First Startups Take Flight From San Diego’s EvoNexus Incubator; Irvine Company Launches Initiative to ‘Renew’ University City as a Tech Hub

EvoNexus, the free incubator launched last November by San Diego’s CommNexus telecom industry group, is preparing to send its first fledgling startups into the wild—and to choose a few new startups to replace them.

The comings and goings are taking place as both EvoNexus and CommNexus are settling into new office space themselves, just months after the privately held Newport Beach, CA-based Irvine Company took both organizations under its wing. The nonprofit telecom group and its EvoNexus incubator moved rent-free into the fourth floor of an Executive Square office building in San Diego’s University City neighborhood about two months ago, according to CommNexus officials. The arrangement is part of a broader initiative by the Irvine Company to renew the area as a center of innovation for technology startups, which were priced out of the market during the go-go years of Southern California’s combined tech and real estate booms.

“We’re trying to bring the idea and brand back,” says Doug Holte, president of office properties at the Irvine Company. The real estate developer and property management company owns more than half of the office buildings near the upscale University Towne Center shopping mall, which serves as the de facto center of the area also known as UTC. Adding to the confusion is the fact that the community also is sometimes referred to as the “Golden Triangle,” because the Interstate 5, State Route 52, and Interstate 805 form a triangle around the master-planned mix of condos, apartment buildings, hotels, shopping malls, hospitals, and office buildings.

Holte says the Irvine Company, which owns about 33 million square feet of office space from Silicon Valley to San Diego, has been working to “re-introduce UTC” as a tech hub on the strength of its original concept as a commercial and residential center for UC San Diego, a few miles to the west.

CommNexus has been helping the Irvine Company promote the area, and last night the industry group hosted an invitation-only “open house” for the local tech community. In an interview yesterday, CommNexus CEO Rory Moore told me, “We look at UTC as a new convergence tech cluster,” with the EvoNexus incubator as a key source for the innovation. The nonprofit telecom industry group founded EvoNexus in mid-2009 as a way of keeping the flame of innovation flickering in San Diego amid the Great Recession’s capital crisis and a dearth of … Next Page »

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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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