Alliance Blog

A great day for San Diego’s Innovation Community

What a great day for San Diego innovation leaders on May 31st!  The afternoon commenced with a celebration of the launch of the Entrepreneurship Center and the EIR program at UC San Diego. UCSD’s innovation strategy, centered on the creation of the innovation workforce of tomorrow, is driving positive social and economic impact for our global community. Their vision is to “Create the Innovation Workforce of Tomorrow through a transdisciplinary environment where unbounded thinking and collaboration produce high impact innovation and innovators.” Chancellor Khosla with Paul Roben, Associate Vice Chancellor of Innovation and Technology Commercialization (and vice chair of the Alliance) and other dignitaries shared their vision for the new center and affirmed the exciting mission for the recently opened Design & Innovation building.  

The UC San Diego Entrepreneurship center builds on that vision and brings San Diego’s regional innovation community together like never before, to create a dynamic and diverse environment that accelerates the development of entrepreneurial talent and impact-driven companies.  The Entrepreneur-in-Residence program convenes business leaders to garner entrepreneurial expertise for campus innovation, accelerating the development of entrepreneurs and startup companies.

This important occasion seemed like a logical time to convene a group of top leaders from San Diego’s dynamic innovation community to connect and assess the state of the local ecosystem.  

Thanks to our terrific sponsors, Matt Bresnahan (& Zach Myers) from Wilson Sonsini, and Dan Ryan (& Hunter Reed) from Alexandria Real Estate Equities. The group met for cocktails, dinner and discussion at the Winery in La Jolla Village.  We were thrilled that almost two dozen corporates (Illumina, J&J, Lilly, Takeda, Amazon, Alexandria), investors (Techstars, NEA, Alma) and academic leaders joined notable San Diego entrepreneurs like Rich Heyman, Carol Gallagher, Magda Marquet,  Jennifer Giottonini Cayer, Bruce Steel to connect and share thoughtful perspectives.

Though many topics were covered in the course of the evening, the one that got the most engagement was focused on what is special about San Diego and what key work is yet to be done.  The group particularly agreed that the tightness, collegiality, openness, humility, pride, density of academic/research institutes, and cross disciplinary competencies were particularly compelling attributes.  There was discussion about the potential impacts of remote work and how it might allow San Diego innovators to access additional critically needed talent in other geographies.  Folks were enthusiastic about the future of the many newly minted public companies that call San Diego home. However, the point that got the group most energized was the need to more aggressively engage nontraditional innovators and bring diverse talent into the innovation ecosystem.  The shared challenge is to fight the natural tendency to stick to the beaten path but instead invest the extra time and energy to find new sources of talent across the region.  One of our guests Maria Anguiano (both of ASU and the UC system) shared this recent article from Fortune about the significant work in front of all of us to make this aspiration a reality. In particular, it states “More broadly, there is inequity throughout the entire entrepreneurial ecosystem which holds back women and people of color from succeeding as business owners.”

As someone who travels the diverse network of innovation communities that form the SoCal innovation network, I can confirm there is indeed something special about San Diego.  Besides being fun and friendly, it has gravitas and critical mass.  As an ecosystem, they have achieved scale while maintaining intimacy and a small town spirit that can so often get lost once success is achieved. I believe San Diego will be a leader in embracing typically underrepresented communities not only because it is the right thing to do, but it must also enlist more of its population to meet its on-going demand for talent for it to continue to grow and thrive.