2018 San Diego’s Tech Startup Ecosystem

A Guide to America’s 4th Best City for Startups

Updated: July 22, 2018

As a B2B/enterprise tech professional and investor, I am always eager to dive into the startup community I discover myself in. And, with that in mind, I’ve found it useful to create ecosystem guides for the cities I’ve lived in (Madrid/New York City). The feedback I get is that people find them “incredibly resourceful.” So, now that I’ve moved to San Diego (SD), I’m working on a new post.

I’m the most excited about this guide because SD is one of America’s best cities for startups and, in general, my favorite place in the whole world. San Diego is the best place to live and work — it’s @SDlifechanging 🤓. I mean, who can say no to a life of beach, burritos, and a largely happy people?

🌴 Join our San Diego Startup slack here. And if you’re in North County, join the #startupnoco channel. 🌊

Here’s what you’ll find in this guide:

  • Why SD is One of America’s Best Startup Cities
  • SD VC Activity
  • SD VCs
  • SD Angel Groups
  • SD Startups to Watch
  • SD Incubators and Accelerators
  • SD Co-Working Spaces
  • SD Communities
  • SD Labs
  • SD Events and Conferences
  • SD Tech Media and Podcasts
  • SD Startup Jobs
  • SD City Resources


  • SD Other Financial Resources
  • SD Fortune 1000 Titans
  • Fastest Growing Companies in SD

Feel free to jump around and if you see I missed something, please leave a comment.

Why SD is one of America’s best startup cities

Kauffman’s Numbers | The reason why San Diego is one of America’s best cities for startups is explained in the 2017 Kauffman Index of Startup Activity: Metropolitan Area and City Trends below.

  • YTY growth in startup activity: SD went up 7 ranking spots (from 11 to 4) all in 1 year
  • Top rate in new entrepreneurs: SD is at .49% (that’s great as the top rate is .56%)
  • Top opportunity share of new entrepreneurs: SD lands at 82.54% (that said, we can work on this number — the top metro share percentage is 95.90%)
  • Top startup density: SD is at 95.9% (we can also work on this number — the top metro share percentage is 120.7%)

US Chamber of Commerce’s Ranking| In the the annual Innovation that Matters report, SD ranks #4 in the best startup cities list. The study ranked SD based on (1) the city’s main economic and support networks integrated into the startup community, (2) the engagement of key actors in the city’s startup community (e.g. Qualcomm Technologies, Qualcomm Ventures, and Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s office).

Source: US Chamber’s Innovation that Matters Report

Confidence | SD is also building a solid brand and a community that is confident in its practicality and potential. You can read more about why in Beck Bamberger’s post Why These 8 Startups Chose San Diego as a Headquarters. And on that note, I agree with Danny Mcconville when he says: Opportunity, affordability, and talent pool is what some admire about [San Diego].

Status of SD VC Activity

“There is certainly a lot of momentum [from 2017] going into 2018. So, I think generally the expectation is a continuation of the recent trends,” Eric Hornsten, Partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers SD, shared optimistically with the San Diego Union Tribune last year.

Pitchbook 1Q 2017 to 1Q 2018 US VC deal metrics shows the same deal count of 37 for both years. The 37 deal value totalled $349.7M with a Median deal size of $3.5M in 1Q’17 (no numbers were reported for 1Q’18). Those numbers place San Diego at #10 amongst all other US regions.

2018 is in line with what Eric Hornsten, Partner of PwC US, said about San Diego’s 2017 VC activity: Big picture, the number of deals and the number of dollars invested in San Diego in 2017 was pretty consistent with 2016. The difference from a national trend perspective: there are fewer deals but relative larger dollars in SD.

That said, the Q1'18 Money Tree report states that there were only 15 SD deals with a value of $346M this quarter.

SD has a lot of opportunity to get us out of the plateau and push us to grow. And I believe SD will do better because of its community.

Now, to explore the community, I share all the relevant San Diego tech startup resources that I could find. If I missed any, let me know in the comment section.

SD Tech VCs

  • Analytics Ventures: Analytics Ventures is a seed fund focused on Artificial Intelligence, Big Data and Internet of Things.
  • Avalon: Avalon Ventures is an early stage venture capital fund focused on information technology and life sciences.
  • Blackbird Ventures: Blackbird Ventures is a California-based principal investment firm specialized in funding technology and real estate companies.
  • Bootstrap Ventures: Bootstrap is a venture capital firm of successful, specialized entrepreneurs dedicated to helping other entrepreneurs grow their businesses in data analytics, cloud, sales, marketing tech and more.
  • Correlation Ventures: Correlation Ventures finances early, seed, and later stage venture, and debt financing investments and is based in California.
  • CWC HealthTech Ventures: CWC HealthTech Advisors is a San Diego company that makes investments in portfolio companies, independently, or with others. They invest in health technology companies, primarily in the San Diego area of Southern California.
  • Finistere Ventures: Founded in 2005, Finistere Ventures is an American venture capital firm that offers investments for early-stage agtech companies.
  • FusionX Ventures: Focuses on startups with products that fuse hardware, software and cloud (IoT) that include a recurring revenue stream.
  • Illumina Ventures: Illumina Ventures invests primarily in early stage companies. Focus areas include applications of genomics in life science research, healthcare, agriculture and environmental science, public safety and personal wellness.
  • Jackson Square Ventures: Jackson Square Ventures is an early stage VC firm investing in SaaS and marketplace startups.
  • Moore VP: Moore Venture Partners (MVP) is a traditional venture capital fund investing in early, growth, and expansion-stage technology and life science companies.
  • Nex3: Nex Cubed is a frontier technology focused seed-stage investor and Accelerator.
  • Qualcomm Ventures: Qualcomm Ventures makes investments in startups developing next-generation technologies that will promote future growth for Qualcomm.
  • Social Leverage: Social Leverage is a fund that invests in exceptional entrepreneurs in the technology space.
  • Sofinnova Ventures: Sofinnova Ventures invests in Life Science and Technology start-ups.
  • Ventures 51: We invest in intelligent and bold people 
    solving hard technological problems.
  • Wolfpack Venture: Wolfpack Ventures focuses on early round funding for technology startups, real estate, and consumer services.

SD Angel Groups

SD Startups to Watch

Overall, The Venue Report suggests we watch:

  • Gunnar: GUNNAR is the only patented computer eyewear recommended by doctors to protect and enhance your vision.
  • Measurabl: Real estate SaaS for sustainability data collection, management, reporting, and building benchmarking.
Source: YouTube
  • Grolltex: Grolltex is an early stage nanotechnology company with breakthrough processes enabling the mass production of high quality, CVD generated ‘sheet’ graphene at manufacturing friendly prices.

The Tech Tribune has their own recommendation of best startups to watch:

  • SmartDrive Systems: SmartDrive provides fuel management and driver safety solutions for customers in range of industries from waste management.
  • Kyriba Corporation: Kyriba offers SaaS-based treasury solutions that enable treasury departments to plan for market volatility, regulation, and opportunities.
  • PatientSafe Solutions: PatientSafe Solutions offers mobile point-of-care solutions and technologies for accountable care.
  • Brain Corporation: Corporation is a developer of autonomous navigational technologies.
Source: YouTube
  • Ingenu: Ingenu is building the world’s largest IoT network dedicated to connectivity for machines.
  • Tealium: Tealium is a provider of a tag management system, including analytics, advertising and affiliate enterprise websites.
Source: YouTube
  • Seismic: Seismic is the leading global sales and marketing enablement solution, improving close rates and delivering larger deals for sales .
  • Classy: Classy is an online and mobile platform that enables social good organizations to raise funds for various causes.
  • Certona: Certona is a multi-channel personalization platform for brands and retailers.
  • Scientist.com: Scientist.com is a network of public and private e-commerce marketplaces that connect buyers and sellers of scientific research services.

Of course, it’s a reasonable assumption that you should also watch out for San Diego Venture Group’s 2017 and 2018 SDVG Cool Company’s List!

And here are 2018 Top B2B San Diego Tech Startup list by G2 Crowd:

  • Seismic: Seismic is the leading global sales and marketing enablement solution, improving close rates and delivering larger deals for sales.
  • Paperless Proposal: Proposal generation, delivery, tracking & management software. Shorten the sales cycle & win more business.
  • Halo Business Intelligence: Halo provides a platform for self-service supply chain planning and data discovery that enables organizations to grow revenue, gain competitive advantage, and increase customer satisfaction.
  • Blue Sky eLearn: Blue Sky eLearn provides cloud-based LMS and learning platforms with virtual event services to maximize their client engagements with global audiences.
  • Axure RP: Axure RP allows for rapid prototyping of products without the need to code.
  • Classy: Classy is an online and mobile platform that enables social good organizations to raise funds for various causes.
  • Tealium: Tealium is a provider of a tag management system, including analytics, advertising and affiliate enterprise websites.
  • MindTouch: MindTouch offers cloud software that provides self-service customer experiences that create product experts and improves marketing, sales and support.
  • SeatAdvisor SABO: SeatAdvisor is a smart ticketing solution that helps organizations and venues of all sizes.
  • SmartDraw: SmartDraw.com is the creator of SmartDraw, the world’s first visual processor, software that enables the everyday use of visuals to improve communication.

SD Incubators and Accelerators


  • Ad Astra: San Diego’s first-of-its-kind, female focused accelerator and fund that concludes with a guaranteed investment. We’re on a mission to equip female entrepreneurs to build, run, and scale investable businesses.
  • CONNECT Springboard Program: 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.
  • Plug and Play San Diego: Plug and Play Tech Center is a seed and early-stage investor focused on great teams leading emerging growth companies. Plug and Play runs 12 industry-specific accelerator programs twice a year, that acts as a platform for major corporations and high quality startups to connect and collaborate.
Source: YouTube
  • The Wireless Health Hub: Wireless Health Hub is a new startup community for wireless health entrepreneurs, founders, investors, business leaders and other health technology professionals in the entrepreneurial stack. We’re creating mentorship-focused programs for startups who are creating wireless medical devices, services or personal health apps or devices.
  • MystartupXX: A diversity-driven accelerator program run by the Rady School of Management and Jacobs School of Engineering. The program supports the entrepreneurial goals of women and others who are traditionally underrepresented in entrepreneurship programs.
  • StartR: is a nonprofit accelerator for MBA students and alumni at the Rady School of Management. This free six-month program is designed to provide entrepreneurs the tools needed to start and grow their businesses.
  • Founder Institute: Founder Institute operates as an early-stage startup accelerator which enables entrepreneurs to launch new technology companies.


  • Bio, Tech and Beyond (Carlsbad): Bio, Tech, and Beyond is an emerging economic biotech hub zone that is focused on facilitating business.
  • BlueTech Incubator (La Jolla): The Maritime Alliance has launched a business incubator focused on ocean- and water-based industries.
  • CyberTECH NEST: CYBER Hive is a sustainable non-profit shared workspace and incubator community focused in the areas advanced new technologies including devices powering the IoT, software and app development, robotics, 3D printing, and drones.
  • EvoNexus (La Jolla): EvoNexus is the premiere tech startup incubator.
  • The Basement (UCSD): A campus-wide enterprise managed by UCSD Alumni and Community Engagement, is a collaborative space where students can find alumni and industry mentors, business guidance and funding to bring innovative ideas to life.
  • Zahn Innovation Platform Launchpad (SDSU): This incubator and entrepreneurial community assists San Diego State University’s innovators and aspiring entrepreneurs in launching viable startups.

SD Tech Labs

  • JLABS: JLABS provides a capital-efficient, resource-rich environment where emerging companies can transform the scientific discoveries of today into the breakthrough healthcare products of tomorrow.
  • Qualcomm Institute Innovation Space: The Qualcomm Institute is the UC San Diego division of the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology (Calit2), one of four Gray Davis Institutes for Science and Innovation located on University of California campuses.
  • Hardtechlabs: Science first biotech accelerator and IP commercialization
  • Hera Labs: Hera Labs’ mission is to inspire, equip, and propel female founders to successfully plans, launch, and scale their original businesses, thus positively impacting their local, national and global economies.

SD Co-Working Spaces

Check out co-working spaces on SD Tech Scene’s interactive map here. For ratings you can visit this site! And for those who like lists, see below.

SD Communities

  • 1 Million Cups San Diego: Based on the notion that entrepreneurs discover solutions and network over a million cups of coffee, the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation developed 1 Million Cups in 2012 — a free program designed to educate, engage and connect entrepreneurs with their communities. 1 Million Cups is now in more than 160 communities across the country. Reach out to michael j. crawford.
  • Athena: To empower progress together by advancing professional women in STEM.
  • Cleantech San Diego: Accelerating clean technology innovation and adoption of sustainable business practices for the benefit of the economy and the environment.
  • CONNECT: 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.
  • Entrepreneur Organization, San Diego: The Entrepreneur’ Organization enables entrepreneurs to learn and grow from each other leading to greater business success and an enriched personal life.
  • MIT Enterprise Forum San Diego: Founded in 1978 as part of the MIT Alumni Association, the MIT Enterprise Forum produces 400+ events, activities, and workshops annually to inform, connect, coach and inspire technology entrepreneurs, business leaders and enthusiasts.
  • San Diego Startup Weekend: Where San Diego comes to build skills, meet incredible people, and launch successful startups.
  • San Diego Tech Coffee Meetup (Weekly): Weekly gathering place to hang out and chat with other entrepreneurs.
  • StartupNoCo Coffees (Monthly): North County founders, funders, entrepreneurial community fans & supporters, come together 1x a month. RSVP here for the next event.
  • Startup Week San Diego: Once a year, Startup Week brings together entrepreneurs to share progress, exchange resources, and celebrate the thriving innovation community. We’re putting all our efforts into bringing together the community to showcase exciting local innovation, share resources and knowledge, and strengthen connections.
  • SD Tech Scene: SD Tech Scene is the most comprehensive calendar for San Diego tech and startup events, user groups, tech job listings, co-working spaces, and venues.
  • SDSIC / TechSanDiego: Since 1994, Tech San Diego has provided a unifying voice for San Diego’s technology community, fostering growth and business acceleration through collaborations between industry, education, and government. We support members from all sectors of the technology industry, including cybersecurity, big data, robotics, SaaS, biotech/healthcare, Internet of Things, defense, telecom and more.
  • San Diego Venture Group: Founded in 1986, SDVG is a non-profit organization designed to bring together people who are interested in new ventures and furthering individual companies, as well as our overall innovation community.
  • Xconomy: Xconomy is dedicated to providing business and technology leaders with timely, insightful, close-to-the-scene information about the local personalities, companies, and technological trends that best exemplify today’s high-tech economy.

SD Tech & Startup Events


Some Events

  • San Diego Startup Week, June 25–29, 2018: Startup Week brings together entrepreneurs to share progress, exchange resources, and celebrate the thriving innovation community. We’re putting all our efforts into bringing together the community to showcase exciting local innovation, share resources and knowledge, and strengthen connections.
  • Gartner Tech Growth & Innovation Conference: San Diego, CA, 4/30/18, With a focus on software, hardware and service providers, this conference offers both short-term growth opportunities and long-term strategies.
  • Technology Services World 2018: San Diego, CA, 5/7/18, TSW is an unrivaled source of peer learning, networking, and idea sharing. Attend to learn how to transform your technology service organization and achieve new levels of customer value and corporate success.
  • Gartner Digital Marketing Conference: San Diego, CA, 5/15/18, The — Gartner Digital Marketing Conference provides the insights senior marketing leaders need to deliver results in a fast-paced environment.
  • Gartner Security and Risk Management Summit: San Diego, CA, 8/20/18, The premier gathering of security, risk management and business continuity management leaders, this conference delivers the insight you need to guide your organization to a secure digital business future.

Local Tech Media and Podcasts

  • She Invests!: Interviews with powerful women, female angel investors with Silvia Mah.
  • Tacos + Tech: Interviews with San Diego’s tech ecosystem with Neal Bloom.
  • Startup Talk Podcast: defragmenting our startup ecosystem, one conversation at a time.
  • Voice of San Diego Podcast: Voice of San Diego’s spitfire roundup of this week’s news in brief, featuring an exclusive interview and special guest in the second half.
  • From the Edge Podcast: Welcome to Mintz Levin’s From the Edge, a podcast geared toward helping entrepreneurs thrive by learning from the experiences of executives in the technology, biotech and finance fields.
  • The Startup Vault Podcast: SDVG’s podcast consists of interviews with startup members in the San Diego community.
  • Startup Show San Diego: Connecting and Promoting startups via broadcast, internet, and social media.

SD Startup Jobs

SD City Resources


Reach out to info@innovate78.com when you need help saving on your California State Taxes. Also…

…if you want to give out food or beverage samples at the August 22nd Startup78 Quarterly Meetup.

…if you are a manufacturer interested in participating in San Diego North County Manufacturing Day on October 3. NorthCountyMFGDay.com

…if you are a 6th — 12th grade educator interested in bringing a group of students to the October 3rd Manufacturing Day event. NorthCountyMFGDay.com

World Trade Center San Diego

Reach out to the World Trade Center San Diego at info@sandiegobusiness.org

…if you’re a SD company looking to export or do business abroad, OR if you’re a foreign-owned company looking to set up or do business in San Diego.

…if you are a small/medium size company looking for help with international business and exporting

…if you’re interested in learning more about ourMetroConnect program which helps small and medium size companies expand globally (and comes with grant money!). (Applications for next class are open and due by Aug. 20)

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About Author: Lolita Taub is a TEDx speaker and keynote, a World Economic Forum Global Shaper, an artificial intelligence enthusiast, and an enterprise tech professional and investor at Portfolia. She holds 9 years of enterprise B2B software-hardware-and-services sales experience at IBM, Cisco Systems, and in Silicon Valley. Lolita has been recognized for her work on Forbes, Inc.com, The Huffington Post, Entrepreneur.com, and Los Angeles Times, among other publications.

Follow Lolita on Twitter @lolitataub and connect with her here.