Due in part the cameo appearance of a former Google executive, San Diego Venture Group saw record attendance at its annual Venture Summit last week. The crowded two-day affair was markedly different from previous years, signaling the local startup scene is picking up steam.
One venture capitalist visiting from Bay Area VC firm Canaan Partners said that he sees opportunity in San Diego for investors.
“Markets like San Diego, Los Angeles, Chicago and Denver are the most untapped markets,” said Rayfe Gaspar-Asaoka, an associate VC from Canaan.
This year, the summit attracted 700 attendees and over 120 venture capitalists from startup hubs across the country, including many visitors from Los Angeles and San Francisco. That compares with 600 total attendees last year, and 85 venture capitalists. It wasn’t just the quantity of VCs that was different this year, but the quality of the picks improved with top-tier funds represented.
“These were real, active VCs who are writing checks as opposed to individuals who write one check a year,” said Mike Krenn, president of the San Diego Venture Group.
But perhaps the biggest highlight of the event was the keynote presentation by Bill Maris, the rather elusive founder and former CEO of Google Ventures. Maris moved from San Francisco to Del Mar when he married his wife, the singer-songwriter Tristan Prettyman, in 2014. He recently made waves in local news when word spread earlier this year that he was raising a sizable venture fund in San Diego. That fund has reached $160 million in size, and Maris said during his keynote that he was already moving on plans to raise a second fund.
The news of Section 32 was big in San Diego because there are few institutional tech investors in the county. Maris said Section 32 is most interested in startups dabbling in data and/or the life sciences.