Meet SDEE Community

Relating the San Diego Entrepreneur’s Experience to the Foreign Press

When the State Department Paid a Visit to SDEE 

By Amy Duncan, Goldfish Consulting, Inc. 

With immigration and other foreign policy matters still up in the air, the United States Department of State continues to pursue enduring matters such as technology, innovation, and world economic growth. Through its Foreign Press Centers, the State Department provides foreign-based journalists with services to help them report on American society, politics, and culture. They recently hosted 25 foreign journalists on their American Innovation and Entrepreneurship Reporting Tour that included a visit with San Diego Entrepreneurship Exchange (SDEE) on May 2, 2017.

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Why You Should Get to Know Your Neighbors… and Attend More SDEE Events

April 6, 2017 SDEE Get to Know Your Neighbors Event

By Neil Thompson

On April 6, SDEE hosted its 4th Annual Get to Know your Neighbors event. By the time I arrived, the event was in full swing. To describe it, think networking mixer on steroids. Plenty of bustle and business cards. Where to begin? 

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5 Tips to Be A Successful Entrepreneur

April 6, 2017 SDEE Get To Know Your Neighbors Event

By Dr. Roberta Vezza Alexander

Osman Kibar, PhD, the founder and CEO of Samumed, gave the keynote address at the SDEE event Get to Know Your Neighbors event on April 6, 2017. Osman is a seasoned entrepreneur who has founded or co-founded several companies before Samumed. With his entertaining communication style, he delivered a great speech and shared interesting personal experiences and tips for how to be a successful entrepreneur. Here are five tips captured from Dr. Kibar’s presentation:

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Message From Our SDEE President

The San Diego Entrepreneurs Exchange (SDEE) is a 501c3 nonprofit organization, founded by local entrepreneurs, to offer a voice, resources, and a support system to help entrepreneurs and their companies thrive in the San Diego ecology.  The supporting program portfolio that we provide grows each year as the programs and benefits we offer evolve with our expanding member base, and will continue to grow as we work together.

SDEE has provided support and education to over ~2400 individual participants in the past 6 years.  We are proud to offer quarterly Entrepreneur Roundtable events, reaching hundreds of entrepreneurs, on topics ranging from “How I started My Company and Why,” and “Being Fundable,” to “Beer- The Original Biotech.” We also offer a focused workshop series that offers a smaller, more intimate milieu for entrepreneurs to explore topics such as grant writing, negotiation, how to manage business operations, and more.  Our monthly socials provide a relaxed environment for local members to network, socialize, and support each other through the challenging start-up landscape.

At our core, SDEE is a grass-roots organization, comprised solely of volunteers, working to improve the entrepreneur support system with the end goals of facilitating and fostering funding, new business growth, and jobs development in San Diego.  We need a strong volunteer base to increase the systems we so badly want to develop, and offer volunteer opportunities in leadership development, fundraising, event planning, management, and more.

SDEE has been the safe and supportive group that, as a business owner, I have grown up in.  It has offered me a team of people who unfailingly offer help, expertise, and guidance through the myriad of questions, twists, and turns that we all encounter when starting and growing a company.  I am excited to act as SDEE President for 2017 and to work to give back a fraction of what SDEE has given me over the last 6 years.

This year, we hosted our 4th annual “Get to Know Your Neighbor” event, which focuses on opening the door for, and promoting, partnering locally whenever possible.  We are also looking to expand our workshop series to include some new, more focused, networking opportunities.  Make 2017 the year that you capitalize on your SDEE membership by increasing your involvement; joining a committee, taking advantage of learning opportunities, and helping us to provide more support than ever to you and everyone else in the SDEE network!


Taylor Moyer

Community Resources for Entrepreneurs

By Sylvia Norman, Sandhill Crane Diagnostics 

An attendee at a recent networking event asked the startup panel whether it was possible to bootstrap a Life Sciences company. I thought “you bet it is and you’re in one of the best cities to do it.” And that’s how the idea to generate an SDEE listing of startup resources was born. Many of our SDEE members founded their companies using the wealth of entrepreneur resources available here in San Diego. We’ve drawn on their experiences to generate our initial lists. The following is a summary of what we've identified so far.

Lab Space -  Startups need proof-of-concept data to obtain funding via investors, grants or partners, so finding wet lab space is an early priority. Luckily, San Diego has a variety of affordable wet lab incubator spaces to choose from including JLABS, Bio Tech & Beyond, Home Labs (Lab Fellows), BioLabs San Diego, Biotech Incubator of San Diego, La Jolla Cove Research Center and San Diego Science Center (Pacific Beach). Advantages to being part of an incubator are savings on capital equipment, shipping/receiving, facilities management and interacting directly with other Life Science entrepreneurs. Not looking to join an incubator? Less formal shared lab space options are available through companies with extra space available. SDEE posts these opportunities on our social media sites as we learn about them.

Accelerators - Need help with planning or growing your business? Check out local accelerators like Hera LABS, CONNECT Springboard and San Diego SCORE which offer business development mentoring at low or no cost to entrepreneurs. Join our SDEE events and workshops for expert advice on topics to help grow your company.

Equipment & Supplies - Equipment and supplies can take a big chunk out of your budget. Even if working in an incubator with shared equipment, you will likely need additional research equipment and lab supplies. ALT (American Laboratory Trading), Lab Trader and BioSurplus are local vendors who sell used or refurbished equipment at discounted prices. Sustainable Surplus and BioPioneer are great resources for lab supplies. For group discounts on lab purchases and business services, check out California Life Sciences Association (CLSA). Looking for free equipment and supplies? Follow our SDEE social media and eblasts for announcements.

Discounted Services – Need custom lab support? Lab Fellows and Managed Lab Services can help fill those requirements. Our SDEE business directory and consultants directory have an array of resources for low cost custom services tailored to startup needs. Don't forget about local Life Science core facilities when looking for affordable specialty lab services. 

That’s the start of our findings. We’ll be updating our lists as we learn about additional San Diego resources. Do you have a favorite? We’d love to hear about it. Contact Sylvia Norman at with your tips.

Happy New Year from SDEE!

Wishing you a happy and successful 2017! Thank you to our members, sponsors and volunteers for helping us provide educational & networking entrepreneur events to the San Diego community. Check out the highlights from 2016 in our newsletter Have an idea for an event or workshop you would like next year? We'd love to hear about it. Just contact Danielle Hayes at



International Federation for Adipose Therapeutics and Science

International Federation for Adipose Therapeutics and Science 2016 Conference Highlights

by Neil Thompson

Fat to the face: My time at IFATS 2016

Why would you want to put fat in your face?

That’s the question I asked myself before attending the International Federation for Adipose Therapeutics and Science (IFATS) 2016 annual meeting. I don’t know too much about fat except that most of us would rather have less of it.  Held from November 17-20, clinicians, researchers, and industry folk all gathered in San Diego at the Westin San Diego Gaslamp Quarter. I was among them, and I was excited to be there.

For decades, most cosmetic surgeries were carried out with non-biological fillers. Plump up your face? Eliminate dimples on your thigh? Fillers fit the bill. The problem with them? They don’t stick around. Up to 60% of volume is lost with these types of fillers. Fat became the solution. In fat, more and more study has focused on using fat from liposuction to address filling those problem areas. The fatty material removed from the body during liposuction, called lipoaspirate, was historically seen as waste and thrown away. No more. Surgeons are now separating the fat tissue from lipoaspirate through various means, like centrifugation and simple decanting, to access the stem cells residing in the tissue. Stem cells have the ability to transform, given the correct cues, into fat cells. The stem cells can then be reinjected into problem areas so that the stem cells attract cytokines that turn the stem cells into fat cells.

Many companies, some of which were exhibitors at the meeting, are working on methods to better separate the fat tissue from lipoaspirate while increasing the yield and viability of the isolated stem cells. Results are promising. Companies like Tissue Genesis and LifeCell are developing these fat-isolating technologies. LifeCell in particular has launched a product, the REVOLVE™ System, which looks like a salad spinner. It operates by gently spinning around lipoaspirate to separate the fat tissue from blood cells, debris, and extraneous fluid. The entire process takes about 90 minutes and produces more viable stem cells than decanting alone. Another company, Andrews Technologies, showcased HydraSolve®, which uses a specially made cannula to liquefy fat with warm pressurized saline. Fat sucked into the cannula comes in contact with warm saline circulating within the cannula, which liquefies the fat. The cell viability within the aspirated fat is higher than in other traditional fat harvesting techniques. 

Want to avoid liposuction and only want to fix a tiny problem area? MTF has a product, Renuva™, which can do just that. Made of allograft fat tissue (i.e. other people’s fat), Renuva is an injectable off the shelf product, eliminating the need for fat harvesting by liposuction. A competitor product, Allofill™ by Biologica Technologies, also exhibited at the meeting.

In addition to companies showing their wares, researchers also presented their work. Ever heard of microneedling? Me neither. The microneedler looks like a small rolling pin with tiny needles protruding from it. Researchers from Turkey’s Koc University School of Medicine found that rolling the microneedler over the problem area prior to fat injection increased vascularity and led to quicker engraftment of the injected fat. Oxysterol was a new term for me, too. A derivative of cholesterol, researchers at UCLA showed a link between oxysterol treatment and decrease in weight. They are looking into developing oxysterol treatments to prevent obesity. Research out of the University of Louisville is experimenting with developing cell-encapsulating spheroids. The team is 3D printing hydrophilic dots onto hydrophobic surfaces to create the spheroids. A 3D morphology of the cell-binding surface has been shown to be quite influential in maintaining the in vivo characteristics of cells. Cells plated on a flat surface typically don’t behave like cells found in the body.

The major takeaway from the meeting is that there’s no gold standard for isolating fat from lipoaspirate. Some swear by liposuction followed by allowing the fat layer to separate from the blood cell-laden liquid. Others advocate for gently spinning or centrifuging the lipoaspirate. In the next few years, I suspect more study will reveal the optimal method to get at the fat tissue’s stem cells and that method will be widely adopted. Barring prohibitive costs, of course.

So why would you want to put fat in your face? Because it works! Besides, we put Botox in our faces. Why not add some fat to the mix?



BioLabs Opens Innovative Coworking Lab Facility in San Diego

SDEE was recently treated to a tour of the new BioLabs San Diego coworking and wet lab facility for life science startups. San Diego is the newest location for BioLabs which also has facilities in Cambridge, San Francisco and North Carolina. As we toured, Susie Harborth, co-Founder and Managing Director, explained this is a 3 building complex (called GENESIS at Campus Point) featuring coworking space, a 16,000 sq ft wet lab stocked with shared equipment, conference rooms, offices and event spaces. She told us the San Diego site has a capacity to house 15-20 companies. We started in the main building which has a spacious open seating coworking area surrounded by conference rooms, private offices and the wet lab. The area is interspersed with informal spaces where co-workers can network. The star attraction is the wet lab with plenty of bench space, new equipment and an adjoining tissue culture room to be shared by BioLabs’ members. Susie mentioned that for those members needing vivarium services, Explora BioLabs is located right next door.

Susie explained that BioLabs is a membership-based, ready-to-move-in facility where startup life science companies can develop and grow. So how does the BioLabs membership work? Life Science companies can apply for a 2-year agreement with an “a la carte” use plan that includes an array of options to fit specific needs. Members can reapply after 2 years or opt out when ready to grow. Memberships start at $2000/month per bench plus a $400 per-person membership fee. As an added perk, BioCom offers a complementary membership to all BioLabs companies. BioCom is a founding partner of San Diego BioLabs. Additional amenities include an on-site lab manager, administrative assistance, Environmental Health & Safety support, centralized purchasing, shipping and more. There is even an on-site gym and swimming pool for when members need a break from their work.

BioLabs is a welcome addition to San Diego life science startup resources, helping local entrepreneurs launch, develop and grow their companies. Want to check out BioLabs for yourself? Contact Abegale Colmenar (Director of Operations) at to schedule a tour.


Springboard Your Way to Success – How CONNECT’S Mentoring Program Prepares Entrepreneurs

By Amy Duncan, Goldfish Consulting Inc.

It’s not about introducing entrepreneurs to investors, but preparing for the pitch. That’s what Steve Hoey said when I asked him about the Springboard program at CONNECT. Mr. Hoey is Senior Director of Springboard and Innovation Research with CONNECT. CONNECT has been involved with the San Diego technology and life sciences communities for over 30 years connecting entrepreneurs and C-suite executives to people, capital, and resources they need for success.  

Their flagship program, Springboard, is CONNECT’s startup acceleration program designed to assist entrepreneurs with strategic guidance from experienced mentors. It is a mentoring program that pairs early-stage life science and tech companies with mentors to help them crystallize their business model and the commercialization strategy to prepare for investment.

“Our sweet spot is companies who have moved beyond the ‘ideation’ stage,” said Mr. Hoey. “It’s not a program for individuals who have a business idea, but don’t yet have the plan, technology, or prototype in place.” Those are too early for Springboard. Most companies in Springboard have a prototype, are moving toward commercialization, and are looking to define the commercialization strategy in order to seek funding to support scaling their business.

Mr. Hoey addressed where the funding comes in. “Springboard is not an access to capital program,” said Mr. Hoey. “There’s no funding. It’s not an introduction to investors program.” Instead Springboard helps the entrepreneur develop their business model and determine their value proposition for potential customers, licensees, investors, or acquirers. “We help them think that through,” he added.

In contrast to what Springboard is not, applying companies should be at the prototype stage or moving toward minimal viable product. If it’s a therapeutics company, it should have its core scientific team in place. “One of the challenges life science companies face, particularly when the founders are scientists, is bringing someone on the team with commercial experience to effectively think about commercialization,” said Mr. Hoey. “Companies applying to Springboard should have given some thought to expanding their team beyond the scientific founders, to include commercialization experience.” They should understand their target market and ideal customer. “They should have a grasp on the pain they are solving with their solution, how it’s differentiated, and a preliminary look at the competitive landscape,” said Mr. Hoey. These areas are all refined in the Springboard program, but if entrepreneurs haven’t given them any preliminary thought before they come to the intake meeting, they won’t clear that hurdle. Companies need to be far enough along to benefit from the mentoring the program provides.

Mr. Hoey explained the “traction gap” as another hurdle for entrepreneurs ultimately seeking funding. To explain the traction gap, he compared a fresh graduate at the top of their economics program, but never had a job to someone with one year of business experience. “You are less hirable than someone who has one year of business experience,” he said. While Springboard helps entrepreneurs define their commercialization strategy, if they are able to execute on that strategy while they are in Springboard, they may well be investible at the end of the program. “Executing on the commercialization strategy, in investor eyes, is the key element that defines if a company is investible, which is whether they have traction,” said Mr. Hoey. “It is not automatic that you’re investible when you complete Springboard, or any accelerator for that matter.”

It’s essential to execute on the business model. Springboard helps entrepreneurs think through all the elements of the business model including how to go to market and how to develop the company further. “Springboard companies are working through their investor pitch deck through all this,” said Mr. Hoey. “The investor pitch deck should be strong, but in the end you also have to show that you’ve executed on that model that you’ve outlined.” Some companies are investor-ready at the end of Springboard, while others need to grow their business or execute on that business model. Companies typically receive funding anywhere from 3 to 18 months after they complete the program.

While Springboard does not introduce entrepreneurs to investors, CONNECT has a new, highly competitive program, called CapitalMatch that addresses this stage. The program accepts applications multiple times throughout the year. There is a life sciences track and a technology track. Any company in San Diego can apply. “A select number of applicants will be invited to pitch to a small panel of investors who will determine whether they are investor-ready,” said Mr. Hoey. “Introductions to investors are made for the investor-ready companies.” A number of Springboard companies apply to CapitalMatch separately. “We’ve separated the access to capital from the mentoring program,” said Mr. Hoey. “We want the companies to be focusing on developing the right value proposition, team, and model to commercialize the technology.”

CONNECT Springboard has shepherded a number of successful companies including, ecoATM, Freedom Meditech, and Benchmark Revenue Management, which merged with Avadyne Health. Since 2005, alumni companies have raised almost $1.5 billion and created 5,000 new jobs.  In 2015, Springboard alumni companies had their most successful year raising funding to grow their businesses, securing almost $200 million combined.

If you are moving toward commercialization, and need help refining your commercialization strategy for subsequent fundraising, then CONNECT’s Springboard program may be a good fit. Visit the CONNECT website to learn more about the programs and download the Springboard application. 

Beer - The Original Biotech

By Roberta Alexander

On October 13, 2016, SDEE discussion was about beer, instead of drug discovery and biotechnology. The event was held at the Roth Auditorium at The Sanford Institute for Regenerative Medicine and attendees could sample several beers on the patio, looking at the beautiful view of the sunset on the ocean. Although the topic of the discussion seems unfitting with SDEE’s scope, there are several reasons why the event was focused on beer: 1. Craft beer in San Diego is made by entrepreneurs who face challenges similar to those faced by scientists in start-up biotech companies; 2. SDEE holds monthly happy hours at a local brewery, so there is definitely a connection! 

Panelists at the event, which was moderated by Randy Schreckhise, were Eric O’Connor from Thorn Street Brewery, Matt Del Vecchio of Duckfoot Brewing Company, and Simon Lacey of New English Brewing, where SDEE members and friends meet for happy hours.

Where did the idea of starting a brewery come from?

Duckfoot Brewing Company was founded about 15 months ago but started, as an idea, years earlier, when Matt and his wife spent many weekends driving from New York City to Vermont to escape the stress of their lives in the city. Matt was a financial advisor not happy with his job and his hectic life in NYC. Although craft brewing was not very popular at the time, beer and snowboarding were passions that he wanted to pursue as career. While in the process of writing a business plan for a brewery catering to the snowboarding community, he was diagnosed with celiac disease, and his life became quite dark. The depression lifted when he discovered a brewery in Oregon that was making a couple of gluten-free beers using an enzyme to break down gluten. Thus, Duckfoot Brewing Company was born with the goal of making lots of different wonderful gluten-free beers, not only for snowboarders, but also for the celiac and gluten-free communities. Matt’s passion for snowboarding was the inspiration for the name of the brewery, as duck is a popular snowboarding stance. Although still very young, Duckfoot Brewing Company has a tasting room and self distributes its beer up to Los Angeles.

Simon Lacey’s story is not too different from Matt’s in the sense that he, too, was tired of his career and wanted to pursue his passion. Simon was a mechanical engineer who moved to San Diego in 1995 to work for Nokia. After a couple of lay-offs, he went to a beer convention in town in 2004 and fell in love with the business of brewing. He learned the ropes via internships and small jobs, and opened New English in 2007. He is British, so that is where the name of his brewery originates. Simon did not write a business plan, but knew he wanted to produce beer by local people, with local products, and for the local community. To keep the costs down during the recession of 2008, he ran the business by himself in the Old Mission Brewery using shared equipment, and in 2011 he finally moved to his current location in Sorrento Valley. Ten years and 3 full time employees later, he is currently working on a business plan. New English Brewery has 1 distributor and plans to expand distribution to Orange and L.A. Counties. Now that grocery stores understand that customers want craft beer, Simon plans to get some coveted shelf space in grocery stores. Canada and Scandinavia are on the horizon, too.

Eric’s story also fuses science with beer. He was the director of the flow cytometry core facility at the Sanford Institute for Regenerative Medicine until recently. Before that, he headed a flow cytometry core facility in the UK. This is where he rediscovered beers from England, Belgium, Germany, and the Czech Republic, where craft beer is actually called beer! Back in San Diego, he realized that the beer industry had flourished, and craft beer and food and beer pairings were now the norm. He became a home brewer and, eventually, bought a brewing license with some friends. Local bars and restaurant liked his beer, but he and his partners decided to raise some capital and expand beyond their cool place in North Park. They are building a facility in Barrio Logan and, although there have been some challenges, things are moving along nicely.

Beer competitions

The Great American Beer Festival in Denver, CO is widely considered to be the Super Bowl of beer, with over 7,000 beers competing for 280 medals. Winning a medal is quite an achievement, and San Diego brought home 18 of them in 2016. Duck Foot Brewery won a silver medal with its Contender IPA with Fresh Chilis, and New English’s Zumbar Chocolate Coffee Imperial Stout, which uses coffee beans from the local coffee shop Zumbar, won a bronze. Eric did not win anything this year at the GABF, but his success in other competitions speak for the quality of his product.

Dark days in the brewery business

Brewing beer is not always fun. Frictions with business partners can happen in breweries like in any other start up. People put their savings in the business, money can be tight, and disagreements can ensue. Nonetheless, working through the differences and looking at the big picture can help create a great culture.

Non-human related problems can happen, too. Lactobacillus infection can be devastating for a barrel aged imperial stout and, if it happens, one just needs to throw away the whole batch, with big losses. In the long run, it is better to throw away one batch than to ruin one’s reputation by bottling a subpar product.

Finding investors

Investors may be necessary in a brewery like in any other business. Equipment and facilities are expensive, so brewers need capital if they want to expand. Sometimes investors are just friends and family, and sometimes one can meet them via networking. In other cases, investors come to you. One advantage of having a tasting room is that people, including investors, get to know you, your product, and your business, and may want to invest in it.

Social media

It may be challenging to create interesting content for the various social media outlets, and it can be a lot of work for a small business, but nowadays having a social media presence is a must. Eric used social media to advertise some funny beer competitions for cash prizes. These competitions may not have been a great return on investment for the brewery, but they created a lot of traffic and people had a lot of fun!

This article was originally published by Roberta Alexander on LinkedIn.

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SDEE is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization founded by local San Diego entrepreneurs
in order to provide a voice for the early stage start-up, to support new entrepreneurs and their companies,
and to sponsor networking and educational events
to help develop the skills necessary to bring funding, business, and jobs to the San Diego area.

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