March Mingle – Why it Matters

March 30, 2014 0 comments

Well March Mingle was last Thursday. What is March Mingle and why does it matter? It’s a group of tech and startup entrepreneurs and developers who are helping to change San Diego. The event was held at Stone Brewery in Liberty Station, hosted by Phelan Riessen from Digithrive and featured booths from many local tech companies to help support the event.

Sometimes I wonder what events like these are all about. After all I know most of the companies and startup CEO’s that were there. The first few people that I talked to we exchanged stories of how San Diego companies are reaching many of the big markets like Chicago and New York.

Then it occurred to me that something was really happening at the event.  Some were just there to “mingle,” but there were some that were there to make things happen. Bruce Bigelow as talking about DNA sequencing and mapping the Human Genome and that Life Technologies and similar companies in San Diego need bigger bandwidth to make it happen.

Brant Cooper was talking about real ways to help the startup incubator ecosystem. Brant shared that he was sick of the old ways of doing things and some of the ways he is moving forward without them (look for a future post).

And finally a group of startup entrepreneurs that are making plans to build a website that encourages all of the San Diego tech startups to start using each other’s products. I love this one. It is one of the things that Silicon Valley does so well that San Diego MUST do.

So as the talks of all the amazing things moving forward in the startup community wind down at March Mingle I feel like things are moving in the right direction. One thing I noticed was that San Diego has so much going on in many different sectors of technology and startups that it’s hard to get a real focus of which ones to highlight.

I think the answer is to highlight them all and watch them all grow into strong parts of the San Diego economy. After all, San Diego is such a desirable place to live. All we have to do is keep building what is already started.


San Diego’s No. 1 for Startups. Now What?

March 24, 2014 0 comments

San Diego’s No. 1 for Startups. Now What?

Last week Forbes  named San Diego the best place in the country to launch a startup.

There are many different ways to evaluate this claim, and the comments section for the article proves there are some skeptics. So, is San Diego really No. 1 for startups? Let’s take a deeper look.

The Case for No. 1

Eric Otterson thinks the label is deserved.

Blair-GiesenHe’s the man who has made it his mission to grow the startup community in San Diego.

“The momentum is amazing right now. The companies that are being created and funded are growing at a rapid pace,” he said.

Here are some of the highlights Otterson pointed out.

DivX, founded in San Diego, is a company whose former founders are now starting amazing companies.  These are the kinds of companies that create a healthy startup ecosystem. They’ve started SweetLabs, an app distribution and discovery platform, and Prima Cinema, a company that lets you watch movies from your home the day they are released.

LifeProof, known as the best smartphone case on the planet, was created in San Diego. It’s the second company founded by Gary Rayner, and it was purchased by the largest mobile phone accessories company because of its design dominance. It’s still headquartered in San Diego.

Albeit slowly even Qualcomm and Intuit are getting active and creating entrepreneurs with recently funded companies HouseCall, an app to help with home projects, Zenhavior, an app that monitors your driving and TaxJar, to help businesses with sales taxes.

Go a little further back in time and you’ll find WebSideStory, a San Diego powerhouse that practically invented the banner ad. They helped to create startups like Apmetrix, a mobile and video game analytics company, and Tealium, which has raised over $27 million.

Starting to get the picture?  San Diego is No. 1 for a reason.

But that doesn’t mean things here are perfect, as some of the criticisms of the Forbes pieces, and of San Diego’s tech scene in general, make clear.

Room for Improvement

I’ve already detailed some of the things that are lacking for startups in San Diego:

• Local companies don’t work together that often. …

• The investment dollars just aren’t here. Investors look more often to L.A. or Silicon Valley. There is a real understanding of how the ecosystem works in those areas, investors figure. It’s already built.

• Many startup entrepreneurs don’t realize how hard it truly is to start a company. This is San Diego, and there are way too many distractions.

• There are no real mentorship programs. …

• Where’s the tech hub in San Diego? The place where entrepreneurs, programmers and investors can talk about the amazing things they are building? Is it Sorrento Valley? UTC? Downtown? North County? If you figure it out, let me know.

These are still issues that should factor into any discussion of San Diego’s place in the startup ecosystem.

Others voiced more wariness in the comments section of the Forbes piece. Here’s one:

If you want to sell overpriced cupcakes or recycled skateboards then this is your market.

If you’re a tech company or any company that requires technically qualified individuals then you’ll struggle every day. Unless you can lure people down to SD from SF and pay them the bloated salaries that they get in the Bay Area and promise them amazing benefits.

For as large as a metropolitan area that SD is it has in my opinion the largest group of unqualified workers. Most workers want to move down here so they can kick back and have that plush easy-going San Diego lifestyle that we “advertise”.

San Diego has its challenges and there certainly is room for improvement.

But things are changing as we are starting to retain the talent from UCSD, “which is an absolute goldmine,” as Navid Alipour, a local investor, pointed out in the Forbes comments section.

How to Build from Here

So, what next?

You want to take advantage of what San Diego has to offer, but aren’t sure how do you accelerate your idea?

Founder Institute and CyberHive can help you develop your idea and turn it into reality. Hard Tech Labs and Fab Lab will help you build it with their cross boarder accelerator.

The month of March alone makes a good case for why San Diego is the place to be:

• On March 20, San Diego Venture Group is hosting 16 incubators and accelerators from all over San Diego County.

• Startups can apply to Plug and Play for financing and mentorship, the deadline for this round is March 28.

• Another one is this week’s Wearable Wednesday where you can learn about the state of the wearable tech economy and learn about those opportunities. Email me a question to ask. I’ll be moderating this one. I can’t wait to learn more about Qualcomm’s Toq smart watch.

• One of the biggest events of the year is March 26 at Stone Brewery in Liberty Station March Mingle. It’s a who’s who in business, tech and startups. March Mingle is a must-attend event that gives entrepreneurs the opportunity to connect and exchange ideas.

• The Social Media Examiner’s Social Media World is March 26-28 if you want to learn everything social media-related.

Two more, beyond March:

• There are also events that are attracting visitors from all over the U.S. Interactive Day San Diego, in May, is a digital marketing event. Whether you are a startup or an established company attendees can listen to experts in digital marketing and learn how to master it. Mitch Gruber, one of the organizers, tells me “start-ups compete for $5,000 in a real-time pitch off.”  The last two winners are still here in San Diego.

• Startup Week is, you guessed it, an entire week dedicated to startups in San Diego. It’ll be held June 17-24 and is jam-packed with visits to local startup offices, demos of new products, mentor nights with founders, introductions to investors and great advice from people who are based in San Diego and an impact globally.

San Diego is no Silicon Valley. And that’s a good thing. It’s better.  For all of the same reasons that so many choose to live here over L.A., New York and other more densely populated cities. And now you can actually make a living, change the world and thrive here in San Diego.

Voice of San Diego is a nonprofit that depends on you, our readers. Please donate to keep the service strong. Click here to find out more about our supporters and how we operate independently.

Blair Giesen is a VOSD contributor, serial entrepreneur and founder. Join the conversation by following him on Twitter or emailing him at

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San Diego Claims Its Place In The Wearable World

March 24, 2014 0 comments

San Diego Claims Its Place In The Wearable World

Wednesday night was the kickoff of the first Wearable Wednesday event in San Diego and featured an amazing panel to show how San Diego was inserting itself in the wearable space.

If you think San Diego is just about sun, surf and Mexican food, think again. Forbes just last week ranked San Diego #1 for the best place to launch a startup, and this week one of the world’s largest companies, headquartered in San Diego, along with an innovative startup founder and a guy who wrote the book on the internet of things, showed up to the Wearable Wednesday event to show that San Diego knew something about wearable technology.

Nikhil Jain, VP and Lead on the Qualcomm Toq smart watch was joined by Josh Windmiller from Electrozymeand Daniel Obodovski author of “The Silent Intelligence.”

I write a tech column for Voice of San Diego so I was asked to be the moderator. San Diego’s tech startup scene is gaining some real momentum. Wearable technology is a space that can do very well in San Diego for several strong reasons.

One of these reasons is because of its proximity to Mexico and the ability to prototype products in a single day or week. Hard Tech Labs is opening up an accelerator that will take advantage of this and has a very big plan for success.

The second reason is because it is a hub for sports related companies. One of the only sports innovation labs is here.

The third reason is because Qualcomm, the mobile chip maker is here. (No, Qualcomm is not a stadium.)

And finally, wearables will thrive in San Diego because of UCSD and the enormous Bio Tech companies headquartered in this area.

As far as the Wearable Wednesday event in San Diego, many of the topics that were covered discussed these strengths of San Diego.

Josh Windmiller of Electrozyme discussed how his products were developed for triathletes and went beyond some of the devices like the Nike fit band. Everyone knows all the beautiful people are in San Diego, so it is the perfect place to develop wearable sports related products. Windmiller told the audience that he built some of his prototypes with 3D printers and showed off the goods.

Qualcomm, who according to Bloomberg is the biggest provider of mobile phone chips, showed off its new smart watch called Qualcomm Toq. Jain, who said he was an entrepreneur in a large corporation, discussed how Qualcomm decided to go into the wearable space. “About 3 years ago Qualcomm wanted to look at what they viewed as the future of devices and wearable technology was it.” I told Jain that if he was an entrepreneur that he was one with a big budget. He tried to tell me that it wasn’t that big, but when pressed wouldn’t tell me the budget of the project.

Obodovski, who had a very good grasp of the wearable ecosystem, talked about how different it would be than the cell phone ecosystem. Jain added that there can be such a large number of wearable devices that developing a platform that they all work on very difficult. With mobile app technology there are a small number of platforms. For platforms such as Android/Google Play with all the different devices it gets complicated. Jain went on say there is a very big opportunity for the company that establishes or consolidates this process.

The discussion turned to the topic of privacy, security and data. Jain said, “we spent a lot of time thinking about if and how to put a lock on the Qualcomm Toq watch. We decided that we would tie it to the mobile device.” In other words, if the watch was not close to the devise you couldn’t access some of the features on the watch.

As far as the data the discussion turned to where the data is stored; in the cloud or on the device.

Some of the questions from the crowd were about what other industries could surround this wearable technology and design came up as one of the key industries that was of high importance to wearables.

As the panel wrapped up, it was time to grab some Mexican food and get home for some rest so I could surf early in the morning. Yes, that’s what we do in San Diego – make amazing products and enjoy where we live. Don’t tell anyone. It’s a secret.

Blair Giesen is a Voice of San Diego tech contributor, serial entrepreneur and micro-podcast founder. Join the conversation @BlairsReport or

Inside Digitaria View of PetCo Park By Blair Giesen

Meet San Diego’s Digital Mafia

March 17, 2014 0 comments

Where do you go when you want to get into acting? Hollywood.

Where do you go when you want to get into politics? Washington D.C.

Where do you go to start a tech company? Silicon Valley.

Most people know Silicon Valley creates tech company after tech company. Former employees and founders of PayPal alone have created LinkedIn, YouTube, Yelp and Tesla, to name a few.

Blair-GiesenBut where are the San Diego companies that have become global leaders?  If Qualcomm hasn’t done it by now, it probably won’t happen (though maybe the new CEO will contact me to discuss).

There is a segment, however, that is creating amazing companies and reinventing or disrupting one of the oldest industries in the world, and they’re all in San Diego.

Where do you go when you want to leverage technology with advertising? San Diego.

When companies like Pepsi or Procter & Gamble want big ad campaigns that run on TV, radio and in print media, they go to ad firms on New York’s Madison Avenue. But that’s all changing as marketing and advertising take on an entirely new form.

Marketing might be an app where you can deposit a check without going to the bank, or one that lets you know how many miles you run or how far the pizza delivery guy is from your house.

And that’s where San Diego companies come in.

San Diego’s digital agencies are leveraging technology as advertising and creating technology solutions for the world.

Here are a few of the amazing companies that are developing the right culture and creating San Diego’s own Digital Mafia.

Digital-Telepathy is a company that leads with design and works with some exciting startups and thought leaders. They have worked with local startups Mogl, StayClassy, Pathway, Embarke and Assistly (now, acquired by salesforce for nearly $100 million). The biggest startup they work with is New Relic, which has raised $175 million and helps mobile and web apps run better.

They are a design team highly regarded by Google Ventures, which provides seed money and other support to fledgling tech companies. When Google Ventures invests in a startup (and they don’t invest small) and the startup needs web design, or anything marketing- or design-based, they can send that startup to Digital-Telepathy. There is no formal affiliation.

Digital-Telepathy is led by Chuck Longanecker, who has deep ties to Silicon Valley but is dedicated to growing San Diego’s tech ecosystem. He started startupSD and says his company “is here to nurture startups, they just happen to provide services.”

Digital-Telepathy is rooted in design but is also building platforms and apps of its own, both to sell or keep in-house. Digital-Telepathy’s design and development team has created Filament, a simple drag-and-drop platform to add apps to any website, Hello Bar, sold to Crazy Egg in 2012, gives websites a way to highlight messages and SlideDeck allows anyone to add a beautiful slider (an interactive tool to help increase conversions on your website) without needing any code.

“We are entrepreneurial web geeks who work with just startups and thought leaders,” said Longanecker.

Longanecker and his group have a growing in-house internet publishing platform about startups and design called  and a Culture Blog.

Another amazing company building digital products is Digitaria. Founded and headquartered in San Diego, they are reinventing the 150-year-old J. Walter Thompson, one of the oldest New York advertising agencies (think “Mad Men”) and digital is at the center of the changes.

Led by its futuristic-minded leader and co-founder Dan Khabie, Digitaria is able to see the trends in design and technology before they emerge, and start to design for the future. A great example is cloud storage, a popular term now that Digitaria has been working with and designing for almost a decade.

Digitaria does both design work and full app development for companies like Lincoln Motor Co. and Amazon. One thing that sets it apart: The company can develop and build the digital products that their clients want.

“We are a marriage of Madison Ave. and digital technology,” said Khabie.

They recently worked with Amazon designing the look of Amazon’s web services and built an entire pet owners Social Media Platform for Nature’s Recipe.  They are delivering ad solutions that use the best of the web and leverage technology to do it.

Khabie and Digitaria are building their own digital mafia by building companies from the inside that can function entirely on their own. Their current project, Big on Mars, is a mobile app building company that gives clients the design, engineering and innovation to build next generation apps.

Khabie said he is doing everything he can to grow San Diego’s digital and tech ecosystem, and is bringing talent in from as far away as London.

Khabie said he wants to create as many companies as possible.

“It’s never been done in San Diego. San Diego is important to me, my focus is on making it special,” Khabie said.

Clarification: This post has been updated to better reflect the relationship between Digital-Telepathy and Google Ventures. The two are not formally affiliated.

Voice of San Diego is a nonprofit that depends on you, our readers. Please donate to keep the service strong. Click here to find out more about our supporters and how we operate independently.


The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of the San Diego Tech Scene

March 15, 2014 0 comments

Does San Diego have a tech startup community? Do local businesses use any new products actually built in San Diego, by San Diego developers? Can you name any San Diego tech companies other than Qualcomm? How would you find them and why would you want to work with one? Well, the answer is: There are hundreds of them and they are building amazing products.

And that is why I’m excited to be moving my column on startups from U-T San Diego to Voice of San Diego. Let me explain. Startups, by nature, are scrappy, adaptive creatures. They want to change whole industries. That means covering them from the most old-school, established news organization in town didn’t make a great fit.

Blair-Giesen11There are a lot of reasons to examine today’s tech scene.

I love what is going on in technology today. When we look back at what’s happening now, we’ll see we were in the midst of a tech revolution to rival the industrial revolution. Every industry is being reinvented. Some companies will keep up, others will not. I have started several companies and worked in big media. I can code – some. My 9-year-old son, Cooper, has learned to code through Codecademy and MIT Scratch. I have met some of the most amazing programmers in the world, and they are here in San Diego building products and platforms that make life easier.

So now that we know each other a little, let’s get back to technology in San Diego.  I plan to write about the gaps in the ecosystem and help connect some of them.

Here are some of the things I know about why the San Diego tech startup community struggles:

• Local companies don’t work together that often. From established companies to startups, local companies want to work with larger, out-of-town companies. Let’s face it: They pay more, they have more traction and are well-known. I tried many times to work with Clear Channel, CBS, Jack FM, 91X and Z90 with my audio platform, PopChatr. A radio company with a broadcast tower couldn’t figure out why it should use a local startup over Instagram or Facebook. Companies need to think of a partnership as their own low-cost tech lab.

Tell me, how are these companies making any money from Facebook? (Hint: They don’t.)

• The investment dollars just aren’t here. Investors look more often to L.A. or Silicon Valley. There is a real understanding of how the ecosystem works in those areas, investors figure. It’s already built.

• Many startup entrepreneurs don’t realize how hard it truly is to start a company. This is San Diego, and there are way too many distractions.

• There are no real mentorship programs.

And not all of the mentors who are here are willing to roll their sleeves up and say, “Let’s help make this happen. Here’s my Rolodex, let’s call some CEOs and get some deals done.” Nobody needs an armchair mentor. But I’ve heard countless people say, “Give me your elevator pitch, here’s my advice.” What does that get? Real mentorship goes beyond basic advice – mentors should insert themselves into the businesses they’re helping to test their assumptions.

• Where’s the tech hub in San Diego? The place where entrepreneurs, programmers and investors can talk about the amazing things they are building? Is it Sorrento Valley? UTC? Downtown? North County? If you figure it out, let me know.

We know from the lively discussion sparked by the blog post known as Brant’s Rant that there are some serious old-school people running some of the startup institutes in town. Since that discussion kicked off, some of the best tech companies’ founders have stepped up to help. The founder of Embarke, Al Bsharah, is now helping the downtown Evonexus bring some of the Techstars methods to the startup incubator. Techstars is one of the most successful startup accelerators in the country, and it puts a premium on mentorship.

What are you doing with your startup, or with technology in San Diego? Let me know. Let’s celebrate the wins, examine the struggles and follow your roadmap. We all know that San Diego is an amazing place to live. But it’s not yet competitive with Silicon Valley or other startup communities around the world. This tech community won’t work without companies working together. Reach out to each other, use each other’s platforms and technology and promote them.

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Local Startups Could Use Some Local Kickstarting

March 15, 2014 0 comments

Does anybody really believe in San Diego technology? How many successful mobile platforms or apps were made in San Diego? Where there any?

The fact that local companies don’t often work together is one of the biggest hurdles facing San Diego’s startup scene. When I pointed this out, I got tons of responses pondering why this was true.

Blair-Giesen11Chris Corriveau, CTO of local company StockTwits, thinks one reason is that companies simply “don’t know each other exist.”

That’s a problem with a solution. Here are some great resources to help existing and startup tech companies.

They may not be the whole answer – so let me know in the comments what you’re doing, or who’s taking action to fill the gaps.

Plug and Play

Recently seven local startups received $25,000 each from Plug and Play San Diego. Plug and Play Tech Center, an accelerator specializing in growing technology startups, created its local accelerator program specifically to grow entrepreneurship in San Diego late in 2012. Since that time, it has provided two rounds of funding that have allowed local businesses to go to the Bay Area, where it’s easier to get funding and help.

There were seven winners in the first pitch competition and eight in the more recent round, said Gabriela Dow, a spokeswoman for the group. That translates into $375,000 in seed money to help local entrepreneurs tap into even greater resources in the last year alone.

Dow said that despite programs like Plug And Play, there’s still a basic disbelief in San Diego regarding the availability of capital. Dow said Plug and Play didn’t receive as many applicants as it had hoped in its most recent round. She thinks people may be unaware or even fearful of the process.

“We don’t see it as often here in San Diego, and we do see that funding is often easier in other ecosystems,” said Dow. “The availability of more easily obtained startup money in a useful amount is something the entire region has to get accustomed to.”

These six startups were selected in May 2013, completed the StartupCamp program in September, raised over $2 million collectively and are back in San Diego continuing to grow: eFinancial Communications, Vioozer, Santech, Tip Network, Pcsso and Rock My World.

Feb. 28 is the application deadline for its third startup pitch competition. Applications are available here.

International Possibilities

Dow also noted an advantage San Diego offers startups not available in Silicon Valley: proximity to Mexico.

“For companies based in San Diego, they can benefit by proximity to Mexico because of such things as Mexico’s talent pool, lower costs of living and options for some approvals and trials that may be easier there,” she said.

When it comes to Mexico, Avi Stieglitz, co-founder of Nulu, a ground-breaking language learning application, also sees options for funding and support.

“For Nulu, the concept resonated stronger in Mexico,” said Steiglitz. “There, business supporters better understood the need for English instruction.”

Nulu founders were able to parlay that understanding into funding:

“We discovered that funding came more easily from non-native English speakers and individuals involved in business outside of the U.S.,” said Stieglitz. “People who grasped the concept were outside U.S. or were people here now who weren’t born here.”

Fostering Local Funding

Other champions of the local startup environment note the important role that successful area businesses and entrepreneurs must play in expanding business funding.

“I would tell anyone who wants to start a company to do it in San Diego,” said Kelly Abbott, managing director of San Diego Livefyre. (Abbott also helps run Voice of San Diego’s website.) “San Diego has it all: talent, lifestyle, climate, location. Now, it’s starting to have more capital and attention to funding.”

Abbott is helping create more funding for startups. In November 2013, he established the San Diego Tech Founder Pledge, a way for locally successful entrepreneurs to pay their success forward by pledging money to help other area entrepreneurs. The pledge form, available as a Google doc, says: “I will invest 10 percent of my earnings from my successful San Diego companies exit back into another San Diego startup.”

Abbott said he believes entrepreneurs who make the pledge will help address two issues currently facing San Diego startups: access to funding and creating more local companies. He said that when businesses have more funding, they can attract and keep local talent as well.

“When you pledge, you agree to be put on list,” said Abbott. “Our goal and job is then to connect entrepreneurs, to help new founders make connections to those who have pledged to support new business.”

The program hasn’t been up and running for too long, but Abbott said he’s been heartened by the response of entrepreneurs from the San Diego startup community.

“Entrepreneurs here are saying, ‘Absolutely, it makes perfect sense,’” he said.

Have something to add to this story? Share it in the comments below. If you have updates or news about your tech company, email me. I might feature them in tech news updates.

Voice of San Diego is a nonprofit that depends on you, our readers. Please donate to keep the service strong. Click here to find out more about our supporters and how we operate independently.

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What Tech Startups Are Doing to Survive in San Diego

March 15, 2014 0 comments

Plenty of successful companies exist in San Diego. But when you examine the methods each one used to get to where they are, something clear stands out: There’s no magic formula. They each traveled a different path.

It’s useful, then, to look at how a handful of local startups have cobbled together money-saving methods and harnessed local resources to build successful companies.

Here are a few:

Blair-Giesen11Startup watchers might learn a lot from one local company, EcoATM, a startup that helps people recycle used electronics.  They were purchased recently by Outerwall (owners of Coinstar and RedBox) for $350 million in cash. How they found success is instructive: They didn’t just leverage one or two local resources – they used a bunch, including incubators Commnexus and Connect, as well as UCSD’s Rady School of Management.


Austin Neudecker, a startup expert, identified several other local resources for tech entrepreneurs in a recent blog post. They include:

• Mentor hours and mentor nights: One-on-one mentoring sessions with successful entrepreneurs

• Domain experts: One-on-one topic-specific meetings with service providers (design, legal, HR, etc.)

• Seed San Diego: Dinners and events with local investors

• CEO forum: Trusted startup leaders discuss their latest challenges

• Poker 2.0: Monthly poker tournaments with founders and investors

Startup SD website: News, calendars, ecosystem info and sign-ups

Business R&D Growth Lab: Partner with a startup that’s investing capital to innovate


Two downtown startups, Tiny Factory and Variable Action, have built companies that provide a cash flow that can support the creation of other technology platforms.

Over the last few years Tiny Factory has been specializing in designing and developing web and mobile applications, building large-scale applications for Fortune 500 companies including General Electric, Scholastic and Nike.

Co-founder Alex Rolek talked about how he is able to create technology and jobs in San Diego.

“We love building products and so we started testing various ones in the market. The cash flow from Tiny Factory has allowed us to bootstrap and validate our current product, Brandisty, a cloud-based brand management tool,” said co-founder Alex Rolek. “You quickly figure out how to be scrappy with marketing, manage resource expenditures and become very effective at business development.”

Variable Action, another development company with an amazing team, has come up with Zesty, a way to make it easier for developers and business owners to more easily control their website with a cloud-based backend to update and change content.


 “San Diego proved to make a ton more sense than the Bay Area (where half of us are from) as the headquarters,” said Tien Nguyen, co-founder and director of technology at CPC Strategy, a digital marketing company. Nguyen said his group bootstrapped it from Day 1 and have funded everything themselves. Nearly all of first 20 hires or so were students from UCSD and SDSU.

“All sales are inbound and come from the content we wrote, which ended up ranking high on Google searches. A great example was a client like Verizon read our content, opted in and signed up with us.”


The point: There’s no silver bullet. But each of these startups found a way to grow successful companies in San Diego. It is possible.

If you have updates or news about your tech company, email me.

Voice of San Diego is a nonprofit that depends on you, our readers. Please donate to keep the service strong. Click here to find out more about our supporters and how we operate independently.

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Why My Daughter Has a New Zeal for Math

March 15, 2014 0 comments

The most amazing thing happened last week.An 11-year-old girl tagged along to what she thought would be a boring tech event, and came out of it talking nonstop about math and how amazing it was.

Blair-Giesen11The girl was my daughter, Bella. Math is a subject she’s struggled with. She has worked very hard at it, but it doesn’t come easily. She recently shared with me that someone told her she ultimately wouldn’t even use most of the math she is learning. So when I asked her if she wanted to go to a local tech event with me, I had no idea what to expect.

What happened at Co-Merge downtown Wednesday night was a parent’s greatest wish come true.  Geek Girl brought together some of San Diego’s top women in startups to spread the message of the strength of women in technology. Women from local startups to investors told how they got into technology and shared how other women can succeed in technology.

The panel of women included moderator Shawn Bridgeman of Embarke, Liz Hedstrom co-founder and creator of WeddingHappy, Marnie Zoglman senior software operations manager at Qualcomm, Juliet Oberding, co-founder of Predictably Well and Allison Long Pettine, president of Crescent Ridge Partners Ventures – a great mix of executives, software developers and investors talking about how they got to where they’re at.

San Diego is becoming a great place for tech and startups and women are a big part of it.

The Geek Girl event focused on the so-called pipeline issue – getting girls and women involved in technology at a young age. Women earn more than half of all bachelor’s and master’s degrees, but only start 3 percent of new tech companies. Women, therefore, represent a nearly untapped potential when it comes to creating new tech businesses and contributing to a vibrant tech startup scene.

Several women at the event said women sometimes shy away from developing the tech knowledge critical to establishing a business and even fewer pursue tech as a business concept.

“While there are some hardcore female tech enthusiasts, the majority of the female population isn’t wired that way,” said Leslie Fishlock, CEO of Geek Girl.  “Even today, girls are not pushed to do what guys do.”

“A manager of mine looked at me and said, ‘you’re ready to be a manager’ and that was the push I needed,” said Zoglman.

Geek Girl and Fishlock have been trying to be part of that push locally.

So has Chic CEO, founded in San Diego by Stephanie Burns, a free online resource for current and aspiring female entrepreneurs. It provides women with the ground-level information they need to start a business.

And, women in startups hit the same walls as everyone else, namely funding. Another one of the speakers, Pettine, is trying to provide it for San Diego-based startups.

“Six out of seven of my startup portfolio are San Diego companies,” she said. Several of the executives at those companies are women, and Pettine is an important part of San Diego’s startup growth.

But, before there can be funding, there has to be an idea.

Oberding suggested a few ways to spur girls’ interest, including a hack-a-thon where they could build their first app.

My daughter Bella, who wasn’t playing on her phone (she’s a huge app lover and knows what she likes) leaned over to me and said, “Now that sounds really cool.”

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