Executive Director


Compensation: $85,000 – $95,000 DOE/neg. + 50% performance incentive, in addition to healthcare and 401(k)
Location: San Diego, CA
Reports to: Board of Directors (9 members)
Direct Reports: 1 part-time Finance/Admin and 6 Volunteer Team Leaders


Our Story:

Startup San Diego is at the center of our region’s innovation economy. We are a grassroots nonprofit organization focused on building an inclusive environment for entrepreneurs and innovators to learn, grow, and connect. Our services include networking events, educational opportunities, and online resources. We help curious entrepreneurs “take the leap” to start new ventures and also provide support and connectivity for existing and high-growth organizations within the ecosystem. Startup San Diego collaborates with a wide range of partners within the startup environment to coordinate resources and avoid duplicative efforts.

Over the last 7 years, we have evolved from a handful of entrepreneurs to a fast-growing 501(c)(3) with 50+ active volunteers, a recognized brand, and widespread reach. In 2019, our annual flagship event, San Diego Startup Week (SDSW), attracted over 2,300 attendees from across the country and around the world. To accommodate our growth, SDSW has moved to the San Diego Convention Center and added events in Tijuana and Carlsbad. Our organization is driven by a committed Board of 9 Directors representing stakeholders across the ecosystem, including TechStars, the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation, Hera Hub, Accion, and Seismic. To learn more, please visit: www.startupsd.org


Startup San Diego seeks an experienced executive to lead the organization through its next pivotal growth stage. Working closely with the Board, the Executive Director oversees all areas of the organization’s efforts, including event production, funding strategies, volunteer management, and business operations. This person will manage an annual budget of just over $300,000 and supervise 6 Team Leads (volunteer positions), along with a larger base of 50+ volunteers supporting our efforts throughout the year. The new Executive Director must be an engaging, driven individual with proven relationship building skills and a strong passion for the startup community.

Priorities for this position include:

  1. Operations – improve and professionalize business processes, including volunteer management.
  2. Funding – enhance our revenue model to include philanthropy, sponsorships, and grants.
  3. Membership – develop recommendations for sustainable funding model (i.e. membership)

Duties & Responsibilities:

Event Production:

  • Design, manage, and execute our signature annual event, Startup Week SD.
  • Oversee all other events, including our college entrepreneurs event called Convergence, as well as monthly meetups, and our speaker series.
  • Increase attendance at all our events for both first-time and returning attendees.
  • Develop industry partnerships and secure event sponsorships.

Funding Strategies:

  • Expand and diversify Startup San Diego’s base of financial supporters.
  • Create and implement a comprehensive funding strategy.
  • Maintain strong relationships with current funders such as local government, foundations, corporate sponsors, etc.

Volunteer and Board Development:

  • Recruit, manage, and evaluate Team Leaders.
  • Partnering with the Culture Team Leader, oversee volunteer recruitment, training and retention.
  • Partner with the Board in the strategic planning process and work closely to ensure goals and milestones are met or exceeded.
  • Foster open and effective communication with the Board.
  • Assist in recruiting new Board members and oversee Board orientation and training.

Business Operations:

  • Work with the Board and Team Leaders to drive alignment around mission, goals, tactics, and organizational structure.
  • Assess our current business operations and workflow and implement best practices in nonprofit management.
  • Create “playbooks” for each of our events, as well as for the organization as a whole, to document our systems and processes.
  • Oversee the organization’s finances and present quarterly Board updates.
  • Work with Finance Committee to develop an annual budget and submit for Board approval.
  • Ensures compliance with federal, state and local reporting requirements.

Realtionship Building:

  • Build relationships with a wide range of partner organizations, further positioning Startup San Diego as the go-to resource for entrepreneurs and innovators.
  • Serve as the chief spokesperson for Startup San Diego, including public speaking and attending events on behalf of the organization.Use charisma and enthusiasm to recruit supporters, volunteers and funders.
  • Demonstrate an entrepreneurial mindset, plus a familiarity with and passion for the startup sector, to internal and external stakeholders.

Required Experience, Skills & Abilities:

  • Sectoral knowledge – prior work experience within the entrepreneurship, innovation, and/or economic development sectors strongly preferred.
  • Leadership – hands-on experience managing and engaging teams.
  • Managing complexity – demonstrated success working in a complex organization with multiple stakeholder groups (i.e. board, staff, donors, volunteers, local/regional/state/national partners).
  • Strategy – ability to balance strategy and execution.
  • Volunteer development – experience recruiting, engaging and retaining large cohorts of experienced volunteers across multiple teams.
  • Board relations – previously developed strong relationships with a board of highly engaged senior leaders, including reporting, advising and board member recruitment.
  • Fundraising – demonstrated experience driving nonprofit funding strategies, with success in developing new and innovative revenue sources.
  • Stewardship – hands-on experience developing relationships with existing funders while simultaneously expanding the overall donor base.
  • Foundation relations – experience winning and managing grants and contracts from multiple sources such as foundations and government entities.
  • Fiscal management – experience managing financial plans, forecasting, budgets, and utilizing QuickBooks.
  • Communication skills – written and oral, including strong listening skills and the ability to connect with and inspire a wide range of partners and stakeholders.
  • Public speaking and media relations – excellent public speaking and presentation skills; ability to passionately and effectively tell our story and inspire others to action. Enjoys public events.
  • Research and evaluation – able to effectively navigate data and strategic decision-making; analyze, understand and communicate legal, policy and legislative changes to stakeholders.
  • Compliance and QA – experience ensuring organizational compliance with federal, state, and local regulations, standards and best practices.

Leadership Attributes:

  • Clear passion for expanding economic inclusivity in the region.
  • Engaging, inspiring, and personable, with a commitment to thoughtful, inclusive leadership.
  • Doesn’t shy away from having tough conversations when necessary.
  • Puts the needs of the community we serve at the core of everything we do.
  • Ability to work well within the complexities of a grassroots organization.
  • Promotes a supportive culture, with a high level of volunteer engagement.
  • Skilled at organizational development – enjoys improving structure, processes, and evaluation.
  • Transparent leadership style; open to feedback and constructive criticism.
  • Demonstrates tact and diplomacy at all times.


Sarah Thompson, Director
Blair Search Partners

Blair Search Partners
550 West B Street, 4th Floor, San Diego, CA 92101