At a Private Xconomy Dinner, Luminaries Debate the Future of Innovation in San Diego

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that big venture firms in technology hubs like San Francisco, Boston, or Seattle don’t see geography as a barrier, and that good ideas win funding wherever they’re born. “I’m pretty agnostic as to where a company is,” Rastetter said. “I’m looking for ideas, and for a strategy that is going to survive in an environment of extreme capital scarcity. I’m looking for people, I’m looking for IP, and I’m looking for a plausible value inflection [that opens] access to more capital. That has nothing to do with where I am.”

Titus rejected that argument. “I’d love to get a look at the last three years of Series A deals in San Diego and see what percentage do not have a local investor in them,” he said. “I’m willing to bet that it’s less than 30 percent.”

—San Diego needs more angel investors with more money. Individual investors in the Bay Area, in particular, seem to work more assiduously and make many more investments. Titus said he’d recently read about a young individual investor in the Bay Area who had decided to stop investing after putting money into 45 companies. “I’d be shocked by anyone in San Diego who’s made even 20” investments, Titus exclaimed.

—San Diego needs more technology incubators like EvoNexus, operated by the nonprofit industry group CommNexus as a pro-bono, no-strings attached incubator for entrepreneurs who have promising technologies and solid business plans, dinner participants agreed. While profit-minded technology incubators like IdeaEdge (a San Diego incubator based on the model of Waltham, MA-based CMGI) have mostly imploded, incubators are still a powerful platform for launching new companies. Titus predicted that over the next five years, the EvoNexus incubator would produce “several modestly growing, successful companies, and one or two really big stars… I’m not sure who they are going to be yet, but the quality is there.”

“Take a look at Plug and Play Tech Centers in Silicon Valley,” said Waring. “It’s 150,000 square feet of phenomenally dynamic space; it’s just alive. There is a potential to have a Plug and Play in San Diego. It’s not going to be 150,000 square feet, but that raises questions of deal flow. I think we desperately need that.”

—Increased federal funding over the past two years has buoyed San Diego’s research and development community, especially grants from the National Institutes of Health for biomedical research at the Salk Institute, the Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute, The Scripps Research Institute, and UC San Diego. But funding is unlikely to continue at such levels, posing a tough problem for the region in terms of finding … Next Page »

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Bruce Bigelow is San Diego Editor of Xconomy. Wade Roush is Chief Correspondent and San Francisco Editor. Follow @

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