Xconomy’s Journey Stretches to the ‘Next World’: San Francisco

6/15/10

San Francisco, ever since its first boom time in the Gold Rush era, has exerted a strange and powerful pull on the rest of the world. Oscar Wilde felt it—”It is an odd thing, but every one who disappears is said to be seen at San Francisco,” he wrote in The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891). “It must be a delightful city, and possess all the attractions of the next world.”

Now Xconomy is feeling the pull. We’re thrilled to have begun publishing Xconomy San Francisco, making the Bay Area the fifth node in our growing national network of local news sites about innovation. Get ready, all you Silicon Valley engineers and investors, South San Francisco biotech geniuses, and SoMa webheads. We’re about to dig deep into your stories, providing you with the same journalistic attention that we first brought to the innovation community in Boston three years ago, and which we have since extended to Seattle, San Diego, and Detroit.

We’ve been itching to expand into San Francisco for some time. Xconomy’s mission is to become the authoritative voice on what we like to call the “exponential” part of the economy. This is the realm of information technology, life sciences, and clean energy where rapid progress promises to transform the 21st-century economy far faster and more dramatically than traditional fields like manufacturing, financial services, or retailing. Given that the San Francisco Bay Area plays a leading role in all of those industries, this is absolutely a place we have to be.

We get asked a lot about why we’ve waited until now to come to the City by the Bay. The answer will tell you something about who we are and what we believe. At the same time, we want to explain how we plan to serve our new San Francisco Bay Area readers, and exactly what you can expect from us.

First things first: Why did we choose Boston, rather than San Francisco, to launch Xconomy in the first place, back in June 2007? For one thing, our founder, CEO, and editor-in-chief Bob Buderi lives in the Boston area. His vision, evolved in close collaboration with our co-founder, chief operating officer, and executive editor Rebecca Zacks, and a host of other friends and advisors, was to meld the best traditions of old-school journalism (local storytelling, clear and accurate writing, thoughtful analysis) with the immediacy and more conversational, engaging style of Web publishing. The stories were there for the taking, since no other media outlet was offering the innovation community such focused and sustained attention. Boston, which ranks second only to the Bay Area in the density of top research universities, “anchor” technology companies, serial startup entrepreneurs, and venture and angel investors, was the perfect place to try this formula.

We proved in our first year in New England that readers and business partners would flock to our stories and our networking events. Then we started exporting the model to other great local innovation hubs with similar dynamics. We added Seattle and San Diego to our network in 2008, and Detroit two months ago. In each city, we’ve been greeted warmly by local technology and research leaders, startup entrepreneurs, and economic development officials. You can see the broad and diverse mix of support we have in this mission by browsing the group of luminaries in our “Xconomist” network, an informal kitchen cabinet of expert sources and occasional op-ed contributors.

There was one glaring difference when we looked at San Francisco. The Silicon Valley/San Francisco/Berkeley axis is arguably the only place on Earth that’s already oversaturated with technology bloggers. Every curt e-mail from Steve Jobs, every bead of sweat from Mark Zuckerberg, every hot gadget of the day is given ad nauseum coverage on the Web. Why would Bay Area readers want to add Xconomy to their mix of news sources?

Well, the truth is that other technology publications are doing a great job of covering the constant stream of product releases, venture financings, and industry conferences (not to mention the rumors, gossip, and controversy) coming out of the Bay Area. What’s missing, we think, is a publication that puts entrepreneurs and innovators first: that looks underneath the daily news stream for original stories about the nuts-and-bolts challenges of turning great ideas into successful businesses.

That’s what we do. We are storytellers, not buzz-chasers. We will do real reporting, not drive-by rehashes of the day’s headlines. We seek to lead the pack, not mimic it. Having honed our model in four other innovation hubs, we think we’re ready for the biggest market of all—and with our multi-nodal network, we think we can bring important national context to our coverage of Bay Area innovators without succumbing to groupthink and herd behavior.

There’s another side to Xconomy that you won’t see in other publications, and that’s our devotion to the whole spectrum of innovation. Advances in Web software, mobile technology, and other areas of information technology are certainly changing how people live and work faster than ever, and will be a huge part of our coverage in San Francisco. But the revolution in biotechnology and super-fast and cheap genome sequencing is just beginning to transform medicine. And, ultimately, none of the infotech and biotech advances will make any difference unless energy entrepreneurs can find ways to power industrial civilization while slowing climate change. Cleantech, as venture capitalist John Doerr has said, may be the biggest opportunity of all in the 21st century.

We have been assigned the primary responsibility of bringing you these stories from San Francisco every day, as we do in our other cities. On the infotech side, you’ll be seeing Wade’s byline a lot; he’ll be on the ground full-time in San Francisco, working from Xconomy’s new office in the Potrero Hill/Dogpatch neighborhood, a few blocks from the industrial revival occurring in San Francisco’s Mission Bay neighborhood. Luke, who’s based in Seattle but shuttles frequently to SFO, will spearhead our life sciences coverage in the Bay Area and nationwide. The two of us will work together on energy and cleantech stories. And we’ll have help from the whole Xconomy staff, across all of the cities in our network, as well as a group of talented freelancers.

Both of us have experienced San Francisco’s charms, and made a lot of great contacts, in our past work. Wade got to know The City when he was the regional bureau chief for MIT’s Technology Review from 2001 to 2006. Right before he joined Xconomy, Luke was based in San Francisco as U.S. biotech reporter for Bloomberg News. We believe that our complementary set of experiences and contacts across information technology and life sciences will serve us well.

To sum up, here’s what you can expect from Xconomy San Francisco:

  • Daily breaking news and in-depth analysis of developments in the Bay Area life sciences, infotech, and energy scenes.
  • An obsession with innovative people and how they get their ideas to market, with a focus on what works and what doesn’t.
  • Accurate, even-handed, professional reporting.
  • Commentary and insight from leading technologists and entrepreneurs across our network.
  • Great networking events and content-rich conferences that bring together leaders—often from around Xconomy’s network—to talk about major industry trends and business ideas.

We hope you’ll make Xconomy a regular stop on your daily Web travels. You can subscribe to our e-mail newsletters or RSS feeds, or follow us on Twitter (@xconomy, @wroush, @ldtimmerman). We’re mobile-friendly (at m.xconomy.com, though most mobile Web browsers will redirect you there automatically), and we also have a daily Kindle edition. And we always welcome your comments and story ideas. You can reach us at wroush@xconomy.com, ltimmerman@xconomy.com, or just editors@xconomy.com.

We look forward to meeting many of you in person. You’ll be seeing a lot of us around this delightful city, as Wilde would say, looking for the attractions of the next world.

Wade Roush is Xconomy's chief correspondent and editor of Xconomy San Francisco. Luke Timmerman is Xconomy's national biotechnology editor and editor of Xconomy Seattle. Follow @

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