CONNECT, a Catalyst of Regional Resurgence: Story of its Emergence and Evolution
Affiliated Institution: Small & Medium Business Administration of Korea
n the recent decades, regions and cities around the globe have committed to and invested in
tech clusters, where groups of institutions and actors collaborate to create and
share knowledge as a way to boost innovation and entrepreneurship. To bring in synergy effects
of industrial clusters, as the literature on clusters and regional
innovation systems emphasizes,
regions need a catalyst or initiator, which enable and enhance stakeholders to collaborate and
interact with each others. While the significant role of network
or intermediate organizations
is well recognized, however, th
e literature has not accounted for the creation and evolution of
Nor has it addressed the impacts and engagements of intermediate
organizations in shaping innovative regions considering the growing interests in and efforts of
This is a case study highlighting the historical development and role
of a networking organization,
, which is now recognized one of the most successful
and interactions of the San Diego region
By looking at this
case in its historical context, this study seeks to provide theory and policy implications to the
development of innovative milieu.
Intermediate organization, cluster, CONNECT, San Diego, regional economic development
CONNECT, an intermediate organization of the San Diego high
tech clusters, has developed
through collaborative efforts of the community during the last few decades. Drawing on the
term practices and interactions, CONNECT has developed its programs
entrepreneurship and a culture of collaboration.
recently earned a Ph.D. in Planning, Policy and Design from the University of
California, Irvine with a dissertation titled ‘an emergence of a biotechnology c
practice and culture of the San Diego biotechnology community.’
* This manuscript is based on the author’s doctoral dissertation, ‘an emergence of a
biotechnology cluster: Knowledge, practice and culture of the San Diego biotechnology
transformed itself as
one of the most dynamic and vibrant biotechnology
during the last few decades
(Cortright & Mayer, 2002; DeVol et al., 2004; Ernst &
. San Diego used to be a
significant base of
tradition of technology entrepreneurship until the 1980s.
To be more,
San Diego lacked any material
financial resources nece
ssary to launch heavy industries
as well as any significant tradition to
(Heiges, Stutz & Pryde, 1984; Stutz, 1992
; Davis, 2003
the 1980s, the most important parts of the local economy were military
, agriculture an
The region recovered from its worst economic downturn
the shrink of the
federal defense budgets in the mid
, and converted itself into an entrepreneurial region
(Innovation Associates, Inc., 2000)
Particularly, San Diego has
grown to be a biotechnology hub
as measured by various indicators. For example, in terms of the number of public biotechnology
companies, San Diego is ranked third with 35 companies (Ernst & Young, 2011)
. In the case of
venture capital investments in and
employment by the biotechnology and pharmaceutical sectors,
San Diego accounts for a significant ration as indicated in Table 1 and Table 2 respectively. It is
widely recognized for having built its
culture of collaboration
and institutions for
not only across this country but
This refers to the geographic and economic isolation of this region from the main part of the country
until the last few decades. In terms of geography, San Diego is still an isolated territory: an international
boarder to south, a military base (Pendleto
n) to north, the Pacific Ocean to west and a desert mountain
Borrego Desert) to east
According to Ernst & Young (2011), the San Francisco Bay area (which refers to the Silicon Valley
region) has the most public biotechnology companies (65) and 45 p
ublic biotechnology companies are
located in New England.
the ingredients of its economic transformation
into a high
is widely recognized as one of the key ingredients
for San Diego’s transformation into an entrepreneurial region (Scott, 2006;
Stein & Welborn
Walcott, 2001; 2002; Walshok, 1999).
was founded in
1985 to promot
e commercialization of academic research
based on partnership of
business community, and it has evolved into one of the most
Table 4 provides the overview of CONNECT
including its organizational status, source of revenues and main achievements.
This paper seeks to understand the creation, evolution and functions of CONNECT, as an
exploratory case study. It
draws on the literature on the role of intermediate organizations in
creating industrial clusters and stimulating their entrepreneurship. The main research question,
how CONNECT, as an intermediate organization,
, evolved and been
engaged in creating a
in San Diego
. This study draws on an interpretive
case study, which involves narratives and interpretations of interviews and historical archives.
Along the way, this research aims to provide a storyline, which
help policymakers understand
how a networking organization could be built and play its role in developing an industrial cluster.
It aims to deepen understanding on cluster supporting organizations or networking platforms
drawing on the case of CONNECT.
In 2010, CONNECT received the Innovation in Economic Development Awards by the U.S. Economic
Development Administration (EDA) under the category of
Innovation in Regional Innovation Clusters
San Diego and CONNECT were featured in T
magazine (Katz, 2010) as a case
CONNECT is the benchmark for 41 similar programs around the world (Global CONNECT, 2010).
any regions and nations are eager to build organizations like CONNECT as a facilitator
of industrial clusters or a catalyst for economic development. According to Feldman and Lowe
(2011), 42 states have embarked on economic development initiatives with qua
organizations. These initiatives to experiment technology
based economic development
strategies with quasi
public organizations or programs have resulted in building up the following
platforms: Ben Franklin Partnership by the State of Pennsylvani
a, Colorado Advancement of
New Bioscience Initiative by the State of Colorado, Kansas Bioscience Initiative by the State of
Kansas, and North Carolina Biotechnology Center. However, compared to the rise of interests
and investments in cluster stimulating o
rganizations, the literature has not paid enough attention
to the functions and pathways of intermediate organizations (Feldman & Lowe, 2011). Although
CONNECT is a unique organization functioning and having grown under a particular regional
s study seeks to provide implications to policymakers in constructing functional
intermediate organizations for their own economic development, and broadens the horizon of
literature on the cluster
nurturing intermediate organizations.
Industrial Clusters and Intermediate Organizations
Organizations in Nurturing Industrial Clusters
Even though, Marshall (19
did not give specific accounts on the function of
intermediate organization, it is meaningful to overview the development of concepts on
Marshall's (1961) concept of industrial districts intended to explain
ic principles of
agglomeration of interrelated companies
, which he
Different from the above mentioned inte
rmediate organizations, CONNECT was founded by a
university (UCSD) funded by its local business community. It is an independent non
funded mostly by its member fees and operated by its board members.
the localization of industry
. With regard to the causes of the localization of industry,
Marshall identified three factors: natural advantages, political leadership and
Along with the combination of the three factors,
Marshall (1961, p. 271)
learning process in the industrial districts, which fuels the formation of startups and stimulates
About one century later
Europe, a group of scholars and policy practitioners were
involved in developing a
regional innovation systems
, as a
theoretical and policy framework to understand and nurture regional economies.
at the sources of regional economic
lie in its innovative capacity
built on the combination of
infrastructural and institutional environment, and how regional
capitalize on their
system. The concept of
national innovation system
also attributes economic prosperity at the
national level to
institution and structure
for fostering invention and
& Maskell, 2000).
identified two factors as the
underpinnings of the
generation and development of
industrial districts: static economic gain
at lower costs;
originating from more
knowledge spillovers, and
A group of scholars attribute the dynamics of industrial clusters to the social process of
learning by interactions and doing
(Amin, 1999; Cooke, Uranga & Etxebarria, 1998; Morgan,
he group of researchers argues that
social process of learning and innovating depends on
. In this regard
, robustness of entrepreneurial and innovation activities is, to a
dependent on how
regional institutions and strategi
favor or deter the social
learning and collaborating process.
Among a wide array of case studies on industrial districts, research by
has significantly contributed to shifting attentions to social institutions from economic
Her primary inquiry was to explain why
was able to fuel
region had lost its dynamism from the 1980s. The
answer, according to Saxenian, was the presence of network
based industrial system in Silic
Valley, which facilitated knowledge spillover and social learning. Compared to Silicon Valley,
the closed corporate structures and autarkic culture in the Route 128 region deterred local
companies from absorbing
and adapting to the ever
Saxenian’s perspective goes along with
Lee, Miller, Hancock and Rowen (2000
Cohen and Fields (1999)
Castells and Hall (1994)
in their emphasis on the
s and Hall (
1994, p. 234) emphasized the role of intermediary
s for cluster development and
concluded that "without an innovative local
supported by adequate professional organizations and public institutions, there will be no
As the literature acknowledges, intermediate organizations such as trade
associations, professional groups and networking programs are an essential part or a
collaborative platform for multiple stakeholders interact (Cooke, 2001; Morgan, 1997;
1990; Sabel, 1982; Saxenian, 1994; Scott, 2006).
industrial district as a community with dense social relations built on social intermediaries.
However, a large pool of research papers does not pay much attention to the function and
effect of intermediary organizations. Even more, the terms for the local associations are not
decided in common. In Porter’s (1990) exploration on the formation of ind
ustrial clusters, the
role of intermediary organizations or public agencies remains marginalized.
Genesis and Growth of Networking Organizations
Regarding the creation or emergence of local institutions stimulating interactions, the
d be divided into two lines: the one that emphasizes that such institutions emerge
organically and endogenously; the other line of studies identified the cases which were designed
and nurtured by policy interventions.
The first stream of studies focused
on the interactions and exchanges of local actors
including entrepreneurs and venture capitalists. The networking and culture of collaboration,
according to this part of research, simultaneously emerge as participants share understanding and
ough frequent face
Saxenian (1994) attribute
the formation of
production models in Silicon Valley to entrepreneurial pioneers who worked under the early
cultural and geographic context of this region: freedom from conventional norms
During the decades of
1970s and 1980s, the creative reactions by high
companies and entrepreneurs to the rapidly changing markets and technological
environment shaped an idiosyncratic culture and
of Silicon Valley.
Davis, 2004), cofounder of Intel,
is in line with Saxenian’s perspective by contending that a
group of technology entrepreneurs at Fairchild Semiconductor created the springboard for the
Silicon Valley mode of collaboratio
The other line of studies gives more emphasis on the significant roles of intermediary
bodies and contrived efforts by the public sector. In the case of t
he Research Triangle Park in
is generally recognized as the product of intervention
s by mediating
the Triangle University Center for Advanced Studies
collaborations between local universities,
and the North Carolina Biotechnology Center
critical in nurturing
Feldman and Lowe (2011)
chronicled the engagements and supports of the statement government in structuring the
Biotechnology Center of North Carolina: the statement government’s initial funding of a few
thousand dollars, its efforts for structurin
g an organization and its ongoing supports for the center.
Some studies on the early development of Silicon Valley give credit to the role of the
federal government and Stanford University.
, p. 50
wrote, for example, that
f Defense was the original
of Silicon Valley
Scott (2006) also drew
attention to the roles of local governments in
tech industry: the one is creating
innovative urban environment with the development of science parks or special econ
other one is to support regional businesses by building infrastructures, providing tailored
services and arranging public institution
local firms tap into. Am
ong significant players,
public agencies and trade associations
could be an important constituent of the collaborative
system by establishing
social ties and trust
as they promote interactions and engagement.
However, compared to the role of intermediate organizations in formulating and
maintaining the social networks
an innovative local society
, the emergence and evolution of
such organizations have not drawn enough scholarly attention yet. In many ways, it is still little
known how intermediary bodies emerge and operate to fulfill the role of networking and
nating multiple actors in their regional context. Indeed, it is still controversial whether a
regional network system evolves organically or could be formulated by policy interventions.
Furthermore, there is little consensus in the literature concerning t
he role and contributions of
intermediate organizations in developing high
tech industrial centers.
This study draws on data from interviews, archives and field observations. This study
involves a large body of narratives from interviews and archives, which provide detailed and
specific accounts by the participants and stakeholders of the historical proc
ess. In other words, I
on people’s experience, and their accounts of experience represented in narratives and
narratives represent how
people make sense of
the social world and their
Skőldberg, Brown & Horner
mainly seeks to construct a conceptual
to explain the rise of
an organizational structure
the construction of
through exploring the complexity and dynamics of a single phenomenon (Eisenhardt, 1989; Yin,
In this regard,
chose one locality
its networking program,
not only to explore the
development of CONNECT,
but also to
shed light on the
emergence and role of networking programs or organizations in shaping industrial clusters and
their social institutions.
In conducting this research,
the main focus was to understand the
emergence and contributions of intermediary bodies
like San Diego’s CONNECT under the
historical and social contexts.
on and Analysis
The author utilized three types of data; interviews, field observations and archives. I
conducted 43 in
depth interviews with biotechnology entrepreneurs
, venture capitalists,
academic scientists, technology transfer officers, angel investors, affiliates of networking
organizations like CONNECT. All interviews lasted more than thirty minutes, and were recorded
for complete transcription with one exception.
The interviewees include the current CEO of
CONNECT, four out of seven co
founders of the program, and one staff member who was
involved in organizing it in the early years. Most interviewees have been engaged with
CONNECT in various ways such as entrepre
residence and board members, thus
virtually all interviewees provided valuable experience and insight on the organization.
In addition to interviews, the study involves field observations on events or meetings of
San Diego community
to 2010. Most events observed were hosted by or affiliated
with CONNECT. Those field participations include events like
Connect with C
networking event, in 2008
Most Innovative New Product Awards (MIP)
has been held annually
to recognize the endeavors and contributions of the
in 2008 and 2009.
The experience of participating dozens of such events
provided contextual understanding on the community and opportunities to build rapport with
Another source of data was archives, mostly newspaper articles and historical records
ious organizations. Every edition of two local newspapers, San Diego Tribune and San
which merged in 1992 as San Diego Union
from 1983 was searched.
Another part of archives was collected from a weekly business journal, San Diego Bu
In addition to these local journals,
several other periodicals
Diego Metropolitan Magazine, and Xconomy San Diego
on the technology industries
, to name a few.
research, a large part of data collection, analysis and writing was
conducted iteratively. The analy
process often redirected foci of interest, which resulted in
revising interview questions,
interviewees and realigning efforts of collectin
archival data (Corbin & Strauss, 2008
Yanow, 2006). New concepts and feelings
during interview meetings or field observations were written as memos
and often they
developed into diagrams
Snow, Anderson & Lofland
chronicled events and accounts into each category, and added analytical
memos for the emerging ideas or concepts. On the one hand, the theories have guided the data
collection and analysis
on the ot
her hand, the data rejuvenated
interest in the
(Corbin & Strauss, 2008; Glaser & Strauss, 1967).
In sum, it was this iterative process
which led to the understanding and creation of concepts in this study.
Creation and Contributions of
Shift: From Recruiting to Home
the local government and San Diego Economic Development
Corporation (SDEDC) focused mainly on attracting large companies and research consortia, and
they paid most
attention to expanding
the military base,
which was their main economic engine
at that time
To achieve this goal, local governments and
business community led their efforts by
advertising and marketing San Diego.
Despite these efforts,
without any substantial tradition of
resources for a self
economy. San Diego, as a journalist wrote, was "in a sense a third
world colony of the
big financial and corporate interests with their home
base elsewhere in California, in other parts
of the United States, or abroad
" (Fredman, 1984)
he civil and business community initiated communal endeavors to locate consorti
1985. In 1984, SDEDC led a communal effort
Productivity Consortium (SPC)
was a joint venture of thirteen aerospace companies to
boost computer technologies by combining their capacity and resources. SDEDC and the region
that the consortium could be an anchor drawing the par
ticipant companies to San Diego
as well as a nursery
for spinning off
the consortium went to
at the end, mainly due to its proximity to Pentagon
SDEDC set their sights on another conso
In the following year, SDEDC with the support
of the city government and UCSD
another initiative to lure the Microelectronics
and Computer Consortium (MCC) to San Diego.
also went elsewhere
mainly due to
s state government's pledge to build world
class R&D capacity at the
University of Texas (Castro, 1985b).
In the following years, San Diego still kept its efforts to
bring outside enterprises into the region.
SDEDC and the local
commenced an endeavor to attract another research consortium, the Semiconductor
, which also turned out to be another failed endeavor.
In addition to the bitter experiences, San Diegans began to realize the challenges of
the cost of doing business in San Diego exceeded
most competing regions
were eroding as more regions were
innovation capacities such as universities and
to these reasons, the
by SDEDC failed to bring in any company in 1984, and
turned out to be disappointing through the mid of 1980s
). The CEO of SDEDC,
Daniel Pegg, noted the difficulties
ut they don't
locate here for various reasons. There
include possible water shortages, the cost of housing and utilities, etc
becoming more competitive by building up their academic base and infrastructure too. Almost
every week a raider from oth
er states comes here trying to lure our business away"
ailures to attract research
consortia and established firms from outside in the mid 1980s
were critical to turning attention and strategies to nurturing startups
lowly began to
recognize the importance of home
grown high technology and biotechnology
companies, as indicated in
account: "There is recognition that if San Diego is
going to continue to grow in terms of jobs, then the growth will come f
rom businesses that are
started and built here" (Perry, 1987)
Instead of spending energy on attracting large companies,
and the local community began to focus on creating a platform for nurturing local
founder of CONNECT,
Eger & Walshok, 2008
) recalled the new
at the community began to enact:
I think what we understood in San Diego 25 years ago, a lot of other communities are only
now beginning to understand is that
you can build a robust economy on small compan
You don't just have to have big companies and that knowledge is what's gonna drive new
forms of economic development… What San Diego did was it realized the future was in
the small companies, and it realized that you had to link all these wonderful re
from the military, the university and elsewhere with entrepreneurs and investors. And we
created a new economy.
In addition to the importance of locally driven entrepreneurship,
the local people
realized the importance of partnership between
academia and industries
, and the role of a
research university in promoting technology
, CEO of SDEDC,
noted, "the lesson that the community learned from losing the MCC was that it had to pull
together" (Innovation Associates
Inc., 2000, p. 40)
David Hale, president of
, which was the first biotechnology company in San Diego
, commented: "The
community has realized that for San Diego to attract high
tech companies there needs to be a
concerted effort among i
ndustry, academic and business interests" (Castro, 1985a)
academia and public leaders reached a consensus that they could build a prospering economy by
nurturing a mass of small biotechnology and high technology companies. They turned their
ntion and resources to enabling and encouraging entrepreneurs and scientists to nurture
Additionally, a group of entrepreneurs were inspired by the evolution of Silicon Valley
with its high
technology entrepreneurship during their trips to the b
ay area. Learning from these
experiences and insights, civil and business leaders in San Diego
began to understand that the
community should build up leadership and partnership to
in the region
address by an entrepreneur is
illustrative of the appreciation: "If we are to create Silicon Beach,
we have to generate a community commitment backed by the technology and the educational
base that already exists here" (Berger, 1984a)
a New Platform for
1985, a series of communal efforts were embarked
to support small high
technology and biotechnology companies.
As one of these efforts, CONNECT was conceived
and constructed, mainly, to foster interactions between indu
stries and academia. D
uring a series
of discussions to locate
participants recognized that the university and
industry were separated from each other
, and they needed to be bridged
. Daniel Pegg
said of the recognition:
of that competition for MCC, came recognition that we really didn't have the
connection to our university resources. We needed to bridge between the private sector and
the university. The concept was to help bring the university leadership, internal talent
the scientific resource together with their counterparts in the private sector.
Pegg did research on
how to capitalize on research universities
discussed with Atkinson, then chancellor of UCSD,
how to con
university with the local industry.
the initial discussion with Atkinson
in an interview
"we sat down with and discussed with Dick Atkinson
who was very open and receptive to the
a group by asking "some of hi
s key staff to explore a proper route for
the university to assist in reinvigorating the regional economy" (Walshok, Furtek, Lee &
Windham, 2002, p. 36)
The group held a series of discussions to find ways to facilitate the
interactions between UCSD and in
recounted the process of initiating a
We got together, and discussed different possibilities and different ways to approach the
issue and to finance. It just grew from there. Then, shortly after, we had an initial c
and it was
in great part
the work of Mary Walshok and those who originally sat around the
table and discussed the issue.
They started contacting local business leaders and scientific entrepreneurs like Irwin Jacobs,
founder of Linkabit and Qualc
omm, and Ivor Royston
, founder of Hybritech
. According to
(2002, p. 36), "one
one interviews and round tables yielded a number of
creative ideas about how the university and the community could collaborate on this issue." Out
the staff had contacted, thirty responded. Based on the discussions and 17
company sponsors, a new program was embarked
with $75,000 seed funding (Castro, 1985a;
Irwin Jacobs, founder of Qualcomm and also one of the cofounders
explained why he and the business community participated in and led efforts of launching a new
At the time, it was a lot harder to start a company here in San Diego. There weren't many
people: some defense companies here, but the ba
nks, the lawyers and the accountants
weren't used to be here.
There was a need for a community of support, a whole eco
It was useful having a community of support. Some folks at UCSD also were
thinking along the same line and suggested that we s
tart an organization to do this. So, I
that and put together CONNECT.
importance of the
up approach of the new
he core ideas and values came from the local people, and the organizers a
were mainly composed of scientist entrepreneurs and local businessmen
, as she explained:
wasn't governments, it wasn't professors of business, it wasn't outside experts. It was the local
community organizing and taking
arly entrepreneurs who were so
William Otterson joined the program as an executive director in 1986.
developed solid management knowledge
and expertise based on his own business
He emphasized that the program should
be a stepping stone for
scientists by linking them with the resources and expertise of
. During the
early years, Otterson focused on enlisting and encouraging experienced executives to work with
ntrepreneurs who had not gained solid base of experience.
He also led efforts to promote
collaborations between research institutions. An interviewee described Otterson’s efforts and
capacity in this way:
Before joining C
ONNECT in 1986
, William Otterson was already recognized as a successful
entrepreneur: He turned around the almost bankrupt company, Cipher Data Products, the maker of
magnetic tape peripherals for computers, while serving as the CEO, and took it public in 1981. Later, h
led Lexocorp, a word processor manufacturing company. He also served as a member of boards of
He served as the director of CONNECT until he died of cancer in 1999.
As entrepreneurs and startups formed, he had them
talking to each other and
collaborating. He was also very successful in engaging research institutes to collaborate
Bill Otterson Biotech Letter
which was faxed weekly to the local business
community. The newsl
important part of the community
which made sure
ing on and recognize successes
came from the business community
including its sponsors and members, while the involvement
of UCSD was
participation in the program's scientific board of advisers (Rose,
1989). The organization began to institutionalize its efforts of linking startup entrepreneurs with
resources and veteran entrepreneurs. They
be engaged with individuals with
entrepreneurial passion and technological expertise, as presented in Table 5.
: Historical milestones of CONNECT
and Activities of CONNECT
In the early phase
Meet the Researchers
experiences of entrepreneurs. In
the following year, CONNECT launched an award cerem
ony, the Most Innovative Products
The ceremony, in words of an early staff,
to "let people know about the
innovations that are taking place" and to "give
the inventors some recognition
" (Douglass, 1988)
In 1989, in response to a
suggestion of David Hale, C
started the San Diego
Biotechnology/Biomedical Corporate Partnership Forum (Kupper, 1998). Selected life sciences
companies could present their
to a group of invited investors of
anies, investment bankers and venture capitalists.
In 1990, CONNECT took
charge of t
he San Diego High Technology Financial Forum
, which had been originally started by
a group of service providers in 1985 to boost investments in local technology
by inviting investors to a 2
day presentation event. .
At the beginning, the participants did not expect that the program would be the incubator of
a stream of startups and collaborative initiatives. What the business community initially expected
ith the program was to increase its local visibility
David Hale stated:
The program is not necessarily going to cause companies to be successful or not be
successful. But it will create a good environment for high tech in that it can be a
establishing an image across the country that San Diego is a good place for
high tech. That's going to be very worthwhile to attract new people and benefit those
companies already operating here. (Castro, 1985a)
n 1994, CONNECT
expanded its activity
launched its flagship program,
Springboard Program, as a platform linking a group of veteran entrepreneurs with newcomers.
give short presentation
to a panel of experts, which
obstacles and opportunit
ies, and provide
Through these engagements
s or scientists become
with seasoned entrepreneur
for six to twelve months (Chamber, 2007). Particularly, this program has helped scientists
hnological expertise but lacking experience in business
turn into entrepreneurs: t
introduced to the community of entrepreneurs and investors through this program as well as
stock of business knowledge.
One of the early staff (interview)
, who had
worked to formalize Springboard
told the key
impact of the Springboard
create and maintain the network of people:
What we were doing at the Springboard program with early stage entrepreneurs was
getting everybody around the table to help t
hem think through the process and talk to each
other. The people met each other across the table at the program, and it made sure that
they had a very well networked community.
a line of programs, the novice could become a member of the
which they would
and on which they would draw resources.
programs appear in Table 6 with their beginning years.
: Primary Programs of CONNECT
In addition to the programs, CONNECT and Otterson created a space where industry,
academic and public people could interact with each other. Through the programs of CONNECT,
the participants learned how to collaborate to achieve mutual goals.
To be more, t
and encounters at CONNECT resulted in forming a
of networking and
Contributions of CONNECT
to Stimulating Local Entrepreneurship
The efforts and activity of CONNECT and its leadership have been one of the mo
fundamental factors which turned a
sleepy navy town
into one of the most vibrant biotechnology
technology centers. The impact of CONNECT goes beyond providing business services
to individual companies; the program has been the anchor of collabo
rative efforts and
interactions of the local community since its establishment. In other words, the program has not
only been critical to helping entrepreneurs and academics embark on their own ventures, but it
has also been influential in creating the reg
ional governance system for entrepreneurship and
According to a series of reports, which trace down local startup activity, a continuous
number of technology startups emerge in San Diego, as shown in Table 6. The impact of
CONNECT in stimulatin
g entrepreneurship and, in the end, transforming San Diego into a
entrepreneurial region, could not be quantified, but it has played a pivotal role as evidenced by
the literature (
Smilor, O’Donnell, Stein & Welborn
Walcott, 2001; 20
and a stream of narratives of interviews and archives. The CONNECT’s
conduits for promoting entrepreneurial dynamism include its engagements in constructing a
collaborative community, connecting academics with entrepreneurs and organizin
g resources for
: Startup Activities of San Diego
First of all,
created a sense of community
and build a social capital foundation
on which high
technology cluster can emerge. It
has also played as a repository and activator of
shared meanings. Because most entrepreneurs have benefitted from activity and advocacy of
CONNECT and Otterson
during the 1980s, many of them would be willing to make
contributions to the community. A ventur
of his motivation of participating in
programs like the Springboard Program
n my case, my companies and personally I benefitted a lot from C
. Especially, in
the very early days of Corvas when the community wasn't as large as it is
today, and it
wasn't as strong, we really did benefit from that association… I wanted to take some time
off to be involved with the community.
for its role of resourcing
more importantly, it has
been a plat
form for organizing talent to facilitate
learning process at the
accounted for the role of CONNECT:
If you look at C
's programs, you see how everybody who participates in the
ecosystem. It's always lea
rning new things. There is much more shared knowledge about
new economy strategies, opportunities and challenges, and lots of trust and familiarity.
What we call in sociology
Lots of scientists know attorneys,
and lots of marketing people know chemists and biologists before they do a
they ever work together officially to grow a company. And I think that
the secret of C
CONNECT provides the space and creates the cause where many volunteers
and mingle with entrepreneurs
. Every year, CONNECT organizes a few hundreds of
events and initiatives that connect local entrepreneurs and celebrate their
convening the entire local community.
Second, as originally envisioned, CONNECT worked as a catalyst for transforming
invention into innovation. It has successfully bridged between the local industries with academic
institutions and boosted
commercialization of academic research.
People on the industry side
began to visit the UCSD campus to
the programs of CONNECT. CONNECT
series of seminars
where academic and industrial scientists presented their discoveries to public.
ONNECT staff (interview),
described the impact of the program:
We got hundreds of people from the community into those events. That opened up what
academics were doing, what were happening in the business community. It also soon
networked more people from the research side with people from the business side. It was
ening the door.
Various activities organized by CONNECT helped open the gate of the university to the
local community, and it also contributed to exposing faculty to the
a line of
CONNECT helped people
from one side know, understand and trust people from the other side. The familiarity, trust and
shared knowledge have been pivotal in starting university
industry partnership initiatives as well
Third, CONNECT has been critical in creating and attracting business resources.
mean venture capital, angel funding and specialized services
name a few
are a crucial factor for fueling
As the region in the
1980s lacked the venture capital funding, angel investments and other specialized business
services, CONNECT focused on attracting business resources from outside by hosting events
like San Diego Technology Financial Forum. As
narrated by startup entrepreneurs, the
opportunities of meeting and pitching to venture capitalists from Silicon Valley and other regions
were the most significant source for attracting investment funding. Even to date, a part of
CONNECT’s efforts is conce
ntrated in attracting and organizing resources from outside,
although the focus has shifted to networking and learning (see Table 5).
Another channel for attracting and creating business resources was to provide space for
interactions and learning to entr
epreneurs. Most specialized practitioners like patent attorneys,
public relations personnel and real estate developers developed their skills and expertise by
participating in events hosted by CONNECT and by engaging with entrepreneurs. As an example,
Diego has a solid base for angel investments due to the organization of the San Diego Tech
Coast Angels, which is affiliated with CONNECT in various ways. Many members of this
organization came to and settled down San Diego due to the robust interactions a
entrepreneurial activity, of which CONNECT has been a critical component.
Fourth, CONNECT has been the nursery of a number of trade associations, research
consortia and local initiatives. As the regional high
technology and biotechnology sectors
ed and diversified, trade associations and networking organizations have spun out to
provide tailored services to their member companies (see Table 7 for the list of such
organizations in San Diego). These local organizations or programs were created by CO
or, at least, were affiliated with CONNECT. For example,
, which, as pointed out in
the previous chapter, was organized in 1991 as a trade association of biotechnology industry,
been another nexus of interactions
. According to Joseph
, CEO of B
this trade association hosts about 100 events each year to boost face
CONNECT and BIOCOM, organizations
the San Diego Tech Coast Angels
CleanTECH San Diego and
the San Diego Venture Grou
p have been
another channel for
engagements, interactions and participations.
CONNECT was involved in embarking on
collaborative research initiatives like the San Diego Center for Algae Biotechnology and the
Sanford Consortium for Regenerative Medicine as
a catalyst. These initiatives have been critical
to promoting collaborations between local research institutions and universities.
Trade Organizations & Networks Created by or Affiliated with
5. Conclusions and
CONNECT was the product of a communal paradigm shift and collective actions of local
leaders both from public and private sectors. It took years for the local community to understand
the need to nurture startups and to establish an organizati
onal setting where people could interact
with and encourage each other. After the establishment of CONNECT, it took another several
years before the program developed its initial line of programs. As accounted in the previous
chapter, the development of a
networking organization was not straightforward, but it involved
series of improvisations and improvements.
Most of all, m
uch of CONNECT’s success is attributable to the extraordinary
commitment of Otterson and its cofounders.
He worked with local trade g
roups in their efforts to
change the attitudes and routines of the university and the City of San Diego
for entrepreneurship was
not sufficiently accumulated. A journalist of San
Tribune described Otterson’
s role as follows: “
As the longtime director of UCSD
Connect, Otterson strived to create a supportive community for biomedical researchers,
engineering professors and other aspiring entrepreneurs unsure how to turn their ideas into
companies" (Bigelow, 199
. An entrepreneur, David Hale, president of Hybritech, also
remembered Otterson’s contribution:
He made it a cause celebre to be a supporter of the high
tech industry. When I first got
here with Hybritech, there wasn't anybody around who cared about bio
tech or knew
about anything about it… Back when biotech was nothing, Bill was able to get the
lawyers and the accountants and the other support people to get behind us (Bigelow,
In this sense, at the very beginning phase of cluster development, pol
give more attention to leadership and commitment. An innovative and collaborative medicating
organization like CONNECT is not the product of legal or financial ingenuity, but that of a long
term devotion and engagements of participants and
stakeholders. In building the leadership team
of intermediate organizations, it should be taken into account that leaders constantly
communicate with the private and public sectors.
succeeded in building a social community of shared knowl
Through its many programs, veteran entrepreneurs meet young entrepreneurs, and they
engage in discussions and workshops. These daily interactions and conversations around
entrepreneurial endeavors have produced a set of shared values and no
rms. Since all participants
stand on shared interests, values and practices without bureaucratic interference or control, they
could have created
learning and supporting community. To create collaborative culture and a
solving platform, face
ace meetings and daily interactions are essential. Networking
meetings like a beer party or an award ceremony are not a waste of time or money, but a
platform for social interactions.
Third, although it is not sufficiently discussed in this paper, the
biotechnology cluster of
San Diego and CONNECT case show that t
he resurgence of San Diego's economy reflects the
importance of growing small enterprises and startups
. These companies are firmly
rooted in the local environment,
players of sharing understanding and
Once the number of home
grown companies reaches a critical mass, virtuous circles
of accumulation might take place. It implies that c
ountries and regions
physical infrastructure and a
ttracting large corporations
need to shift their attention to
startups and connecting them.
In sum, the early momentum for CONNECT came from the paradigm shift of the
community, which turned its attention to the locally emerging star
tups and entrepreneurship. T
case of the San Diego biotechnology community and CONNECT reflect what Florida (2002, p.
xxiii) pointed out: “growing a creative ecosystem is an organic process,” and “the solution lies in
the hands of each region
in the kn
owledge, intelligence and creative capacities of its people.”
To build up a productive networking organization should involve participation and engagement
from multiple communities of a
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Overview of CONNECT
501c6 trade organization(CONNECT Association)
501c3 charitable foundation(CONNECT Foundation)
1985* (As Part of UCSD Extension)
501c6: About 80 Board Members
501c3: 14 Board Members
Executive: CEO & President
About 20 Staff
Around $3 million
Sources of Revenue
Membership dues, Sponsorship, Ticket &
Table sales, Grants from
Assisted to more than 3,000 companies in attracting $10
billion investment capital
Having been benchmarked by about 50 programs
About 500 Entrepreneurs
Residence & Domain Expert
* In 2005, CONNECT
) and Other Sources
Milestones of CONNECT
Description of Event & Programs Launched
EDC failed to locate Software Productivity Consortium(SPC)
EDC and the local community failed to attract Microelectronics and
‘San Diego High Technology Financial Forum’ founded by local
‘MIT Enterprise Forum’ launched partly by MIT alumni to give experts’
by UCSD and business leaders including
Atkinson, Walshok, Pegg and Jacobs (with the name of ‘Program in
Technology and Entrepreneurship’)
William Otterson joined as founding director
‘Meet the Researchers and Meet the Entrepreneur’ program
‘San Diego Technology Financial Forum’
‘Most Innovative New Product Awards’
‘Biotechnology/Biomedical Corporate Partnership Forum’
Launched Athena, a networking platform for female executives
Springboard program began
Director, Fred Cutler, inaugurated
Director, Duane Roth, inaugurated
Converted into an independent non
Started ‘CONNECT Innovation Report’ to trace down startup activities
Opened its Washington D.C. office to
raise interest on innovation &
), CONNECT Celebrates 25 Years of
Innovation(a booklet published by CONNECT) and Other Archival Sources
Programs of CONNECT
oaching and mentoring
to startup entrepreneurs
Technology Transfer Roundtable
Forums and assists to facilitate
Platform to attract research institutes
Showcases of early
to invited investors
Education series on financial issues
CEO Strategy Forum
Education series on
day curriculum for business
Frontiers in Science &
Presentations of scientific discoveries
to business community
Connect with CONNECT
Entrepreneur Hall of Fame
Recognition of community leaders
Most Innovative New Product
Ceremony awarding newly developed
CONNECT Innovation Report
Tracing down startup & innovation
* It started in the name of “
Meet the Researchers and
Meet the Entrepreneur” in 1986
) and Other Archival Sources
San Diego Start
up Companies 2007 to 2011
CONNECT Innovation Report
Trade Organizations & Networks Created by or Affiliated with CONNECT
Arena & Members
Biotechnology industry (biotech companies &
San Diego Software
CommNexus San Diego
Diego Telecom Council’)
Angel investors (affiliated with CONNECT in
Wireless Life Sciences
Wireless health industries
CleanTECH San Diego
Green energy & environment industries
SD Sport Innovators
) and Other Sources