New San Diego Incubator Adds Three More Startups on Opening Day

11/3/09Follow @bvbigelow

EvoNexus, San Diego’s free high-tech incubator, announced that it has enrolled three more startup companies during ceremonies yesterday that officially marked the opening of its new facility.

CommNexus, the San Diego wireless industry group, announced five months ago that it was leading the creation of the free and “no strings attached” startup incubator, to be headed by wireless industry executive Cathy Pucher. EvoNexus, which is structured as a nonprofit organization, plans to eventually house 10 to 12 technology startups; it named its first three startups less than two months ago.

CommNexus and EvoNexus have both moved their offices into part of a 25,000-square-foot commercial office building that was previously occupied by San Diego-based Leap Wireless, (NASDAQ: LEAP), which sells prepaid discount mobile phone service through its Cricket Communications subsidiary. By providing the office space to EvoNexus for one year at no cost, Leap made the largest single contribution of more than three dozen companies and individuals that donated in-kind services and cash to the incubator, according to Pucher.

“San Diego is an innovation economy,” Leap CEO S. Douglas Hutcheson told the crowd. “We’ve spawned more new companies in San Diego than I think anyone would have believed, and it’s vital that we support that.”

For the startups that are lucky enough to get selected, the incubator provides free office space, including utilities, Internet service, office equipment, and volunteer business mentoring for up to two years.

“Other cities don’t recognize the collaboration that we have here,” San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders told a lunchtime crowd of roughly 150 people who attended a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the incubator. The mayor was joined by other local dignitaries and industry officials, including CommNexus board chairman John Major, the former chairman and CEO of two San Diego wireless companies, Novatel Wireless and Wireless Knowledge. “As we entered into the recession of recessions, a lot of non-profits hunkered down, and frankly that would have been the easy thing for us as well,” Major said. “But that’s not the way we operate.”

Pucher, the incubator’s executive director, told me the startups enrolled in the EvoNexus program were gleaned from about 90 applicants. Joining the first three startups—Medipacs, PixonImaging, and IOsemi—the latest three to be inducted are:

—TetraVue is developing a high-resolution 3D camera and video recording system, capable of recording megapixel images, that can greatly reduce the cost of 3D imaging currently done with laser-scanning technology. The technology can be operated in two ways, depending on the types of digital recording chips that are used. By using high-speed digital chips, the system can record at extremely high rates of 1,000 frames per second or higher. Or, by using high-capacity megapixel chips, the system can operate at very high optical resolution. TetraVue president and founder Paul Banks said the startup’s focus is initially on the surveying and construction market, but the technology also can be used in structural analysis, biometrics, motion picture special effects, video games, forensics, and quality assurance. For TetraVue, Banks said the biggest value of the EvoNexus incubator is the business and technology mentoring “as we try to negotiate the technology development.”

MicroPower Technologies, founded by former Peregrine Semiconductor marketing executive Jon Siann, is developing ultra-low-power wireless video surveillance camera technologies that reduce power requirements for such systems by as much as 99 percent. The company says its technology also dramatically cuts installation costs, such as the expense of pulling cable, and could ease the adoption of Bluetooth-enabled wearable video cameras by law enforcement, paramedics, first responders, and military personnel.

EcoATM plans to install self-serve kiosks for recycling mobile phones and other consumer electronics in wireless stores and retailers in San Diego, Texas, Washington state, and Vermont before the end of the year. Each automated kiosk uses a camera-based system to identify, inspect, and evaluate unwanted cell phones, MP3 players, digital cameras, and other electronic devices. Based on the condition of the device, the EcoATM kiosk offers in-store credit or a coupon to consumers who recycle their old mobile phones. The company says demand for refurbished mobile phones is rapidly accelerating, particularly in developing countries.

Bruce V. Bigelow is the editor of Xconomy San Diego. You can e-mail him at bbigelow@xconomy.com or call (619) 669-8788 Follow @bvbigelow

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  • Jb

    While it’s great to have small very niche startups, is anyone addressing the number of firms that actually employ people leaving the area?

    It’s great to have a thriving, risky, cutting edge ecosystem of small startups. I just wonder how long the region can keep losing companies that have actual value today, not maybe value tomorrow.

  • Peter

    I’m among several companies that are eying nearby states with much brighter prospects. Smaller companies cannot justify higher overhead costs and large companies cannot afford the employee burden. Frankly, very highly educated employees are available just about anywhere. Believe me, Huntsville Alabama; Boise, Idaho and Reno, Nevada are but a few cities eating San Diego’s lunch.

    Unless you are a provider of direct real-time services, have high capital/infrastructure commitments or just want to have your corporate suite minutes from a golf course/beach – there is no bottom-line justification for doing business in this state.