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MetroConnect

June 5, 2017

San Diego knows how to build companies that the rest of the world values. Case in point: Last month, El-Cajon based Calbiotech, a diagnostics company, was acquired by EBRA Mannheim, a medical device manufacturer based in Mannheim, Germany.

In 2016, Calbiotech was part of MetroConnect, World Trade Center San Diego’s flagship export assistance program. As part of the 2016 cohort, Calbiotech received financial and programmatic resources to support their plans to expand internationally.

Calbiotech has a global footprint of more than 200 products, which are distributed to 60 countries worldwide. With the expansion announcement, Calbiotech will maintain its footprint in San Diego because of the access to key reference labs and other biotech customers throughout the region. It will also serve as ERBA’s hub and gateway to the Latin American market.

The company was referred to the MetroConnect program by Jo Marie Diamond, head of the San Diego East County Economic Development Council. “I’ve been working with Calbiotech for years,” said Diamond, “They are representative of everything positive about the San Diego economy – a focus on innovative products, a strong sense of commitment to the community, and an incredibly grounded and highly diverse team.

We’re excited to hear of Calbiotech’s next step and were very impressed with the company during their time in MetroConnect”, said Lauren Lindner, director of World Trade Center San Diego who oversees the MetroConnect Program. “Their team was incredibly savvy in their rollout to international markets, and we’re not surprised to see that a leader like ERBA took notice.”

San Diego, and specifically East County, have been an integral part of the Calbiotech success story,” said David Barka, Vice President. “San Diego is home to companies that are leading the world in innovation in science and medicine. Being in San Diego gave us access to an amazing talent pool that really helped our company grow.”

The acquisition will help Calbiotech increase access to markets across Europe and Asia add to EBRA’s extensive and far-ranging product portfolio.

M&A is an important growth strategy and capital source for San Diego companies. According to a 2016 EDC study, nearly 70 percent of San Diego’s capital in 2015 came through M&A.

Calbiotech’s acquisition mirrors the region’s strengthening ties with Germany, including the announcement of Condor’s new direct flight to Frankfurt, Germany, which began operation on Monday, May 1.

Financial details of the acquisition were not disclosed.

Applications for the MetroConnect 2017 round are now open. To apply, click here.

June 1, 2017
Calling all companies looking to go global...
 
MetroConnect, World Trade Center San Diego’s flagship export assistance program, is now accepting applications for its 2017 cohort. 
 
Made possible through a grant provided by JPMorgan Chase & Co., small to mid-sized companies in San Diego can apply for a $10,000 grant and programmatic services to assist with international expansion efforts.
 
Fifteen local companies will be selected. Apply now through June 30, 2017.
To date, the 30 companies that have gone through the MetroConnect program (2015-2016) have collectively generated $10.5 million in new export sales, signed more than 70 new contracts, added 50 new jobs to the region, set up nine new overseas facilities and seen three successful company exits.
 
Past participants include Calbiotech, Rough Draft Brewing, Deering Banjo Company, Cypher Genomics (now part of Human Longevity Inc.), ROBO 3D and more.
 
Learn more at metroconnectsd.org and apply here
 
 
January 20, 2017

From 2025 to 2050, the 65-and-older population is projected to almost double to 1.6 billion globally, whereas the total population will grow by just 34 percent over the same period. With this, it has become increasingly important to support our aging population, with health and wellness among top priority.

San Diego medical technology company and 2016 MetroConnect participant AVACEN Medical has developed technology to help ease some of the common ailments afflicting seniors. The AVACEN 100 is an FDA cleared, over-the-counter medical device that provides non-invasive, temporary arthritis and muscle pain relief, and muscle relaxation. Using microcirculation enhancement on the palms, the locally-made device helps warm and thin the blood, thereby dissipating heat throughout deep tissues and relieving joint pain associated by arthritis, muscle spasms, sprains and more.

Taking this San Diego-made technology global, the AVACEN 100 has just received the CE (Conformité Européenne) Mark approval to treat widespread pain associated with fibromyalgia. The CE Mark allows AVACEN to market its AVACEN 100 to the European Union's 28 member countries where many prescription drugs, available in the U.S., have been rejected by regulatory officials for treating fibromyalgia pain.

Founded by Tom Muehlbauer in 2009, AVACEN’s revolutionary technology was originally developed to help alleviate his sister-in-law’s chronic pain. The company currently sells in two countries, with plans to expand into 10 more over the next year (thanks in part to the CE Mark). Sales have climbed to more than $1.5 million, with more than 20 percent of the sales coming from international markets.

November 17, 2016

To propel San Diego into the global marketplace, WTC San Diego, JPMorgan Chase & Co., Councilmember Mark Kersey, new Stone Brewing CEO Dominic Engels and nearly 200 business and community leaders awarded the MetroConnect Grand Prize to Rough Draft Brewing. The local, family-owned craft brewery – known for its IPAs and Miramar-based tasting room – is taking its San Diego-made beer into the Canadian, Spanish and Chinese markets. With the network, funding and programmatic support provided by MetroConnect, Rough Draft has increased its sales, hired new talent and connected with the Port of San Diego and Dole to fill empty container ships on backhaul to Latin America.

Managed by WTC San Diego and presented by JPMorgan Chase, the MetroConnect Grand Prize offers $35,000 to one of 15 companies to aid in their foreign market expansion.

So why go global? According to the Brookings Institution, companies that are global pay their employees higher wages, are less likely to go out of business and spur more efficient development of technology and R&D.

The MetroConnect Program was announced to incentivize small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to pursue these foreign markets. Now in its second year, MetroConnect has emerged as the region’s premier export assistance program. Led by WTC San Diego, Fifteen companies are selected on an annual basis and equipped with a suite of programmatic and financial resources to help them in their plans to go global. Out of 75 applicants in 2016, just 15 San Diego companies were awarded the initial $10,000 MetroConnect Prize, funded by JPMorgan Chase.

Over the course of the program, the cohort produced an additional $6 million in export sales and 42 new jobs for the region, collectively. A panel of judges consisting of business and community leaders reviewed the companies’ respective accomplishments and goals as a means of selecting the top five finalists to present at the Grand Prize event: Deering Banjo CompanyMANTA InstrumentsRough Draft Brewing Company, Calbiotech and VaultRMS.

 Winning thoughts:

“We want to thank World Trade Center San Diego, JPMorgan Chase and all those who participated in making this a memorable and meaningful event. To my fellow MetroConnect finalists Calbiotech, Deering Banjos, MANTA Instruments and VaultRMS, it’s been a privilege learning with and from you,” said Jeff Silver, president of Rough Draft Brewing. “We deeply appreciate receiving the Grand Prize in recognition of our efforts and look forward to continued success on the international level.”​

The complete 2016 cohort can be found here.

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 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 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 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.