Monday, May 5, 2014

Unconventional Wisdom

This article was published two weeks ago on StartUp San Diego's blog. I figured you guys might enjoy so I'm reposting it here.

Sunshine and Navy SEALs. Craft beer and mobile chipsets. Biotech and retirement homes. Surfer mecca and research haven. San Diego is a city packed with contradiction. As it happens, these contrasts are also the region’s greatest strength.

“My favorite part about San Diego is that it challenges expectations,” says GroundMetrics Inc. CEO George Eiskamp. “We have a wide breadth of knowledge here. From experts in defense contracting to a world leading supercomputer center. Our team is doubling in size over the next three months and our location in San Diego has been an enormous asset. We have a large group of top local talent to draw on and hires from other locations never complain about the move.”

GroundMetrics Inc. is one of the fastest growing startups in the region. They have developed a new kind of electromagnetic sensor system that captures high fidelity geological data. They use these sensors to run surveys for oil and gas companies. It’s almost like an MRI for rocks.

Illustration of a GroundMetrics' survey.
“I’m a UC San Diego alumni,” says George. “We’ve hired multiple alumni from local universities. We’re working on integrating Scripps Institution of Oceanography code with our data processing software. The student-run Rady Venture Fund at UC San Diego invested in our Series A2 financing round. The San Diego chapter of the Tech Coast Angels are some of our most loyal investors.”

Many look to the San Francisco Bay Area as the gravitational center of the startup world. But technological and business innovations are emerging in many places you might not think to look. Boulder, CO has seen a flush of new tech startup success. Last week, Twitter acquired long-time Boulder social data startup Gnip.


San Diego is earning its reputation based on being a little different. GroundMetrics is now the world leader in ground-based electromagnetic sensors. Oberon Fuels is rethinking transportation with its clean-burning, low-cost dimethyl ether fuel. Kapyon Ventures is changing agricultural biotech and Correlation Ventures is doing venture capital differently.

“Like San Diego, our team prides ourselves on being unconventional,” says George. “We’ve uncovered great opportunities and developed incredible inventions by challenging conventional wisdom. Many of Malcolm Gladwell’s books challenge conventional wisdom. Data displaces assumption. So many experts have told us what we’re doing is impossible. Then their jaws drop when they see our technology in action.

“This approach shapes our hiring priorities,” he continues. “We look for outside-the-box thinkers who can’t help but over-achieve. We don’t restrict ourselves to hiring folks from the oil industry. We restrict ourselves to hiring folks who strive to define excellence in whatever they’re working on.”

Diversity is a key ingredient for innovation. As it happens, diversity is one of San Diego’s greatest assets. Home of companies from Qualcomm to Petco, the region has a cross-section of high performers that are now shaping the next generation of American companies. That is, as long as they continue to cultivate unconventional wisdom.

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