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In the world of startups, there’s one place that comes immediately to mind: Silicon Valley. After all, Silicon Valley is home to some of the biggest startups and is historically known for catering to entrepreneurs who hope to become the next best business in their industry. As a startup founder, it’s no secret that the stretch between San Jose and San Francisco is the place to be if you want to rub shoulders with other entrepreneurial peers, meet investors, and partake in incubator programs.
However, lately a trend in the startup ecosystem is that many businesses are leaving Silicon Valley in favor of other startup-friendly cities around the country (and world). The high cost of living (San Francisco is the most expensive city to live in the United States), increasing level of competition, and low tolerance for mistakes can start to feel hostile for a business in its infancy.
Startups experiencing momentum may quickly discover that those strides are being halted by the saturation of Silicon Valley.
Today, there are many cities that are also well suited for catering to growing startups, and San Diego is one of them. Here are a few reasons why San Diego is a great place to grow your startup:
As previously mentioned, growing a startup in big cities like San Francisco means you’re not only competing with the hundreds of viable startups, but you’re also competing with some of the biggest tech companies in the world: Facebook, Uber, Twitter, Google, and many more. From an investment standpoint, you’re competing with companies across every industry for investment dollars. Venture capitalists and angel investors only have so many dollars to spread, but the amount of potential places to spread those dollars is significantly higher.
From a talent perspective, you’re competing with big corporations for the best hires in engineering, marketing, sales, and more. As a startup, you need the best of the best, and to have that, you should reside in places where those conditions to thrive exist. In San Diego, those conditions are much more attainable.
San Diego Has a Growing Tech Scene
There’s plenty that San Diego is already known for: gorgeous, wide sandy beaches, nearly perfect weather, amazing attractions, and great cuisine. But what many people don’t realize is that San Diego is also a growing tech scene.
The prime coastal location epitomizes the balance between work and play, which creates a strong balance between an active, healthy lifestyle, and an infrastructure for innovation. And as many studies have demonstrated, the happier you are in life, the more productive you are in work. Within one year, the year-to-year growth of startups in San Diego jumped seven ranking spots, from 11 to 4.
Mark Cafferty, President and CEO of the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation, said in an interview, “Since I came to San Diego a little over 17 years ago, I’ve seen the city undergo incredible change. Whereas before, the downtown area seemed to hollow out at night, now there’s a significant amount of business activity from technology-based startups as well as co-working spaces, incubators and accelerators.”
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San Diego has plenty of incubators and accelerators where startups can grow their businesses. Incubators help support startups who are in the early stages of building their businesses. Typically, this is when they have a great idea and/or talent to bring something new into a respective marketplace, but don’t have the business model or support to translate that into reality.
On the other hand, accelerators are designed to assist with growth for startups that already have a business model and traction, building upon existing foundations. The primary goal of incubators and accelerators are to help businesses grow through mentorships and investor fundings.
Incubators and accelerators are both present (and growing) in San Diego. For example, Ad Astra is a female-focused accelerator that provides guaranteed funding at the completion of the program. On the other hand, the Wireless Health Hub is an accelerator that focuses on businesses in the wireless health industry. Over at BlueTech, the incubator program caters to startups in the ocean and water-based industries.
There are also plenty of new coworking spaces in San Diego, sprouting across the city to accommodate the growing number of startups who are launching or migrating to the sunshine city.
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No matter where you intend to grow your startup, community can make all the difference. In fact, many people agree that building a community is much more important than networking. This is because networking is traditionally based on the concept that you should create introductions based solely on what they can do for you, and then afterwards, what you can strategically do for them. A community, on the other hand, is based upon creating genuine connections with people whom you’re eager to help, and receiving the same passion from others as well.
According to Daniel Passov, President of Greek U, “Over the past few years, San Diego has become a community of startups. The sense of camaraderie within the entrepreneur community has given me unlimited resources to help in every aspect of my company. This allows all companies in San Diego to grow together and put San Diego on the map to hire better talent and find more funding for new ideas.”
And there are plenty of different resources available to San Diego residents who have chosen San Diego as a base for building their business. Take one look at the SD Tech Scene and you’ll see exactly what it means to have a community in this area. The calendar is chock full of startup and tech events, co-working space information, and tech job listings.
There’s also Startup Week San Diego and San Diego Startup Weekend, an annual event that celebrates innovation in the community with a roster of events and seminars designed to create networking opportunities and help local startups learn more about how they can progress their own businesses. CleanTech San Diego, CONNECT, and San Diego Venture Group are all organizations that help foster a community, too.
Freedom to Make Early Mistakes
Part of being an entrepreneur is making mistakes. If you look at some of the most well-known startup founders, you’ll likely discover that the vast majority of them experienced some mistakes as they built their companies. Some had several failed companies before finally landing on something that worked. Unfortunately, in high-competitive places like Silicon Valley, there is little room for mistakes. And that means there’s hardly any room for an entrepreneur to make mistakes that many people make, and to grow from them.
Because San Diego isn’t considered a major “tech hub,” it leaves entrepreneurs with the opportunity to test freely without added pressure or fear of the industry. This ability to make mistakes, pivot, or fail and bounce back, coupled with a community atmosphere, makes it easy for startup founders to feel comfortable in their skin and explore limitless boundaries.