My Last Hurrah!
First, I want to share a personal note. Today is my last Startup Buzz post. I am sad to be saying goodbye to something I enjoyed so much and was extremely proud to be a part of. This blog kicked off about the same time Hatch was “hatched” by San Diego Magazine, almost two years ago. Publisher Jim Fitzpatrick and Chief Content Officer Erin Chambers Smith have made a staunch commitment to covering our fast-growing and impactful innovation community. They deserve kudos for that. And I will be forever grateful to them for allowing me to be the storyteller for so many emerging companies in our region. But don’t worry – we all know there is no shortage of startup news out there and Hatch will continue to share it.
Follow the Money
CureMatch closed a seed round led by Serra Ventures. The digital health company analyzes cancer treatment options for patients. Earlier this year, they hit a big milestone when the company proved its technology with a melanoma case.
EvoNexus Exits Downtown. Now What?
This was likely not the kind of exit announcement people expected from EvoNexus, an incubator that has long been at the center of startup activity downtown. EvoNexus announced this month that it was closing its downtown location and moving all its San Diego attention to its UTC location. The incubator had an early win with EcoATM which was acquired in 2013 for $350 million. Since then it has mainly been a place to live for young companies getting their start in San Diego. It offered access to the community, but beyond that each company’s experience varied. It seems funding and leadership were two issues facing the incubator as the ecosystem in San Diego has grown and now includes many software, SaaS, and consumer businesses.
Enter San Diego NEXT. In response to the City of San Diego’s Request for Proposals last year, several local groups, including the San Diego Downtown Partnership, came together to launch an accelerator program located downtown. If you subscribe to the Brad Feld school of startup communities, one of the biggest missing pieces in San Diego is a robust accelerator program similar to TechStars or YCombinator. Just to clarify, an incubator is typically a non-profit entity allowing companies to have space and access to some support or mentor services. An accelerator is typically a for-profit entity or tied closely to a for-profit entity because it involves giving funding in exchange for ownership and helping the companies get on a path for acceleration. These two words get interchanged a lot. They are not the same.
It appears San Diego NEXT will be a hub for accelerators, counting on the smaller accelerator programs that do exist here to headquarter themselves onsite. It does not appear that the program will be investing in companies, although it has planned for some of its partner entities to invest in companies that take advantage of the educational programs offered at San Diego NEXT.
With the exit of EvoNexus, San Diego NEXT now plans to move forward with its concept without waiting for the city RFP process to play out. That plays off another Brad Feld tip: Don’t wait for local government or the political apparatus to help create your ecosystem. They can add to it later, but they can’t create it.
Other groups are now working to fill the void that will be left, including StartupSD and UCSD. The overall sentiment in the community is optimistic about the way forward. One of the biggest takeaways from the EvoNexus departure is their inability to make something work downtown and opting instead for a UTC location. There is a stark difference in the kinds of companies and founders that will locate their business downtown versus UTC. According to the Union Tribune, 8-10 of the incubator’s current 51 companies plans to relocate to UTC. And clearly the downtown model is working. Over the past few months numerous co-working and startup spaces have set up shop and are doing quite well housing young companies.
The ecosystem needs collaborative space and place for community. EvoNexus’ departure will definitely leave a hole. The question for now is what will fill it.
Aira You Ready for Some Football?
Local company Aira, creator of a unique technology that assists the visually impaired, just got a new teammate. Former Dallas Cowboy Emmitt Smith will be showcasing the company’s technology on October 1 when the Cowboys take on the Los Angeles Rams in Dallas. He will be in the press box armed with a headset and the Aira dashboard while a visually impaired fan sits in the stands during the game. The fan wearing the Aira glasses will have access to Smith’s commentary and play-by-play for the entire game, offering the fan a picture of what is going on in the game despite the visual impairment. The celebrity event came to Aira through its partnership with AT&T.
Qeepsake’s Twist on the Baby Book
If you are a parent, there have been a million things you probably wish you had written down and logged in a book or journal about your child. But often you don’t have the book with you or you just haven’t carved out the time to create a lasting memory book for your child. Enter Qeepsake. The San Diego- and Boston-based company has created an app that prompts parents for journal entries and then keeps track of the information for them. The company just completed the TechStars accelerator program and is planning its first attempt to raise institutional capital. It currently has more than 80,000 parents on the platform and hopes to use new capital to expand the product, the team, and its user base.