Since moving (returning) to San Diego from the San Francisco Bay Area in June of 2007, my running joke has been:
In the Bay Area I was a small fish in a large pond. In San Diego, at least I’m a small fish in a small pond.
The San Diego market for marketing professionals certainly is different and has, not surprisingly, both its ups and downs. Clearly, fewer opportunities exist for software and Internet high-tech marketers. There are just not as many companies as in the SF Bay Area, including Silicon Valley. San Diego has a strong bio tech industry, but the cross-over is not simple (or at least that’s the perception). Wireless technology is big here, led by, of course, Qualcomm which has resulted in a number of wireless/telecom start-ups. There certainly is some crossover into this market. It’s my view, however, that a mini-bubble exists in that there are serious business model issues with some wireless start-ups, and I’m guessing the current economic downturn will expose these. (I talk more about this in a separate post.)
Generally, I’m not feeling a lot of marketing love in San Diego. Perhaps it is simply the natural evolution of a technology ecosystem. First a region must build a strong technology base and then a demand for marketing expertise will emerge. Despite the fact that San Diego-based WebSideStory was instrumental in leading the marketing ROI trend through its web analytics products, and the fact that there are several marketing related start-ups here, e.g., JuiceMetriQs, Island Data (now Overtone, I see), and Certona, generally, the idea that Marketing doesn’t mean Madison Ave, appears to me to be poorly understood.
(BTW, I don’t know the motivation, but Overtone moved its marketing organization to the Bay Area. Aside from founders, until recently the entire Ortiva Wireless management team was from outside San Diego. The same goes for Paraccel. Trend or merely emblematic of the state of San Diego resources?)
There is upside:
The community is tight. The atmosphere is collegial and in general, one gets the feeling that all are “in this together” — this being the flourishing of San Diego’s tech community. As I made my networking rounds when I first arrived, I heard the same people that I needed to get to know, repeatedly. Several individuals made an effort to introduce me around, for which I am grateful. Some of these include Leo Spiegel, Ruprecht Von Buttlar, Jeff Belk, and Carlton O’Neal. (Much thanks!)
There are a number of good groups and organizations in town, including CONNECT, Tech Coast Angels, San Diego Venture Group, MIT forum, CommNexus, and San Diego Software Industry Council, but not so many as to make one feel inundated or incapable of keeping up. They offer a steady stream of networking opportunities, workshops, quality speakers, etc.
Finally and most importantly, if it is the case that many San Diego entrepreneurs, technologists, or investors lack knowledge of process-oriented, metrics-driven high-tech marketing, well then, that represents an opportunity for education and for new voices to be heard.
Hmm, a pain point, an opportunity, I better get to work!