2021: World Trade Center San Diego supports 50 businesses as region works toward recovery


companies supported


jobs supported

$10 M

net export increase, 2021

World Trade Center San Diego (WTCSD), an affiliate of San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation (EDC), cultivates a pipeline of export-ready firms, maximizes foreign direct investment (FDI) opportunities, and enhances San Diego’s global identity. A globally-connected economy creates quality jobs and makes the San Diego region more prosperous, competitive, and resilient – especially crucial amid COVID-19 and its aftershocks.

As we look toward 2022, here are four key ways WTCSD helped make San Diego a more globally competitive, resilient region:

1. MetroConnect V helps companies go global, awards fifth winner

2021 was an exciting year for WTCSD’s MetroConnect export accelerator program as the fifth cohort of incredible small to mid-sized San Diego companies wrapped up participation in the program.

These companies received $5,000 grants to bolster their export initiatives and international expansion efforts. Amid a pandemic, companies needed more digital support services than ever to help navigate growing e-commerce needs during the pandemic. To support, WTCSD held a Digital Trade Series, which assessed each client’s needs and arranged one-on-one counseling sessions with contracted e-commerce experts.

Over the course of the program, one company stood out – with MetroConnect’s support, satellite-based communications and fleet management company Blue Sky Network generated a 36 percent increase in monthly recurring revenue in Brazil, as well as its largest order to date. To support this growth, the company hired seven new full-time employees. Ultimately, WTCSD crowned Blue Sky Network MetroConnect V’s winner and awarded it a $25,000 grant toward its international expansion goals.

Over the past five years of MetroConnect, 80 companies collectively leveraged $890,000 in export grants, resulting in a $95 million net increase in exports from the San Diego region.

2. WTCSD debuts a regional trade and investment strategy for 2025

In 2015, San Diego Regional EDC’s release of “Go Global: San Diego’s Trade and Investment Initiative,” launched the World Trade Center in San Diego, bringing regional companies and stakeholders together with a global vision. Throughout 2020 and early 2021, WTC engaged many of the same partners, and new ones, in an effort to gauge how the region measured up to it, more than five years later. This 2021 update analyzed the state of exports, foreign investment and VC, as well as the extraordinary impact of COVID. Through rigorous data analysis dozens of interviews with public and private-sector leaders, WTC synthesized a set of five key priorities the region should focus on over the next five years. Find out what they are here. Key findings include:

  • 2020 saw $3 billion in foreign investment into San Diego
  • 73 percent of investment into San Diego is in Life Sciences
  • San Diego exports $22 billion in goods each year
  • San Diego is a top 10 services exporter among U.S. metros

Heading into 2022, we expect to see FDI investment portfolios return to the same levels seen in 2019.

3. Export Small Business Development Center (SBDC) supports export and COVID-relief projects

Beyond MetroConnect, the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at WTCSD provided 35 export-ready small companies with the support needed to navigate international goals, including exports, manufacturing support, and more.

In addition to expansion support, the Export Specialty Center continued to offer COVID-19 recovery resources at no cost, helping San Diego companies like Funki Adventures apply to Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL), Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) 2nd Draw, Shuttered Venue Operators Grant, and City and County small business grants.

Finally, the Global Readiness Program saw a partnership between WTCSD and the University of San Diego help local small to mid-sized businesses secure STEP grants to grow the regional export pipeline.

4. WTCSD serves as a key source of market intelligence

WTCSD conducted a series of business surveys to better inform decision making of regional partners and affiliates. These included:

Corporate Travel Survey:

  • Survey of 12 large businesses and two non-profits in the region to better understand travel and budgets forecasts for the year ahead. This information was critical for the retention of existing service out of SAN and for the attraction of future direct flights. It found:
    • 79 percent of respondents are willing to pay a premium to fly on a San Diego nonstop route versus flying out from Tijuana or Los Angeles
    • 56 percent of respondents expressed a desire for nonstop service to Mexico City and Sao Paulo

EDC Changing Business Landscape Survey:

  • Survey of more than 100 business in the San Diego region, aimed at informing long-term development priorities, across business areas. It found:
    • 14 percent of respondents currently import and/or export out of the Port of San Diego
    • 24 percent of those surveyed would be interested in using the Port of San Diego if they provided service to the types of goods they ship


Interested in growing your business internationally?

World Trade Center San Diego works directly with companies – free of charge – to help them expand internationally and grow in San Diego. Whether your small company is interested in learning about exporting and international growth, or your small or medium-sized company is ready to export and grow internationally, World Trade Center San Diego is here to help.

Ready to export? Apply to MetroConnect VI by December 17.

Want to know more about WTCSD? Click here to receive our monthly Global Brief Newsletter, delivered straight to your inbox.

Blue Sky Network wins $25K MetroConnect V export grand prize

World Trade Center San Diego and nearly 250 voting audience award $25K for international expansion

World Trade Center San Diego (WTCSD) named Blue Sky Network, which provides satellite-based communications and fleet management solutions for aviation, maritime, and IoT customers, as the winner of the MetroConnect export accelerator program, now in its fifth year. Made possible through a grant from JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Procopio, Blue Sky Network will use the $25,000 award to expand its presence in Brazil and promote the launch of its new SkyLink product in global markets.

“Blue Sky Network is the perfect reflection of San Diego’s innovation economy coming together, leveraging our excellence in defense and technology now on an international stage,” said Lucas Coleman, senior manager at WTCSD. “The results from MetroConnect’s fifth cohort are impressive. Whether it’s alleviating supply chain processes in Australia or cultivating leads in Korea, Brazil and the UK amid incredible economic uncertainty, working to connect small and medium-sized businesses to international markets builds greater resilience here at home.”

Blue Sky Network beat out three other finalists in MetroConnect V: White Labs, Inc., SIDUS Solutions, and Mayan Robotics. The grand prize-winning company was decided by a 250-person voting audience via virtual events platform Whova, a former MetroConnect participant. Prior to this, a committee of senior international business leaders in San Diego helped the WTCSD team nominate these top four performers out of the initial 15-company cohort.


In its first five years, MetroConnect has helped 80 local, small and mid-sized businesses generate a net increase of $95 million in international sales, 543 international contracts, and 22 overseas facilities. This international growth has coincided with 269 new hires here in the San Diego region.

Each cohort year, WTCSD selects 15 export-ready small and mid-sized businesses to receive $5,000 export grants, access to executive workshops, translation software, discounted international airfare, and a chance to win a $25,000 grand prize to aid in further international market expansion. Applications for year six of the MetroConnect program are now open through December 17. Interested small- and medium-sized companies that are looking to pursue international sales as a near-term priority or already exporting its goods or services may apply here.

Apply by Dec 17


Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the national rhetoric around global trade has shifted. According to The World Bank, countries that trade internationally enjoy more economic growth, are more innovative and productive, and can provide more opportunities to citizens. San Diego is no exception—regional small businesses that export tend to have a larger and more diversified customer base, pick up best practices from global competitors, build up economies of scale, and ultimately pay their employees more. Access to international customers and markets is essential in helping San Diego’s business community recover after the COVID-19 pandemic, as small businesses employ 60 percent of San Diegans.

“We’ve successfully navigated an incredibly challenging global environment over the past year and a half and the MetroConnect program has helped exceed our international sales targets,” said Gregoire Demory, president at Blue Sky Network, MetroConnect V grand prize winner. “We look forward to using MetroConnect’s additional funding to keep promoting the Blue Sky Network brand and our new SkyLink product overseas.”

“Since 2015, JPMorgan Chase has been proud to support MetroConnect, helping San Diego businesses successfully navigate complex global markets and create new local opportunities,” said Aaron Ryan, Executive Director for San Diego Middle Market Banking at JPMorgan Chase. “San Diego is one of the best places for innovation, and we are excited to help these businesses maximize our region’s international potential.”

WTCSD hosted its MetroConnect Grand Prize PitchFest virtually on November 15, with keynote remarks by MetroConnect underwriters Dennis Doucette, Partner at Procopio, and Aaron Ryan, Executive Director for San Diego Middle Market Banking at JPMorgan Chase.


WTCSD has year-round, non-exclusive international opportunities that help companies break expand internationally, such as the Export Specialty SBDC and strategy for global engagement. To learn about more WTCSD initiatives, events, and programs, visit WTCSD.org.

Is my company ready to export?

As your company grows, you may one day find yourself receiving an order from a customer in another country – whether that’s from just across the border in Mexico, or across the ocean in Japan.

This will probably spark a series of questions: Is my company ready to export? How much will it cost? What are the regulations around shipping my product globally? Is exporting even worth it?

Exporting can be tremendously beneficial. It diversifies your customer base and exposes your goods and services to new markets, which may derive more value from your product than here in the U.S. Exporters also tend to be stronger and more resilient companies back home.

And while exporting comes with its own set of challenges and complexities, programs like World Trade Center San Diego’s MetroConnect are here to help small and medium-sized businesses access funding and resources to begin selling overseas. Apply to MetroConnect by December 17.

Is your company ready to export? Here are three factors to consider:

1. Do I have the financial resources to break into a new market?

Breaking into a new market isn’t cheap. In the same way introducing your product or service to a domestic market requires thoughtful strategy and investment, expanding internationally means you need to invest in promoting your product, through the right channels and utilizing the right tools.

But unlike domestic channels, you may need to make additional modifications for your product or service to get approval – whether via translation, new market research, or regulatory costs. There will also be additional costs with getting your products to customers that are geographically farther away, as well as tariffs and non-tariff barriers to consider.

Finally, the global marketplace is highly competitive – and competing by offering the lowest price is often not possible for San Diego-based companies. Instead, a deep understanding of your value proposition and a readiness to devote the necessary resources to amplifying your message in the right places can set you up for success.

Bottom line: If you’re ready to devote financial resources toward international expansion, your company may want to explore an export strategy.

2. Do I have people on my team who can devote the time, effort, and expertise exporting requires?

Developing the right relationships with suppliers, distributors, customers, and investors in each market takes time and consistency. This, as well as familiarizing yourself with the unique cultural preferences and market dynamics of the country or region you’re trying to break into, will require time, staffing resources, and often international travel.

Hiring people with the right technical knowledge of your industry segment in your target market or having the bandwidth to dedicate your team’s existing expertise will often be critical to your success. But if your team is already taxed to its limit, you are unable to hire for your team’s unmet expertise needs, or you plan to treat exporting as a side project, you may find sustained volume and exporting success hard to come by.

Bottom line: If you can devote staff time, resources, and expertise toward expansion, you may be ready to export.

3. Has my company had domestic success?

In most cases, the U.S. market will be your first consideration for expansion. You’ll know the language and culture, skip the trade barriers, take advantage of well-established institutions, and generally face less financial and political risk. As a U.S. company, too, you’re probably more familiar with your industry’s specific ecosystem. 

So take advantage of the domestic market first, if possible. Domestic success can be a method to estimate your international potential…and whether you should be expanding internationally to begin with. And swimming in the domestic market will help you fully understand what truly differentiates your product or service, with no currency or other major financial risk.

But if you’ve enjoyed domestic success or a specific international market can help take your business to the next level, expanding your customer base overseas can give you a competitive edge in some key ways:

  • You’ll leverage economies of scale, where more order flow can lower your production cost
  • You’ll diversify your revenue streams. COVID-19 taught us that different markets can be impacted by significant global shocks in different ways, at different times.
  • You can learn from international competitors and partners, and apply these new tactics internationally and here at home.
  • You’ll have the chance to fight back against global competitors in their home market, rather than here in yours.

Bottom line: If your company has enjoyed domestic success and you want to take your business to the next level, you’re ready to export.

Keep in mind:

While this list is certainly not exhaustive, it’ll help you ask the right questions when exploring whether your company is ready to get out there and meet the other 95% of this planet’s consumers.

And remember: Success doesn’t happen overnight. While you may receive sizable, one-off international orders through online channels or following a trade show, generating sustained demand from a new market will generally require you to be intentional about your strategy and devote adequate resources to your export strategy.

Ready to export? Apply now to join our next MetroConnect cohort.

Is your small and medium-sized company ready to export and grow internationally, but needs the funding, guidance, and support to expand?

Apply by DECEMBER 17

Not ready yet? ➝ Stay connected with WTCSD opportunities via email.

You might also like:

For COVID-19 recovery resources and information: Visit this page, or see how we can help your company free of charge.

And the MetroConnect V finalists are…

WTC San Diego is proud to announce the four finalists of MetroConnect V, San Diego’s premier export assistance program, presented by JPMorgan Chase and Procopio. These four diverse companies will compete for an additional $25,000 in funding towards their international expansion strategies during our virtual Grand Prize PitchFest on November 15, 2021.

The catch? They’re looking to you to judge and award the extra cash. Read more and register here to cast your vote.

Meet the MetroConnect V finalists:

  • Blue Sky Network | a seamless connectivity, satellite tracking, intelligent fleet management, and text and voice communications product provider.
  • Mayan Robotics | a manufacturer of essential electronic systems for unmanned vehicles and drones.
  • SIDUS Solutions | a provider of underwater positioners, high-definition cameras, penetrating bright lights, projection lasers, and inspection systems that improve safety, efficiency, and ease of operation in challenging environments.
  • White Labs | a developer of liquid yeast, fermentation products, services, analysis, and education to craft brewing professionals and enthusiasts.

Join us on November 15 to meet the finalists…and choose the winner!

Register NOW

Plus: Is your company ready to go global? Apply to be part of our next MetroConnect cohort:

Entering its sixth year, WTCSD will select 15 small businesses that:

  • Are headquartered in San Diego
  • Are export-ready (you are already exporting goods or services, or are looking to pursue international sales as a near-term priority)
  • Have been in business for at least one year
  • Are an SBA-designated small business
to participate in MetroConnect VI and receive:
  • A $5,000 export assistance grant
  • Executive export workshops
  • Complimentary access to SystranPRO machine translation software
  • Discounts on international travel with partner airlines
and more!

A note from Mark…

A step toward recovery…

On October 13, British Airways (BA) will resume its nonstop service between San Diego and London Heathrow. The flight that took our region’s global economic connectivity to a whole new level is finally back.

Ten years ago, the BA flight set off a new focus within our region on the role that direct, nonstop service to international markets could play in growing our economy through foreign direct investment and global trade. It was the catalyst for our Japan Airlines flight to Tokyo, our Lufthansa flight to Frankfurt, and continued strategies to expand our global reach and connectivity.

The flight also played a key role in the rebuilding of our region’s World Trade Center (WTC). We learned quickly that trade-related jobs were the kind of quality jobs we were hoping to create for more San Diegans, and that engagement with international markets could have a significant and positive impact on our region’s diverse small business community.

Now operated through EDC, the WTC partnership between the City of San Diego, the San Diego Airport, and the Port of San Diego was at its strongest just when the global pandemic shut down international travel (and life as we knew it). But while tourism and mobility from continent to continent slowed to a halt, the need for San Diego-based business to develop partnerships in foreign markets, tap into an international customer base, and draw financing from international investors did not. And while the work of WTC changed and pivoted slightly, the role that the team played in keeping our business community connected to international markets and resources remained steadfast.

It used to be very common for me to bump into colleagues at events who would ask, “Where do you think San Diego’s next international flight will be to?” or “Where is the WTC team going for their next trade mission?” I honestly so look forward to the days when these conversations and plans will be the norm again. But until then, I take great pride in the work our team continues to do to with our small business community to keep them globally connected and well-positioned to take advantage of new opportunities around the world as they emerge.

And as the BA flight once again connects us to London, the UK, and Europe, we view it as one important step in getting our economy back to full strength.

With gratitude and optimism,

Mark Cafferty


You might also like:

Take your business global with MetroConnect VI

International arm of EDC opens applications for next round of MetroConnect

Take your company global or grow your existing international sales with MetroConnect VI, the sixth iteration of World Trade Center San Diego‘s flagship export assistance program presented by JPMorgan Chase and Procopio.

Apply now to become one of 15 companies selected to receive a $5,000 export assistance grant, attend private executive export workshops, get complimentary access to SystranPRO translation software, and more.

Company applicants must:

  • Be headquartered in San Diego
  • Be export-ready, meaning the company is already exporting its goods/services or looking to pursue international sales as a near-term priority
  • Have been in business for at least one year
  • Be an SBA-designated small businesses

In its first four years, MetroConnect San Diego assisted 65 small businesses in turning $790,000 in export funding into:

  • $85,000,000 in new international sales
  • 500 new international contracts
  • 18 new offices around the world

Meet the MetroConnect alumni, including past winners EDDY Pump, CureMatch, Cypher Genomics, and Rough Draft Brewing.

MetroConnect companies receive:

  • $5,000 private-sector funded export assistance grant
  • Seven executive workshops on export-related topics
  • Complimentary access to SystranPRO machine translation software
  • Discounts on international travel with partner airlines, such as American Airlines, British Airways, and Japan Airlines
  • EDC investor benefits for the duration of the program ($5,000 value)
  • PR and marketing support from WTC San Diego
  • Access to a network of mentors, consultants, and service providers in San Diego and overseas
  • Chance to compete for a $25,000 grand prize

Apply here by DECEMBER 17

The application takes approximately 30 minutes to complete.

Learn more:

MetroConnect: Six things you should know about the state of logistics

In February, World Trade Center San Diego (WTC) hosted the seventh and final workshop of its MetroConnect V program. The session brought in experts from around the region to discuss the movement of goods and integration of supply chain operations across a firm. Partners for the session included JAS Forwarding, the University of San Diego Supply Chain Management Institute, the City of San Diego, and California International Trade Center.

Here are six key takeaways from a very informative session:

1. Shipping costs are at an all-time high, while schedule reliability for ocean freight is at an all-time low.

A brutal mix of COVID-19-related factors have placed tremendous stress on a system that, in a normal year, already sees congestion through the holiday season into March. Expect to see abnormally high prices into the summer months and account for the extra time it may take your goods to reach their destination.

Illustration of ocean liner congestion coming into the container ports of LA and Long Beach

Illustration of ocean liner congestion coming into the container ports of LA and Long Beach

2. Less passenger air travel has led to longer lead times for air freight.

Typically, 45 to 50 percent of global air cargo is carried in the belly holds of passenger aircraft. As governments around the world now shift their focus to rapid vaccine distribution, other types of air freight are competing for space on limited aircraft.

3. Export regulation around Hong Kong and China has changed.

From an export regulation standpoint, Hong Kong is no longer treated as a separate entity from China. This is a policy that is expected to remain with the new Biden Administration.

4. The Department of Commerce has imposed new BIS regulations on exports.

There are new BIS regulations for exported goods and services that “could” be used by military end users. Denied Party Screening has never been more important.

5. Supply chains continue to become more digitally and globally integrated.

With Industry 4.0, digitally connecting the various partners within a supply chain will require collaboration, trust, commitment, and risk-sharing, as well as leadership from larger channel partners.

6. Foreign Trade Zones can save you significant time and money.

Foreign Trade Zones (FTZs) can be a valuable resource for San Diego businesses that import raw materials for domestic production or reexport finished products. You can learn more about San Diego’s FTZ program here.

Next steps for MetroConnect companies

World Trade Center San Diego will pilot a Digital Trade Series with California International Trade Center (CITC) to help SMEs grow exports through online channels. The inaugural installment of this global e-commerce mini program will run through the Spring and serve the current MetroConnect V cohort. Businesses will undergo a needs assessment analyzing their existing digital trade capabilities before receiving a customized action plan for enhancements to their website and online sales processes.

Interested in growing your business internationally?

World Trade Center San Diego works directly with companies – free of charge – to help them expand internationally and grow in San Diego. Whether your small company is interested in learning about exporting and international growth, or your small or medium sized company is ready to export and grow internationally, World Trade Center San Diego is here to help.



You might also like:

Small business export center instituted at World Trade Center San Diego

Partnership with Small Business Development Center aimed to support San Diego’s small businesses in going global

San Diego and Imperial Small Business Development Center (SBDC) has contracted with World Trade Center San Diego (WTCSD) in a unique partnership that will bring an Export Specialty Center to the region, housed at WTCSD. Announced today, the dedicated center will focus on small business export advising and training that serves to increase the number of export-ready firms in the region.

Amidst a pandemic-induced economic crisis, rapid shifts in global and regional supply chains, and changes to the country’s trading relationship with major world powers, it is critical that home-grown businesses are equipped with tools to compete in the global marketplace.

“The partnership with SBDC allows our team to build upon the export support that we’ve delivered for more than five years through our MetroConnect program. While MetroConnect serves a competitively-selected cohort of export-ready companies each year, the SBDC work will really focus on getting small businesses to a point where they are positioned for international growth, which we know will grow jobs, increase revenues and improve resiliency here at home,” said Nikia Clarke, executive director, WTCSD.

Launched in 2014 as an affiliate of San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation (EDC), WTCSD will receive additional funding from SBDC to expand its export portfolio of small businesses, hire a new full-time employee, and tap into SBDC’s diverse network to funnel companies into its export accelerator program MetroConnect.

“By formalizing this partnership with WTCSD, the SBDC network now has a dedicated center focusing on export issues and advising here in San Diego and Imperial County. Exporting makes companies stronger and more resilient—especially important amid an economic downturn spurred by COVID-19,” said Daniel Fitzgerald, Associate Regional Director, SBDC.

The contract will run from October 1, 2020 to December 31, 2021. WTCSD has hired coordinator Ajogwu (Jeff) Adegbe to help lead these efforts.

World Trade Center San Diego (WTCSD) operates as an affiliate of San Diego Regional EDC. WTCSD works to further San Diego’s global competitiveness by building an export pipeline, attracting and retaining foreign investment and increasing San Diego’s global profile abroad. sandiegobusiness.org/wtcsd

About SBDC
The San Diego and Imperial SBDC, hosted by Southwestern Community College, is funded by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) and the California Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development (Go-Biz). It provides business advising on how to start, manage and grow a business, with most workshops and training at no cost to small business owners to provide economic impact for our region. The SBDC network includes eight service partners in San Diego County and one in Imperial County hosted by the Imperial Regional Alliance. San Diego County locations include: North San Diego SBDC (MiraCosta College), East San Diego SBDC (East County EDC), South San Diego SBDC (Southwestern College), the Brink SBDC (University of San Diego), Export Trade SBDC (WTCSD), Connect SBDC, Alliance SBDC (Asian Business Association) and International Rescue Committee SBDC. Services are provided in English, Spanish, Arabic, Farsi, Swahili, Dari, Vietnamese, Mandarin and others. sdivsbdc.org

MetroConnect V – Workshop Recap Q3

In Q3, World Trade Center San Diego (WTC) continued to support the 15 companies in its MetroConnect international sales accelerator program. As part of the year-long export education curriculum, WTC hosted two workshops with subject matter experts on the topics of International Marketing & Sales and GDPR & Data Privacy.

MetroConnect Workshop #4 – International Marketing & Sales

Hosted in partnership with Reid Carr (CEO of Red Door Interactive), Judy Webster (Director of Global Partner Marketing at Qualcomm), and Josh Halpern (Chief Strategy Officer at California International Trade Center).

A few things we learned:

  • Branding overseas starts with building a strong, authentic brand at home.
  • Be mindful of language considerations, even within different regions in the same country. Sometimes you may want to opt for visual representations over words. If you do need a professional, industry-specific language translation tool, check out SYSTRAN Translate Pro.
  • Understand which analytical tools you need (and can afford) to measure the effectiveness of your campaigns.
  • Optimize your website to accommodate international customers. COVID-19 has only accelerated the unstoppable shift towards online shopping. Maximize your export opportunities through website localization and optimization.

MetroConnect Workshop #5 – GDPR & Data Privacy

Hosted in partnership with Elaine Harwell (Senior Counsel at Procopio) and Hannah Bracken (Commercial Specialist (Digital Policy) for the US Mission to the EU).

A few things we learned:

  • Unlike in the European Union, the US does not have a single omnibus bill addressing data privacy. Instead, we have a patchwork of state and federal statutes, some sector-specific and others focused on the rights of consumers.
  • The European Court of Justice’s recent ruling in Schrems II invalidated the EU-US Privacy Shield Framework, which many American companies have been using as a mechanism for transferring personal data from the EU to the US. (What happens now?)
  • California has a data privacy law, the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), however this may soon be replaced by the California Privacy Rights Act (CPRA), which is on the ballot this November. Remember to vote!
  • If you are interested in learning more about GDPR and data privacy, our team will be recording a live webinar with Elaine Harwell (Procopio) on Thursday, October 29. Please reach out to Lucas Coleman at LC@sandiegobusiness.org and we will include you in our mailing list.

World Trade Center San Diego announces MetroConnect V cohort

World Trade Center San Diego’s Flagship Export Program

San Diego – San Diego Mayor Kevin L. Faulconer and World Trade Center (WTC) San Diego unveiled the 15 companies selected to participate in MetroConnect V, the fifth iteration of WTC San Diego’s international sales accelerator program, underwritten by Procopio and JPMorgan Chase & Co. The program is designed to help local companies jump start and scale their global growth.

“One of San Diego’s biggest exports is the innovation and ingenuity of our local companies and this business accelerator helps fuel the entrepreneurs of tomorrow,” Mayor Faulconer said. “Programs like MetroConnect strengthen our local economy by creating opportunities for our small businesses to build greater networks, employ more San Diegans and further invest in our region.”

Now in its fifth program-year, WTC San Diego has adapted MetroConnect V to address the unique circumstances brought on by COVID-19. Routine video conferencing, an enhanced export education program, and virtual workshops with program partners are among the changes implemented prior to the virtual launch.  MetroConnect continues to equip small and medium-sized companies (SMEs) with a suite of financial and programmatic resources in their efforts to bring their products and services to global markets.

Meet the Companies

1. Amavara
2. Blue Sky Network, LLC
3. Dynam.AI
4. Forward Slope, Inc.
5. LunaPBC
6. Mayan Robotics, LLC.
7. Modern Times Drinks
8. MRIaudio, Inc.
9. Omni2Max, Inc.
10. Semantic AI
11. Sidus Solutions
12. TradeSun, Inc.
13. Trex Enterprises Corp.
14. Uprise Energy
15. White Labs, Inc.

More About the Program

The MetroConnect program is highly competitive, with just 15 companies selected based on a variety of criteria, including product potential, interest in new markets, assessed impact of program funds and resources, current international traction, and more. Applicant companies are assessed by a panel of judges, which include representatives from Qualcomm Ventures, Connect w/ San Diego Venture Group, Biocom, the U.S. Commercial Service, CMTC, Viasat, Mitsubishi Electric, Procopio, San Diego State University, Tech San Diego, UC San Diego, San Diego Regional EDC, WTC San Diego, and the previous year’s program winner.

The MetroConnect program resources include:

  • $5,000 in matching grants to cover the costs associated with international expansion, made possible by co-underwriters JPMorgan Chase and Procopio, and with additional funds and in–kind services from more than a dozen sponsor companies
  • One year of complimentary access to SYSTRAN’s premium enterprise machine translation platform
  • Workshops (7) addressing export compliance, localized marketing strategies, and more, taught by private sector experts from the San Diego business community
  • Dedicated WTC San Diego staff manager to support company participants in deploying overseas strategies during the grant period
  • Reduced airfare on international flights out of San Diego International Airport with American Airlines, British Airways, and Japan Airlines
  • Free consultations with legal, tax, and consulting partners
  • Access to a mentor network consisting of trade experts at large and mid-sized San Diego firms and country representatives at the Japan External Trade Organization and the United Kingdom Government Office in San Diego
  • Consideration to compete for an additional $25,000 during the MetroConnect Grand Prize Pitchfest

“San Diego’s continued economic growth is vital to the region’s long-term health and prosperity,” said Aaron Ryan, Executive Director and San Diego Region Manager of JPMorgan Chase’s Middle Market Banking & Specialized Industries practice. “MetroConnect will enable some of San Diego’s brightest companies to grow internationally, and help them successfully navigate the complexities of doing business abroad. JPMorgan Chase is proud to support this impact on the San Diego economy.”

Since the program’s debut in 2015, 65 MetroConnect alumni have collectively generated $85 million in new export sales, signed 500 new contracts, added 269 new jobs to the region, set up 18 new overseas facilities and seen five successful company exits. Past participants include Coronado Brewing, Cypher Genomics (acquired by Human Longevity Inc.), Dr. Bronner’s, Planck Aerosystems, Scientist.com and many more. From community-owned health and genomic data platform LunaPBC, to unmanned aerial systems component manufacturer Mayan Robotics, to California’s very first employee-owned brewery Modern Times, the 2020 MetroConnect companies represent a diverse cross section of San Diego’s innovation economy.

“The MetroConnect program’s support of innovative, high-growth SMEs aligns with the priorities of our firm,” said Jim Perkins, COO and Chief Compliance Officer of program co-underwriter Procopio. “We are thrilled to support WTC San Diego in this endeavor and are looking forward to lending our knowledge and expertise to the new cohort of MetroConnect companies.”

Why MetroConnect Matters Now More Than Ever

Expanding a customer base into multiple markets creates resiliency. That has been especially true during the COVID-19 pandemic as global markets have been affected, then subsequently recovered at varying rates. Additionally, as a port city, trade has always played a big role in San Diego’s economy and the success of the businesses that call this city home. In 2018 alone, San Diego exported more than $20 billion in goods overseas, as well as billions more in services like software, cybersecurity, engineering and research. SMEs produce 92 percent of those goods – driving home the point of programs like MetroConnect. Plus, according to the Brookings Institution, companies that are global pay higher wages, are less likely to go out of business, and increase productivity of the domestic market.

One member of the current cohort has already experienced the benefits of taking part in a program like MetroConnect. White Labs’ yeast serves as a key ingredient in beer, which has made it a pillar of San Diego’s craft brewing industry for the last 25 years. International expansion has always been an important part of White Labs’ business, and it applied to be part of the MetroConnect V cohort to expand and improve its international procedures, policies, and marketing to continue to expand globally.

MetroConnect put White Labs in contact with JAS Forwarding. JAS was able to assist White Labs by reviewing its import/export procedures. This consultancy resulted in White Labs adapting their documentation systems to decrease customs clearance holds in Australia.

JoAnne Carilli-Stevenson, Head of Business Development for White Labs, told the MetroConnect team that this change has “resulted in improved service to customers, and decreased re-shipments required due to custom delays. At a time when we are working hard to balance supply and demand during crisis, this change in international procedure is significant for us.”

“Amidst a global health and economic crisis, new agreements and ongoing negotiations with key trading partners, and the rapid evolution of global supply chains, it is more important than ever to give local SMEs an edge in the global marketplace by equipping them with the tools to be successful,” said Nikia Clarke, executive director of World Trade Center San Diego. “Financial assistance, export education, preferred access to ancillary export services, and connectivity to an international network of partners and mentors – all of these were requests emanating from the small and medium-sized companies this program serves. With 98 percent of San Diego’s economy comprised of such businesses, it is critical that we are responsive to their needs.”

See the full list of MetroConnect V companies here.

About World Trade Center San Diego
World Trade Center San Diego operates as an affiliate of San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation. WTC San Diego works to further San Diego’s global competitiveness by building an export pipeline, attracting and retaining foreign investment and increasing San Diego’s global profile abroad. sandiegobusiness.org/wtcsd