I moved to San Diego in the summer of 2016 because I saw a lot of unrealized potential. Cities like Austin (where I lived for 4.5 years), Miami, Las Vegas and Denver had become hotbeds of startup activity but Austin felt as if it was saturated and had already hit its peak. I needed a change and San Diego was it.
Reading The Launch Pad: Inside Y Combinator Silicon Valley’s Most Exclusive School For Startups by Randall Stross, I came across an interesting section where Y Combinator’s Founder Paul Graham talks about startup hubs and how they are formed. “I think you only need two kinds of people to create a technology hub: rich people and nerds,” said Graham. “Nerds congregate in places that host a leading department of computer science and also places that tolerate oddness because smart people by definition have odd ideas.”
It suddenly made me think, with a little more weird (it worked for Austin) and increased attention on computer science programs at the colleges, San Diego could become a magnet for hackers. The result: a world class startup hub. Here are the reasons why I think San Diego can become one of the biggest startup hubs in the world:
1). The startup scene is growing fast
San Diego Startup Week has grown at a rapid rate. With 2016’s event attracting 3000+ attendees and hosting 150+ events over 5 days, 2017 will top this. Startup Week is from June 19th-23rd. Use #SDSW. Startup Convergence is a mini startup week which takes place from January 24th-27th. San Diego is known for biotech and the US Navy but its startup community (especially in tech) is growing fast. Co-working spaces, an exodus of entrepreneurs from San Francisco and more investors moving to the area are other factors that will aid in San Diego’s rise.
2). There are lots of rich people
California is an expensive state to live in and San Diego is one of the most expensive cities in the US. The result: lots of rich people congregating in the same area. When you realize that the rich rattle their jewelry instead of applauding, you know there’s startup capital up for grabs.
2). It is cheaper than San Francisco
A lot of tech startups are attracted to San Francisco but leave quickly when they realize they have to sell their house, car and soul just to get a studio apartment 10 miles from downtown.
3). There is less pollution than Los Angeles
Ever flown into LAX and thought there was a storm rolling in? That’s the smog caused from the never-ending traffic jams and congestion in the city. Breathe that in on a daily basis, and you’ll be dreaming about surfing in San Diego fast.
4). Tijuana is next door
About 10 years ago,”TJ” as locals call it, was not the safest place to go. Gang violence escalated and drug smuggling was at its peak. Well, Tijuana in 2017 is a different story. You will probably find the best tacos you have ever eaten south of the border, Avenida Revolucion is like the Gaslamp District on steroids and the people are super friendly. If you want to pay a third of the price for everything and party like a king, TJ is the place for you. They also have a sports team that wins things (sorry Chargers and Padres!). Their soccer team – Club Tijuana Xoloitzcuintles de Caliente or “The Xolos” – play at Estadio Caliente and the atmosphere is electric. TJ’s startup scene is also blossoming and Tijuana is becoming attractive to early stage startups that cannot afford the high costs of web development in California. The MindHub tech incubator is in a great position to capitalize on this. If you want to practice your Spanish, experience a completely different culture and keep an eye on your website or app, TJ is only 14 miles away and a quick stroll across the border crossing. Cross border initiatives are also trending so look out for San Diego/Tijuana partnerships coming soon.
5). The weather is so perfect, the weather presenters often talk about other stuff!
When the weather is sunny with blue skies and 75F for most of the year, you never have to worry about missing out on the great weather. If you are working on a startup, the hours can be grueling for the first 1-2 years and you spend a lot of time inside. Whenever you need a timeout or a weekend to recharge, get a dose of vitamin D courtesy of SD’s rays. Better than San Francisco’s chilly summers and fog!
6). There is weird. We just need more of it!
Hackers and startup people are weird. They think differently. They need to see things that are different not gentrified areas with dozens of Targets and Starbucks (more Dark Horse Coffee please!). There are areas around Balboa Park that could fall into the weird category (Normal Heights, North Park, Barrio Logan and Golden Hill). But we need more of it. Austin and Portland share taglines – “Keep Austin Weird” and “Keep Portland Weird”. Maybe we should “Keep San Diego Strange”.
7). With the vote against the Chargers stadium, can the $1.8 billion money be used to fund startups and create a hub?
As Y Combinator’s Founder Paul Graham notes, “for the price of a football stadium, any town that was decent to live in could make itself one of the biggest startup hubs in the world.” With the city of San Diego voting against the construction of the San Diego Chargers new stadium (which subsequently saw owner Alex Spanos finally move the team to LA), surely that kind of capital could be used to back startups and create a world class startup hub?
8). Our earthquakes are much weaker than up north
When tectonic plates get jiggy and seismic shifts happen, San Francisco and Los Angeles feel them the most. If you don’t like the idea of losing your house because you probably can’t get earthquake insurance, the mild tremors in San Diego might be for you.