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The Big Picture San Diego Blog


World Trade Center San Diego

June 5, 2017

San Diego knows how to build companies that the rest of the world values. Case in point: Last month, El-Cajon based Calbiotech, a diagnostics company, was acquired by EBRA Mannheim, a medical device manufacturer based in Mannheim, Germany.

In 2016, Calbiotech was part of MetroConnect, World Trade Center San Diego’s flagship export assistance program. As part of the 2016 cohort, Calbiotech received financial and programmatic resources to support their plans to expand internationally.

Calbiotech has a global footprint of more than 200 products, which are distributed to 60 countries worldwide. With the expansion announcement, Calbiotech will maintain its footprint in San Diego because of the access to key reference labs and other biotech customers throughout the region. It will also serve as ERBA’s hub and gateway to the Latin American market.

The company was referred to the MetroConnect program by Jo Marie Diamond, head of the San Diego East County Economic Development Council. “I’ve been working with Calbiotech for years,” said Diamond, “They are representative of everything positive about the San Diego economy – a focus on innovative products, a strong sense of commitment to the community, and an incredibly grounded and highly diverse team.

We’re excited to hear of Calbiotech’s next step and were very impressed with the company during their time in MetroConnect”, said Lauren Lindner, director of World Trade Center San Diego who oversees the MetroConnect Program. “Their team was incredibly savvy in their rollout to international markets, and we’re not surprised to see that a leader like ERBA took notice.”

San Diego, and specifically East County, have been an integral part of the Calbiotech success story,” said David Barka, Vice President. “San Diego is home to companies that are leading the world in innovation in science and medicine. Being in San Diego gave us access to an amazing talent pool that really helped our company grow.”

The acquisition will help Calbiotech increase access to markets across Europe and Asia add to EBRA’s extensive and far-ranging product portfolio.

M&A is an important growth strategy and capital source for San Diego companies. According to a 2016 EDC study, nearly 70 percent of San Diego’s capital in 2015 came through M&A.

Calbiotech’s acquisition mirrors the region’s strengthening ties with Germany, including the announcement of Condor’s new direct flight to Frankfurt, Germany, which began operation on Monday, May 1.

Financial details of the acquisition were not disclosed.

Applications for the MetroConnect 2017 round are now open. To apply, click here.

May 11, 2017
This week, World Trade Center San Diego and UC San Diego’s School of Global Policy and Strategy (GPS) welcomed Alan Beebe, President of the American Chamber of Commerce in China, for the third and final Global Forum program of the year. The event was held in the Harbor View room at Tom Ham’s Lighthouse.
 
The presentation focused on the findings of the 2017 China Business Climate Survey Report, released by the American Chamber of Commerce. Alan Beebe provided insight on the obstacles American companies face in China today, and how these obstacles are leading to adjustments in strategy for the future. Following the presentation, Mr. Beebe was joined by Dr. Karl Gerth, Chinese Studies program director at UC San Diego for a moderated Q&A session.
 
Sponsored by Bank of America, the Global Forum initiative offers GPS’s high-profile, visiting scholars a chance to address the region’s local business community.
 
March 29, 2017

In preparation for BIO 2017, Biocom and World Trade Center San Diego developed a digital platform to help facilitate meetings between inbound delegations and local organizations. The website collects key data points such as size of delegation, country of origin, industry of interest, plans for future investment and more. The tool connects delegations to the appropriate representatives and provides companies and institutions a resource to vet inbound delegations and more efficiently allocate their time. Check it out at discoversdbiz.com.

March 27, 2017

World Trade Center San Diego and UC San Diego's School of Global Policy and Strategy (GPS) jointly launched its 2017 Global Forum programming in February. The initiative, sponsored by Bank of America, offers GPS's high-profile, visiting scholars a chance to address the region's local business community. The first Global Forum program of 2017 featured the Former Minister of Foreign Affairs in Japan, the Honorable Yoriko Kawaguchi. Topics included the future of the U.S.-Japan relationship in a post-Trans Pacific Partnership world, the diplomatic relationship between the two countries and more.

See more from GPS.

February 16, 2017

Content pulled from a piece in the San Diego Business JournalVAVi Faced Its Own Obstacle Course
 
EDC investor and recreational sporting events organizer VAVi Sport & Social Club was looking to make a big splash at its first major international competition: a 20,000-person obstacle course and race in Sydney, Australia. Little did VAVi know its shipment of inflatable obstacles would present its own set of obstacles.  
 
The company loaded its $1 million worth of goods into shipping containers, set to arrive a month before the event. Complications arose in South Korea when VAVi’s equipment was unloaded and seemingly forgotten about on storage docks. This is when EDC came in… 
 
Having been a part of the 2015 global export assistance program MetroConnect, VAVi CEO Steve Stoloff called on EDC and the organization’s World Trade Center team to leverage its international network for support. EDC staff contacted the U.S. Commercial Service – the trade promotion arm of the U.S. Department of Commerce – to ensure the forgotten equipment would be loaded onto another boat bound for Australia. Staff also reached out to contacts in Sydney to coordinate on-the-ground transportation from Brisbane to Sydney, since this new boat would no longer be porting in Sydney. 
 
And it didn’t stop there. EDC’s board of directors stepped up to the challenge. Helping recover some of the money lost in the fuss, Linde Hotchkiss, managing partner at the global risk advisory and insurance solutions firm Willis Towers Watson, counseled VAVi on the qualms of international shipping and helped facilitate an insurance claim.
 
With all hands on deck, VAVi received its shipment and salvaged the prominent event – saving one-fifth of the company’s yearly projected sales. This is not simply a company story of overcoming obstacles in going global, but of the collaborative nature of San Diego’s business community. This is who San Diego is.
 
January 30, 2017

By Nikia Clarke, executive director of WTC San Diego and Peter Cowhey, interim executive vice chancellor for Academic Affairs at UC San Diego
 
During his first week in office President Trump made many bold moves, including an executive order to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a call to renegotiate NAFTA, and a threat to impose a 20 percent border tax on Mexican imports to the United States following a very public spat with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto. 
 
Trade matters for economies, big and small. For a border city on the edge of the Pacific, decisions on trade policy in Washington have outsized impacts on jobs, growth and opportunities for San Diegans. 
 
Take TPP — an international trade deal originally negotiated between the U.S. and 11 other countries, covering 40 percent of global GDP
 
Right now, the status quo makes it more expensive for U.S. companies to export to other countries than it is for foreign companies to sell goods and services here. TPP sought to level the playing field, especially for the small and midsize companies that make up more than 95 percent of San Diego’s business ecosystem. 
 
It also was the first trade deal to write the rule book for the economy of the future. It protected the intellectual property of American innovators, which matters when you live in the third most patent-intensive region in the world.
 
Scientific research and development, the heartbeat of our world-renowned life sciences ecosystem and an industry dependent on patents, is five times more concentrated here than in the U.S. as a whole. 
 
TPP eased restrictions on the movement of data and services across borders, which is important when you have a globally competitive cybersecurity cluster and revolutionary big data and genomics industries.
 
In San Diego, innovation is our livelihood, and TPP would have been a game changer for all those San Diego companies that export their knowledge across the globe. Killing TPP effectively cedes leadership on trade rules and norms to China, an outcome that is unlikely to be advantageous for U.S. companies and consumers.
 
And don’t forget that 97 percent of our goods exports — primarily high-value manufactured goods worth over $22 billion — are already sold in TPP markets, employing over 120,000 San Diegans. Most of those goods are exported to Mexico, sometimes crossing the border several times before they are fully assembled. This means that 40 percent of the content of imports from Mexico — the ones subject to a potential 20 percent tax — is American-made.
 
As we pivot from what could have been with TPP and look to NAFTA renegotiation, to building a wall, to a looming trade conflict with China, we should remember that trade has always been an American reality. 
 
Here in San Diego, we marvel at the transformation over the past 50 years from a sleepy Navy town to a global city that develops life-changing technologies. We didn’t get here by building walls, and we won’t get ahead that way either. 
 
 
This op-ed originally ran in the San Diego Union-Tribune: "Trump's trade moves impact San Diego economy"

For more more on TPP and San Diego, see WTCSD's economic impact report.

January 20, 2017

From 2025 to 2050, the 65-and-older population is projected to almost double to 1.6 billion globally, whereas the total population will grow by just 34 percent over the same period. With this, it has become increasingly important to support our aging population, with health and wellness among top priority.

San Diego medical technology company and 2016 MetroConnect participant AVACEN Medical has developed technology to help ease some of the common ailments afflicting seniors. The AVACEN 100 is an FDA cleared, over-the-counter medical device that provides non-invasive, temporary arthritis and muscle pain relief, and muscle relaxation. Using microcirculation enhancement on the palms, the locally-made device helps warm and thin the blood, thereby dissipating heat throughout deep tissues and relieving joint pain associated by arthritis, muscle spasms, sprains and more.

Taking this San Diego-made technology global, the AVACEN 100 has just received the CE (Conformité Européenne) Mark approval to treat widespread pain associated with fibromyalgia. The CE Mark allows AVACEN to market its AVACEN 100 to the European Union's 28 member countries where many prescription drugs, available in the U.S., have been rejected by regulatory officials for treating fibromyalgia pain.

Founded by Tom Muehlbauer in 2009, AVACEN’s revolutionary technology was originally developed to help alleviate his sister-in-law’s chronic pain. The company currently sells in two countries, with plans to expand into 10 more over the next year (thanks in part to the CE Mark). Sales have climbed to more than $1.5 million, with more than 20 percent of the sales coming from international markets.

October 17, 2016


By Nikia Clarke, director, World Trade Center San Diego

WTC San Diego was on the road again last week, joining Biocom, UC San Diego and four San Diego life sciences companies for BioJapan in Yokohama. Yokohama is San Diego’s sister city; a lovely port city of 3.7 million people—and Japan’s second largest metro—that often gets lost in the shadow of nearby Tokyo (sound familiar?). Yokohama was an auto manufacturing and export capital, and in the words of city officials, “home to the very first Japanese auto company: Ford motors.” As much of that manufacturing moved to lower cost destinations in Asia, Yokohama has had to pivot towards more knowledge-intensive industries like ICT and life sciences. I toured several research spaces and innovation houses in which the city government has invested to support these new industries.

Yokohama and San Diego will celebrate the 60th anniversary of the sister city relationship in 2017, with a visit from Mayor Hayashi. I carried with me this time a letter from San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, celebrating this relationship as both sides look to build upon long diplomatic relations with more robust business and commercial exchange. 

A quickly-growing gateway into the Asian life sciences industry, BioJapan 2016 hosted 800 companies, 15,000 visitors and was sponsored by big San Diego employers like Takeda, Ajinomoto, Kyowa Kirin, Chugai and J&J Innovation, among others.

Japan is the second largest pharmaceuticals market globally after the U.S., and is also San Diego’s second largest source of foreign investment. 'Asian multinationals have been shifting significantly from legacy industries into new growth verticals: Ajinomoto moving from food additives to pharmaceuticals; Samsung exploring biologics, precision instruments and wireless health; and FujiFilm expanding from cameras to vaccine manufacturing.

However, as Takeda CEO Christophe Weber shared in his keynote, the majority of big discoveries in this space are being generated by startups and SMEs, which is why aligning corporate capital and strategy with venture-fueled innovation is essential for the future of the global life sciences industry. This is where the opportunity for San Diego lies.

San Diego does innovation very well, which is why BioJapan is a great opportunity for partnering and sales opportunities for local companies targeting Japan. Companies like Organovo, a San Diego company that “bioprints” human tissue, traveled to Yokohama for partnering meetings. Founded in 2007, Organovo now employs more than 100 people and is trading on the Nasdaq.

Even as new trends and technologies change the industry in both Japan and San Diego, it is clear that the importance of relationship building remains paramount. Biocom has made a long-term investment in the region, and has cultivated a widespread respect for the California life sciences ecosystem. Biocom now has 40 member companies in Japan, and on this trip signed an MOU with the Kobe biocluster and opened a Biocom Japan office; its only presence outside the U.S.

UC San Diego has similarly focused on Japan, opening its own office in the prestigious Nihonbashi life sciences building in central Tokyo earlier this year, and building robust industry and university research and training collaborations across Japan, in everything from medicine to robotics to entrepreneurship.

As Biocom continues to build bridges between global life sciences clusters, and UC San Diego reinforces them with world-class research alliances, WTC San Diego’s objective is to build the sustainable infrastructure to move companies across those bridges, through export programs like MetroConnect, and the creation of innovation investment networks.

In 2016 we have participated in a Technology Symposium, spoken to 400 investors in three cities about opportunities in San Diego, and partnered with JETRO to connect MetroConnect companies to business opportunities in Japan.

As always, increased collaboration globally—especially in our most competitive and high-growth sectors—amplifies our outcomes for the region as a whole, creating jobs, opportunities and connectivity. Luckily, collaboration is something San Diego does well

October 3, 2016

San Diego’s thriving tourism and life sciences companies are often in the limelight. However, there’s one industry that had an economic impact of over $14 billion in 2012 alone and has significant regional impact: maritime. Maritime technology, or bluetech as its otherwise known, is an increasingly important part of San Diego’s business ecosystem and includes sub-verticals such as desalination tech, fish hatchery solutions and robotics.

San Diego-based Ocean Aero is one such company in this rapidly growing space. Ocean Aero – inventor and producer of the Submaran™ S10, an impressive autonomous underwater vehicle that can move both above and below the ocean’s surface – is a cutting edge example of the innovation emerging from the sector. Eric Patten, Ocean Aero’s president and CEO, believes San Diego’s unique blend of intellectual capital make it ideally suited for producing something like the Submaran: “San Diego is a maritime town and therefore has a lot of the talent and expertise required in building a unique hybrid ocean observation vehicle.”

It seems only a natural fit that Patten dove into the maritime industry, after serving as a U.S. Navy Captain for more than 25 years. Patten brought with him a passion for the ocean when he joined the company in early 2013 shortly after its founding in December 2012, hoping to develop the next generation of underwater autonomous vehicle (UAVs). Patten has not only put Ocean Aero at the forefront of UAVs, but has also, alongside his talented team, developed a complementary digital platform that can serve up unique analytics and insights across a variety of applications.    

Ocean Aero has already experienced some noteworthy success in its relatively short lifetime, as the company signed a multi-million dollar two-year contract with the Department of Defense in 2015. Building on top of this momentum, Ocean Aero was then selected as a winner in the Aerospace, Security, & Cyber Technologies Category at CONNECT’s 28th Annual Most Innovative New Product Awards. Patten now plans on expanding globally with a focus on markets such as Japan and the United Kingdom.

“We are specifically targeting the scientific, commercial, academic and government markets. These are very broad markets but they are global markets – which is why an international presence is absolutely important to us,” said Patten.

 

The success of small- and medium-sized businesses is critical to the region’s future, and increasing their global reach is crucial to that success. Through the MetroConnect Program, companies such as Ocean Aero are to be awarded a $10,000 grant provided by JPMorgan Chase to assist with their international efforts, as well as additional support services including: a dedicated trade and investment manager at WTC San Diego to support company participants in deploying overseas strategies during the grant period; access to workshops that address export compliance, financing and fundraising and global marketing; reduced airfare on Japan Airlines direct flights from San Diego to Tokyo; free access to SYSTRAN software for website translation and customer service needs; and consideration to compete for an additional $35,000 during the MetroConnect Grand Prize Pitchfest in November 2016.

September 30, 2016

As part of the 2016 MetroConnect Program, WTC San Diego hosted two workshops to help the current cohort of 15 companies learn the ins and outs of going global.

The first workshop was hosted by East County-based Taylor Guitars. Leadership from the company spent time discussing topics related to exporting: how to choose export markets, compliance, export basics, how to get paid and more. Here are a few things we heard and learned along the way:

It’s not all about widgets! Technically, there are actually two types of exports:

  • Physical Export – goods physically go out of country
  • Deemed Export – release of controlled technology to foreign persons in the U.S. are "deemed" to be an export to the person’s country or countries of nationality

Your responsibilities as an exporter can seem daunting. Two core things to keep in mind:

  • Know your foreign buyers – end users/uses; screening lists (parties of concern); Foreign Corrupt Practices Act
  • Know your products – restrictions for transport; country restrictions by tariff or sanction; permit or licensing requirements; controlled or prohibited items

The second workshop was hosted by Qualcomm Ventures (QCV). Representatives from QCV discussed ways participants can seek funding to expand their international presence and capabilities. In addition, individuals from the Export-Import Bank and Silicon Valley Bank were in attendance to discuss other creative ways to finance export opportunities.

Key insights from the Qualcomm Ventures workshop:

  • Whether you’re asking for a loan or pitching for venture capital, be confident, skip the nebulous marketing-speak and “don’t be weird." Metrics matter when banks and funds make choices on who to finance, but personality can (and often is) a factor.
  • Small businesses that are having difficulty finding sales insurance through a traditional channel should consider the EXIM Bank. EXIM’s specialized credit and loan programs help ensure that SME’s looking to go global have access to the resources they need in order to confidently kickstart their export activities.

Another major takeaway from these efforts was just how incredibly supportive the local business community is. Taylor Guitars and Qualcomm Ventures have given a significant amount of time and energy to these MetroConnect activities, and we are thankful for their stellar efforts.