San Diego business founders and champions of creating a vibrant startup scene agree: Boosting education about entrepreneurship, stimulating communication about available resources and making personal connections are keys to fostering a thriving local tech startup environment.
“It’s important that we foster our youth to understand technology as soon as they can,” says Randy Apuzzo, co-founder and CEO of Variable Action, a San Diego-based web company.
“By the time they’re at the collegiate level, they should understand the role technology plays in business, how it relates to business and how it can be utilized by business,” said Appuzo. “As our economy shifts, if our youth are behind the ball technologically, our whole country is behind. Likewise, if professionals do not return to where we were taught to share what we’ve learned, we as a nation will fall behind.”
Appuzo noted that universities are doing more to foster startups and entrepreneurship than ever before, including more collegiate-based programs and incubators and improving support student inventors. However, Apuzzo and others like him believe that more must be done to stimulate entrepreneurship across a broader spectrum.
Apuzzo estimates that some of the traditional teaching does not bridge the gap to provide information relevant to the current scene.
“Teaching has been five or six years behind the ball,” said Apuzzo. “Educators need to get in the game.”
Immediate and currently relevant experience is a valuable resource that recently successful founders can offer to budding entrepreneurs. However, reaching some of those may only happen in avenues beyond the long-accepted versions of formal mentorship, accelerator programs and educational prospects.
Through expanded, non-traditional support and encouragement efforts, there can be more openings to connect new entrepreneurs with both resources and business opportunities.
FINDING THE RESOURCES
Christian Salaman, a partner at Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP who specializes in helping start-up and emerging growth companies, has seen a big change in the San Diego entrepreneurial environment since he moved to San Diego more than eight years ago.
“San Diego has done a great job of creating outlets like incubators and groups,” said Salaman. “But one of the most helpful changes has been the change and growth of communication about startups.”
Communication within the community is key. Today, meet-up groups promote online, and many resources are more easily found online about startup groups and support. One of the most valuable resources for budding entrepreneurs, however, is contact with other founders. Personal communication and interaction are critical.
“One of the big differences in San Diego now is the number of people who are working the environment every day, getting involved, sharing, communicating, collaborating,” said Salaman. “It is easier to get excited about the community and the prospects for entrepreneurship today than it was.”
Once the education expands and increased personal interaction spurs more excitement, the next step is making the connections that matter.
Connections with existing business
With connections, entrepreneurs can more easily find local businesses that are looking for smart new ideas to improve their bottom line. When local businesses team up with local startups, the nearby ecosystem benefits. Existing businesses can rely on startups to be their laboratory for new ideas since startups often create and test concepts or ideas much more efficiently and quickly than an existing business can.
By forming these strategic relationships with startups, local San Diego companies can solve their own problems while also encouraging and growing a vibrant business community.
One of the most innovative communities to form these strategic relationships can be found at StartUp San Diego http://startupsandiego.co/Industry-Startup-signup. This group has an easy-to-use form that matches area companies with local startups to solve current real world issues. Such matches give the established business a way to try new ideas that can dramatically improve their business.
There are also opportunities at CONNECT, and at EvoNexus, the business incubator of CommNexus, a leading nonprofit high-tech trade organization based in San Diego. At a program at EvoNexus called Market Link, businesses give their current criteria of what they are looking for in a startup partnership and invite any startup to apply.
From encouraging the personal connections that energize the ecosystem to making the connections the can help both startups and established businesses, those involved in the San Diego startup scene are moving beyond traditional concepts of mentoring and startup support to invigorate the growing local startup scene.
Blair Giesen @BlairsReport @PopChatr Startup Scene Column at U-T San Diego. Join the startup conversation each week by sending ideas to [email protected]