Last week, San Diego got visits from what I would call two of the most influential thinkers around innovation, creatives, and startup ecosystems—Brad Feld and Richard Florida:
On Thursday night, Brad Feld spoke to startup founders at CommonGrounds in Carlsbad (more on this cool, new workspace below). Feld is the co-founder of the Foundry Group and TechStars, has written several books, and is considered an expert on investing in startups, startup ecosystems, and the life of an entrepreneur. This small space can’t do justice to the reputation he has earned. Every year Feld and his wife spend a month in San Diego at Rancho Valencia, which they discovered through their love of tennis. On Thursday night, he talked a great deal about sports and how his interest and background in sports has affected and influenced his work. He competes in numerous marathons and likened the entrepreneurial experience to a marathon in terms of the rhythm and cadence needed, and the swings between not thinking you can finish and triumph.
Feld was an early investor in Fitbit and shared some fascinating nuggets from that experience, such as the fact that he invested in the company without ever meeting anyone in person. From lackluster funding rounds to a full product recall, the Fitbit story is unique, and then again, it’s not. (By the way, Fitbit is a local now with 16,000+ square feet in Rancho Bernardo.) Feld was interviewed at the event by local San Diego innovator and Managing Director at Techstars, Ryan Kuder. The overwhelming response from the evening was that it was great to have someone like Feld share his thoughts on the more personal, emotional side of being an entrepreneur.
On Thursday morning, the Downtown San Diego Partnership hosted well-known urbanist/social and economic theorist Richard Florida at the Jacobs Center in Southeast San Diego. Florida understands cities, how they ebb and flow, and he usually has a lot of great data to back up what he thinks, says, and predicts. He has written several books, two on the creative class.
There was more substance to his remarks than could ever fit here. It was a discussion led by Steve Clemons of The Atlantic, also featuring Mary Walshok of UCSD. Here are a few highlights:
Florida has a new book coming out next April, New Urban Crisis. It is his belief that the country is still divided along racial and geographic lines, illustrated by the recent election. He also believes that division cuts along the lines of innovation as well. Based on rankings he manages, the cities that do really well in terms of urban innovation do not do well in terms of urban equality. San Diego is one of those cities. Florida and Walshok discussed how San Diego can bring equality and inclusion to the innovation culture. Walshok believes San Diego is already a big tent culture which will help, along with our proximity to Mexico, which everyone in innovation knows is a huge and unique asset.
Florida believes a better understanding of creatives and overcoming the engineer-only culture would be big steps forward for San Diego. He asserted that creatives are not all young and not all of them live in or want to live in cities. Many are choosing walkable suburbs. He made a distinction between innovation communities with an engineering culture and those that also include a design culture. He also believes that success will come when San Diego businesses get innovative about not just their products, but how they run their businesses in the community and that we have to get over the urban/suburban divide.
You can stay current on Florida’s thoughts at The Atlantic’s CityLab.
Follow the Money
Local diagnostics company Genalyte raised $36 million from its existing investors Khosla Ventures and Redmile Group. The company is developing diagnostic tests that require only a drop of blood.
You’re a Smart Engineer and You’re Here?
The San Diego Venture Group wins the award for most clever effort to woo talent back to San Diego from the Bay Area. A January billboard campaign titled #UltimateLifeHack will creatively shame tech talent that might have fled San Diego for the Bay Area. Directing onlookers stuck in traffic along the 101 to the site sandiegoisbetter.com, the billboards are a precursor to a job fair on February 1.
Carlsbad CommonGrounds Adds to the Region’s Co-Working Venues
One guy who didn’t need a billboard to convince him to return to San Diego is Jason Harper, who is running things at the Carlsbad CommonGrounds coworking space—coming soon to downtown San Diego. (Until just last week CommonGrounds was known as Vibehub.) After leaving SD for the chance to work in Silicon Valley, Jason has returned and the Carlsbad location boasts all that the San Diego experience has to offer—proximity to the beach, creative space, and interesting companies.
Pivots and Opportunities
Eric Gasser, founding member of SEED San Diego, offers advice on all things mentor. How to find one, how to structure the agreement, and how to get the most out of the relationship.
Be There or Be…
Game Changers Series: Robots on the Rise
November 30, 5-7:30 p.m., The Downtown Partnership, 401 B Street, Suite 100