San Diego Business Journal San Diego nonprofit Connect will hold the largest regional “innovation celebration” in San Diego history later this spring.

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George Lurie

Connect CEO Mike Krenn told the Business Journal this week that his organization, which he describes as “an innovation instigator,” will lead a takeover of Petco Park on April 28, with more than 100 local life science and technology companies setting up booths around the ballpark to show off cutting-edge technologies and innovative business solutions that will be powering the region’s businesses and overall economy well into the 21st century.


Krenn says the inaugural event, to be called Five.Ten.Thirty, will be styled after the popular South by Southwest gathering held each year in Austin, Texas.


Softbank, GoSite and Vertical Ventures have already signed on as premier sponsors and Krenn said the entrepreneur-fest is expected to draw thousands of attendees, including more than 100 angel investors and another hundred-plus venture-backed CEOs.


Mayor Todd Gloria, who plans to declare April 28 as ‘Innovation Day’ in San Diego, believes innovation and entrepreneurship are at the heart of San Diego’s burgeoning economy.


“Our top-notch universities and research institutions act as a soil from which so many world-changing innovations have emerged and blossomed,” Mayor Gloria said. “When you combine our world-class life sciences and technology sectors with our mature defense industry and the binational nature of our region, there’s no limit to the potential for entrepreneurs to thrive in San Diego.”

 
Connect has a rich 35-year history in San Diego and was originally founded as one of the nation’s first startup accelerators. The nonprofit’s founders include industry luminaries like Irwin Jacobs, David Hale, Mary Walshok and Buzz Woolley. Krenn has helmed the organization since 2019 when his former company, San Diego Venture Group, merged with Connect. During his VC career, Krenn has helped raise more than $500 million for area startups.


“It’s time the world started seeing San Diego for what it is,” Krenn says. “We are a powerhouse in both life sciences and tech.”


Only Silicon Valley, New York, Boston and L.A. have raised more venture dollars than San Diego in recent years, Krenn said.  “It’s an astounding data point. We are a world-class hub for innovation. It’s not a goal, it’s not conjecture -- it’s a fact.”

 
“We have such an amazing base of companies here,” Krenn added. “It still amazes me, and I’m in the middle of it every day. We have genomics companies saving the lives of children. Therapeutics companies tackling cancer. And it just goes on and on - bluetech, cleantech, drones and defense, satellites and space dev, artificial intelligence, big data… It is all here.”


San Diego County’s startup community raised over $8.8 billion in 2021 – a new record high for venture capital dollars invested in the region. In addition, companies that have participated in Connect’s Cool Companies and Springboard programs raised over $1.7 billion, or nearly 20% of San Diego county’s venture capital funding for 2021, Krenn said.


Each innovation job is projected to support 2.78 other jobs across the region. Overall, according to recent data, the innovation economy makes up a whopping 26 percent of San Diego’s regional GDP.


Krenn said he chose Five.Ten.Thirty as the inaugural event’s name to bring attention to the fact that “the decisions we make today, make an impact five, ten and thirty years out.”  


“We have a real, tangible opportunity to build an economy here that embraces all of San Diego. An economy that is diverse, equitable and inclusive – and led, in part, by the innovation sector,” Krenn added.

 
Petco Park’s jumbotron will be in use during the event and a big fireworks display is planned to cap the celebration. More details about Five.Ten.Thirty will be available soon at 
www.connect.org.