If you live in San Diego like I do, this headline surprises you. San Diego, #1 startup location, really? Was there a mistake? If you live in Silicon Valley, you are probably saying the same thing as you wisp across a Fortune-500 tech campus on a Segway. Put your iPads down, folks, San Diego is trying to rid itself of the “sunshine discount” by creating a vibrant quality-of-life business community for boomers and millennials alike.
An article in Forbes earlier this month titled, The Best Places To Launch A Startup In 2014, gave SD startup gold using the following criteria:
- Small businesses as a percentage of total businesses.
- Percentage of small businesses that accept credit cards.
- Percentage of small businesses in high growth industries.
- Percentage of small businesses with Facebook pages and websites.
- Percentage of businesses with online reviews.
As a freelance consultant with more clients in Latin America than in San Diego, I often gripe about the need to have a more robust community here locally. I remember past conversations with friends and mentors where, after a trip to SXSW, I’d say, “Have you been to Austin lately? Now they are doing it right!”; or “Seattle is the place to be right now as a young entrepreneur.” Now, after reading this article, I am saying to myself, “There is a lot of good happening right here at home! Maybe I should check the surf a bit less and pay closer attention to the temperature of the SD business community.” Since my background is in international affairs, sustainable development, and corporate social responsibility there is a strong professional pull to Sacramento, San Francisco, DC, New York, and (in my case) Rio de Janeiro. My goal is still to make San Diego my home base — which makes mom and dad happy up in Oceanside. For any young professional in San Diego, I believe patience and creativity on the professional front will provide big returns in the long run… and the timing is right.
Despite our Port, our proximity to the border with Mexico, our industries (defense, bio, tourism, beer making, renewables, etc), and our weather; I’d still say San Diego punches below its entrepreneurial weight. Yet, there is a real sense of a turning point. I remember when Nathan Fletcher was running for mayor after Hugs-Too-Much Filner got canned. Nathan proposed San Diego change its name to hint at something more innovative than America’s Finest City. “FINE” sounds like “ok”; but truth be told, we are doing exceptionally well.
America’s exceptional city is creating a gravitos thanks to organizations like CONNECT, CleanTECH San Diego, The San Diego Venture Group, CommNexus, UC San Diego, SDSU, and the list goes on. We’ve also got a pair of Fortune-500 HQs — Qualcomm and Sempra — as well as a benevolent global NGO called Project Concern International and a wonderful, community-focused institution called The San Diego Foundation. My favorite international environmental organization, Citizens Climate Lobby, was founded and is headquartered here in Coronado Island just outside downtown San Diego. I volunteer for them about as much as I receive paid work for my clients, seriously.
(On a side note: I was saddened to see Nathan lose in his electoral bid for mayor, but am encouraged by what he did next: He took a trip to put it all behind him and got back to doing his innovative work for Qualcomm and UC San Diego.)
Here’s the list of other top cities:
- San Diego
- Austin, TX
- Portland, OR
- San Francisco
- Dallas, TX
- New York City
Well, that’s it for now. It’s 75 degrees and sunny. Time for a quick surf before I get back to work. Maybe I’ll see Craig Venter out in the water 😉