At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I continue to be blown away by the entrepreneurial resources in the greater San Diego community. This past Wednesday, I attended an event put on by MIT Enterprise Forum San Diego – it was titled “Tech Fiesta” and featured a competition among some of San Diego’s hottest up-and-coming tech companies. The event took place at the Salk Institute – literally across the street from the Rady School of Management. The student price of admission was only $15 – more than 75% off the general public ticket price of $65. There were so many powerful people in attendance that I can’t even begin to explain it. And in case you couldn’t tell, I’m already looking forward to the next event on June 19th: “Spuds, Pivots, Exits–and Beer: A Retrospective.” Here’s some highlights from the Tech Fiesta..
The first hour was an open networking session, with a classy selection of appetizers and a cash bar. Each of the ten companies that was presenting later that evening had a table set up where you could walk up and talk to the CEOs about their company – very informal. There was open seating for people to get to know one another. Unlike events I’ve been to in the past, where “networking” actually ends up being small clusters of conversation between people that already know each other, the attendees were actually eager to expand their professional circle. You could sit down and ask a stranger, “So, what do you do?” – and 15 minutes later you’d be exchanging laughs, business cards, and personal stories.
Following the networking was the presentations portion of the evening – moderated by David Titus, President & CEO of the SD Venture Group, and founder of Silicon Valley Bank. The CEOs that presented their companies weren’t pitching for capital, they were all rather well-established firms that were competing for audience votes. The awards included “Company I Want to Have a Beer With” & “Coolest. Company. Ever.” Two companies that I found extremely compelling were Mogl (‘Eat Out. Cash In.’) and Pure Forge (‘We Make Metal Tougher.’). It was interesting to see these established CEOs deliver 3-minute pitches – and to hear the expert panelists critique them on various points. It was a real-world application of the tools the Rady curriculum teaches in its Lab to Market series – and Professor Del Foit was in attendance!
After the pitches, audience members were able to vote through a web app. Awards were presented, jokes were made, and the event dispersed back into the foyer for coffee, desserts, and additional networking. I was able to chat up the CEOs that had presented just an hour earlier and ask them follow-up questions on their companies. I can’t make it any clearer – the MITEF events are phenomenal networking opportunities for an MBA student. And the dessert bar was to-die-for (I’m a sucker for a good cookie). I hope this encourages some of you to check out the event in June – I’ll be there for sure.