From a Silicon Valley Native

San Diego is Creating A Smaller, Better Version of Silicon Valley

(The Best Tech, Life Sci and Lifestyle Ecosystem on the Planet)

When you think of San Diego, you probably think of long sandy beaches and sunny weather. As you should — it’s freaking awesome here.

What people don’t think of is San Diego’s underbelly — it’s a hub for cutting edge tech and life sciences innovation. The intellectual talent in San Diego is off-the-charts. People here build amazing companies.

It’s kind of entertaining for us. While regions like Austin and Denver get all the press as “tech hubs,” it generally goes unreported that San Diego companies raised more venture capital dollars than those two regions combined in 2020. Yeah, you read that right.

The regional VC investment totals go like this: SF, NY, San Jose, Boston, LA … and then little ol’ laid back San Diego. And it’s quite a gap behind us. SD companies raised $5.2B in 2020. Next up was Seattle at $3.3B.

And it’s not just raw dollars. Our companies innovate. We solve hard problems. Consider our large companies like Qualcomm, Illumina, Dexcom, Resmed, and Viasat. They aren’t necessarily consumer-facing brands, but they are absolutely life changing companies.

Further evidence: According to a recent BCG study, San Diego ranked 4th in number of Deep Tech companies. There’s hundreds of cutting edge companies in San diego. It goes well beyond the list of startups that raised that $5.2 Billion last year.

From a macro-economic perspective, San Diego is positioned exceedingly well for more growth. We are a top 3 life sciences region — our companies excel in therapeutics, genomics, diagnostics, devices, and platforms. (A little known factoid — these companies hire thousands of software engineers.) On the tech side, our companies operate across the spectrum: mobile, software, cyber, genomics, cleantech, bluetech, agtech, and even consumer tech. And because tech and life sci continue to converge — it’s worth noting our health tech industry is also booming. Pile on the defense industry, and the rising desire for industry collaboration — it’s all here.

Did I mention… 50 miles of coastline, 70 degree weather? It makes people happy. One of the reasons why San Diego has performed so well over the past five years is the community itself. It’s highly collaborative. CEOs know one another and support one another. We gather well. We enjoy random collisions. The supporting infrastructure is helpful. Arrogance gets called out, as it should.

There’s top tier universities to support future growth. The rumor is that UCSD graduates more engineers per year than Stanford and Berkeley combined. Add in USD, SDSU, PLNU and CSU San Marcos — the workforce pipeline is strong. We’ve got an incredible Data Science Institute, and SDSU is breaking ground on its new 80 acre campus in Mission Valley.

There’s also world-class research institutes — Salk, Scripps Research, Sanford Burnham, Rady Children’s Institute, and the La Jolla Institute for Immunology, among others. There’s A LOT of really smart people here.

Downtown is fast becoming a work/live hub. UCSD is breaking ground on a world-class Innovation and Design Center in Q4. Horton Plaza is being redeveloped into a tech and life sciences complex. Eight acres on the Embarcadero are being converted into a biotech research and development district. It will all be connected via the trolley — from the border to east county, to the Mesa.

There’s also Mexico. Mexico is AWESOME. San Diego to Ensenada is our mega region, and it is a huge strength that no other tech region has. There is amazing software talent in Tijuana. More and more companies are near-shoring some of their operations. There’s also the Cross Border (CBX) airport. You park on the US side, the walking bridge literally goes right over the fence, and you’re in the airport. It’s amazing. Latin America access right there.

San Diego is seizing the opportunity to do something great, to build a world-class region. We’re already number six on the list, but with room to grow intelligently with a 3, 5, 10 and 30 year vision. We are cognizant of the mistakes made in other regions.

Critical to our region’s success is building a strong economic platform across the region. As leaders, we are working to build the infrastructure, so that the growth is developed thoughtfully.

Companies like Apple, Amazon, Google are expanding here. We are asking these companies to contribute. Help us build our future out intelligently and inclusively.

Together, we will leverage our region’s success. We will lean further in to support our innovation economy. We know not to take it for granted. By definition, venture-backed companies are high-growth companies. They create high-paying jobs. Data shows that every innovation economy job supports 2.6 other jobs in this region. It’s important. It’s foundational.

At Connect, we believe we can build what we can envision. From Oceanside to Alpine, Escondido to Ensenada. We have a canvas that is unique. The palette is collectively ours to paint.

San Diego is positioned so exceedingly well, we just have to execute. And not just for the good of the innovation sector, but the entire region. Come join us.

Ecosystem builder. friend of founders & VCs. reader of decks. entrepreneur, investor, yada yada ... a decent enough dude. team leader at connect.org