From day one, we’ve built TakeLessons right here in the heart of San Diego. Over the past few years, I’ve personally seen an explosion of activity as more and more people become interested in working for themselves, starting a company, and running after their dream. Compared to yesterday, San Diego’s technology and innovation scene has become more organized and started to develop a true community where people are collaborating, celebrating wins, and helping their fellow entrepreneurs through the stumbles.
While we’ve came a long way, we still are young compared to the developed areas of Silicon Valley and New York. As a metaphor, it feels like we’ve planted seeds and we’re starting to see those seeds germinate above the ground. Now, it’s up to the San Diego tech scene to continue to cultivate our community so our seeds turn into strong trees with deep roots.
I wrote an op-ed piece for Xconomy on my thoughts how San Diego can continue to grow it’s innovation community. I’d love to here your thoughts on how we can all work together to build something great.
What we in San Diego need to focus on first and foremost is our attitude. We need to live and breathe a startup mindset. Anything worthwhile is always created twice: First, in our minds; and second, in reality. As members of San Diego’s entrepreneurial community, we must choose whether to focus on the challenges we face, or on actually making it happen by taking advantage of the strengths we have and moving forward, despite our challenges. It is up to us to make this change first. Inner victories always precede outer victories. Only by being in the right frame of mind will we see the manifestations of our city’s true potential emerge.
Wireless Hub: Sparked by Qualcomm’s founding there in 1985, San Diego now hosts some 800 telecom companies.
On the Green: San Diego is also No. 1 for patents on “games using a tangible projectile,” which typically means golf. More than 30 golf-equipment manufacturers, including TaylorMade and Callaway, have set up shop in the sunny locale, home to Torrey Pines and about 90 other golf courses.
Photo Courtesy of MikeNewton.com
In addition to the patents in telecom and sports, San Diego also has standout innovation activity in diverse areas such as cyber security, defense technologies, bioinformatics, life sciences, genomics, clean tech, and consumer internet. All of these top industries have aided to increase the number of good jobs in San Diego.
The city’s leaders are also focused on a high quality of life and eco-sustainability, which continues to help San Diego reinvent itself as a hub of innovation. In fact, 5 of the largest 15 companies located in downtown San Diego are now tech companies.
San Diego will always have beautiful beaches and bronzed bodies. Now, we can also add hot startups, really smart talent, and an entrepreneurial ‘can-do’ attitude to that list. San Diego isn’t only “America’s Finest City,” it’s an emerging tech hub.
Marc Bailey: Earlier this month, Forbes magazine ranked San Diego #1 as the best place in the nation to start a small business this year. The publication surveyed 50 big cities and surveyed small businesses. Among the criteria used, those in high growth areas, those with Facebook pages, those with websites, and those that accepted credit cards. The magazine says that the categories demonstrate the community’s engagement and use of relevant resources.
If you’re trying to start a business, that’s why we asked Steven Cox to come in because he knows what he’s talking about. You started TakeLessons.com? You started it here in San Diego?
Steven Cox: Sure did!
M: And it teaches music? Music lessons online?
S: Not only music lessons, but tutoring, sports, fitness, wellness, arts and crafts, and more. if you think of eBay and how they have created a marketplace for both buyers and sellers. What we have is created a marketplace for parents or consumers who are looking for a great instructor. On the other side are instructors who are looking to earn more money and are looking for new students.
M: So, you match these people up? You just combine the two. Most of these ideas, when we break them down, the beauty of them and the commonality is we all look and say, “I should’ve thought of that.”
S: Or, “Man, I did think about that.” Yes, I get that a lot.
M: When did you decide to follow up on that and why? What was the motivation?
S: I’ve been doing tech startups since 1999. I moved down here to San Diego to take a little bit of time off and started wondering what I wanted to do next. I was living downtown in San Diego, and we came up with this idea. I happened to also be in a rock band as a bad lead singer. My drummer was looking for new students and was going to quit music and take an office job in order to pay in his bills. So, we put together this idea of helping him make a living do what he loved to do by helping him find students over the Internet, and that just happened to be my background. It kind of fell along this whole movement of being able to establish a business in a marketplace and then watch it grow here in San Diego, which is where we started, and then immediately start taking on new cities. Now, we’re in about 4,000 cities all across the U.S.
M: So, I’m going to say that’s successful, but it started right here in San Diego.
S: Yep, it started in a downtown office right here.
M: Why San Diego? Now, again, we heard Forbes’ reasons why businesses are successful starting up here in San Diego, but what’s the deal? Why San Diego?
S: Well, first of all, I can say that being in the industry for the past several years, the tech industry and the San Diego startup community is worlds different from where it used to be five and six years ago. One of the factors that Forbes had mentioned was the clustering, which is the ability for a large number of startups to all be in the same area, and we’re starting to see that downtown. There are thirty or forty startups right off the top of my head just within this little radius of where the TakeLessons headquarters is down there, which is a super cool thing to see.
M: That’s good energy, and you can share information.
S: They share information. They collaborate. You kind of feel like you’re not alone.
M: Is that one of the keys? Collaboration?
S: Absolutely. You get that and also just the number of industries that are in kind of a high growth aspect. So, anything from consumer Internet to clean tech to bioinformatics, San Diego has all of those. In addition to a great environment to start a business, there are a ton of smart people, and if you compare it to some of the other cities out there, San Diego has better air quality than L.A. I’m sure that you would know that. It has better traffic. The cost of living is 40% cheaper than it is in Silicon Valley. Finally, San Diego, I don’t know if you’ve heard, but we have better weather than Boston and New York.
M: We’ve got to go, but give me the one misstep that people make. You’ve told people all of the positives. What’s the one thing that makes you say, “Don’t do that.”?
S: I’ve got to say that it is don’t believe that is super, super easy just to start an Internet business, and then the next day you’re going to be a success. It takes the exact same amount of work in order to grow a successful business.
M: That meaning you have to be totally committed to it.
S: That’s right.
M: Alright, Steven, thank you so much. Steven Cox, CEO of TakeLessons.com. So, check that website out, especially if you’re trying to match up your learning with a teacher. Great idea!
I’m happy to announce TakeLessons.com latest round of venture funding today. This round increases the total amount raised to $20mm and will allow us to accelerate our expansion into more categories outside of music, including tutoring, performing arts, and languages. We’ve even started to see new matches in categories such as welding, crocheting, robotics, and basic HTML.
We’ve tripled the number of instructors on the TakeLessons platform over the past year and continue to be excited about building a marketplace that helps consumers easily find the right instructor, while helping instructors make a better living doing what they love.