As you may know, SDEE started in 2010, when a group of local biotech entrepreneurs coalesced around obtaining and maintaining SBIR funding. The founding group included Scott Thacher, Danielle Hayes, Scott Struthers, Debbie Slee, Jiwu Wang, David Schwarz, Rich Maki, Dave Larocca and Ruo Steensma. Over the years the focus of the organization has expanded beyond biotech, to include many industries with a focus on entrepreneurs helping other entrepreneurs start and grow their companies.
My own experience with the organization began about six years ago, shortly after I co-founded what is now August Therapeutics. I attended a few SDEE events and was struck by the approachability and utility of the organization before becoming a member. Within a few months I joined the events committee as a volunteer. In 2016 I took over from Kathrin Copley to become the Events Committee Chair. In 2017 I convinced Marilyn Ferrari to join me as co-chair and I also joined the Board of Directors. In 2018 Lynda Groocock replaced me as Events Committee co-chair while I took on the newly created role of Vice President. Marilyn and Lynda continue as the 2019 co-chairs, along with others on the committee, and do a fantastic job coordinating all the behind the scenes logistics required for our events to run smoothly. You may not realize it, but our Events Committee, like most of our committees, meet once a month to debrief past events, discuss new ideas, and schedule activities far out into the future.
Randy Schreckhise (right) at an SDEE Executive Committee Meeting
Being a volunteer can, at times, be a lot of work, but we all get out of the organization what we put in to it. For example, during my involvement with SDEE I have benefited from the connections I’ve made that have helped recruit advisors, employees and consultants for August Therapeutics. I’ve also had the opportunity to meet hundreds, if not thousands, of passionate members of the San Diego business community. I’ve worked in Seattle and Washington DC, and while each has had strong industry organizations and function-based professional organizations, I’ve never seen anything like this organization outside of San Diego.
My own experience is not unique; it is the foundation of SDEE to create a rich environment where people with ideas become founders and develop to become leaders, giving back to the next wave of San Diego entrepreneurs. I’m honored to be following in the footsteps of prior SDEE Presidents Taylor Moyer, Scott Struthers, and Scott Thacher.
At the beginning of 2018 the Executive Committee made the difficult decision to begin charging non-members to attend our large quarterly events to help offset the costs associated with growing attendance. As a result, SDEE membership doubled in 2018, and we now currently have nearly 300 members, and an email list that reaches thousands of people.
In addition to membership fees, we’ve also been able to expand our organizational sponsorship and in 2018 we welcomed ALT as our first ever Platinum-level sponsor. We are also grateful for continued support from Alexandria, Takeda, Cushman & Wakefield, Duane Morris, MaxCyte, Wagenknecht IP Law Group and Marsh McLennan. While volunteers are the engine of SDEE, membership and sponsor dollars are the fuel that allows us to hold quarterly large events, quarterly workshops, and monthly happy hours.
Based on the number of other organizations that reached out to us in 2018, we’ve increased our presence in the San Diego Business community. In 2019 we are confident we can continue our strong membership and sponsor growth and aim to increase our reach beyond the San Diego region.
If you are an aspiring or seasoned entrepreneur, and aren’t a member, we’d love to have you join and get to know our organization. If you are a member and have thoughts about what you’d like to see SDEE become, or are looking for ways to get involved, we are always looking for volunteers to help with our committees: Events, Membership, Communication, Consulting, Fundraising, and Advocacy.
I feel what makes SDEE unique is that we are a grass-roots organization made up of individuals driven to help each other out because a strong entrepreneurial community is built one success at a time.
Thank you for supporting SDEE!