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The Big Picture San Diego Blog


WTC San Diego

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 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 SYSTRAN.io, a new API platform that provides a hosted 50-language translation toolkit with customization capabilities. SYSTRAN.io 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 – SYSTRAN.io.  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.

SYSTRAN.io 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, SYSTRAN.io 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 15, 2016

This is part of a weekly series featuring a profile on one of the 2016 MetroConnect Program companies. MetroConnect is dedicated to helping local San Diego businesses go global and is presented by JPMorgan Chase.

With a background in manufacturing engineering and nine patents to his name, Laszlo Garamszegi of Aurora Spine treats the development of medical devices as both art and as science.

I’ve been fascinated with designing and building devices in this space for a long time”, states Garamszegi, originally from Hungary. “Through a blend of engineering, raw materials and a sense of aesthetic, it’s possible to make something that will truly improve a life. In fact, many lives.

It’s with this sense of focus and aspiration that Garamszegi co-founded Aurora Spine in 2012, after working at a number of other medical device companies throughout the San Diego region. With spinal fusion technologies necessitating highly invasive procedures and long, painful recovery times, the company saw an opportunity for improvement. Aurora’s technologies aimed to simplify the process and allow for effective spinal fusion that streamlined surgical procedures and contoured to a patient’s unique anatomy.

The company has experienced impressive growth with a full product suite of interspinous fusion devices, biologics and surgical tools. With product currently in fifteen countries around the world, the Aurora team is working hard to expand its presence in other global regions, including South Korea and Australia, among others. Devices are manufactured right here in the U.S. with supply chain operations in California and Ohio. With the company’s core ZIP® product line receiving U.S. patent approval in April of this year, Aurora is well positioned to continue to bring its sleek, futuristic looking product line to the international market.

 

Speaking of aesthetics, what of the brand’s signature royal purple color? Any special significance there?

Laszlo laughs at the question. “Trent (CEO and one of Aurora’s co-founders), attended Carlsbad High School and that was the school’s team color. We have international reach, but that strong tie-in to San Diego won’t be going away any time soon.”

 

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 Aurora Spine 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.

August 5, 2016

This week, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker and Qualcomm CEO Steve Mollenkopf joined a panel of local business leaders from Solar Turbines, Solatube and Northrop Grumman to unveil UC San Diego School of Global Policy and Strategy’s new study on the importance of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) to the nation and San Diego. The summary, “San Diego and the Trans-Pacific Partnership,” produced by World Trade Center San Diego, explains how San Diego’s unique economic assets position the region to realize relatively greater benefits from TPP than the U.S. as a whole.

TPP, an international trade deal negotiated by the Obama administration and 11 other Pacific Rim countries, seeks to lower trade barriers for exporters and increase intellectual property protections for multinational companies.

San Diego’s prime location on the edge of the Pacific Rim, as well its specialization in advanced manufacturing and other key industries tied to the innovation economy – including scientific R&D, engineering, software and cybersecurity – position the region to benefit disproportionately from TPP.

Key findings include:

  • When compared to other TPP member countries, the U.S. has one of the least restrictive markets – it is easier for foreign markets to export to the U.S. than it is for U.S. companies to send their products abroad.
  • More than 97 percent of San Diego’s exports – primarily high-value advanced manufacturing products – are sold in TPP markets and are collectively worth $22 billion.
  • Enhanced IP protections would benefit San Diego’s innovation economy; San Diego is the third most patent intensive region in the world and five times more specialized in scientific R&D than the nation as a whole.
  • Increased export growth could produce real rising wages for 150,000 high-wage jobs in the region’s manufacturing and innovation sectors.
  • San Diego’s service-providing sector – generally non-traded industries accounting for 87 percent of total employment – is largely insulated from foreign competition. 
August 4, 2016

This is part of a weekly series featuring a profile on one of the 2016 MetroConnect Program companies. MetroConnect is dedicated to helping local San Diego businesses go global and is presented by JPMorgan Chase.

With a metro ranking of #3 for cleantech leadership and one of the few cities in the world aiming for 100 percent clean energy utilization by 2035, it’s no surprise that San Diego is a hotbed of green and sustainable tech innovation. And with this year’s MetroConnect cohort representing an impressive cross-section of the region’s burgeoning industries, we’ve found a strong example of said innovation in LED lighting company Hyperikon.

Sorrento Valley-based Hyperikon’s mission statement is a simple one – Greener. Cheaper. Smarter. When creating their sustainable lighting solutions for both home and office, quality is the company’s top consideration. Distributed primarily via Amazon’s online channels, Hyperikon’s products have been met with rave reviews – so much so, that Hyperikon’s products were the online giant’s top seller under the “Tools & Home Improvement” department earlier this year.

Jeppe Lisdorf, the company’s VP of finance, didn’t always envision a career in the cleantech sector. Hailing from Denmark, Lisdorf was originally trained as a journalist and later made the switch to banking on Wall Street. With an infectious smile and overwhelmingly positive attitude that makes one think he’d probably succeed in any industry he put his mind to, Lisdorf notes that his Danish roots were a deciding factor in his move into the green lighting space.

Lisdorf explains, “Many people here don’t know it, but Denmark has a huge cleantech cluster. When I was considering putting down roots in San Diego, I met with a fellow Dane who happened to be one of the founders of Hyperikon. Considering our shared experiences and the fact that sustainability has always been top of mind for me, it seemed like an interesting opportunity to help grow a unique and important technology.

Considering its success with Amazon domestically, Hyperikon plans to utilize the MetroConnect grant, in part, to help boost its activities with the online retailers in other countries, including Mexico, Canada and eventually Japan. And with sales activity strong, Hyperikon is beginning to think about capacity expansion, both from a customer service and warehousing perspective. With the market for LED lighting showing no signs of slowing down, Hyperikon is well positioned to continue its impressive growth streak and be a valued example of San Diego’s cleantech scene.

 

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 Hyperikon 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.

July 28, 2016

By Nikia Clarke, Director, World Trade Center San Diego

This week, World Trade Center San Diego spent a whirlwind few days in Tokyo celebrating the launch of a UC San Diego office and workspace in the heart of the life sciences hub in downtown Tokyo, Japan. The workspace will promote collaborations between UC San Diego researchers – and the larger San Diego business ecosystem – and research, education and industry partners in Japan.

Located in the region’s largest trade and investment market, the facility represents how San Diego continues to lead with its research and innovation in building global connectivity and competitiveness.

As a collaboration between the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering and the UC San Diego Office of Research Affairs, the Tokyo facility will serve as a home base for university faculty whose research brings them to Japan and as a venue for research symposia, networking events and alumni functions.

As is always the case in San Diego, the opening was founded in regional collaboration. I was proud to celebrate the opening alongside Sandra Brown, UC San Diego vice chancellor for research, dean of UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering Al Pisano and Robert Sullivan, dean of UC San Diego’s Rady School of Management. It was also a wonderful opportunity to meet so many UC San Diego alumni, who are now in positions of influence throughout Japan’s major industries, and all are eager to build bridges back to San Diego.

“We are very pleased the office is located at the heart of the life sciences hub in Tokyo, a perfect fit for UC San Diego as our two cities are seen as world leaders in life sciences and biotechnology,” said Sandra Brown, UC San Diego Vice Chancellor for Research.

A big thank you to Rough Draft Brewing, one of this year’s MetroConnect companies, who provided some of San Diego’s finest craft beer for giveaway at the event. That’s the San Diego story: world-class research and innovation, paired with first-class enjoyment.

For more information, visit UC San Diego’s news release.

July 27, 2016

This is part of a weekly series featuring a profile on one of the 2016 MetroConnect Program companies. MetroConnect is dedicated to helping local San Diego businesses go global and is presented by JPMorgan Chase.

In a recent report released by California Life Sciences Association, $23 billion in California’s 2015 exports came from life sciences. With more than 1,100 companies and a total economic impact of more than $31.8 billion, it is no surprise that San Diego’s life science sector ranks 4th in the nation. Our next MetroConnect company profile features an innovative medical device company that plans to advance San Diego’s life science reputation abroad, AVACEN Medical.

In 2009, Tom Muehlbauer founded AVACEN Medical, a company that produces a medical device initially developed for his sister-in-law who suffered from chronic migraines. Through a micro-circulation mechanism, the AVACEN 100 provides non-invasive, temporary arthritis and muscle pain relief and relaxation. Cleared by the FDA, the device is an over the counter option that’s can be self-administered from the comfort of one’s own home.

Recognizing an opportunity to expand into the EU, AVACEN Medical plans to leverage the MetroConnect Grant Prize to help in obtaining their CE mark, as well as developing better ways of delivering their products to international markets. The company also plans to use the MetroConnect Program to expand their patent portfolio, particularly across Japan, Europe and South Korea.

Muehlbauer states, “Based on the early interest and success we’ve seen in the launch of the AVACEN 100, we’re excited to scale up and bring our product to an international customer base. Arthritis and muscle pain is something that affects millions around the world, and our participation in MetroConnect will allow our at-home solution to help more of those patients in need of relief.

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 AVACEN Medical 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.