Founders and other startup folks meet once a month in Carlsbad for Shape, a meetup organized by Plasso CEO Drew Wilson. Photo courtesy of Plasso.

Founders and other startup folks meet once a month in Carlsbad for Shape, a meetup organized by Plasso CEO Drew Wilson. Photo courtesy of Plasso.

Startup communities have a culture that extols grit and perseverance, and San Diego’s tech scene is no exception.

Plastered on the walls of local coworking spaces and incubators are words like “hustle” and “reach higher.” The message is clear: work harder, work longer, never stop trying.

Olin Hyde, founder and CEO of San Diego startup LeadCrunch, describes the culture he ascribes to most succinctly, “You have to eat nails for breakfast and enjoy the taste of your own blood,” Hyde said, sitting in a conference room at downtown’s tech incubator EvoNexus.

The high-pressure culture around technology startups can be trying on young or inexperienced founders, said startup community leader Ashok Kamal, executive director of Tech Coast Angels in San Diego.

“The entrepreneur is always putting on a façade that they’re crushing it all the time,” Kamal said in a recent fireside chat at Startup Grind. “But that’s not how it is. Startups are constantly between miracles and disasters, and that’s just in one day. It’s extremely exhausting. A lot of people are depending on (the founder); their customers, their employees, their investors. That’s a lot of pressure.”

How do local entrepreneurs navigate these pressures? Kamal, a former founder himself, said personally it helps him to join peer groups for the support.

There are closed-door support groups within nearly all of San Diego’s incubators and accelerators, including EvoNexus, Startup San Diego, and others.

However, these groups are not open to the public. Here are three support groups for local entrepreneurs that are open. These groups focus on discussing common challenges that arise in startup life, and serve as a peer-to-peer support network for entrepreneurs.

1.) Shape

Founded by tech CEO Drew Wilson, founder of Plasso, Shape is a free and public meetup for startups. The meeting is open to everyone, from engineers and designers to the founders themselves. The group meets at Common Grounds in Carlsbad on the last Thursday of every month from 6-9 p.m. Learn more here.

2.) Startup Grind

Startup Grind, a national group that has a local chapter, is a speaker-oriented group that meets once a month to chat founder problems. The meetings usually bring in a guest for a fireside chat, culminating in a Q&A session. The local chapter’s new president, Brandon Christopher, is passionate about focusing on “real problems” facing founders. His discussions have touched on depression, anxiety, and founder breakups. Learn more here.

3.) North County Founder Drink Up

Founded by startup community leader Neal Bloom, “Founder Drink Up” is a new monthly meeting for entrepreneurs to discuss startup life in North County. The group is a bit of a spinoff from a more exclusive group downtown, called the “Founders Drinking Club.” The exclusive group is invite-only, said group organizer Kamal. “You have to be referred in by another founder since we want to maintain a safe, honest space,” Kamal said in an email. “No pitching, but crying is permitted.”

Bloom’s meetup in North County is open to the public. Learn more here.

(This list is not comprehensive. Please contact Brittany Meiling at to add a local support group to the list.)