San Diego Sport Innovators (SDSI), a non-profit business accelerator focused on growing sports and active lifestyle companies, is now a free-standing organization independent from its parent company Connect, which focuses on the technology and life sciences space.

The announcement comes a week after sports and active lifestyle industry vet Bob Rief was named SDSI's executive director.

“This is a very exciting time for SDSI,” said NBA Hall of Famer and SDSI Executive Chairman Bill Walton. “Like so many other San Diego companies and organizations, Connect has always been there for SDSI, ready to offer support, assistance and anything else that we ever needed, every step along the way.  Connect has been instrumental in transforming SDSI from an idea into a standalone organization with 80 members strong and growing.  Thank you, Connect, for everything. I look forward to continuing my volunteer work for both SDSI and Connect. We love Connect!!! We love San Diego!!!”

SDSI is the only non-profit accelerator dedicated to driving the growth of Southern California’s sports and active lifestyle business community through business mentoring, access to capital and executive level collaboration. Under the guidance of its 40 Advisory Board members including executives from industry leaders SONY, Sun Diego Boardshops, VAVi, SKLZ, Road Runner Sports, Procopio, KPMG, AmericanWest Bank, The Irving Group and many more, SDSI acts as the collective voice, rising the tide of the SAL industry and demonstrating it as a growing industry cluster and credible contributor to the economy.

“We are very pleased to see SDSI take the step of becoming an independent entity after incubating within Connect,” says Greg McKee, CEO Connect. “The original strategy of providing funding, programming structures and personnel support to SDSI has worked well and we wish the organization great success as the team embarks on their next stage of SDSI’s journey.”

SDSI was birthed by Connect with the mandate to increase the footprint of the local sport and active style business community. It has grown to a membership of over 80 companies and is very active in business mentoring and executive networking.

“It has always been a collective goal for SDSI to become an independent organization and now, seven years since inception, we have reached the stage where we can consider ourselves sufficiently 'incubated' to stand alone,” said Rief. “This is a great milestone for SDSI and we are very thankful for the belief and backing Connect has provided us to make this possible. Over the next month or so we will locate to new offices and begin the processes necessary to support SDSI.”

For more information please contact SDSI Program Director, Renne Catalano Gussman at

SDSI offers elite level networking, and innovative programs and services for start-ups, mature companies and service providers. Membership benefits include  mentoring, education and capital funding opportunities for start-ups; best practice collaboration, access to new technology and public policy advocacy for mature companies; as well as deal flow to our service providers and the Southern California Investment Community.