By Lana Harrison
This time last week, the San Diego Convention Center was awash with eager entrepreneurs looking to make their big ideas come to life.
This year marked the seventh iteration of the growing San Diego Startup Week conference, which seeks to highlight and energize the innovation ecosystem in the San Diego region.
Under the leadership of Jarrod Russell (who assumed the role of executive director of Startup San Diego this past year), the conference grew to include workshops, networking events, pitch competitions, and mentoring throughout the region in Downtown, Carlsbad, Barrio Logan, and with a nod to the region’s binational economy, a kick-off event in Tijuana.
In the age of worrying climate reports and polystyrene bans, a welcome inclusion in this year’s lineup were many workshops with a focus on sustainability and the role that social enterprises, nonprofits, and companies with an eye toward social good have in the business community.
With three session tracks and a wide menu of workshops and activities to choose from each day, the content was both deep and wide and really only fully accessible by attending (so stay tuned for next year). In the meantime, here are a few standouts from San Diego Startup Week 2019:
“Not all money is good money. The people and relationships are more important than just getting money in the bank.”
Jonathan Knight, CEO of Uprise Energy, a company focused on creating accessible and mobile wind turbines, joined colleagues for a discussion on the challenges and processes involved in entering the cleantech space.
Finding (and maintaining) capital at the beginning stages of a company is on everyone’s mind in the startup world. Knight’s advice was a wise call to recognize that behind checks and financial commitments are people with their own set of expectations and values.
One of those most powerful assets of Startup Week is the network of individuals and companies who have learned from the successes and failures of navigating the early stages of a company or organization — and are willing to share those stories.
One of this year’s speaker standouts was Darcy Shiber-Knowles, the senior quality, sustainability, and innovation manager at Dr. Bronner’s. While not an entrepreneur herself, Shiber-Knowles deftly answered questions from entrepreneurs hungry for information on becoming a benefit corporation and structuring their ideas around sustainability and fair business practices. Shiber-Knowles confidently and expertly shared the story and values of Dr. Bronner’s, a local soap company, while offering practical suggestions and experience-based knowledge.
“Your life. Your schedule. Right now.” The website tagline for Aira is a motto many Americans would resonate with.
Aira develops and leverages technology aimed at providing ease of visual access and movement to people experiencing low vision. With an app, a pair of cool futuristic glasses, and an agent, Aira promises increased access to information, engagement, and independence — and is well-versed in the process of raising capital.
Having an idea and developing a product is just one part of the journey of going to market.
You need buy-in.
In a joint session with Sam Neuhaser of Enspyre Society, a creative agency focused on cause branding for nonprofits, and one of their clients, Active Valor, attendees got a look at the impact of powerful storytelling.
Active Valor is relatively new to the nonprofit scene but quickly gained traction with its inspiring mission and compelling digital storytelling.
They tap into the strong military presence in San Diego by pairing veterans and Gold Star children (those who have lost a parent in military service) for a day of adventure and opportunities for mentorship. And it’s a unique opportunity for spouses to connect with each other and watch their children thrive.
For Enspyre Society, proof of concept achieved.
— Lana Harrison is the communications coordinator for the Downtown San Diego Partnership. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.