Startup78: Growing the Startup Community in North County San Diego

North County San Diego is known for its beautiful scenery and relaxed lifestyle, but innovative industrial growth is garnering attention to the area by storm. Open Source Maker Labs opened its doors in 2014 to support this movement, and there has never been a more exciting time for entrepreneurs to explore new business opportunities in the area. As California continues to expand across growing industries like information technology, healthcare, hospitality, and agriculture, city leaders in North County have zeroed in on what their region brings to the table. This created a like-minded collaboration between OSML and innovation leaders in North County who recently launched a new entrepreneurial initiative- Startup78.

With more land to build businesses and by harnessing a community effort to support the goals of each city, the North County cities of Carlsbad, Oceanside, San Marcos, Vista, and Escondido joined forces to focus on the economic prosperity of the area, creating Innovate78. Recognizing the growing number of entrepreneurs in North County, Innovate78 along with San Diego Regional EDC launched a separate action specifically for startup companies, thus the Startup78 initiative was born in the Spring of 2018. Startup78 works to unite and maximize the resources available to entrepreneurs as they begin to develop their companies, and support their growth as they become sustainable and successful businesses.

When entrepreneurs bring their dreams to life, it creates job growth and economic benefit towards the surrounding communities as well. Jennifer Schoeneck, Economic Development Manager for San Diego Regional EDC and Program Manager for Startup78 explains this role with, “98% of firms in San Diego are small businesses. When we give entrepreneurs the resources they need to be successful, it adds jobs to our local economy which in turn helps individuals and families.” With San Diego county's unemployment rate at 2.9% being lower than the California average (4.2%) as well as that of neighboring Los Angeles (3.9%) and Riverside (4.1%), something is clicking into place in the small business and startup ecosystem of the county.

Simply put, economic growth in North County creates more career options for local residents along with a major cut in commute time to dense workplace areas that lie miles away from home, with one example being the technology sector. The 78 corridor has created more than 25,000 jobs in technology, and the number of tech firms in the area rests at 42% above the national average. The number of jobs created in technology also induced upwards of 16,000 additional jobs that support the industry. In the tech sector of the 78 corridor, 80% of firms are small businesses that employ less than 10 people. Residents see the opportunity available in the 78 corridor; this area has transformed into an environment that breeds entrepreneurs and scalable businesses.

With the emergence of Startup78, a symbiotic relationship between the initiative and Open Source Maker Labs came into full effect. With OSML being the only makerspace in North County, the labs provide the space for entrepreneurs to code, 3D print a prototype, or use a variety of other tools and materials such as the laser cutter, or metal and woodworking materials that are otherwise hard to come by. With OSML hosting teams of bright and dedicated college students getting hands-on experience in their STEM fields, startups have talent pools to draw from for hiring purposes.

Schoeneck also highlighted OSML’s role from the startup community’s perspective. “Volunteering their time, expertise and resources, OSML plays a critical role in the North County startup community.” She explained, “We are proud to have [OSML President] Dan Hendricks on our Regional EDC Startup78 committee to help drive the strategic agenda to provide startups with the resources they need to grow and thrive in North County San Diego.”

Dan appreciates seeing these companies and business relationships develop firsthand. He highlights, “I enjoy seeing the creativity and energy in the startup community, and the increase in self-confidence by people as they go through the startup journey. We've seen a lot of talent develop right here in our lab through the many projects we have, and that's led directly to startup initiatives and hiring by startups in North County.”

Dan feels that as more attention is drawn to the businesses in North County, funding and investment will continue to develop, creating rapid growth across multiple industries. Compared to larger cities, he says the secret ingredient to this area is the new collaboration that is happening between the five cities along the Innovate78 corridor while each city continues to retain its specific characteristics. This will ultimately create novel opportunities for talent and business to locate in North County.

From the rise of the technology sector, to the emergence of numerous local breweries, economic growth can only continue to expand in North County. Paired with the focus on collaboration between the five cities and the holistic mindset of preserving a balanced lifestyle of family, friends, and outdoor appreciation, the synergy of North County has created a refreshing atmosphere for startups to thrive in. With events and resources available through Startup78 and Open Source Maker Labs, entrepreneurs are encouraged to get involved as the 78 corridor brings new business to life.

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