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Entrepreneur Makes the Pitch For Less Formality, More Fun

What do new transplants think of San Diego’s startup scene? Last week, we spoke with two CEOs who relocated from Silicon Valley. This week, we ask a solo entrepreneur how moving to San Diego impacted his business, if there were any surprises along the way, and what he’d like to see more of in San Diego.

DAVID LOWE

Moved to San Diego: July 2016

Total time here: 7 months

Business: Tech and Co-living Entreprenuer

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David Lowe is a serial entrepreneur who recently moved to San Diego from another startup hub — Austin, Texas.

David Lowe is a serial entrepreneur who recently moved to San Diego from another startup hub — Austin, Texas.

In Austin, Lowe founded a startup called Uberpong, a company that leans on the resurgence of table tennis’ popularity (particularly in the tech and startup crowd). The company offers custom Ping-Pong paddles, which users can design online or through Uberpong’s mobile app.

Now Lowe is moving on to another concept that serves the quirks of the startup crowd: coliving. Like coworking with beds and showers, coliving is a new kind of startup community where entrepreneurs share living and working space all in one building.

Lowe moved to San Diego to launch his first space, to be called Qwerky Coliving, and has been gathering research and making connections for the last several months.

Reasons for leaving Austin:

Saturated market. “Too many people were moving to Austin to start a company,” Lowe said. “Austin is growing too big too fast, and it’s saturated — especially in tech.”

Hot and buggy. “There was 100-degree heat, and that was a real challenge,” said Lowe, who moved to Austin from London. “Then the sun would go down and the mosquitoes would come out.”

Other cities considered before moving:

San Francisco, New York, Boston, Sydney, and Barcelona.

Why San Diego?

Beach life. “My health was deteriorating in Austin, and my allergies were terrible,” Lowe said. “I grew up on the Northwest Coast of England, and I missed the ocean.”

Nascent Startup Scene. “The startup scene is just getting going, so I know that I can bring value,” Lowe said.

What were your expectations versus reality? Did anything come as a surprise to you after getting settled in?

Conservative business culture. “At several business networking events, I’ve felt like I don’t quite fit in,” Lowe said. “Every time I open my mouth, people’s jaws hit the ground. I think my ideas are a bit progressive.”

Cliquish startup groups. “Similar to Austin, there seems to be one incubator that everyone goes to,” Lowe said. “If you’re not a part of it, you’re out of the startup circle. That doesn’t make for a supportive ecosystem.”

Poor public transportation. “The traffic and the public transportation infrastructure are very challenging,” Lowe said.

What would you like to see more of/less of in San Diego’s startup community?

More fun. “More founder fight clubs, more Ping-Pong tournaments, and more competition between startup people,” Lowe said. “In Austin, we had ‘Startup Olympics’ because startup people are very competitive by nature. I’d love to see more of that.”

More accessibility. Many startup events are held at swanky lounges, expensive bars and other corporate-friendly locations. Lowe said it would be nice to see gatherings at more casual and affordable venues.

Show & Sell: S.D. Startups Find
Fame and Fortune on ‘Shark Tank’

Sand Cloud co-founders Steven Ford and Brandon Leibel

Local startups swarmed ABC’s “Shark Tank” late February, with at least five San Diego companies featured on the popular reality TV show.

Three locals pitched to celebrity investors, and two others were featured on a special episode of ABC’s news show “20/20,” which celebrated “Shark Tank’s” milestone of investing $100 million in entrepreneurs since the show’s inception.

The “20/20” feature highlighted “Shark Tank’s” greatest successes and failures, and two local companies — Tipsy Elves and Tower Paddle Boards — were recognized as big winners for the show’s investors.

The “20/20” feature aired after the Feb. 24 “Shark Tank” episode and featured two local startups: Sand Cloud Towels and Ora Organics.

Beach Towel Company Scores $200,000

Sand Cloud Towels, founded in 2014 by three young men in San Diego, landed a $200,000 investment from investor Robert Herjavec.

The investment came with a 15 percent equity stake for Herjavec, about 7 percent higher than Sand Cloud was originally seeking.

The company makes bohemian-style beach towels made from Turkish cotton, resulting in a soft and scarflike quality. The brand appeals to consumers partly due to its mission to protect the health of oceans and marine life. Sand Cloud’s sales help support three environmental organizations, and the company’s popular tagline “save the fishies” adorns branded attire and social media pages.

Co-founder Steven Ford said Sand Cloud Towels has experienced significant growth, with revenues climbing from the thousands in 2014 to nearly $3 million in 2016. He said he expects revenue to reach $7 million by the end of 2017.

The company plans to use the Shark Tank investment to optimize its website, the startup’s main selling platform.

Ronald Chang serves as chef and COO of Ora Organics

Photo courtesy of Ora Organics

Supplements Startup Turns Down Shark’s Deal

Little Italy-based Ora Organics, a nutritional supplements company founded by three millennials, was offered a deal by investor Kevin O’Leary — but ultimately turned it down.

The local company makes supplements including omega-3s, probiotics, and protein powders from organic and plant-based supplements (such as microalgae).

Four of the investors bailed on the pitch, citing a highly competitive industry, unrealistic terms, and marketing concerns. O’Leary, however, offered $375,000 for a 20 percent stake. The company countered 7.5 percent, which O’Leary countered once again with 17 percent.

The San Diego company, which brought in sales of $415,000 in less than a year, ultimately walked away from the offer.

Photo courtesy of RinseKit

RinseKit Accepts $250,000 Equity Investment

Carlsbad startup RinseKit, which makes a portable shower product, pitched to Shark Tank investors earlier in February and landed a $250,000 equity deal.

Investor Daymond John, who gained success in the clothing industry, offered the cash for 7.5 percent equity and 10 percent commission on sales from retailers he brings onboard.

RinseKit was founded in 2015 when founder Chris Crawford, a surfer and outdoor enthusiast, identified a need for a portable shower system.

RinseKit’s portable shower system consists of a two-gallon reservoir that can be filled anywhere. The system stores and pressurizes the water so that it can be used anywhere. This can be particularly handy to surfers, who often need to rinse sand and seawater from their wetsuits and boards after leaving the water.

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