phenomenon, and we’re in front of it. Let’s cherry-pick their best and brightest. Cost of living is too high, traffic is ludicrous. We want San Diego to be choice number one.”

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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