San Diego Starts To Flex Its Cross-Border Muscles

April 14, 2014 0 comments

San Diego Starts To Flex Its Cross-Border Muscles

San Diego is perfect for manufacturing wearable technology. However, due to its proximity to Mexico, a new accelerator is betting big that it is the perfect place for building wearable technology.

Hard Tech Labs (HTL) has put together a bold plan to bring together a world class design, prototyping and building center in San Diego. HTL is combining the San Diego and Baja regions to form a partnership that cannot be done anywhere else in the world.

With the ability to share talent and resources from both San Diego and Tijuana, HTL is creating a place where hard goods with technology can be built in a very short time and inexpensive cost.

Forget China

With HTL, hard goods manufacturers can now go to Mexico to build things much faster than going all the way to China – and for a much lower cost. This is especially advantageous when doing prototyping at HTL; a production run can then happen immediately right across the boarder.

Hard Tech Labs will be like no other accelerator. According to PandoDaily, HTL is currently in the process of raising $20 million and will fund projects up to $150,000 when the enter the accelerator, with up to $350,000 when they exit.

Additionally, Hard Tech Labs will offer much of the machinery needed to design, test, develop and build hard technology products. They also have partnerships with Mexican Maquiladoras (large manufacturing sites) to get the products built.

San Diego is already home to hard tech groups and incubators such as FabLab San Diego and MakerPlace where there are 3D Printers, fabricators, CNC cutting, laser cutters and so much more.

Hard Tech Labs will be able to help entrepreneurs in wearable products such as fitness, jewelry, robotics and drones to name a few categories.  HTL will be offering a comprehensive 6 month to 1 year program with a developed curriculum and extensive mentoring program. They plan to also help to facilitate valuable partnerships with not only manufacturers to get products built but with established brands to get you product launched and cash flowing.

The initial class is targeting wearable technology, drone manufacturers, medical devises and customizable attire. Think you have a product or idea that fits one of these? Email Hard Tech Labs to apply.

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


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.

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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

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