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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. But there are many different ways to evaluate this claim, and plenty of skeptics have emerged.

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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