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Matthew Salwasser, Spring 2012 Students

Entrepreneurial scene in San Diego small, but may be heating up

Downtown San Diego's skyline from Coronado Island.

Downtown San Diego, the city’s business hub, may soon have more small, local and tech-based businesses than large, international corporations.

By Matt Salwasser

America’s Finest City is widely known for several different cultures, most of those being related to surfing, bio technology and the military. Small, venture capital-based startup companies are most often correlated with Palo Alto and Silicon Valley in the north, but in the wake of the economic recession, San Diego may have an emerging entrepreneurial industry.

“I definitely see some things changing in San Diego,” Aaron Fulkerson, co-founder and CEO of MindTouch, a self-help service for tech companies, said. “I see way more (entrepreneurial) activity than I ever have,” he said.

Fulkerson, an entrepreneur in his own right, came from Microsoft in 2005 and began addressing a problem companies were having of not being able to document inner technical information. He and his co-founder, Steve Bjorg launched MindTouch in 2006 and turned it into a business in 2008 when they realized it was one of the top five open source projects in the world.

“We made our first million bucks that year,” Fulkerson said.

While Fulkerson and Bjorg were finding success at the beginning of the economic downturn, San Diego State University alum Wesley Keegan was launching his company, TailGate Beer, on credit cards. Now in his fifth year of brewing craft hefeweizens and blonde ales, Keegan notes the abundance of information in San Diego when starting a business.

“You gotta be willing to spend a lot of different money and a lot of different time on resources,” he said. “There are resources available if you’re willing to do it.”

The Hive building in downtown San Diego.

The Hive building at 770 11th Ave. in downtown San Diego has become a hot spot for entrepreneurship and idea-sharing thanks to its communal vibe.

Keegan specifically cited Score’s San Diego branch and La Jolla-based Connect.

Score is a consulting company for small businesses, and according to its website, connect.org, Connect is “a regional program that catalyzes the creation of innovative technology and life sciences products in San Diego County by linking inventors and entrepreneurs with the resources they need for success” since 1985.

Others, like Michel Kripalani, president of Encinitas-based Oceanhouse Media, Inc., are also broadening San Diego’s tech scene. Oceanhouse Media is an app-based digital publishing company focusing mainly on children’s stories such as Dr. Seuss or The Berenstain Bears book series.

Kripalani said in an email that Oceanhouse, like the others, was launched within the last four years, his being bootstrapped in 2009. Much like Keegan, Kripalani noted myriad resources San Diegans can use to jumpstart their company.

“There’s a lot of high tech in town,” he wrote. “There’s a lot of people that know how to write code and do great graphic design. In many ways it is a blessing that we don’t have the same type of competitive issues that you have in the Bay Area.”

But Kripalani also notes how thanks to the Internet, how geographically unrestricted his business is.

“For us, it’s not about what the business in San Diego is like,” he wrote. “It’s about what the business in the world is like. We sell worldwide. We happen to be in San Diego and we love it, but the business climate in San Diego is almost irrelevant to us on a day to day basis.”

Jason Weinert comments on starting his own company and being his own boss at Innovative Sports Network.

Fulkerson might say something similar.

He said he came to San Diego to start his company because of the weather – not the venture capital scene – and is in the Bay Area about two days a week.

While he doesn’t see much interest in venture capital in San Diego, he maintains things may be heating up.

“(The job scene) is forming in a way I’ve never seen it form before,” he said, adding he believes making San Diego into its own tech-scene is definitely a possibility.

Zak Kronick talks about working at a new advertising firm, 3D Ad Net, which specializes in 3D advertising without 3D glasses.

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About Matt Salwasser

My name's Matt and currently I'm a journalism senior at San Diego State University. I studied abroad in Singapore in fall 2011 and was completely impatient for what I was sure would be the time of my life. Not totally what I expected, but hey, that's why it's important to try new things. No regrets. A year ago, I did a project with an organization called TGO (The Golden Opportunity) and from there, was connected to the great people at AOK (Acts of Kindness). Because of my experience in Southeast Asia, with AOK, and I guess my life in general, I realized how instrumental social media and technology can be in making the world a better place. I believe that new technology is constantly, and exponentially, changing "the game" we live, work and play in. I'm excited to start working toward a better world and can't wait to see all the creative ways in which that can happen.

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