Meet the Chairman of the Board

Feb 1, 2023

Hear From Connect’s New Chairman of the Board!

Eric Otterson

We are so appreciative of the time and effort that gets put into being the Chairman.
James Mackay was the previous Chairman of the Board and continues to champion Connect at every turn.
We look forward to having Eric serve and hope that you enjoy learning a bit more about him.

Web Graphic Eric Otterson Connect San Diego

As the managing director of Silicon Valley Bank, Eric Otterson works closely with high growth companies to provide strategic direction and connect clients with financial, legal and strategic resources that fuel their growth. He has close relationships with angel investors, venture capitalists and private equity firms as well as industry leaders to help bank clients. Otterson is a serial entrepreneur, who has launched three venture capital-backed companies. The largest, eAssist, raised more than $60 million to support its international expansion. It sold to Talisma in 2006. He co-founded Startup San Diego, a volunteer network of entrepreneurs who provide coaching and contacts for sales and financial backing.


How did you first become involved with Connect?

My father, Bill Otterson was a co-founder of Connect along with Irwin Jacobs, David Hale, Mary Walshok, Buzz Woolley, Dick Atkinson, Dan Pegg, Bob Weaver, and Lea Rudee. I have been involved in some way or another with Connect since returning to start my software career in San Diego in 1997.


What are three things from your past that you are most proud of?

  1. My wife, Benedicte, for whose patience, support and trust I am deeply grateful, and my kids!
  2. In my prior career as an architect, I worked on a project highlighting the 1993 inaugural, international freight flight from Los Angeles to Petropavlovsk, Russia on the Kamchatka Peninsula.  We coordinated a significant art exchange, exhibiting over 200 pieces there and in Palos Verdes, and an exchange program in which 30 students from the US exchanged with 30 from Russia to experience each other’s homes for 10 days.
  3. Working closely with Mike Krenn, Tim Scott, James Mackay and many others on both boards who patiently trusted us to help merge SDVG and Connect.

What’s a mistake you made early on in your career, and what did you learn from it?

I have been fortunate in that my mistakes, though many, have been small….usually the result of either not having taken the time to listen to the “other side” to better understand their perspective, or from being time compressed or overly optimistic and not having fully vetted out possible outcomes. I am still learning the importance of keeping emotions at bay when making decisions, and the benefits of “proper, prior, planning [in] preventing piss poor performance!” (British Army 7P’s)


What excites you most about working at Silicon Valley Bank?

The People. Both the clients, I get to work with exciting founders working on the most innovative ideas, and the team; SVB is a special culture, despite having grown into an international bank serving entrepreneurs worldwide, we have been able to maintain a collaborative, family feel to the team.


What was the best advice you’ve ever received? Who was it from?

The most valuable advice, really a skill, I received from Tom Heinsheimer, Chief Scientist, member of the Interplanetary Society, world traveler and ‘super pressure balloonist’. Tom taught me to write. Specifically, to draft over and over, to hone down and clarify the ideas being communicated. Wain Fishburn of Cooley reinforced this, paraphrasing Blaise Pascal, saying: “If I had the time to do it over again, it would have used fewer words”


What do you think makes San Diego such a special place?

It’s people! San Diego entrepreneurs have a leg up. They have an awesome talent pool built from our educational institutions: UCSD, SDSU, USD, CSUSM and PLNU; they have mentor support from our business groups like Connect, Biocom, and Startup San Diego; they have early-stage investment support from NuFund, Ankona, Longley, Alexandria, Avalon, and Domain; AND they have CONNECT, who’s programs like Springboard, Cool Companies, and Venture Summit bring together executive peers in the innovation space with the VC and private equity firms that fund them. Once they grow, our programs like XEO, focused on the acceleration of diverse talent, and Five•Ten•Thirty engage employees across the corporation and elevate the brand.

Here at Connect our mission is to help San Diego’s incredible startup companies grow and succeed. We hope you enjoyed reading this check-in and if you or anyone you know might be a good fit for Cool Companies, applications are open until February 20th.