Duane Roth: The Connector Who Wired Up a Regional Innovation Economy

8/12/13Follow @bvbigelow

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“innovation agenda.” His influence also reached into places like Indiana and New York, Walshok said, as Cornell University and the Technion, the Israel Institute of Technology, laid their plans to create a $2 billion campus for technology innovation on Roosevelt Island in New York City.

If Roth can be faulted, it is perhaps for neglecting San Diego’s software and Internet sectors during his eight-plus years at Connect.

When Brant Cooper, an Encinitas, CA-based Web marketing consultant and lean startup advocate, laid out the innovators’ dilemma afflicting San Diego’s innovation establishment in a provocative blog post earlier this year, he lumped Duane Roth together with the leaders of other legacy tech organizations as part of what he called “the patriarch problem.” Cooper argued that the people who made their money riding bygone waves of innovation are now leading the legacy institutions supporting startup communities—and they just don’t get it.

Cooper’s critique was perhaps more valid for Web startups than other local sectors, especially in the wireless industry and life sciences. But of all the institutions that Cooper called out in his critique, Roth was the only innovation leader who asked to meet him.

“He went through somebody on their board who had worked with me,” Cooper recalled. “We discussed all sorts of things. He talked about what some of Connect’s larger roles were, above and beyond the Springboard program [a mentoring program for startup CEOs], their influence on the JOBS Act, and their role in the tech community. He admitted that the tech sector was one of the more challenging sectors for Connect, and he was appreciative of the work San Diego Tech Founders has done.

“In the end we probably agreed on more things than we disagreed,” Cooper said. Perhaps most importantly, Roth and Cooper agreed that innovation communities constantly need refreshing, with new ideas and … Next Page »

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

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  • Karina Lion

    Bruce, This is a wonderful reportage about Duane, who was a friend and mentor. Thanks for your remembrance of his great contributions to our tech and bio community. Your compassionate coverage of his legacy and untimely passing have helped us get through this tragic loss. Regards, Karina Lion

  • Mark Leibowitz

    Bruce
    Thanks for this compelling description of the memorial and tribute to Duane’s contributions. I found the memorial to be very inspiring and hope that it will serve to motivate the San Diego innovation community to continue Duane’s work with renewed passion.
    Take care,
    Mark

  • Chris Stiehl

    I loved Duane as a friend, colleague and advisor in the work my wife and I did for CIRM. As Bruce reports here, Duane was always making connections and looking for ways for everyone to win. He gave you his full attention when you asked for his help. His response always considered all of those who may be affected by your actions, both now and in the future. One of our proudest accomplishments was having his support in our work to spread the good news about CIRM. We also saw he and Rene at charity events all over San Diego, often seeing him at two Galas on the same evening! He was a humble giant among men. He will be missed.