San Diego is home to a lot of great things: year-round sunshine, surfing, and some of the best Mexican food you’ll ever have. But that’s why the tourists come here to crowd our beaches and highways.
The real hallmark of San Diego is the opportunity it provides to young professionals, specifically small-stage entrepreneurs. Sure, some people might argue that there is a lack of opportunity when it comes to capital and accelerators, but that’s only because San Diego is still growing.
“San Diego is a bit less saturated than Silicon Valley, but it’s a more inclusive community,” says Michele Yoshioka, Director of Programs at EvoNexus. “There are a lot of people dedicated to making San Diego better.”
EvoNexus is an incubator that embodies the very meaning of the word “inclusive.” They operate under the umbrella of CommNexus, a nonprofit company, and provide a completely subsidized work space for the 27 startups that work there.
Being able to maintain a low operation cost, for a small startup, could make the difference between success and failure. And it’s precisely because of EvoNexus’ charity that San Diego has had some dynamite startups.
OnMyBlock, one such startup, graduated from the incubator, but when they secured funding, they left the city. However, there have been others who stepped up to take action; Bevato, the company that powers TapHunter, graduated EvoNexus in 2012 and they decided to stick around.
Further, they wanted to maintain the atmosphere of connectedness they had experienced in the incubator model. So, Melani Gordon, CEO of TapHunter, and her fellow mover and shaker Austin Neudecker, a previous VC, brought other startups together to recreate it.
After a lot of hard work and few moves, they actually landed back in the same building as EvoNexus and they named their new space 1120. The beauty of this space is that it was designed as an entrepreneur-led office where everybody pitches in to make it productive for all.
“As a small team it’s important to be around others with energy,” says Gordon. “Being only feet away from other startup CEOs is helpful when you negotiate deal terms, need advice, or just want to have fun.”
There are currently seven different companies sharing 1120’s space, and each entrepreneur there has already raised money and understands the benefits of a tight-knit community. They put their collective experiences together to re-shape San Diego into an incredibly formidable tech startup scene.
“I’m trying to do what I’ve seen work in other parts of the country and bring it here,” says Neudecker. “We need a place where entrepreneurs want to stay and find the right fit. That will draw the capital to us.”
And while some might focus on the negative, like the lack of capital and accelerators, Neudecker and Gordon focus on the positive. To that end, 1120 is constantly hosting a multitude of events, like San Diego Tech Week, to show that San Diego is not just thriving, but also destined for great things.
“We’re shining a spotlight on the good here versus complaining about the lack of funding,” says Gordon. “You can in fact build a strong company here.”
Through all of this, there seems to be a common thread that will help San Diego reach startup glory: everything circles back to the talent in the city. San Diego already has an insatiable pull, but the presence of three powerhouse universities – UCSD, SDSU, and USD – makes the potential for success that much stronger.