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The Big Picture San Diego Blog


talent

November 11, 2013

Illustration of GroundMetrics oil producing technology

 

GroundMetrics CEO George Eiskamp recently demonstrated a talent important to any entrepreneur building a company – extemporaneous speaking. Asked to give a quick update on his company at the closing lunch of the World’s Best Technology conference (WBT), Eiskamp whisked the audience through his firm’s financing wins and in the process showed that it takes a proverbial village to get a company up and running.

Founded in 2010, GroundMetrics is developing a new class of sensor system for advanced ground-based electromagnetic survey and monitoring services for resource exploration, production and environmental integrity.

Eiskamp’s early funding set records with San Diego’s Tech Coast Angels. His first round of financing in 2012 was the largest investment ever raised from a single chapter ($1.2 million). A Small Business Innovation Research grant (SBIR) from the U.S. Department of Energy soon followed and in October of 2012 GroundMetrics was selected to present at WBT.

Eiskamp’s story was welcome news for the WBT class of 2013. Since participating in the program last year, where the company won a Gold award as one of the most promising technologies showcased at the event, GroundMetrics took second place in the San Diego Venture Group’s PitchFest, closed a second round of financing – again led by San Diego Tech Coast Angels – and secured an additional SBIR grant from the Department of Energy as well as a $1.8M grant not earmarked for small companies.  The company also added the world’s 6th largest and 20th largest oil companies to its customer base in addition to repeat business from the world’s largest oil company.

San Diego Regional EDC’s Matt Sanford (who met Eiskamp at WBT 2012) introduced him to Tom Van Betten and Kaley Severn at Cassidy Turley San Diego, who helped him locate office space in Kearny Mesa and referred him to James Morrell at Veteran Solutions to renovate the space. In a follow up email, Eiskamp was very positive about his experience. “I’d highly recommend them to other early stage companies, which are the real economic drivers in any community and especially tech clusters like San Diego.”

GroundMetrics is currently in due diligence for a Series B round of funding with two organizations he met via WBT in 2012. It was a meeting with one of those groups at the site of WBT 2013 that led to the last minute request for what turned out to be an inspiring story for companies currently in the hunt for funding.


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October 31, 2013

NACIC 2013 panel image

Earlier this week the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce and The Mexico Business Center hosted the North American Competitiveness and Innovation Conference (NACIC). The conference focused on cross border trade and business opportunities between the U.S., Mexico and Canada. 
 
One of the most popular panels focused on developing workforce talent and was moderated by EDC’s CEO Mark Cafferty. The panelists were Bill Bold, sr. vice president of QUALCOMM, Lauren Friese, CEO and founder of TalentEgg from Ontario, Canada and Rafael Sostmann, professor of practice for education innovation and special advisor to the president of Arizona State University.
 
Mark opened the session by explaining that San Diego Regional EDC’s attraction efforts focus on corporate executives and talent, specifically young people just graduating from universities. He said competitiveness for North America is about talent and asked the panel: “How we develop the workforce of the future?”
 
Rafael, an engineer by training, is also the former president of Mexico’s largest private, nonprofit educational system, Tecnológico de Monterrey. He suggested that industry linkages with universities are critical. At ASU, student startups are supported through on campus incubators and on campus industrial parks leased to businesses.
 
Lauren explained that she started her company, an online tool that connects young talent with job opportunities, after she finished graduate school in London. She discovered that linkages between students and industries were much stronger in the United Kingdom than in Canada. Inspired by the tools she saw working in the UK, she replicated the networking platform through TalentEgg. She suggested that too often employers only want to hire young people with “the right” degree, when there are plenty of people who can be trained for just about any career. 
 
Bill spoke about the investments and partnerships QUALCOMM has with students and universities to grow its future workforce. As a world leader in mobile communications and computing technologies, QUALCOMM licenses its innovations to smart phone manufacturers. QUALCOMM is also the world’s largest producer or semiconductors. Of its 31,000 employees worldwide, 81 percent have a degree in a STEM field. The mobile giant is dependent on international markets; While 92 percent of the company's revenues are earned outside the U.S 67 percent of its workforce is in San Diego because they care about hiring locally. Bill said Qualcomm is intense about recruiting – pursuing only the top one percent of graduates from the top five percent of universities – likening it to college football recruiting. Last year Qualcomm had 1,100 paid interns, of whom 300 got offered full time jobs, and 250 accepted. The company recently invested $20 million in a new engineering center at Berkeley to build a cutting-edge program blending art, architecture and engineering. 
 
Responding to a question from the audience about the best ways to prepare young people for careers, the panel pointed to the German apprentice-style model. Germany’s vocational education system pairs classroom studies with on-the-job learning. Students apply for a specific apprenticeship at a company. For two to three years they spend a few days a week at a work site, getting paid a stipend from their employer, and one to two days a week in a classroom learning theory. They graduate with a certificate that signifies they know all the basics to begin working professionally in their fields. Not only are the certificates standardized throughout Germany,  but they are also well-respected and often a necessary requirement for jobs. Companies like Siemens have brought the work experience aspects of the program to the U.S. offering students here similar opportunities. 
 
If San Diego wants to maintain its share of talent, it would be in our best interest to explore similar programs. 
 
April 8, 2013

As an inveterate reader of the New York Times (online 24/6 and thick, wonderful print copy on Sunday) I was thrilled when I saw the Travel section was going to highlight San Diego in one of their “36 Hours in …” profiles.

Imagine my dismay when from the very first sentence I felt like the writer was describing a bad cartoon, poorly illustrated and lacking a solid punch line. Why should this matter to an economic development professional? Because not only is San Diego's convention and visitor industry the third largest industry in San Diego, it is also one of the ways we attract talent.  As one of the top 10 visitor and meeting destinations in the U.S., with more than 30 million visitors a year, it is no surprise that many of San Diego's knowledge workers first visited the region as a tourist or convention delegate.

So you can imagine that sentences that start with “If San Diego has an identity at all…” and a comparison to the movie Pleasantville (where two teens are sucked into their television into a black and white 1950's world which they slowly transform into color) would set a local’s teeth on edge.

I’d love to hear from the biotech entrepreneurs and the wireless communications wizards if that’s how they saw San Diego when They Came Here. And by the way, Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve, which is mentioned in the article, is across the street from some of the most advanced medical research facilities in the world. Believe me, the researchers love running the beach and the trails at lunch – year round.

Set aside for the moment whether the characterization is true or not (it’s not) and think about whether this kind of description would make you want to visit any location. Even Sioux Falls, South Dakota would want to be described in a more flattering way.

San Diego’s tech community has a reputation as open and welcoming and that’s one reason we’re successful at attracting the best and the brightest to work in our diverse technology clusters that range from defense to sports innovation, life sciences and clean tech.

Maybe it’s part of the California culture but it’s more than just “easy, breezy Southern California casualness.”