San Diego Tech Week Reflects Gains as Web Startups Amass Downtown
As the founding CEO of San Diego’s OpenCandy and its sister startup SweetLabs, Darrius Thompson says he usually keeps his head down and his attention focused on the nuts and bolts of building both companies, and on creating new Web-based software.
So it’s understandable that Thompson was unaware of a grassroots effort to help boost San Diego’s fledgling community of Web startups by getting successful tech entrepreneurs to spend some time coaching less-experienced startup founders. “I just didn’t get involved,” Thompson told me in a phone call that was scheduled over a week ago. “I’m running two companies here.”
Yet Thompson decided he should start making time. He says he began to realize over the past few weeks that many of San Diego’s young Web CEOs are yearning for help. In an e-mail, he writes: “I talked to a number of startups last week and could see the pain in their faces as they asked me for more of my involvement in the local scene. Most of the conversations revolved around the need for mentors or peers who have current direct experience in building products and organizations.”
In a phone call yesterday, Thompson adds, “You can just see their frustration. They are really intelligent individuals with really good ideas. Yet a lot of the questions they were asking were pretty straightforward.”
So the SweetLabs founder, who was previously a co-founder, product developer, and strategist at San Diego-based DivX, has become the latest volunteer at “20/20 Mentor Mashup,” a program that provides twice monthly mentoring sessions that match 20 experienced Web executives and serial entrepreneurs with 20 startup founders in round-robin sessions of 25 minutes.
“That’s exactly what we were hoping would happen,” says Melani Gordon, the co-founder and CEO of the craft brewery app TapHunter, who has helped organize the mentoring sessions—and who sees an emerging renaissance for Web and software startups in San Diego. “Now with the ‘Tech Events’ week, it just says the momentum is really picking up.”
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