Yes, it’s a cliché, we are all very looks conscious in Southern California…well, not the scientists as much. What we do care about, however, is communicating with our local peers, allowing the science, people, and the biotechnology industry to flourish. Recently, two San Diego-based marketing professionals, Mary Canady and Todd Backus, formed a group called the San Diego Biotechnology Network (SDBN), which utilizes both online and face to face networking to connect biotech professionals. Mary (author of this post) has a been a member of the San Diego biotech community since 1997, and is the founder of Comprendia, a marketing consulting firm specializing in the needs of small to mid-size biotech companies. Todd drives strategy and execution of marketing and public relations campaigns for Blue Horse & Trumpet marketing/communications, and he is also a Board Member for the High Tech Marketing Alliance. Together, Mary and Todd have developed the SDBN, combining the power of online networking, allowing people to easily connect, with casual events which allow people to interact and build stronger relationships. Part of the strategy is also to foster networking at each event by holding casual get-togethers with a high percentage of scientists in attendance. In addition, a new or exciting company will be featured at each event, allowing the community to learn more about the technology and team behind it, as well as to help the company gain exposure and meet prospective employees.
The first SDBN event was a happy hour held November 11th, and attracted more than 100 attendees from the local biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies, as well as several of the research institutions and universities. SDBN was fortunate that Sapphire Energy, a very exciting biofuels company, was the featured company, and more than 15 of their employees attended the event, facilitating interesting discussions, as many are eager to hear about the company and the technology. The event was covered by Xconomy, which provides a voice to the “exponential economy” of fast growing technology regions. The feedback from the event was very positive, with several people saying that they had “made more useful connections at the event than they ever had before.”
Before the event, a group was set up on the professional networking site LinkedIn, and attendees were encouraged to join, allowing them to easily connect both before and after the event, as LinkedIn groups facilitate networking among group members. This new type of “Networking 3.0″ is more powerful than either online or face to face networking alone, and the SDBN organizers believe that it will eventually stimulate growth in the region. Other industries have more fully embraced social media, realizing the importance of personal networks in defining not only individual career paths but the growth of the industry.
However, there are a growing number of social networks that have been started for scientists. SDBN-type networks could either be formed in other biotech hubs through regional groups formed within these networks or through existing “face to face” groups moving towards more fully embracing online networking tools. We think that the SDBN will augment the thriving and dynamic San Diego biotechnology industry, which currently includes drug discovery, life sciences, green technology, diagnostics, and medical devices (see the SDBN directory for a listing). If these types of networks “catch on,” the result could be an “Extreme Makeover” of the Biotechnology industry as a whole, allowing us to build and utilize our networks to make important connections, share information more completely, and to ultimately make more advances in science at a time when they are so desperately needed.