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Teaming up with the International Women’s Hackathon

By Start Up San Diego,, Web and Tech No Comments

International Women's HackathonTakeLessons is proud to be a part of the video, and a supporter of this years International Women’s Hackathon, held at Cal State, San Marcos.

The International Women’s Hackathon is sponsored by Microsoft Research to empower young women leaders (ages 16 and older) in computer science. Teams of 4-6 girls will make a website, game, cloud based service, application, or mobile app to address one of these two world challenges: Disaster Response or Climate Data.

To encourage participation, especially girls from low socioeconomic families, registration will be free for students, including snacks, lunch, dinner, parking, access to state-of-the-art computing facilities at CSUSM, and collaboration with peers and volunteering mentors from the software industry. In addition, bus services are provided for selected local high schools to bring their students on the day of the event.

Why We Support It

Alan Cole, COO TakeLessonsAlan Cole, our COO drove the initiative.

“At, we come to work each way driven by the idea that we can make a positive difference in the lives of everyone we come in contact with. We choose to do that through technology and software engineering. We want to encourage young people in the San Diego area, and around the world, to see the possibilities of using Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math as tools to make positive change in their world as well.” says, Cole.

The International Women’s Hackathon at Cal State San Marcos helps inspire students to follow their passions and make a difference in careers that have historically been underrepresented by women. We know that women who choose these fields not only change the world, they also earn an average of 33% more than women in other fields. As a big fan of San Diego, I believe that giving young women the technological tools to earn more – while changing the world – is an incredible gift to the San Diego Innovation Economy.

Steven interviewed for the IWH video on empowering young women.

Steven interviewed for the IWH video on empowering young women to think about careers in science, technology, engineering, and math.

AirBnB’s “Overnight” Success?

By Business Philosophy, Entrepreneur Insights, Start-Ups, Web and Tech No Comments

In the Internet space, it’s so easy to get caught up in the big success story that comes piped in from Pando or TechCrunch that shows how a company went from zero to hero in an obscenely short amount of time. While it’s true that, on occasion, the ‘up and to the right’ explosive growth happens for some companies, it’s not the norm and most companies – even the success stories – struggle to find a model and fit that their customers will pay for.

Case in point, AirBnB, the house renting site for regular people. I’ve heard so many times about how they ‘came from nowhere overnight’ to take on the likes of Hilton and Hyatt. I’ve heard them being used as the prime example of why we’re in another 1999-2000 Internet bubble. But the truth of the matter is that their road to building a billion dollar company (or $10B in their case) was fraught with struggles, mistakes, starts and stops, frustrations, and a few wins sprinkled between the failures.

Here’s an infographic, courtesy of Funders and Founders (they do great work!) on the 7 year, overnight success (haha) of AirBnB:

AirBnB's Path to Success

The Entrepreneur Lesson

One thing Joe and Brian continued to do well is iterate and believe. The takeaway lesson for entrepreneurs is that there is a good chance that the original idea being worked on will need to be modified as you get more information from the customer and as you see how the world changes around you. Stay nimble, don’t believe your own hype, continue to iterate, stay true to your values, but question everything else.

Sometimes, the race is won by those who decide to just keep running.

Cool Travel Apps for your iPhone or Android

By Start-Ups, Travel, Videos, Web and Tech No Comments

Here is my TV segment on San Diego 6 TV on cool travel apps. Below is the video and my write-up on the coolest travel apps I’ve found.


  • Both Android and iPhone – FREE
  • Crowdsourcing – which means gathering information from communities and giving more people access to the information. So, this crowdsourced app instantly connects you with other drivers in real time who are reporting back on accidents, police traps, and other hazards along your route.
  • Story: Spring is in the air, and you decide to hop on a plane to meet up with some friends in Miami. You live near SDSU, so using WAZE, you can immediately see – using feedback from other drivers – if you should use the 8, the 15 or an alternative route. It tells you where traffic is slowing and keeps you on time to make your flight!


  • Both Android and iPhone – FREE
  • Tell CityBot the types of activities that interest you and in a matter of seconds, you’ll receive a personalized trip.
  • Story: Let’s say you just flew into Miami to meet your friends, except your friends are lame and didn’t plan anything. You can whip out Citybot and – based on your prior interests and events – it can tailor an awesome day for you. You can start off getting afternoon drinks at a Southbeach bar, roll into the best shopping along the strip, and end up at an authentic European restaurant where you meet some cool people from Spain!
  • …AND the startup is located right in Downtown San Diego!


  • Both Android and iPhone – FREE
  • Last-minute hotel deals. Tonight!
  • Story: So, you finish up the night in Miami and realize, “Uh oh, no one booked a hotel room!” Don’t worry – HotelTonight has you covered! All you have to do is open HotelTonight, it automatically knows where you are and serves up the best discounted hotel rooms open right now. You can pick from economy, chic, or luxury. Just pick your hotel, swipe once, and walk in to get your keys. Pretty nifty!


  •  Both Android and iPhone
  • Instantly translates printed words into your native language using your built-in phone camera.
  • Story: So, your friends in Miami are still kind of lame, so you decide to jump on a plane and head to Madrid with your new buddies you met at the European restaurant. Wow! What a great time – except that you don’t speak ANY Spanish! No problem! With Wordlens, all you do is hover your camera over printed signs or books, and it instantly translates it back into English for you. Check it out!
  • FREE to download and under $5.00 for one translation type (such as English to German and vice versa).

Four Ways San Diego Can Continue to Build It’s Startup Ecosystem

By Start Up San Diego, Web and Tech One Comment

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.

Read the Article on Xconomy

Steven Cox Pictures of TakeLessons

Upcoming Incubator Hosted By San Diego Venture Group

By Start Up San Diego, Start-Ups, Web and Tech No Comments
Downtown San Diego

Photo Courtesy of

Thinking of starting a tech or internet company here in San Diego?

When you start a company, there are a TON of things to consider:

  • How will you raise capital?
  • Who will form your team?
  • How will you develop your product to fit market needs?
  • What will your user interface look like?

This list goes on and on. Sometimes, attending an incubator or accelerator can be of huge value to your startup. If you are working on a startup, you may want to attend San Diego Venture Group‘s next conference on Thursday, March 20th. This incubator will be hosted at the Hyatt Recency, La Jolla and starts at 7am.

Participating Companies include:

Al Bsharah, CEO & Co-Founder,Embarke
Mitch Thrower, Founder & CEO, BUMP Network
Mike Perry, CEO & Director, Crisi Medical Systems

Want more information? Check it out and register for the San Diego Incubator session.

List of San Diego Startups VC Funded in Q4

By Start Up San Diego, Web and Tech No Comments

San-Diego-Startup-VC-FundingThis data was provided to me by Randy Smith, CPA, of CFO Innovations San Diego Companies receiving venture funding in Q4 2013. Thanks Randy!

21 deals were completed locally in Q4 of 2013, down from 23 in Q3 of 2013. Aver­age deal size de­creased from $8.9 million in Q3 2013 to $6.9 million in Q4 of 2013. Biotechnology continues its lead with $91 million in new capital, followed by Industrial and Energy of $35 million, San Diego Software companies at $7 million, Medical Devices ($3 million), Media ($3 million), Healthcare Services ($2 million), Financial Services ($2 million), and IT Services ($1 million).

Achates Power


Auspex Pharmaceuticals


Sitari Pharma

Lumena Pharmaceuticals



Inception 4

Rempex Pharmaceuticals








SAkincential Sciences


Abide Therapeutics

Freedom Meditech
























 Venture Firms Investing in San Diego Companies

Adams Street Partners – (really smart dudes. Robin Murray is the best!)
Alta Partners
Anthem Venture Partners – (Brian Mesic is a big supporter of the SD tech scene)
ARCH Venture Partners
Avalon Ventures
Balderton Capital
Bay City Capital
Cardinal Partners
City Hill Ventures
CMEA Capital
DFJ Frontier
Domain Associates
Foundry Group
Frazier Healthcare
InterWest Partners – (good people here. I know them)
Madrone Capital Partners
Montreux Equity Partners
Panorama Capital
Pappas Ventures
Polaris Ventures  (Great firm, smart people)
Promus Ventures
Right Side Capital
Rockport Capital Partners
Sequoia Capital
Silicon Valley Bancventures
Social Leverage
SV Life Science Advisers
Tech Coast Angels
Thomas McNerney
Triangle Peak Partners (also invested in
True Ventures
UPS Strategic Enterprise
Versant Ventures