Skip to main content

The Downtown San Diego Startup Tech Scene

Here’s a video I’m a part of that talks about what’s going on in the downtown San Diego tech and innovation scene. Happy to be a contributor to helping grow San Diego’s economy.



Craig Sewing: We’re gonna be bringing on a guest here, Steven Cox with TakeLessons, CEO. Tell us about him.

Seth O’Byrne: Well, you know, when you ask the question what is going on downtown, I say “Steven Cox is happening downtown, and TakeLessons is really shaping downtown. As you know, I’m a cheerleader of all entrepreneurs in San Diego. I think the future of our city lies in the hands of the entrepreneurs, and TakeLessons is a company you would normally see in Silicon Valley or downtown San Francisco, so it’s a real asset to have them in San Diego. I think when we talk about what is happening downtown, we always have to frame that conversation in what’s going on in employment, entrepreneurship, and new business, so I think it would be great to have him on and to talk about what is going on downtown.

Craig: Let’s take a look here at TakeLessons with CEO Steven Cox.

[Video Production]

Seth: When I say tech start-up, what’s the first city you think of? Odds are, it’s not San Diego, so that’s why when Steven Cox founded TakeLessons in 2007 in the heart of downtown San Diego, it took everybody by surprise.

TakeLessons is a tech company that puts students together with teachers. You can learn things from film acting to singing, from guitar lessons to Spanish, and it’s all on the same exact website. What’s great for students is they know if they go through TakeLessons, the teachers have been vetted and are fully-qualified. For teachers, they know if they sign up with TakeLessons, they always have business waiting for them.

Over the last seven years, they’ve built so much interest over what they’ve been doing, they raised over $20 million in venture capital. All of those dollars come to San Diego, and specifically, downtown. That trickles down through the local real estate market, and in fact, it impacts the entire Southern California economy. This means real estate sells faster and values climb. So, as the characteristics of the San Diego economy change, TakeLessons is at the heart of that, and what they’re doing is making San Diego home for tech. So, while most people are hoping San Diego has a bright future, Take Lessons is actually making it a reality.

[Back to Show]

Craig: Love it. Steven Cox, welcome to the show!

Steven: Thanks for having me. I really appreciate it.

Craig: Very big name downtown. Great reputation. Seth’s been talking about you for a long time, but everybody does really. Let’s talk about TakeLessons, and I’d love to get your opinion on what you’re seeing with the activity, businesses, and job growth. So, tell us about TakeLessons.

Steven: We’ll frame it around the downtown area, which is where we’re located. We started TakeLessons in a spare bedroom on the corner of 5th and K downtown in the trellis building that I believe Seth actually sold me the unit many many years ago. So, he sold me my first property and then I bought that from him. So, I had this idea of how we could democratize earnings and allow people to make a living doing what they love to do. We started the business right there on 5th and K, then kind of got our first office on 6th, then moved to Broadway, then to 4th, then the Diamond View, and kept moving offices as we continued to grow. Right now, we’re in the building on 225 Broadway downtown. We have about 55 employees. Growing like a little weed and being really excited about being part of the downtown community there. In fact, I think the San Diego Business Journal just listed the top 20 business companies downtown in respect to the number of employees down there, and what was amazing was five out of the top fifteen are involved in digital and tech right now. It’s certainly something that if you take a look at what’s happened over the last five years, the explosion of what we call the innovation economy has certainly taken over downtown, and to where we have continued to grow, not just our business but businesses around. I look around and even just right there within our area, I can throw a stone and hit fifteen to twenty different tech start-ups right around there, which is super, super cool to see.

Craig: Innovation economy. It really is interesting now. You have twenty-one-year-olds that are better on Excel, PowerPoint, internet, and social media. It’s like they’re born with a mouse in their hand. That’s the gist of what you guys are doing. Exactly what do you do with TakeLessons.

Steven: If you take a look around, it’s very to find an instructor for whatever that you might do. If you’re a parent looking for your child for tutoring lessons, or you want to learn Spanish or take crochet. I went horseback riding and took horseback riding lessons last weekend. You can find all of these instructors on TakeLessons. You can take lessons in person, such as horseback riding, or you can take lessons online if it’s something better suited for you. As far as the company, we have instructors that are located in over 4,000 cities all across the U.S. Tens of thousands of people are now able to make a better living doing what they love to do on the TakeLessons platform.

Craig: Can you teach an old dog new tricks? Because I have a client for you named Mr. Buster.

Steven: We actually have some dog trainers, if you’re into that. Our oldest student right now is an 85-year-old gentleman. He joined, and he’s learning drums in La Costa actually, and that’s pretty phenomenal.

Craig: So, what do you see as the future of TakeLessons, the downtown economy, and the innovative economy for our market?

Steven: Again, with TakeLessons, we’ve raised about $20 million in venture capital funding. We’re certainly looking to continue our growth spurt forward, expanding out into more cities, opening up more categories, hiring more people, which that obviously helps the overall San Diego economy as well. With respect to what we’re seeing in technology, especially downtown, it’s super cool: there will be 1,500 to 2,000 tech jobs created here in San Diego. The average tech job pays about $103,000. So, when you take a look at how technology and innovation fuels the economy, it’s really interesting to see how that’s growing, specifically in downtown. The San Diego Downtown Partnership recently completed a study in which every tech job that was moved downtown created an additional 1.6 jobs, whether it be restaurants or hotels or these sorts of jobs. So, we’re spurring the overall economy; it’s really super exciting to see. San Diego as a city, we’re really proud of it: it’s number one for telecommunications, it’s the largest in respect to bioinformatics and biotechnology, the second largest clean-tech city in the world. A lot of people don’t realize how big of a hub San Diego is becoming for innovation. What we like to say is that there are the first two big legs of the San Diego economy. The first one being military, the second one then being tourism, and there’s a third one coming. It is here. It’s the innovation economy, and it’s producing a lot of jobs and a lot of folks buying houses.

Craig: It’s really good that we’re growing. In the past, I’ve actually kind of joked a bit about how Governor Rick Perry of Texas is actually running commercials on the radio actually trying to pull jobs from San Diego and that he actually just pulled Toyota and several thousand jobs. It’s good to know we’re being innovative and that we’re growing in the downtown marketplace. There’s certainly a lot big reports we talk about on this show and the radio show, but nothing is more important than getting a real pulse of the market from the people that are in the market. Seth O’Byrne is a top producing realtor in the downtown marketplace, if you’re looking to buy or sell. He’s the guy. Of course, Steven Cox is an entrepreneur growing TakeLessons. I love that people can visit you online; what’s the best website for you?


Craig: Easy enough. Buster and I will be reaching out soon. Thanks for coming in.