EvoNexus offers a growth hub for local up-and-coming tech-based businesses
By Dave Fidlin
Since 2009, budding tech-savvy entrepreneurs have worked with a local nonprofit to launch and grow businesses with disparate functions, from mobile apps to wearables to advanced semiconductors.
In the six years since the creation of business incubator EvoNexus, innovators have come through peddling a range of ideas; some practical, as evidenced by some of the products aimed at bringing affordable healthcare to the marketplace, while other prospective products are light-hearted.
Touted by organization officials as San Diego’s only fully pro-bono startup business incubator, EvoNexus currently works with 55 emerging businesses in the area through its main operation Downtown, as well as through satellite offices in University Town Center and Irvine.
Across the 55 incubating businesses, EvoNexus has been a catalyst for raising $626 million from a range of investors.
Rory Moore, CEO of EvoNexus, said the organization’s overall track record has also been strong. Of the so-called “graduated businesses” that have left the nest of EvoNexus and spread their wings in the real world, 88 percent remain active as of this date.
Part of the reason for the high success rate, Moore said, is EvoNexus’ rigorous requirements. Case in point: During the most recent application process for prospective business owners, EvoNexus received 212 applications, only 26 of which were actually approved.
The rigor, Moore said, is all part of EvoNexus’ ongoing evolution.
“Since inception, EvoNexus has matured considerably in the area of attracting more social entrepreneurs, more social teams and start-ups that have significant inventions,” he said.
The entrepreneurs behind the emerging companies that are admitted into EvoNexus have access to a buffet of resources, including mentoring, workshops and, most telling, networking opportunities that put business leaders into contact with investors who can infuse capital.
EvoNexus got its footing in University Towne Center (now called Westfield UTC) — and still have an incubator space there — but moved the main hub of operations to an office complex at 101 W. Broadway in a gesture organization officials attributed to “being in the thick” of all the start-up activity in the city’s Downtown area.
Two entrepreneurs currently working out of the Downtown office expressed enthusiasm toward the future of their businesses when contacted by San Diego Downtown News.
Mehul Merchant is CEO of UVA Mobile, a phone plan carrier with customizable options. He said his business offers more flexible, consumer-friendly options that are not available with other wireless companies.
Merchant, who is about to launch his product into the marketplace, said he and his fellow associates have refined their product in recent months as part of UVA Mobile’s own evolution.
While capital for emerging entrepreneurs is seemingly limitless in places such as the Bay Area, Merchant readily admits that San Diego is in shorter supply of such resources. For this reason, he said he was grateful to link up with an organization such as EvoNexus.
“I’ve done quite a bit of networking,” Merchant said. “The energy it brings to the environment is really good. What you get from something like this is a network of people who can inform and advise.”
Ajit Viswanathan, founder and CEO of Doctible, said his company was designed around President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act legislation and is aimed at taking away the guesswork that can be associated with shopping for healthcare.
“Our goal is to make it easier for the consumer,” Viswanathan said. “We’re about to launch our product to the San Diego market.”
Viswanathan, who has been involved with EvoNexus since November, said the immense networking opportunities have been a positive for him personally and for Doctible as a company.
“You never know who you’re going to meet,” he said, referring to doors the relationship has opened.
As EvoNexus continues its evolution, Moore said he envisions more growth opportunities on the horizon. In early June, the organization struck a strategic arrangement with a new partner: the publicly traded InterDigital. Further details about the partnership are anticipated in the months ahead.
“EvoNexus over the next 10 years will continue to leverage great inventions coming from universities and the commercial sector,” Moore said. “[The organization will] accelerate those companies through strategic partnerships around the globe with investments.”
EvoNexus’ Downtown incubator office is located at 101 W. Broadway, Suite 200. For further information on the organization, visit evonexus.org or call 888-926-3987.
—Dave Fidlin is a freelance journalist with a special affinity for San Diego and its people. Contact him at email@example.com