The Importance of Collaboration: Lessons Learned from 1MC San Diego, California

In this 1 Million Cups Series, I will be highlighting 1 Million Cups (1MC) cities across America to learn how their 1MC operates, and provides support for entrepreneurs and their respective startup communities. In this city spotlight, I find out what’s brewing in San Diego, California.

Read my previous city spotlights on 1MC - Des Moines, 1MC - Delaware, and the National Growth of 1MC. See all 1MC-related blog posts here.

Photo courtesy of 1MC San Diego via Facebook

I recently interviewed Robert Conrad, one of the lead organizers at 1 Million Cups San Diego, about the history and operations of their program. Robert, along with fellow colleagues at Co-Merge Workplace, started the 1MC program in San Diego in the fall of 2013. Robert listed three main reasons that drove him to start a 1MC chapter.

    1. To establish a national presence for the San Diego startup community
    2. To become more connected with cities that have the 1MC program
    3. To be more connected with the Kauffman Foundation.

As a partner at Co-Merge (a co-working space in downtown San Diego), Robert naturally spends a lot of time networking for his job. He realized that 1MC presented the opportunity to funnel his networking efforts back into the startup world and provide the startup community with a valuable resource. Robert mentioned growing the ecosystem and providing entrepreneurs with an event that’s easy to commit, due to its consistency and timeframe, as his two favorite aspects of 1MC.

Entrepreneurs in San Diego have been utilizing this resource ever since its inception. 1MC San Diego has on average 40 people a week attending their program, which is currently hosted in the Procopio Law building in downtown San Diego.

Find out what keeps entrepreneurs caffeinated in San Diego, in the transcript, lightly edited for clarity, of my interview with Robert Conrad:

What have you learned from being an organizer?

I’ve gained a lot more respect for budding entrepreneurs. It takes an entrepreneur with a lot of guts to get up and present their ideas to the community.

There are different challenges presented by organizing in a larger market, such as San Diego. There are a lot of support organizations and educational offerings for entrepreneurs in the area so it can be a challenge to get out there each week to find companies to present. To get around this and create a strong program each week, we’ve created strong connections with partner organizations and our core group of audience.

What do you think has made 1MC San Diego a success?

There are three things that have made 1MC a success in San Diego: 1) Partnerships with local organizations, 2) strong group of organizers and 3) catering our event to the local ecosystem. We have partnered with every type of entrepreneurial organization from accelerators to law firms to schools.

A strong organizing team has been essential for 1MC San Diego. We’ve had good changeover of the organizers over the past few years. It is good to switch things up time to time to keep things fresh and keep energy high on the organizing team. 

We’ve seen more success when we spend time together as an organizing team to find more partners, companies by meeting weekly for 15 minutes after each meeting. Also, to ensure that we have our bases covered, each organizer is responsible for one of the four roles: venue and set up, processing the companies, finding the companies, and marketing.

We try and cater and represent our local startup community as much as possible. We do this by consistently having non-profits come through the program at least once a month. Also, because San Diego is a military town, we try to have as many veterans present as possible.

What events/organizations do you partner with in San Diego?

We really started to have success when we started tapping into other groups with captive audiences. We share contacts and pipelines of companies from all these following organizations; EvoNexus (incubator), King Chavez School

Procopio Law, Co-Merge (co-working), Geek Girl (education), CONNECT, Qualcomm Accelerator, Startup Weekend and TechStars.

1MCers, what community collaborations work in your area? Share in the comments below.

Learn more about 1MC - San Diego and join the conversation on Twitter.

Read my previous city spotlights on 1MC - Des Moines, 1MC - Delaware, and the National Growth of 1MC. See all 1MC-related blog posts here.

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colin tomkins-bergh

Colin Tomkins-Bergh is a research analyst in Research and Policy for the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, working to evaluate the effectiveness of entrepreneurial ecosystems following the Great Recession and performing research around the Ag Tech sector.