San Diego Roundup: Qualcomm, Philter, Stella Labs, VC Funding & More

Comic-Con International may be holding everyone’s attention this week, but the tech community has stayed busy amid all the action (and increased traffic). Let’s catch up with the latest tech news in San Diego.

—San Diego’s AONDevices was among 10 startups selected to compete at a recent pitch competition hosted by the corporate venture capital arm of Qualcomm (NASDAQ: QCOM). AONDevices, headed by former Qualcomm engineer Mouna El Khatib, is developing semiconductors that use ultra-low-power artificial intelligence algorithms for voice and audio recognition by battery-powered applications.

Qualcomm Ventures invited 10 artificial intelligence, Internet of Things, virtual reality, and mobile technology companies founded by women to the event, called Female Founder Summit, held in San Francisco. A Bellevue, WA-based startup called Blue Canoe Learning, which uses machine learning technology to help people improve spoken English, won the contest, earning a $500,000 convertible note and entrance into the Qualcomm Ventures portfolio.

—Philter Labs, a startup that makes filters for vaporizers, says it has raised $3 million in outside funding. In a Tuesday announcement the company said $2 million came from an undisclosed private equity fund that focuses on cannabis-related companies, and $1 million from investors including Bravos Capital and Explorer Equity. Philter says its product eliminates the emissions caused by vaping, reducing worries related to secondhand smoke.

—A total of 23 startup founders recently showed off what they had learned during a 12-week business accelerator program run by Stella Labs at a demo night held at Sony Electronics (NYSE: SNE) in Rancho Bernardo. About 150 people attended the event, which featured a range of companies, including some technology firms.

Stella Labs, which is based in San Diego’s Sorrento Valley, was formerly known as Hera Labs. Silvia Mah, its former CEO, recently stepped down to become president of Connect, a longtime local startup advocacy organization best known for its own accelerator program, which is called Springboard. Stella Labs, a not-for-profit organization, says it has helped launch 146 startups, grow 223 businesses, and create 128 new jobs since it started the accelerator program.

—The growth of the San Diego tech talent market over the past two years increased more than that of nearly any other city among 50 in the US and Canada surveyed by CBRE (NYSE: CBRE), the Los Angeles-based real estate investment firm.

That’s according to CBRE’s annual report on tech talent, which tracks 50 metro areas according to their ability to attract and grow tech talent. CBRE ranked San Diego ranked No. 18. The five top talent markets were the Bay Area; Seattle, WA; Toronto; Washington, DC; and New York. The firm’s analysis took into account 13 metrics, including tech talent supply, growth, concentration, cost, completed tech degrees, industry outlook for job growth, and rent costs, to come up with the rankings.

San Diego, with 73,170 total tech jobs, has the 20th largest tech talent labor pool out of the 50 markets, and the second largest in California, behind only the San Francisco Bay Area. CBRE said the metro experienced the second-fastest momentum change across all 50 markets, with employment growth rising 10.3 percent in the past two years compared to 0.1 percent in the two years prior (2015 and 2016), for a 10.2 percentage point swing. Only Orlando, FL, saw a bigger swing in momentum.

But the report also noted that while San Diego minted 15,300 new tech grads from 2012 to 2017, it only added 9,820 tech jobs, indicating that the region doesn’t have an ample enough supply of such jobs to support all of its highly skilled graduates.

—The latest MoneyTree report by PwC and CB Insights tracked 39 venture capital deals in the second quarter of the year in San Diego for a total of $808 million in investment. That’s compared to 23 deals in the first quarter and $298 million in investment. The healthcare, software, and internet sectors saw the most funding. The top three deals, according to the report, were Poseida Therapeutics’ $142 million financing round, Acutus Medical’s $100 million round, and automated trucking company TuSimple’s $95 million funding.

Last year companies in the San Diego region netted 128 VC investments totaling nearly $2.7 billion. As of the end of June the MoneyTree report tallied 62 VC investments in San Diego for about $1.1. billion in investment, putting the area’s deal flow about on par with last year’s pace, but showing a comparative lag in the volume of money.

Sarah de Crescenzo is the editor of Xconomy San Diego. You can reach her at sdecrescenzo@xconomy.com. Follow @sarahdc

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