San Diego’s Hotbed of Innovation Also a Hotbed for World Cup Fans

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two countries on, and then over time I have also become a U.S. fan. With European parents I grew up playing soccer rather than baseball or football and still play a few times a week now… I went to Germany four years ago for the World Cup and have now made it my goal to attend the World Cup every four years.”

Gioia Messinger, founding CEO of Avaak, which specializes in Web-based video technology, tells me, “I am a fan because I grew up in Latin America [Bolivia] so soccer is in my blood. I am predicting Brazil or Argentina as the ultimate winner.” With the 2006 World Cup finalists France and Italy both knocked out in first-round competition, she adds, “You could argue that this is the best World Cup ever for Latin American teams.” Messinger, who was attending the Red Herring North American 100 conference at the Hotel del Coronado, says all of the TVs in the hotel were tuned to the U.S.-Algeria match Wednesday, and “the whole room erupted” at the conference when the U.S. scored. (Gioia, who made a presentation about Avaak at the conference, says her company also scored when Avaak was named as one of the “Red Herring 100” for North America.)

Michael Zeller, the CEO and co-founder of Zementis, a startup that specializes in software analytics, tells me by e-mail that he is following Germany’s World Cup matches. “Our avid fans in the office are watching the games during every lunch break.” When I asked why he’s a fan, Zeller replied, “I am German-born and grew up there; came to the U.S. for graduate school. So, I grew up watching soccer, playing soccer, same as kids here in the U.S. watch & play football or baseball.”

Drew Senyei, managing director of Enterprise Partners Venture Capital (and a San Diego Xconomist), tells me: “I spent 10 years watching our kids play and really got a feel for the strategy and artistic flow of the game. Obviously cheering for USA. In many ways [this] sport is a religion that the whole world believes in, no matter where you are, and can bridge the cultural divides. Argentina’s coach, Diego Maradona, is very colorful and quirky, and the way he coaches shows the love of the game. He used to be one of the best players and now he is coaching Lionel Messi, who is considered the best player in the world. They show a lot emotion that the crowd picks up on. It would be great if the U.S. won—not only because of the pride—but since the whole world would have to call it “soccer” and not “football,” at least according to Jon Stewart.”

With the tournament now winnowed to 16 teams, the U.S. returns to the pitch Saturday against Ghana in what soccer fans refer to as “the knockout round,”which might be dubbed something like “the Sweet 16” if you’re the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s men’s basketball tournament. (And if you’re among “the four or five” World Cup fans in the U.S. who also is a member of San Diego’s innovation community, feel free to explain why you’re a fan and who you’re cheering in the comment section below.)

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

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