Thousands will flock to downtown San Diego this year for Startup Week. Here’s why


The startup scene is maturing into a respectable tech hub in San Diego, which means this year’s annual Startup Week — a seven-day convention usually packed with hoodie-wearing entrepreneurs and engineers — should see its biggest year yet.

San Diego Startup Week usually attracts thousands to downtown San Diego, and this year will feature over 200 sessions between May 28 and June 3. For the first time in the event’s history, organizers scored a prime location for the bulk of its activities: the San Diego Convention Center.

Startup San Diego, the nonprofit that puts on the event, has also switched up the format this year. Instead of focusing strictly on the downtown region, the event will stretch locales in Tijuana, Barrio Logan, downtown and Carlsbad.

The week will include educational talks about launching and growing a startup, targeting entrepreneurs in the idea stage to fast-growing companies that need to scale. There will also be a pitch competition, a walking tour of downtown startups, mentoring sessions for attendees and lots of networking.

A highlight of the week will likely be the “unicorn” panel on Friday, featuring executives from San Diego’s latest technology startups valued at over $1 billion, including software firm Seismic’s CEO Doug Winter.

Startup Week used to be a grassroots gathering hosted by a group of software entrepreneurs, many in their 20s and 30s, who felt like the city needed a welcome place for tech founders. The first year (in 2012) only attracted a couple of hundred attendees. But in recent years it’s attracted more like 3,000.

The event is organized almost exclusively by a team of 100 volunteers, as Startup San Diego only has one paid employee — executive director Jarrod Russell. He said the city’s successful entrepreneurs, more mature startups and business accelerators pull a lot of weight when it comes to organizing the programming.

“This isn’t the Startup San Diego show,” Russell said. “The community really has to rally together to pull this thing off.”

Startup Week is funded by several corporate sponsors, including Cox Business, Downtown Works, Pillsbury Law, and Taner Halicioglu’s startup fund Keshif Ventures.

Tickets for Startup Week range from $50 for students to $119 for full-price attendees. The complete schedule is available online.