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The Big Picture San Diego Blog

Big Picture San Diego Blog

October 17, 2016

By Nikia Clarke, director, World Trade Center San Diego

WTC San Diego was on the road again last week, joining Biocom, UC San Diego and four San Diego life sciences companies for BioJapan in Yokohama. Yokohama is San Diego’s sister city; a lovely port city of 3.7 million people—and Japan’s second largest metro—that often gets lost in the shadow of nearby Tokyo (sound familiar?). Yokohama was an auto manufacturing and export capital, and in the words of city officials, “home to the very first Japanese auto company: Ford motors.” As much of that manufacturing moved to lower cost destinations in Asia, Yokohama has had to pivot towards more knowledge-intensive industries like ICT and life sciences. I toured several research spaces and innovation houses in which the city government has invested to support these new industries.

Yokohama and San Diego will celebrate the 60th anniversary of the sister city relationship in 2017, with a visit from Mayor Hayashi. I carried with me this time a letter from San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, celebrating this relationship as both sides look to build upon long diplomatic relations with more robust business and commercial exchange. 

A quickly-growing gateway into the Asian life sciences industry, BioJapan 2016 hosted 800 companies, 15,000 visitors and was sponsored by big San Diego employers like Takeda, Ajinomoto, Kyowa Kirin, Chugai and J&J Innovation, among others.

Japan is the second largest pharmaceuticals market globally after the U.S., and is also San Diego’s second largest source of foreign investment. 'Asian multinationals have been shifting significantly from legacy industries into new growth verticals: Ajinomoto moving from food additives to pharmaceuticals; Samsung exploring biologics, precision instruments and wireless health; and FujiFilm expanding from cameras to vaccine manufacturing.

However, as Takeda CEO Christophe Weber shared in his keynote, the majority of big discoveries in this space are being generated by startups and SMEs, which is why aligning corporate capital and strategy with venture-fueled innovation is essential for the future of the global life sciences industry. This is where the opportunity for San Diego lies.

San Diego does innovation very well, which is why BioJapan is a great opportunity for partnering and sales opportunities for local companies targeting Japan. Companies like Organovo, a San Diego company that “bioprints” human tissue, traveled to Yokohama for partnering meetings. Founded in 2007, Organovo now employs more than 100 people and is trading on the Nasdaq.

Even as new trends and technologies change the industry in both Japan and San Diego, it is clear that the importance of relationship building remains paramount. Biocom has made a long-term investment in the region, and has cultivated a widespread respect for the California life sciences ecosystem. Biocom now has 40 member companies in Japan, and on this trip signed an MOU with the Kobe biocluster and opened a Biocom Japan office; its only presence outside the U.S.

UC San Diego has similarly focused on Japan, opening its own office in the prestigious Nihonbashi life sciences building in central Tokyo earlier this year, and building robust industry and university research and training collaborations across Japan, in everything from medicine to robotics to entrepreneurship.

As Biocom continues to build bridges between global life sciences clusters, and UC San Diego reinforces them with world-class research alliances, WTC San Diego’s objective is to build the sustainable infrastructure to move companies across those bridges, through export programs like MetroConnect, and the creation of innovation investment networks.

In 2016 we have participated in a Technology Symposium, spoken to 400 investors in three cities about opportunities in San Diego, and partnered with JETRO to connect MetroConnect companies to business opportunities in Japan.

As always, increased collaboration globally—especially in our most competitive and high-growth sectors—amplifies our outcomes for the region as a whole, creating jobs, opportunities and connectivity. Luckily, collaboration is something San Diego does well

October 3, 2016

San Diego’s thriving tourism and life sciences companies are often in the limelight. However, there’s one industry that had an economic impact of over $14 billion in 2012 alone and has significant regional impact: maritime. Maritime technology, or bluetech as its otherwise known, is an increasingly important part of San Diego’s business ecosystem and includes sub-verticals such as desalination tech, fish hatchery solutions and robotics.

San Diego-based Ocean Aero is one such company in this rapidly growing space. Ocean Aero – inventor and producer of the Submaran™ S10, an impressive autonomous underwater vehicle that can move both above and below the ocean’s surface – is a cutting edge example of the innovation emerging from the sector. Eric Patten, Ocean Aero’s president and CEO, believes San Diego’s unique blend of intellectual capital make it ideally suited for producing something like the Submaran: “San Diego is a maritime town and therefore has a lot of the talent and expertise required in building a unique hybrid ocean observation vehicle.”

It seems only a natural fit that Patten dove into the maritime industry, after serving as a U.S. Navy Captain for more than 25 years. Patten brought with him a passion for the ocean when he joined the company in early 2013 shortly after its founding in December 2012, hoping to develop the next generation of underwater autonomous vehicle (UAVs). Patten has not only put Ocean Aero at the forefront of UAVs, but has also, alongside his talented team, developed a complementary digital platform that can serve up unique analytics and insights across a variety of applications.    

Ocean Aero has already experienced some noteworthy success in its relatively short lifetime, as the company signed a multi-million dollar two-year contract with the Department of Defense in 2015. Building on top of this momentum, Ocean Aero was then selected as a winner in the Aerospace, Security, & Cyber Technologies Category at CONNECT’s 28th Annual Most Innovative New Product Awards. Patten now plans on expanding globally with a focus on markets such as Japan and the United Kingdom.

“We are specifically targeting the scientific, commercial, academic and government markets. These are very broad markets but they are global markets – which is why an international presence is absolutely important to us,” said Patten.


The success of small- and medium-sized businesses is critical to the region’s future, and increasing their global reach is crucial to that success. Through the MetroConnect Program, companies such as Ocean Aero are to be awarded a $10,000 grant provided by JPMorgan Chase to assist with their international efforts, as well as additional support services including: a dedicated trade and investment manager at WTC San Diego to support company participants in deploying overseas strategies during the grant period; access to workshops that address export compliance, financing and fundraising and global marketing; reduced airfare on Japan Airlines direct flights from San Diego to Tokyo; free access to SYSTRAN software for website translation and customer service needs; and consideration to compete for an additional $35,000 during the MetroConnect Grand Prize Pitchfest in November 2016.

September 30, 2016

As part of the 2016 MetroConnect Program, WTC San Diego hosted two workshops to help the current cohort of 15 companies learn the ins and outs of going global.

The first workshop was hosted by East County-based Taylor Guitars. Leadership from the company spent time discussing topics related to exporting: how to choose export markets, compliance, export basics, how to get paid and more. Here are a few things we heard and learned along the way:

It’s not all about widgets! Technically, there are actually two types of exports:

  • Physical Export – goods physically go out of country
  • Deemed Export – release of controlled technology to foreign persons in the U.S. are "deemed" to be an export to the person’s country or countries of nationality

Your responsibilities as an exporter can seem daunting. Two core things to keep in mind:

  • Know your foreign buyers – end users/uses; screening lists (parties of concern); Foreign Corrupt Practices Act
  • Know your products – restrictions for transport; country restrictions by tariff or sanction; permit or licensing requirements; controlled or prohibited items

The second workshop was hosted by Qualcomm Ventures (QCV). Representatives from QCV discussed ways participants can seek funding to expand their international presence and capabilities. In addition, individuals from the Export-Import Bank and Silicon Valley Bank were in attendance to discuss other creative ways to finance export opportunities.

Key insights from the Qualcomm Ventures workshop:

  • Whether you’re asking for a loan or pitching for venture capital, be confident, skip the nebulous marketing-speak and “don’t be weird." Metrics matter when banks and funds make choices on who to finance, but personality can (and often is) a factor.
  • Small businesses that are having difficulty finding sales insurance through a traditional channel should consider the EXIM Bank. EXIM’s specialized credit and loan programs help ensure that SME’s looking to go global have access to the resources they need in order to confidently kickstart their export activities.

Another major takeaway from these efforts was just how incredibly supportive the local business community is. Taylor Guitars and Qualcomm Ventures have given a significant amount of time and energy to these MetroConnect activities, and we are thankful for their stellar efforts.

September 30, 2016

Understanding any economy starts with strong data. At EDC, we pour significant resources into research, so we can better understand San Diego's economic strengths, and even more importantly, our weaknesses.

Finding the right data to quantify our economy and understand where San Diego’s stack up with other regions is where it becomes more difficult. Many regions – including San Diego – call themselves innovative, but measuring it becomes more complicated.

In 2012, EDC joined the Global Cities Initiative (GCI), a joint project between Brookings and JPMorgan Chase, which helps metropolitan leaders grow their regional economies by strengthening international connections and competitiveness. Conducting independent research has been a cornerstone of the GCI since its launch.

This week, EDC/World Trade Center San Diego staff traveled to Washington, D.C. to take part in the Brookings Global Cities Summit – a culmination of five years of research and exchanges to help metros grow their economy.

Based on five years of research, Redefining Global Cities," the latest Brookings report, found that there were seven types of global cities. 

There are the Global Giants – regions like London, New York and Paris; these cities are financial hubs and serve as the control center for the world’s largest economies. Then there are the American Middleweights (Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Phoenix, Saint Louis, etc.) and the International Middleweights (Frankfurt, Munich, Rome, Barcelona, Toronto, etc.): connected and important mid-sized cities where post-recession growth has lagged. And then there are the Knowledge Capitals – 19 mid-sized cities throughout the U.S. and Europe that are home to talented workforces and elite research universities.

San Diego is in good company as a Knowledge Capital with Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, Stockholm, Zurich and others.

Turns out, when it comes to patent intensity, San Diego is second out of 123 global cities. When we say that San Diego is innovative, it’s not just boosterism – we have the data to back it up.

As a Knowledge Capital, San Diego may attract a highly-educated workforce and high-levels of entrepreneurship, but one area where it lags is foreign direct investment. Nearly 98 percent of our economic growth is going to come from growing small and medium-sized enterprises and startups already present in the region. San Diego’s participation in the Global Cities Initiative is not just an opportunity to connect with likeminded cities; it’s an opportunity to connect with and better understand our customers. After all, our SMEs will not reach peak growth rates without expanding their businesses and finding customers outside the region. As a response to this insight, we founded the MetroConnect Initiative, a comprehensive export assistance program now in its second year.  

As a region, we’re proud to be known as a Knowledge Capital, but our work is still cut out for us. By connecting with other GCI cities, we can expedite our economic growth through careful understanding and analysis of best practices. And through insightful data and programs like MetroConnect, we’re hopeful that we’re well on our way.

September 29, 2016

As part of the blog series leading up to San Diego MFG Day, we’re featuring 5 food and beverage items #MadeinSD enjoyed by millions of people across the world.

  1. Kashi – Started by a husband and wife duo in 1981, Kashi began with humble beginnings in La Jolla as the couple wanted to create food that promotes a healthy lifestyle. From their flagship cereal to granola bars and many other snacks, Kashi remains one of the largest and most recognizable natural foods companies in the world. 
  2. Suja Juice – A Forbes story from 2014 sums up the start of Suja perfectly: “A surfer dude and self-taught chef teams up with a law-school dropout turned yoga instructor to create one of the fastest-growing organic juice makers ever.” The San Diego company has become the fastest growing organic, cold-pressured and Non-GMO beverage company in the U.S. 
  3. Chuao Chocolatier – Bacon, potato chip, firecracker – these are just a few of the gourmet chocolate bars made by Carlsbad-based Chuao Chocolatier. Recently moving from a boutique retailer to a wide spread distribution model, Chuao continues to expand into new markets, both domestic and international. Already widely available in high-end hotels, Whole Foods, Target and Starbucks, the company recently inked a deal that puts the premium chocolate in 7,800 of 8,000 CVS stores in the U.S. 
  4. Mission Brewery – Established in 1913 and shut down during prohibition, Mission Brewery was reestablished by home brewer Dan Selis in 2007 in downtown San Diego’s East Village. With 40 national and international awards under its belt, Mission Brewery is a staple in the San Diego craft brewing industry. Check out their facility with a tour during Manufacturing Week, here
  5. Olli Salumeria – Salami manufacturer Olli Salumeria creates artisenal slow-cured salumi includes salami, salamini, cooking fats and whole-cured meats. Founded in 2010 by two friends, Oliviero (Olli) Colmignoli and Charles Vosmik, the company’s products are a favorite of celebs like Oprah Winfrey.

Celebrate all that's #MadeinSD on October 7. Visit to get involved. 

September 29, 2016

San Diego welcomed the latest global company to our community last month. Co-founded by a leading figure in the integrative health movement, Deepak Chopra and tech entrepreneur Poonacha Machaiah, Jiyo is a new health and wellness software platform that has chosen San Diego as the location for its new headquarters. Using data from sensors in your phone, other inputs and multiple devices, Jiyo gives you real-time tips and advice to improve your health and wellbeing. The company has partnered with leading health and wellness experts from around the world to compile personalized content and a customized approach to managing your health through your mobile device.

Jiyo sees San Diego’s leading health and wellness capacity as the principal factor in their location decision. Combined with the technology and healthcare strengths of the community, the region made for a natural fit. The company will be hiring a world-class mobile team of developers in San Diego, and manage satellite offices in India and the Bay Area to build out their global network. Deepak certainly maintains a global reach, and has become the prominent health and wellness expert and advisor to public figures, national icons and population centers around the planet. Poonacha is also no stranger to the world’s leading technology hubs, having run multiple ventures in San Francisco, Washington, Toronto and Bangalore.

“We are excited to be collaborating with EDC and the San Diego community. Our goal is to address the burden of chronic diseases on the U.S. healthcare system, by ushering in the era of “lifestyle medicine” - users and the community can leverage the curated content, experts, services and products on the Jiyo platform and engage in long-term lifestyle modification, which will lead to personal and societal wellbeing," said Poonacha Machaiah, Co-Founder & CEO, Jiyo

EDC continues to work closely with Poonacha and the Jiyo team to find the right people, the right partners and the right channels to grow a wildly successful business here and abroad. With and through our partners at Qualcomm, Scripps Health, City of San Diego, UC San Diego and a group of regional peers, EDC enthusiastically welcome Jiyo to town. 

September 28, 2016

With the kickoff to the fall semester, EDC is hosting symposiums on university and community college campuses around the region to better connect talent with opportunities within our leading industries.

On September 15, EDC partnered with CSU San Marcos to host the first event of the fall. Link2Tech @ CSUSM hosted 100 students interested in careers in technology. The event included two different high school classes from the 78 Corridor that are on computer science pathways. The program brought together executives from Thermo Fisher Scientific, Welk Resorts, ViaSat and Northrop Grumman, and gave students an opportunity to hear discussion about the diversity of the tech ecosystem in San Diego, hear where the industry is going and interact with speakers to better understand how they can work to have an internship or job with them.

On September 27, EDC hosted the second event of the semester: Link2Tech @ Cuyamaca College. The event featured a panel of representatives from VaultRMS, Dev Bootcamp and the Salk Institute for Biological Studies. Attended by 100 high school and college students, the conversation focused primarily on personal career selection, entrepreneurship and refining soft skills as an essential part of professional development.  

Proceeding both events, students submitted resumes and engaged in one-on-one dialogue with the speakers. Exposing students to career opportunities help retain the region’s top-tier talent.

September 28, 2016
In the midst of one of the most interesting presidential elections in many of our lifetimes, the importance of maintaining close ties with the decision makers in Washington DC becomes increasingly important – most especially for our military community. That is in part why, for the last several years, EDC and the San Diego Military Advisory Council have attended the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce's annual trip to DC in order to lead the military and defense track. 
This year, with the support of Chamber staff and SDMAC Executive Director Randy Bogle, EDC discussed national security implications of TPP with thought leaders from the Trumann Foundation, ways our healthcare institutions and life sciences companies can better partner with the incoming commander of Navy Medicine West, key legislative priorities for 2017 with our congressional delegation and the future possibility of BRAC with experts from Dentons. 
This trip gave us the opportunity to not only expand and build relationships with key decision makers, but to give a broader audience from the Chamber a chance to hear about the leading issues impacting the region’s military.  
When the dust settles come November 9, whether Trump or Hillary is our next Commander in Chief, EDC – alongside regional peers – will continue to ensure that San Diego’s interests are well understood and represented in at our nation's capital.  
September 27, 2016

This week we sat down with Ken Behan, vice president of sales and marketing at SYSTRAN Group. With operations in San Diego and as a program sponsor of WTC San Diego's MetroConnect Program, the language technology company is helping local SMEs connect with international markets - driving economic and innovative growth for the region.

1) Please tell us what your company/organization does. 

With 48 years in the language technology industry, SYSTRAN Software has been in business long enough to witness sweeping changes in the way people communicate globally. Over recent years, large amounts of data have become more accessible to anyone with an Internet connection, enabling businesses of all sizes to better compete on the world stage. Small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are now able to branch into global markets that were previously reserved only for large corporations due to more affordable technology tools. However, SMEs are often slowed down by their inability to understand their customers in other countries or benefit from valuable data if it is in a language other than their own.

Through our enterprise software, SYSRAN provides advanced machine-based translation of 130 languages to global companies like Apple, Adobe, Cisco, Toyota and Symantec, among others. Now SMEs can leverage the same enterprise-level language technology with, a new API platform that provides a hosted 50-language translation toolkit with customization capabilities. allows software developers, customer experience (CX) companies, marketing departments, social media and marketing technology companies, and online gaming developers to easily and cost-effectively develop multilingual applications that were once only available to large, international companies. 

2) What are some advantages to being located/doing business in San Diego?

San Diego is a hub for technology innovation and talented software developers who want a lifestyle that only San Diego can provide. As a global language technology software company with offices in San Diego (as well as Seoul and Paris), we leverage our location to attract the best technicians and software developers on the market.

Software contributes billions of dollars to San Diego’s economy, and the region consistently ranks in the top 10 cities for VC funding nationally and globally. With such a strong investment market, both large and small businesses have more opportunities to invent and thrive. We believe San Diego will continue its growth in software development, life sciences, biotech, cleantech, medical devices, and information and communications technologies.

3) San Diego is full of dynamic companies, firms and service providers influencing global trends and innovation. Pick another San Diego company that is at the top of its game.

Semantic Research is a privately held San Diego software firm that is extending its reach into global markets. Its primary software, Semantica, provides a solution for data organization from multiple channels and is constantly evolving.

Semantica iDEA™ is a unique Intelligent Decision Enterprise Analytics platform from Semantic that provides a single, holistic view of all layers of your data regardless of source or format and without the need for a data warehouse or an integration platform. Advanced analytics add a layer of intelligence on top of data to identify patterns of behavior and links among people, things, places and events. Cool stuff!

4) What do you anticipate for your company in five years?

With the growing need for seamless communication across borders and language intelligence technology, we anticipate a steady incline for SYSTRAN’s growth. We are seeing SYSTRAN software being used by Fortune 100 companies and startups alike. SYSTRAN has made a significant investment in its API platform –  We anticipate that by opening the SYSTRAN language intelligence technology to multi-national companies of all sizes with a cloud-based application, we will see a ground swell of integration between automated language translation and natural language processing in web, mobile and enterprise applications. is becoming a preferred solution for collaboration bots used on platforms and team messaging apps such as Slack, which offer simplified communication with team members around the world. In today’s need-it-now environments, there's simply no time to click a drop-down box to choose a language or cut and paste. To solve these challenges, is being integrated for real-time translation into collaboration platforms.

SYSTRAN is also seeing wide use among customer support teams to handle real-time translation of complaints, customer feedback or service outages. We see this as a huge market for SYSTRAN’s machine-based translation technology moving forward. E-discovery is another area where automated language technology is greatly needed and we have many law firms and compliance officers using our software daily.

Today, millions of users around the world interface with SYSTRAN multilanguage technology daily. Platform customers include ADP, Adobe and Apple, which integrates a language translation widget on the dashboard of its MacBook. We see opportunities for text and audio language translation software integration growing daily. 

September 26, 2016
This week, Thermo Fisher Scientific, the global life sciences and biotechnology company, cut the ribbon on its Software Center of Excellence (COE) in Tijuana. Thermo Fisher Scientific is a world leader in serving science with $17 billion in revenues and approximately 50,000 employees in 50 countries. The company develops, manufactures and sells a wide variety of innovative biotechnology products including analytical instruments, equipment, reagents and software, and provides services for research, manufacturing, analysis and diagnostics.
Thermo Fisher’s expansion into Tijuana is exemplary of the cross-border collaboration between Mexico and San Diego – one of the leading life sciences hubs in the country. To stay current in a climate of rapidly evolving technology, the company made the critical decision to expand its software engineering division. Thermo Fisher was eager to explore the viability of opening software operations in a location with quality talent and in the same time zone as its corporate headquarters in Carlsbad. 

With the support of San Diego Regional EDC, UC San Diego and partners from Mexico including the city of Tijuana, state of Baja, Universidad Autónoma de Baja California and Tijuana EDC, Thermo Fisher completed several trips to Tijuana to explore viability. With this strong network of partners, Thermo Fisher made the decision to construct a world-class office facility just minutes from the San Ysidro border crossing and less than an hour drive to its Carlsbad office.
Software engineering talent in Latin America, in particular Mexico, has been emerging as a source for many companies such as Thermo Fisher, providing an alternative to hiring employees overseas where distance and time zones prove to be ongoing challenges. While Tijuana is traditionally recognized as a hub for advanced manufacturing, Thermo Fisher’s software COE highlights the availability of local talent in the software sector. The company successfully attracted an extremely skilled group of software personnel from around Mexico, all of whom were excited about the opportunity to be a part of Thermo Fisher’s software center. As of the ribbon cutting, the Thermo Fisher employs around 45 employees, with space to grow its team to 150 within the year. 
As a result of expanding operations to Tijuana, Thermo Fisher is realizing accelerated rates of innovation with less financial risk as well as unequivocal improvements in collaboration between its teams in Carlsbad and Tijuana.
“...being just one hour apart makes an amazing difference in how the teams are productive together," said Mark Field, CTO of Software Services, Thermo Fisher Scientific