The SDSU Innovation District planned for the college’s Mission Valley campus is still a few years from being built but the future center is already attracting big names.
At a San Diego Startup Week event held at the SDSU Aztec Union on Oct. 27, San Diego State University announced it had forged a partnership with global investment business Techstars to create the Techstars San Diego Powered by SDSU accelerator program.
“Techstars San Diego Powered by SDSU is an incredible opportunity to support entrepreneurs as the university works to expand and enhance San Diego’s innovation ecosystem with the SDSU Innovation District,” said Hala Madanat, SDSU’s vice president for research and innovation. “We want to bring in the best ideas and innovators into the SDSU fold, connecting these startups with our students, researchers, SDSU Innovation District industry partners, robust alumni network, and local startup ecosystem.”
Landing Techstars as a partner for the accelerator was a goal of SDSU’s Innovation District board who after reaching out to alumni and professionals in San Diego’s startup community discovered that what the college and the region’s entrepreneurship ecosystem lacked was an accelerator with a worldwide footprint.
“What kept coming up from everyone was a ‘Techstars’ or ‘Techstar-like’ accelerator,” Madanat said. “What people felt was missing was a really strong, world-wide, renowned accelerator that would draw companies into the San Diego market.”
The Techstars worldwide network was founded in 2006 to help entrepreneurs succeed. Techstars partners with organizations like SDSU to provide early-stage founders with a hands-on, mentorship-driven environment while also offering partners access to new technologies and ways of approaching industry specific challenges.
“Techstars firmly believes anyone, anywhere can become a world-changing entrepreneur and there is no place better to do that than San Diego, where entrepreneurs will have access to talent from world class universities like SDSU, a strong flow of venture capital into the region and a world-class lifestyle,” said Ryan Kuder, managing director at Techstars.
Through Techstars San Diego Powered by SDSU, founders will receive access to capital, one-on-one mentorship and programming. The program will accept up to 12 companies each year. Applications for the first cohort will open in March and the 13-week program will begin in the fall 2023, with the concluding Demo Day to be held in early December at Snapdragon Stadium.
Madanat said the program already has funding for the majority of its operations for next few years, but is still looking to add more investors, who through negotiation will help decide what kinds of companies the accelerator will focus on.
“[Techstars] has been very tech- and life sciences-oriented in the past, but we haven’t limited it – we just said go out and bring the best and the brightest to San Diego,” she added.
The program has already attracted some of San Diego’s best and brightest as donors and mentors, including GoFundMe co-founder Andy Ballester.
“Bringing the Techstars mentorship, programming, process and internationally recognized brand to San Diego is the single biggest thing SDSU can do to raise the bar for innovation in our community,” he said.
Techstars San Diego Powered by SDSU will also raise the bar for SDSU students by creating opportunities for them to participate in the accelerator and startups as interns, supporting SDSU’s workforce preparation efforts.
The accelerator program will begin at SDSU’s main campus next year, but will eventually move to the SDSU Innovation District in Mission Valley, which is designed with more than a million square feet of office, technology, research and laboratory space to facilitate collaborations between SDSU researchers and public and private partners
With 1.6 million square feet of office, technology, laboratory and research space, the SDSU Innovation District will facilitate collaborations between SDSU researchers and public and private partners.
“We want the innovation district to be a setting where new, successful ideas come to life and the partnership with Techstars will advance this vision in a very meaningful way,” said Ron Fowler, chair of the SDSU Presidential Innovation District Advisory Committee and a philanthropic investor in the partnership.
The Innovation District will consist of several hubs where transdisciplinary collaborators will combine their efforts to solve societal challenges. The Techstars program will be housed in the SDSU Innovation District’s entrepreneurship center.
Construction related to the first hub – the Health Innovation Hub – is expected to begin in 2023 and be concluded sometime in 2025 or 2026. Initial partners include diagnostic testing company Quidel Corporation, the NavalHealth Research Center and the Family Health Centers of San Diego.
CEO: Maëlle Gavet
Headquarters: Boulder, CO
Business: Global investment business that provides access to capital, one-on-one mentorship, a worldwide network and customized programming for early-stage entrepreneurs.
Funding: $348.3 million as of 2021
Employees: More than 300
Notable: Techstars has invested in more than 3,100 companies with a combined market cap of more than $150 billion.