Join The Daily Transcript as we honor the recipients of this year's Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year Awards.
The number of startups in San Diego has been on the rise for the last five years, hitting a record 446 in 2014 according to Connect’s CEO Greg McKee. That upward trend is thanks in part to $805 million in venture capital money and $4 billion in private equity that was funneled into these burgeoning firms last year, but a wider and stronger network of support organizations also played a role.
Entrepreneurs make a difference. They not only have great ideas, but also the drive to make them a reality. They use their fresh thinking and hard work to create positive social change -- bringing new concepts and products to market, and creating jobs and wealth.
In Mayo Collaborative Services v Prometheus Laboratories Inc. (2012), the Supreme Court recited a two-part test for determining whether claims to diagnostic methods recite patent eligible subject matter. Step one whether the claim is directed to a patent ineligible concept, such as a natural phenomenon; and step two assesses considers whether the elements of a claim at issue are inventive such that they are sufficient to ensure practice of the claim is more than practice of the natural phenomenon. If the elements are deemed routine, the court concludes that the elements are not inventive.
After working in the travel industry since he was 23, Chris Lee created ACCESS Destination Services in 1999. ACCESS is a leading provider of group experiences at many destinations around the world. Lee pioneered a licensing approach to expand ACCESS, yet keep a strong local foothold. When the financial crisis devastated destination management, Lee repurposed extravagant corporate parties to community service events and established ACCESS as the leader in corporate social responsibility programs, which continues to this day.
Dr. Rich Heyman founded Aragon Pharmaceuticals Inc. in 2009 to focus on integration of new insights into molecular mechanisms of resistance in prostate cancer. He spun off Seragon Pharmaceuticals Inc. in 2013 to concentrate on the remaining breast cancer opportunity. Both companies are named after the two-letter hormone receptor codes his drugs target, and “gon” indicates how each drug works. Trained as a chemist and well-versed in scientific history, Dr. Heyman learned all the aspects of the industry, including how to raise capital, manage intellectual property and manage a business through a series of positions at small pharmaceutical companies.
After immigrating from Turkey, earning an MBA from San Diego State and assisting companies commercializing their technologies, Zeynep Ilgaz founded Confirm BioSciences Inc. in 2008. This self-funded company, which began in Ilgaz’s garage, manufactures and distributes home medical test kits, particularly instant drug test products for substance abuse. Now, Confirm Biosciences is a leader in substance abuse testing products, and their award-winning products can be purchased nationwide in chain stores, including Walmart.
While pursuing an MBA at UCLA in 2006, Ben Hemminger joined his sister-in-law, Sara, to expand her business of buying and selling Louis Vuitton bags on eBay. Running Fashionphile LLC from his home at night, Hemminger turned the company into the undisputed authority for making luxury handbags accessible. Realizing his business was the ultimate education, Hemminger left school after the first year. He focused on developing the Fashionphile brand, building a sales channel that includes a custom e-commerce site and aggregating a staff of experts to handle dozens more luxury brands. With Hemminger at the helm, this tightly run family company has organically grown to different locations within California.
Georgia Griffiths was the only woman in her graduating class with a major in mathematics. She continued to blaze a trail for women in the computer industry by eventually founding in 1989 what became known as G2 Software Systems. Using her experience in serving both government and commercial clients, Griffiths created a leading, innovative software implementation firm with large defense contracts. By rewarding employees for everything they do and keeping overhead low, Griffiths has led the company to double-digit growth over the past three years. G2 now boasts contracts supporting Seaport-e, submarine software for the Navy, defense travel systems and defense alert systems.
Mary Ann McGarry began her career with Guild Mortgage Company in 1984, advancing through the ranks to CEO. Armed with an expansive vision for the company, McGarry secured financing from a private equity firm and led a management buyout of the Guild’s founder in 2007. She emphasizes long-term stability and profitability over short-term gains. By creating proprietary IT systems, McGarry provides employees with the tools they need to succeed in a highly competitive industry. As a result, Guild has become one of the fastest growing independent mortgage banking companies in the United States.
William Siegel has spent 28 years at Kleinfelder, working his way up to CEO of this full-service, employee-owned, global engineering, architecture and science consulting firm, which is dedicated to solving the world’s most difficult infrastructure and natural resources challenges. In 2009, when the company’s key markets -- energy, facilities, government transportation and water -- rapidly changed due to the economy, Siegel led an aggressive effort to remake Kleinfelder for the new market reality. Departing from 50 years of tradition, the firm changed from being structured around individual regions and service lines to having today’s full-service, global, client-based structure.
Former Marine Corps Officer Bruce Hueners was hired to run failing Palomar Technologies, a wire and die-bonder equipment manufacturing business, in 2005. The Citicorp investor group that owned the company told Hueners he had to sink or swim. Hueners discovered the company’s fatal flaw had primarily been poor management, not the products, technology, people or service. Concerned Citicorp might take actions under duress and spotting an opportunity, Hueners gambled and led a successful buyout of the company using personal monies to make the purchase in 2008. Believing most difficult situations can be overcome with faith, hard work and endurance, Hueners got the company in shipshape: climbing out of debt to sustain profitability; achieving some of the best margins in the industry, restoring the image of the company worldwide, and repairing a fractured employee morale base. Since he took command, Palomar has seen steady increases in revenues and profitability.
In 2006, Lorne Polger and Mitch Siegler founded Pathfinder Partners LLC, a middle-market real estate fund manager. Polger had been running the real estate department at Procopio and Siegler was a partner with a national management consulting firm when they noticed that bank loan underwriting standards had deteriorated and many marginal commercial property investments were being structured with insufficient equity. At first, current owners and lenders didn’t see it that way, so Polger and Siegler were met with a lot of rejection. The relationships they cultivated during that time enabled them to eventually acquire many assets and build a successful track record, culminating in the raising of five broad-based Pathfinder Opportunity Funds and two additional specialized real estate funds. The firm has completed 76 acquisitions with 33 having gone “full-cycle” from acquisition to disposition.
As the eldest of 13 siblings, eight of whom work for him, Bill Keith is a born leader. When his father became very ill from skin cancer, 22-year-old Keith convinced his mom to sell the only piece of property they owned. In 2005, he used the money as startup capital for the bootstrapped family business, Perfect Bar. He took the family’s original, nutritional, all-natural Peanut Butter Perfect Bar recipe to another level by creating a line of refrigerated Perfect Bar flavors. Using an unconventional market strategy, he penetrated the crowded market and earned a distribution contract with Whole Foods. Recently, Perfect Bar debuted portion-controlled 100-calorie minis, as well as two new flavors.
Jeffery Sears and Jim Stuart founded PIRCH, a specialty retailer of premium appliances and decorative plumbing. It focuses on providing a highly immersive experience where customers can discover exciting new ways to feather their nests. Stuart came up with the concept, and Sears leads the day-to-day operations. When PIRCH’s first stores failed to ramp up as expected, Sears and Stuart conducted fours years of market and consumer research, culminating in the opening of the groundbreaking prototype store, which has won numerous retail and international design awards. Unlike its competitors, PIRCH competes in four distinct industries: plumbing, appliances, installation and warranty-service, delivering a guest experience second to none. PIRCH now generates tremendously high revenue per square foot, and luxury mall developers are offering them unprecedented incentives to open stores in their top properties.
JP McNeill and Nick Fergis formed Renovate America in June 2008. McNeill is the CEO and Fergis is the COO of this technology company, which provides financing for efficiency improvement projects for homeowners. Since no simple way existed for a homeowner to obtain financing for such projects, McNeill and Fergis created a new company in an entirely new industry. To develop its technology, Renovate America had to work with notoriously difficult government agencies and title companies that were resistant to change. They developed a software platform to link homeowners with contractors and financing options for home improvements that save water and energy. Now, a homeowner only has to wait seconds to see if they are approved for financing for a project, and Renovate America can prepare a property tax assessment within 48 hours to actually fund it.
In 2012, Jeffrey Church co-founded Suja Inc., which specializes in healthy, organic, non-GMO bottled juices. When restaurant and nightclub entrepreneur, James Brennan convinced Church to try a Green Supreme juice, Church was blown away by the taste. He figured if he liked it, anyone in America would, too. Brennan introduced Church to the product’s creators: Eric Ethans, a self-taught chef who crafts interesting combinations of fruit and vegetable juice with exotic ingredients, and his friend Annie Lawless, who grew up with celiac disease and had been supplementing her nutrition with fresh juice since she was a teenager. Together, the four of them created Suja. Church used his Harvard Business School degree and history of starting profitable companies to lead the company to large-scale success. Today, Suja is available on the shelves of multiple grocers and retail markets nationwide.
Mike Anderson founded Tealium in 2008 and has been its chief technology officer from the beginning. Tealium is a leading tag management and data distribution company. When the company lacked funding, Anderson turned to his former colleague, Jeff Lunsford, who became an angel investor and eventually CEO. Unlike other tag management systems, Tealium’s focus is on real-time customer data. Anderson brings his innovative ideas into the company through uncommon management structuring, being a traveling sales supporting technology leader, and by teaching employees to switch roles to fill any gaps to satisfy customer needs. Lunsford uses his business mindset to build the executive leadership team, create the company strategy and bring in venture capital funding. Under Anderson and Lunsford’s leadership, Tealium has more than doubled sales year after year and expanded globally.
After starting his own successful legal firm, Robert Hayes spotted great opportunity in the highly fragmented bail industry, so he established Two Jinn Inc., which acquired Aladdin Bail Bonds in 2004.
More than 90 percent of businesses in San Diego are considered small, and 1,100 of them showed up for Facebook’s "Boost Your Business San Diego" program Thursday to learn how the social media tool can be used to help them grow.