For Alexa-Rae Navarro, the new Executive Director of Startup San Diego, it’s a homecoming of sorts. An experienced networker and startup strategist, she is poised to lead by example – only just recently introduced to her creative team of volunteer leaders. “This is a team of Rockstar’s,” says Navarro. “I want to understand the power and depth of the people powering this innovative organization.”

She feels that developing personal relationships is critical for her to get a sense of the overall impact of the organization. “I want to absorb the organizational culture like a sponge,” she explains. “I want to take on new challenges and old pain points and overcome any existing barriers. Figure out what has worked, what hasn’t worked, and develop solid long-term objectives. I want to discover a path to keep Startup San Diego evolving the local entrepreneur community and helping draw more tech and talent to the area.”

No doubt planning the annual San Diego Startup Week as well as helping fundraise through local events and meetups will keep Navarro moving toward her goals. Her strategy for the work ahead – team building and values alignment – creating a thriving community and helping grow it. “I want to ensure missions are aligned,” says Navarro. “I am here to amplify the efforts of an amazing team, working together to scale our non-profit and take on bigger challenges.”

1. Tell us a little bit about yourself?

My name is Alexa-Rae Navarro and it’s great to be here in San Diego! I am a UCSD Alumni, but spent the last 8 years in Los Angeles, most of my time immersed in supporting the tech and startup ecosystem. I was the Sr. Managing Director of the Bixel Exchange Center for Innovation & Tech at the LA Area Chamber of Commerce. The Bixel Exchange connects talent to opportunity through entrepreneurship and talent development. Through its core programs, the center has provided 600+ predominantly underrepresented entrepreneurs with one-on-one mentorship and helped them to collectively raise $30+ million in investment! San Diego has always felt like home to me and I’ve been waiting for the perfect opportunity to make a positive impact in my own backyard.

2. What is it that makes the San Diego market so attractive to entrepreneurs and young startups?

Well for one, it’s the best place to live, work, and play in SoCal! I think SD Life Changing said it best, “In San Diego, we work for and create cool companies that believe in changing the world. We’re finding cures for diseases, improving communication around the world, brewing America’s finest beer and doing it all while surfing on our lunch break. Life in San Diego is constantly evolving. There’s always a new challenge to solve and a new cold brew to try. Here, “changing the world” isn’t just a pipe dream – it’s reality. You can upgrade your day-to-day while being part of something bigger. That’s Life. Changing. That’s San Diego.”

Of course, things like weather, quality of life, physical space, are all factors in driving entrepreneurs to start companies where they do, but talent–it’s everything. Between all of the local universities (UCSD, USD, SDSU, and Diego & Imperial Counties Community College Association (SDICCCA) and investment that’s coming to the ecosystem to build healthy talent pipelines, the region is going to thrive!

3. What is Startup San Diego and how can local entrepreneurs and startups get involved?

Startup San Diego is a 501c3 non-profit that serves as the front door and gateway to the San Diego startup ecosystem. We are a platform to connect our local tech community to the right ecosystem resources, networks, and support institutions. We envision a thriving and inclusive regional innovation economy. An ecosystem rooted in community, collaboration, and giving back. We envision San Diego as a truly global hub for innovation.

We connect, educate, and inspire founders and local talent to grow San Diego’s startup ecosystem through San Diego Startup Week, Convergence, 1st Mondays, & 3rd Mondays. If you’re interested in engaging with us, I encourage you to come experience one of our events! San Diego Startup Week is a great way to experience the full SD Startup Ecosystem.

4. Since this month’s focus is Productivity and Goals, what methods do you deploy for setting realistic goals for yourself, and how do you stay productive during busy and or stressful times?

Meditation is key. I cannot stress enough the importance of mindfulness and mental fitness training. Meditation helps me to be a more centered and self-aware leader. It brings clarity and enables me to be much more present, productive, effective, and ready to solve whatever the universe decides to throw at me.

My Google calendar base structure – I have a lot on my plate, but I’ve scheduled out my calendar daily — by the minute– with various time blocks to ensure that I keep myself balanced, on-task, and accountable. For example, I schedule a time for things like meditation, childcare drop-off, emails, development lunches, call/meeting blocks, and most importantly uninterrupted focus time.

My entire team is shared on my calendar as well to ensure transparency and awareness of what my day-to-day looks like. Now, am I perfect? Do I always stick to the schedule? No! But it keeps me focused and guides me throughout all the “crazy” of running a non-profit organization.

5. How has being a member of Downtown Works helped you grow professionally?

I am brand new to the community so TBD on personal and professional development! DW has been an integral Startup San Diego Partner for years. Their support has been pivotal in helping facilitate community programming and scaling the organization.

6. What is one piece of advice you would give someone just beginning their startup business?

I’ll give you three. First, know your “why” and be able to clearly articulate it! Second, be ready for a 24-7 hustle. Sometimes entrepreneurship can be lonely, so be sure to find your tribe and network of support. Lastly, know your strengths and areas of growth. Be able to identify what resources and people you need to take your idea or company from 0 -100!

7. Where can readers find out more about Startup San Diego and how to get involved?

LinkedIn or Twitter! The best way to contact me is through the San Diego Startups Slack.


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