Building the next generation of diverse innovation leaders


San Diego has a genuine opportunity to build a more robust, diverse, and inclusive innovation region for generations to come. For Connect, this is the launch of XEO.

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The XEO Objective

Diversity in the innovation economy needs to happen at all levels, and we all know that cross-functional know-how coupled with a strong professional network can help talent soar while contributing to the company’s bottom line. This program is designed to provide these key tools to individuals that you want to retain, grow and contribute to your company’s success now and in the future.

Driving Innovation

For 35 years Connect has been an innovation instigator cultivating San Diego’s life science and tech communities. Connect’s team and trusted advisors have done what seemed impossible years ago: helping startups raise over $9B in 2021, reaching a new record high for venture capital dollars invested in the region. As we continue to build on our previous success, our priority remains advocating for diverse talent across the region to ultimately ensure we’re propelling our community forward.

Diversity unlocks innovation and drives economic growth.

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The XEO Program

The XEO program starts again in March 2023 and runs every other week for 4 months with a hybrid model of in-person and virtual experiences, including site visits to innovation companies throughout the region along with access to our organization’s networking and innovation events.

Who is the XEO Program designed for?

  • Mid-level managers from across business functions.
  • Emerging leaders from underrepresented backgrounds.
  • High performers looking to further develop their leadership skills.

Program Highlights

  • Real learning from insights directly shared by CEOs across multiple subject areas & site visits around San Diego for a firsthand glimpse into our region’s innovation.

  • Tapping into Connect’s expansive 30+ year network including C-suite individuals from growing, cutting-edge technology and life science companies.
  • Experience campuses across various industries, including Therapeutics, Genomics, SaaS. Cross-industry exposure will help participants bring back solutions from new experiences.
  • An opportunity to build the personal and professional networks of talented diverse employees. Meaningful connections in the workplace encourage professional support, career growth, and strong mentorships.

Program Sessions

Session No. Topic Date Time
Session 1 Welcome XEO Class and Goal Setting March 16 2pm – 5pm
Session 2 Applying Design Thinking to your Life March 23 2pm – 5pm
Session 3 Get out of your comfort zone! Building a Growth Mindset April 6 8:30am – 12pm
Session 4 Understanding Cross-Functional Perspectives to Harness Your Leadership Potential April 20 2pm – 5pm
Session 5 Exploring Global Innovation & Diversity Locally May 4 2pm – 5pm
Session 6 Building Generational Wealth in Innovation May 11 10am – 12pm
Session 7 Let’s celebrate YOU and the completion of this transformative journey – XEO Graduation June 1 9am – 12pm


Program Outcomes & Benefits


An understanding of the issues, impacts,
and implications that will influence the
future of the innovation ecosystem
five, ten, and thirty years from now.


Access to leaders that are
driving the future
of the San Diego
innovation economy.


Develop the tools to build
a growth mindset.


More access to peers,
mentors, and allies
across the
innovation ecosystem.


Practice harnessing the
value of diversity and
bring it to the workplace.

The Alumni 40X Factor

Alumni networks change the world through giving back to the next generation of innovation leaders. A participant’s network grows by 40X factor on day one and continues to grow exponentially over time. XEO alumni are forever connected.

XEO has a long term play:
Quality people. Mission driven. Leaders. Big network.

By building an effective framework for alumni to collaborate, other regions can join to grow and expand the network globally.

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This program is made possible by in part by the generous support of the Legler Benbough Fund at the San Diego Foundation.

San Diego Foundation XEO Connect San Diego
XEO 2022 Companies Connect San Diego


Who is XEO designed for?
  • Mid-level managers from across business functions 
  • Emerging leaders from underrepresented backgrounds 
  • High performers looking to further develop their leadership skills
  • Employees positioned for personal and professional growth and would benefit from further mentorship
Is there a cost to participate?

XEO Total cost: $3,000 per participant
Connect Annual Sponsor cost: $2,000 per participant
Payment due: prior to program start 
Terms: Tuition is non-refundable

Can I sign up individually or through my company?

Both are fine options – If your company has a diversity officer, this would be great to share with them.

How many employees can we send?

In order to ensure diversity across organizations and industries in the cohort, a maximum of four employees per company can be accepted into the program.

When does the next session start?

Connect’s XEO sessions will begin in March 2023 and are held every other week on Thursday for 3 hours, alternating sessions in the morning and mid-afternoon. The sessions are held over a four-month period from March through June.

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Join us.

Together, we believe we can create what we envision. We believe that the strategies we drive today can make a positive impact on our future. Reach out to learn more about the XEO program and give us your ideas for building the best inclusive community in the country.

Have Questions? Contact Strategic Inclusion Director, Regina Bernal <>