Where Failure is an Option: San Diego’s Startup Culture as a Bay Area Annex
Not long ago, one of my Xconomy colleagues in Seattle posted a provocative piece about startup failures and suggested the startup culture in some cities—especially the San Francisco Bay Area—is far more tolerant of technology entrepreneurs who fail.
Greg found that many Seattle entrepreneurs say they feel stigmatized by startup failures in the Pacific Northwest (does all that winter drizzle make them more pessimistic?). Seattle VCs, on the other hand, take a milder view. In Boston, the startup culture apparently has an attitude, at least the way it’s described by Brad Feld, who has been investing nationally for the past 15 years (and who co-founded the TechStars seed-stage startup program and the Foundry Group in Boulder, CO). Feld says, “One of the reasons I think Boston has resurged as such an entrepreneurial community, in a good way, in the last couple of years, is it had a massive chip on its shoulder.”
In the Bay Area, the kingdom of heaven for venture capital, Greg heard (at least from outside) that failure is considered a badge of honor—which makes it sound like collecting an Eagle Scout badge for entrepreneurs.
San Diego’s startup culture, however, was largely unrepresented that day. So I conducted an informal survey of local VCs and entrepreneurs and discovered to my surprise that many view San Diego as a kind of venture annex of the Bay Area—especially as San Diego’s hometown venture firms have faded in recent years.
“I think San Diego is more like the Bay Area than Seattle,” says Jeanine Jacobson,” a San Diego-based partner of the Founder Institute’s startup incubator and mentoring program. “There is a quote that everyone can relate to: ‘Good judgment comes from experience, but experience comes from bad judgment’ and entrepreneurs are no exception to this rule. All one has to ask VCs is who would you rather invest in—a first time entrepreneur or an entrepreneur who has had a past failure?”
Marco Thompson, who founded Wind River Services (which was acquired earlier this year by Intel) and is managing director of San Diego-based Express Ventures, was among several who linked San Diego’s startup culture to the Bay Area. “Financing for San Diego technology companies comes principally from the Bay Area, and not at all from Seattle,” Thompson says. “So we are clearly infected with Bay Area attitudes, and are very tolerant of previous failures.” Thompson adds, “My attitude, and the attitude of many investors that I know, is that ‘an entrepreneur learns more in a failure than in a success.’”
Abi Barrow, who has years of experience with startup programs in both San Diego and Boston, says, “While I am not sure that failure was a badge of honor in San Diego, it was certainly accepted and not held against you if you … Next Page »