Eat For Good: The 805 Living Dishing It Out for Charity Challenge

Take part in a delicious opportunity to help support worthy causes

It’s been quite a year, and the fact that 2020 is drawing to a close seems like reason enough to celebrate by dining at local restaurants in support of some worthy causes.
This issue marks the fifth 805 Living Dishing It Out for Charity challenge, and a great selection of eateries in the region have agreed to participate once again this year.

Each participant has selected a favorite dish or created a special new one for the challenge, and for each and every one sold during the months of November and December, they have pledged to donate $2 to the charity of their choosing. Last year’s challenge raised more than $17,300 for 22 deserving nonprofits. Generous local restaurants have stepped up to the plate once again, even during this unprecedented time when restaurants themselves need support just like the charities they’re supporting.

This spirit of giving is so heartwarming, we hope that you too will be inspired to participate by dining at these community-minded venues.

This year, Acme Hospitality’s ( Funk Zone restaurants, Helena Avenue Bakery, The Lark, Loquita, and Lucky Penny have all chosen to support Know Your Rights Camp ( “Acme Hospitality’s company ethos is greatly aligned with Know Your Rights Camp,” says spokesman Willie Simpson, adding “the equality and well-being of all employees is what builds a strong business and community. We know there is still much more work to be done in the fight for civil rights and equality for all Americans. We acknowledge our responsibility to be part of the solution. Know Your Rights Camp elevates a new generation of Black and Brown change leaders through education, self-empowerment and mobilization.” Details about the individual restaurants’ involvement follow.

Helena Avenue Bakery
Chef Isaac Hernandez’s Carpinteria Avocado on Sourdough Toast layers fresh local avocado, Persian cucumber, sunflower seeds, French feta, and sprouts on a toasted slice of Helena Avenue Bakery’s fresh sourdough bread; diners can further elevate the dish with a poached egg. Bakery manager Wyatt Davidson hopes the popular take on avocado toast will be a great selection to boost their donation.

The Lark
Executive chef Jason Paluska’s Hand-Cut Tagliatelle Pasta, made with grilled sweet corn, sungold cherry tomatoes, garlic, serrano chile, shaved bottarga, preserved lemon, and Old Bay–seasoned breadcrumbs, is a hearty fall favorite at The Lark. The popularity of this locally sourced, handmade pasta plate makes it a promising candidate for the charity challenge.

For this year’s challenge, Loquita picked executive chef Nikolas Ramirez’s signature Mariscos Paella, featuring locally sourced fish, scallops, octopus, sobrasada (cured
pork sausage), manila clams, squid ink sofrito (a Spanish sauce made from onion, green pepper, and garlic), yuzu, and salmon roe. It was manager Stephanie Perkins who
brought Know Your Rights Camp to Acme’s attention. “I believe it is crucial for the younger generation to know their rights, to truly understand who they are, and to learn they have
the power to change future generations for the better,” she says.

Lucky Penny
Chef Dante Bogan chose the Margherita Pizza for this year’s challenge, knowing its popularity among patrons getting takeout and eating on Lucky Penny’s new extended patio. A classic that appeals to many diners, including vegetarians, the wood-fired pizza is topped with San Marzano marinara, burrata, cherry tomatoes, and opal basil.

At Bell’s, where the menu is “Franch-inspired” (borrowing from both French and ranch-style cuisines), chef Daisy Ryan’s Egg Salad Sandwich is an iconic selection. “We feel something as simple and satisfying as an egg salad sandwich really speaks to our collaboration with No Kid Hungry (, whose mission is to end hunger and poverty,” says Ryan, co-owner of the restaurant with her husband, Gregory Ryan.

Belmond El Encanto
“While our doors were closed to the public due to the global pandemic, we partnered
with Santa Barbara Bucket Brigade ( to make and provide masks for those in need, and we were able to provide hundreds of handmade masks,” says Belmond Encanto spokeswoman Julia Solomon. “We look forward to supporting them in their future endeavors.” To that end, the restaurant chose sous chef Carlos Ramirez’s Seared Wild King Salmon, caught fresh and prepared with herbs, spices, summer squash, shallot confit, and tomato jus, as its featured menu item to benefit the community crisis–response organization.

Bibi Ji
“As a Latino business owner, I’m thrilled to be able to contribute to La Casa de la Raza
(, an organization that helps educate Latino youth about their culture and build community,” says Bibi Ji co-owner Alejandro Medina. “I am hopeful that one day any of these kids may own a local business themselves and be able to do the same.” The restaurant’s designated dish is Chicken Tikka, which Medina’s business partner Rajat Parr grew up eating at his home in Kolkata, India.

Cello Ristorante & Bar
Chef de cuisine Ben Drahos opted for Cello’s Certified Black Angus Filet. The oak pit–grilled steak is served in a red wine demi-glace with horseradish mascarpone and seasonal vegetables. The dish will benefit the nonprofit Bailliage de Central Coast Confrérie de la Chaîne des Rôtisseurs ( Currently overseen by Allegretto Vineyard Resort food and beverage manager Thomas Humphrey, the organization supports the development of young chefs and recently raised money for the culinary program at San Luis Obispo’s Cuesta College.

Chulo’s Cafe & Cantina
“The Huevos Rancheros is our signature dish,” says Chulo’s executive chef Luis Ruiz. It “speaks to our Mexican heritage, and we love sharing our delicious culture with our patrons.” The menu item will support the anti-racism organization R.A.C.E. Matters SLO ( “We are so grateful to have a local charity on the ground here in SLO doing the work and fighting the fight for equality and justice for people of all colors, religions, histories, and sexual orientations,” he says. “We love to support them in any way we can.”

Finney’s Crafthouse
“My family has supported this amazing charity Support for the Kids ( for many years,” says Finney’s owner Greg Finefrock. Dedicated to providing educational enrichment and comprehensive services to underprivileged and foster children and their families in Ventura County, the organization provides essentials like food, clothing, and school supplies. For this year’s challenge, Finefrock has selected a new menu item: executive chef Eric Bosrau’s Bison Burger, made with bison sourced from Flocchini Family Ranch in Wyoming.

Goat Tree at Hotel Californian
“In the wake of the current pandemic, it has become more important than ever to feature whole-animal butchery,” says Goat Tree executive chef Travis Watson. “The Braised Oxtail Tagliatelle features an often-overlooked cut of beef in a dish that nurtures the soul as we welcome the cooler seasons.” The pasta entrée is earmarked to support the Dream Foundation (, which helps realize the dreams of terminally ill adults
and provides emotional support to them and their families.

Lido Restaurant & Lounge
Lido’s picked Crab Cakes, a favorite starter among locals. “Being nestled along the Central Coast and having the privilege to sit and watch the sunset while dining on these tasty morsels is the perfect recipe for a truly breathtaking experience,” says spokeswoman Christina Stieb. “That wouldn’t be possible without our beautiful Pacific Ocean. That’s why we chose the Ocean Conservancy ( as our charity, to protect and conserve the very thing that gives us the main ingredients of the dish and many others.”

Little Calf Creamery
“We are creating unique spins on a frozen dessert classic just in time for the holidays,” says Little Calf Creamery owner Scott Levin, whose two new treats will support Special Olympics Ventura (, an organization that enriches the lives of nearly 600 athletes who have intellectual disabilities. For the November Mud Pie, a graham cracker crust is filled with Pumpkin Cheesecake ice cream topped with an oatmeal crumble. For the December Mud Pie, an Oreo cookie crust is loaded with peppermint-stick ice cream
sprinkled with crushed peppermint candy.

Los Agaves Restaurant
Los Agaves Restaurant’s Land & Sea Molcajete, a hearty stew with steak, chicken, fish, shrimp, pork, and grilled nopal, is the ultimate Mexican comfort food and a cult favorite, especially during the cold season. “We serve you so we can be of service to others,” says owner Carlos Luna. “For every dish sold, Los Agaves will donate $2 to the Santa Barbara Zoo ( to support and sustain a beloved community treasure that educates so many children, families, and visitors in the region.”

Milk & Honey Tapas
“Burrata is always in season at Milk & Honey, so this is our nod to the cheese we love so much and the earthy flavors of fall,” says chef-owner Alvaro Rojas of the Falling For Burrata plate he designated to support the Organic Soup Kitchen (, which produces and delivers soup meals to the elderly and
low-income cancer patients. “ ‘Take your food as your medicine or your medicine will
be your food,’ is a quote that resonates with me, given that my father, grandmother,
and uncle all died of cancer,” says Rojas, who admires the nonprofit’s nutritional
approach to treatment.

Oku Restaurant
Oku executive chef Koji Nomura happily created a new dish for this year’s 805 Living
challenge to support the work of CADA (Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse;, which provides addiction prevention, education, and treatment services to teens and adults in Santa Barbara County. The 805CADA Roll is as delicious as it is beautiful, says co-owner Tina Takaya. Featuring fresh wild-caught salmon, crispy shrimp tempura, avocado, and cucumber, and a sauce made from fresh shiso leaf, miso, and yuzo, the roll is finished with flying fish roe and served with a side of sriracha aioli. “We enjoyed creating a special sushi roll for an amazing cause,” Takaya says.

Olio Pizzeria
“Our Umbra pizza is a signature favorite,” says Alberto Morello, executive chef and co- owner of Olio Pizzeria. “You may need to order an entire pizza just for yourself, it’s so addictive.” Morello selected the dish, which showcases Umbrian black truffles, to support
Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation (, an organization that provides financial, educational, and emotional support to Santa Barbara, Ventura, and San
Luis Obispo county families with a child who has cancer.

Opal Restaurant & Bar
Since they opened Opal Restaurant & Bar 20 years ago, owners Tina Takaya and Richard Yates have been deeply committed to supporting the Arthritis Foundation ( by
participating in and often chairing its Taste of the Town fundraiser, Santa Barbara’s oldest wine and food event. That event could not be held this year, but Takaya and Yates offer their continuing support to the organization that provides assistance to people living with the disabling disorder by taking part in the 805 Living challenge with a riff on a local Opal favorite, the Chicken & Wild Mushroom Chipotle Pasta Charity Special.

Pico Restaurant
Earmarking Pico’s donation to the Save the Waves Coalition (, a nonprofit founded by the restaurant’s co-owner Will Henry to protect surf ecosystems across the globe, executive chef John Wayne Formica designates his Crispy Viet Brussels, made with garden herbs, carrot, red onion, chilis, fried shallot, and coconut-chili-lime agrodolce (sweet-and-sour sauce). The starter manifests the chef’s desire to share his experiences while traveling.

Santo Mezcal
Santo Mezcal executive chef Ricardo Garcia picked Enchiladas Verde—two chicken or beef enchiladas topped with special house-made verde sauce and served with rice and pinto beans—to support the Santa Barbara Zoo ( A cause that’s close to
owner Carlos Luna’s heart, the zoo relies on donations to provide the best possible care for its resident animals and to impart conservation education.

Vina Robles Vineyard & Winery
“Our communities rely now more than ever on the support of food banks for access to wholesome nutrition,” says spokeswoman Catherine Jaeger. “Vina Robles Vineyards & Winery supports the SLO Food Bank ( to raise awareness as it works to meet the increased demand in our communities.” Served at the winery’s alfresco bistro, the Vina Robles Burger—made with grass-fed beef and topped with roasted portabella
mushrooms, garlic aioli, arugula, and red onions sautéed in a rosemary-infused reduction of Vina Robles Cabernet Sauvignon and balsamic vinaigrette—is the dish designated for the challenge.

Water’s Edge Restaurant & Bar
“It’s an ode to our local strawberries,” says Water’s Edge executive chef Alex Montoya of his Straw-Brie Crostini, which he says has “bright and light flavors, each with a different texture for you to enjoy in every bite.” The starter will support Make-A-Wish Tri-Counties (, because he says, “being able to make a child’s wish come true or to even be a part of that process has always been a dream of mine.”

Wood Ranch
The rich, decadent WR Butter Cake is a proven favorite at Wood Ranch. Served with vanilla bean ice cream, fresh raspberries, and raspberry sauce, “it’s popular beyond all our expectations,” says director of culinary development Alejandro Benes. The dessert will benefit Happy Trails Children’s Foundation (, a nonprofit whose mission is to promote the prevention and treatment of child abuse and provide fun activities and support for foster children.

To see more 805 Living Dishing It Out For Charity challenge chefs and dishes, visit

Cover of 805 Living Magazine, November 2020. This story originally appeared in 805 Living Magazine, November 2020. Click here to see the section as it originally appeared in print.

2020 Best of Santa Barbara

From Santa Barbara Independent, Best Of Issue cover, October 15, 2020.

From Santa Barbara Independent, Best Of Issue cover, October 15, 2020.

I had the honor of writing the Santa Barbara Independent‘s Best of Santa Barbara winners once again this year. It was a huge, fun project, and a little easier the second time around.  Even (or maybe especially) in this weird year, people were so happy to hear from me and so excited to have won! You can read the whole thing by clicking here, or on the PDFs below.

Introduction + Eating 770 10-15-20_Part1

Eating 770 10-15-20_Part2

Eating, Drink, Out & About + Romance 770 10-15-20_Part3

Romance 770 10-15-20_Part4

Romance, Looking Good, Living Well, Sporting Life, Little Creatures, Housing + Driving 770 10-15-20_Part5

Driving + Media 770 10-15-20_Part6

Porch Swings Over to Summerland

Shop for furnishings, textiles, and the works of local artists at Porch on Summerland’s Lillie Avenue. Courtesy photo.

Shop for furnishings, textiles, and
the works of local artists at Porch
on Summerland’s Lillie Avenue. Courtesy photo.

“The building itself is an object of art. I feel like it was meant for us,” says Diana Dolan, owner of Porch (, about her shop’s new digs on Summerland’s Lillie Avenue. The relocation to the larger space is her dream come true for the unique home and garden store that she has operated in Carpinteria for the past 12 years.

Featuring furnishings, kitchen goods, textiles, bedding, jewelry, candles, coffee-table books, succulents, and works by local artists, such as Pedro de la Cruz, Will Pierce, Lety Garcia, Colette Cosentino, and Michael Haber, the business is known for its thoughtfully curated space and inviting indoor/outdoor vibe, and Dolan says the new location will embrace that same spirit.

“Our soul remains true to our essence,” she says. “We’re going to continue to offer beautiful home and garden furnishings inspired by nature.”

Porch and other recent newcomers to Summerland—Sweet Wheel Produce, Field+Fort, and The Well—join businesses like The Sacred Space, Botanik, Garde, and Summerland Oriental Rugs in what is fast becoming an exciting design destination. “I think shoppers are looking for a real connection to something heartfelt and soulful,” says Dolan.

805 Living Cover, October 2020. This story originally appeared in 805 Living Magazine, October 2020. Click here to see the section as it originally appeared in print.

Tech Talk: Special Issue

Tech Talk Special Issue for Santa Barbara Independent, published October 1, 2020.

Tech Talk Special Issue for Santa Barbara Independent, published October 1, 2020.

From Start-ups to Success Stories, an In-Depth Look at Our Vast High-Tech Industry

There’s no question that technology plays an increasingly critical role in all of our lives.

Think about what it would have been like if the global pandemic had hit in 1980 instead of 2020: no cell phones (cordless phones weren’t even mainstream yet!), no internet, and no public email, let alone video calls, instant messaging, texting, and screen-sharing. Home computers, if you even had one, were clunky and slow, and, while ubiquitous, TVs only had four channels, and the whole family would have to agree on what to watch.

Fast-forward to today. With COVID forcing us to move our lives indoors and online, everyone from toddlers to grandparents have been whiplashed into relying on devices for school and business, health and wellness, to learn, communicate, connect, and be entertained. For many of us, the classroom, home, and workplace are headquartered on a single device in a tiny corner of the house.

“Organizations are fundamentally changed now,” explains Kyle Lewis, a UCSB professor and chair of its Technology Management Program. “Working in any type of organization — especially in one that is focusing on innovation, has technology products, or uses technology to do their work — the world has completely shifted.”

The shift is happening in Santa Barbara too. As technology becomes more central to all of our lives, the region’s high-tech sector is enduring big changes and enjoying sustained growth. Once dominated by the aerospace industry, which is still a prominent player, a wave of significant, broad-ranging tech companies began in this ecosystem, including Citrix Online (formerly Expert City),, Alias Wavefront, Yardi,, AppFolio, and Sonos, among others. Maturing startups such as Procore and Apeel Sciences continue to grow, as do the wealth of exciting new technologies and companies.

Meanwhile, our investment community is on the rise, and the already-critical UCSB just keeps getting better and better, pumping out more and more motivated-to-stay-in-town entrepreneurial energy.

Meanwhile, some of the biggest players in tech — Google, Amazon, Zoom, Apple, Microsoft — now have a presence in Santa Barbara. And then there are the increasing numbers of tech pros who can work from anywhere and have chosen to make Santa Barbara their homes.

The last time the Santa Barbara Independent addressed the tech sector in any depth was a special section called Tech-Topia in 2015, in which author Matt Kettmann described the scene as “quietly booming.” Having talked to more than 30 executives and researched more than 100 tech companies for this issue, I can attest to how much bigger, broader, and more interesting our tech sector is today.

Like a lot of the very best people and things in Santa Barbara, many of these tech companies still operate on the down-low, not interested in tooting their own horns or bragging about their accomplishments. They’d rather just do good work than talk about it.

But success begets success. As Jason Spievak, the managing partner for Entrada Ventures, put it, “Some of the biggest names in technology are waking up to Santa Barbara and are establishing themselves here through acquisition and investment.”

Read on for a hefty helping of the Santa Barbara tech scene’s players, history, innovations, and opportunities. Once quietly booming, I’d say Santa Barbara’s tech sector is now awake, ready, and raring to go.

Here is the whole package of stories:

Tech Employers Talk Balk : Observations From Central Coast Industry Leaders

The Top Five Things Investors Want (and Need) Jason Spievak of Santa Barbara’s Entrada Ventures Offers Checklist for New Companies

Mentoring, Not Just Money, For Startups: Entrada Ventures’ Julie Henley McNamara Discusses her Firm’s Specialized Strategies

Investor Insight into Tech Trends: Santa Barbara Angel Alliance Founder John Petote Analyzes the High-Tech Marketplace

A Great Place For Entrepreneurs: Veteran Executive John Greathouse Explains What Attracts Tech Companies to Town

Shades of Silicon Valley: Q&A With Michael Pfau: “Grit & Hustle” Understanding Santa Barbara’s Tech Sector Growth

ParentSquare Makes the Grade: Santa Barbara’s Anupamu Vaid Developed School Communication Platform Now Used Nationwide

Sprigeo Says Yes to School Safety: Santa Barbara’s Joe Bruzzese Founded Service to Prevent Bullying and Increase School Safety

Saving the World, One Byte at a Time: Last Call for Food, ChowMatch, EV Match and Other Companies Using Tech for Good

Apeel’s Santa Barbara Appeal: Why This Food-Preservation Tech Company Thrives on the South Coast

Insight From HG Insights’ Elizabeth Cholawsky: CEO of the Santa Barbara Tech Intelligence Company Talks Up the Central Coast Lifestyle

Invoca Applies AI and Analytics to Phone Calls: Studying the Behavior of Customers’ Customers

The Cutting Edge of Robotic Surgery: Cottage Health and the Orthopedic Institute Perform Many Surgeries Every Week

Virtual Health Care: Right Here at Home: After Acquiring Goleta’s InTouch Health, Teledoc’s Joe DeVito Discusses the Market

Communication is Key for WELL Health: Guillaume de Zwirek Moved Patient-Provider Platform Company From Silicon Valley to Santa Barbara

Thermal Imaging: Hotspot for Seeking Heat: FLIR and Seek Thermal Make Santa Barbara a Hub for Thermal-Imaging Technology Companies

How FLIR Steals Moments in Spotlight: Goleta-Based Imaging Company Stars in Movies, TV Episodes and Even Awards Shows

TMP: Practical Education for an Evolving World: Preparation Meets Opportunity in UCSB’s Technology Management Program

UCSB Technology Management Program’s Startups: A List of More Than 30 Companies Whose Founders Participated in TMP

TIA: Where Inventions Meet Industry: Research Meets the Road in UCSB’s Office of Technology & Industry Alliances

UCSB’s Technology and Research Startups: A List of More Than 40 Companies That Began on the Santa Barbara Campus

Tech Talk Special Issue for Santa Barbara Independent, published October 1, 2020.

Tech Talk Special Issue for Santa Barbara Independent, published October 1, 2020.


Tech Talk Special Issue for the Santa Barbara Independent, originally published on October 1, 2020.

To read the issue as it appeared in print, please click here, Tech Talk 768_10_01_20


Apeel’s Santa Barbara Appeal

Apeel's Megan Opp, photo by Daniel Dreifuss for Santa Barbara Independent.

Apeel’s Megan Opp, photo by Daniel Dreifuss for Santa Barbara Independent.

In a creation story fit for a feel-good film, the food-preservation company Apeel Sciences was founded by UCSB grad student James Rogers when he heard a radio story about global hunger while driving through California’s lush farmlands. He wondered how so many could be so hungry when there was much food around.

Upon learning that the culprit is spoilage, the materials science PhD candidate developed a product—made entirely from natural things in the food we already eat—that slowed down the rotting of various fruits and vegetables. Rogers won UCSB’s New Venture Competition, and the seeds of Apeel quickly began to sprout, funded in part by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation due to the promise of fighting malnourishment around the world.

That was around 2012. Fast forward to today, and Apeel, which is headquartered in Goleta and employs nearly 200 “Apeelers,” is growing like crazy, developing products for dozens of produce categories and working with a range of partners, from small organic growers to the world’s largest food brands.

In late August, Apeel, which is currency valued at more than $1 billion, announced a partnership with the largest German retailer that will put Apeel-treated avocados and oranges in more than 11,000 EDEKA and Netto stores.

And they’re just getting started. I spoke with “Chief People Officer” Megan Opp about Apeel’s appeal.

WHY IS EVERYONE SO EXCITED ABOUT YOUR COMPANY? The technology and product are so innovative and world-changing. We are thankful for UCSB for providing a strong pipeline of incredible talent, which of course includes our founders. People have the opportunity to positively change how the world accesses and enjoys fresh produce. What’s exciting is that it all started in this beautiful community of S.B. and has grown very quickly into a global company.

Most of our R&D happens right here at headquarters, but innovations can come from any part of the world. You can be based in Santa Barbara but also have opportunities to travel and work in new places. This is one of the most globally mobile companies I’ve seen, where we’ll give these opportunities as a way of sharing our company values and culture in different locations and also as a way to grow in one’s career and skills and global mindset.

WHAT ARE SOME HIGH AND LOW POINTS OF BEING A BIG EMPLOYER HERE? We’re extremely fortunate to have great access to top tech talent who have chosen to study and live in the Santa Barbara area. We’ve also been able to attract talent from surrounding metro areas, including L.A. and the Bay Area. We always notice an uptick in applications from the East Coast and Midwest during winter months! Like any region for tech talent, Santa Barbara isn’t without its challenges. Santa Barbara’s cost of living and housing availability is one.

WHAT ARE SOME CULTURAL DIFFERENCES IN SANTA BARBARA COMPARED TO OTHER TECH HUBS? Our employees are very philanthropic, connected with nature, and embrace all of the outdoor adventures and amenities this area has to offer.

DOES BEING A HUMANITARIAN-FOCUSED COMPANY LEAD TO A CERTAIN TYPE OF EMPLOYEE? We are a global company that hires talent based not only abilities but the aligned belief in our mission—enabling a world that works with nature; we use food to protect food—and wanting to be part of something that will change the world. We hire and reward people with strong alignment with our values, which include humility and teamwork. We support each other and want to see us all succeed so that Apeel produce will be available throughout the world.

HOW ARE YOU HANDLING HIRING DURING COVID? Food waste is a global crisis, and we are continuing to aggressively staff up to be able to tackle this issue head-on. Even through this challenging time of COVID, we’ve come up with creative ways to create a welcoming virtual environment for candidates and new hires. We always put people first and have created additional programs to support our working parents and caregivers and all of our employees during these challenging times.

We feel so fortunate to be based in the Santa Barbara area with so many benefits within our reach!

Tech Talk Special Issue for Santa Barbara Independent, published October 1, 2020.

Tech Talk Special Issue for Santa Barbara Independent, published October 1, 2020.


Tech Talk Special Issue for the Santa Barbara Independent, originally published on October 1, 2020.

To read the issue as it appeared in print, please click here, Tech Talk 768_10_01_20


Saving the World, One Byte at a Time

Erin McGeoy of Last Call for Food, photo by Daniel Dreifuss for Santa Barbara Independent.

Erin McGeoy of Last Call for Food, photo by Daniel Dreifuss for Santa Barbara Independent.

An increasing number of tech companies are working to create products and applications to improve our lives and make a difference in ways both small and large. While Apeel Sciences works to end hunger on a global scale, Last Call for Food matches hungry college students with discounted end-of-night restaurant meals. Founder and CEO Erin McGeoy, a Santa Barbara High water-polo standout, developed the platform while at George Washington University.

Despite scholarships and working throughout college, she still struggled financially and developed clever ways to access more affordable food. After working on the food waste team at the World Wildlife Fund, she focused her energy on the intersection of college food insecurity and wasted restaurant food to launch Last Call in 2017.

“The technology we use allows restaurants and other food vendors to share deals they have on surplus food to the Last Call website, and it enables Last Call to communicate these deals to our subscribers,” said McGeoy, who launched on the East Coast but is now actively working in her hometown to bring the service to UCSB and SBCC students. See lastcallforfood. com.

ChowMatch is also counteracting food waste locally. The initiative was launched by the Community Environmental Council (CEC) in partnership with the Santa Barbara County Food Rescue Program and is supported by COVID-19 relief funding. Explained the CEC’s Julia Blanton, “We help build relationships between donors with surplus food and charitable organizations to prevent produce and restaurant-quality prepared food from going to the landfill and instead direct it to those facing hunger throughout the county.” See

Wildnote’s mission is to protect natural resources by empowering professionals to accurately collect, efficiently manage, and effectively report on environmental compliance. Making the world a better place is emphasized at every meeting, said founder and CEO Kristen Hazard, who is based in San Luis Obispo. “It’s often the reason employees want to come work for Wildnote, because they feel a calling for their work to have meaning around the environment,” she explained. See

Heather Hochrein used a grad-school group thesis idea to win third place at UCSB’s New Venture Competition, and then she founded EVmatch, a peer-to-peer network for finding electric-vehicle charging stations. The app directs drivers to privately owned charging stations, allowing apartment dwellers and travelers a flexible way to charge their vehicles. See

Technology is also an excellent resource for crowdfunding and marketing innovative, eco-minded products. Frustrated with trying to eliminate waste in their everyday lives, Remaker Labs cofounders David Silverander and Sky Gilbar developed Hitch, a full-size reusable water bottle with a removable, barista-approved cup hidden inside. Through funny videos featuring familiar landmarks, Hitch raised $1.2 million on Kickstarter and is still reselling through Indiegogo. They plan to deliver in November, just in time for the holidays. See

The Final company sports a similar ethos of eliminating single-use products and also used humorous videos of mermaids to market FinalStraw, a reusable straw that folds down to keychain-size. “The idea around the mermaid is this human connection to the ocean, which has a fun fantasy aspect,” said founder Emma Rose Cohen, who was part of the Save the Mermaids activist group as a student at UCSB, dressing in mermaid costumes to encourage the City of Santa Barbara to ban plastic bags. Her Kickstarter campaign raised $1.8 million, and FinalStraw is now available at REI, as well as online, with additional products—FinalFork, FinalSpork, and FinalWipe— available for preorder. See 

Tech Talk Special Issue for Santa Barbara Independent, published October 1, 2020.

Tech Talk Special Issue for Santa Barbara Independent, published October 1, 2020.


Tech Talk Special Issue for the Santa Barbara Independent, originally published on October 1, 2020.

To read the issue as it appeared in print, please click here, Tech Talk 768_10_01_20


Shades of Silicon Valley: Q&A With Michael Pfau

Michael Pfau, photo by Daniel Dreifuss for Santa Barbara Independent.

Michael Pfau, photo by Daniel Dreifuss for Santa Barbara Independent.

Representing tech-sector businesses for more than 30 years, attorney Michael Pfau, who is a founding partner of Reicker, Pfau, Pyle & McRoy LLP, provides a unique vantage point of the Santa Barbara scene.

HOW HAS OUR TECH SECTOR EVOLVED? The same way it did in Silicon Valley. What happened was that the university attracted some real national quality talent to its faculty. Many of those people were entrepreneurially inclined, and they exported technology from the university and formed companies. Some of those were sold off and were successful; they put money into people’s hands.

Over time, you have a collection of technology, engineering, and management talent that has some money in its pocket and wants to do it again. One success begets two successes and four successes, which beget eight successes, and it just evolves naturally that way.

In parallel with that, we had the build-up of infrastructure to support these companies: angel investing, like the Santa Barbara Angel Alliance; venture firms like Kevin O’Connor’s ScOp Venture Capital and Entrada Ventures; and law firms and CPAs that are used to dealing with these things. It becomes a self-perpetuating cycle.

ARE TECH ENTREPRENEURS DIFFERENT FROM PEOPLE WHO START OTHER KINDS OF BUSINESSES? Maybe, but the answer is probably no. The analysis for any opportunity is (a) what is the problem you are trying to solve? (b) how do you solve it? and (c) what is your sustainable competitive advantage? In other words, why are you different from everybody else?

You have to be solving a real-world problem. What they all have in common is they believe they can go through brick walls, and they will do it to get to their outcome.

SO ENTREPRENEURS ARE ENTREPRENEURS THEN? It’s just grit and gristle, and in the end, a disciplined approach to business always pays off. The technology guys are more successful because they’re building companies with what we call fatter revenues — lower expenses to higher net revenue — so they are more profitable, and that’s why people think that maybe there is something better about it. But no, I’m just selling something or creating something that can be sold as more valuable.

Tech Talk Special Issue for Santa Barbara Independent, published October 1, 2020.

Tech Talk Special Issue for Santa Barbara Independent, published October 1, 2020.


Tech Talk Special Issue for the Santa Barbara Independent, originally published on October 1, 2020.

To read the issue as it appeared in print, please click here, Tech Talk 768_10_01_20


How FLIR Steals Moments in Spotlight

FLIR's technology used in the 2018 film Rampage, courtesy photo.

FLIR’s technology used in the 2018 film Rampage, courtesy photo.

With appearances in Sicario, Ozark, Silicon Valley, The Haunting of Hill House, Transformers: The Last Knight, Speechless, and Extinct or Alive, among others, FLIR is more than familiar with the on-screen close-up.

The thermal imaging tech company, which employs approximately 450 of its 3,000 employees in Goleta, uses product placement as an important part of its marketing strategy. “We really approach placement in a collaborative way,” said Vatche Arabian, director of content marketing. “While some companies may actually go out and buy a placement on a show, we don’t typically do that. Often, it’s cases where folks want to achieve something unique, and we partner with them to help them do that.”

Of course, sometimes opportunity just knocks. “The crazy, last minute ones are the ones that we seem to get the biggest lift out of,” said Arabian, referring to the 2017 VMA performance of 30 Seconds to Mars, in which actor/musician Jared Leto wanted to do the thing with thermal cameras. “We had maybe a week-and-a-half notice for that one. Trying to realize what they were trying to do and find the best way to do that was terrifying, but then the end result was amazing.”

FLIR cameras were also used on the two Sicario movies. “In the tunnel, when it’s in thermal vision, we worked with Roger Deakins to have him use the FLIR science camera, and he couldn’t have told that story without it,” said Stacy Jones, CEO and founder of Hollywood

Branded, the marketing agency that works with FLIR. “They were in a pitch-black tunnel, and he was trying to actually show what it is like for the military and for those people who were running from across the border.”

In the movie Rampage, FLIR provided a pilot and its plane, fully kitted out with all the FLIR technology, usually reserved for large-scale demonstrations of their product line to military or government buyers.

“There was a fictional big quarry scene,” said Jones. “It existed, but they made it look way bigger than it was through movie magic. And they had the plane sweeping over it, filming in thermal and feeding a livestream down to the director at the same time, so they could get the vision and the day scenes and the night scenes and the thermal all captured while the big ravaging beast that they put in later on was able to storm in with special effects.”

Product placement works best on-screen when it’s helping to tell the story, said Jones, who founded her agency in 2007, with BlackBerry as her first client. “Technology is something that is a great storyteller when it’s contributing to who the character is, to driving a story element, and contributing to making that scene more real,” she explained.

Tech Talk Special Issue for Santa Barbara Independent, published October 1, 2020.

Tech Talk Special Issue for Santa Barbara Independent, published October 1, 2020.


Tech Talk Special Issue for the Santa Barbara Independent, originally published on October 1, 2020.

To read the issue as it appeared in print, please click here, Tech Talk 768_10_01_20


TIA: Where Inventions Meet Industry

Sherylle Mills Englander, photo by Daniel Dreifuss for Santa Barbara Independent.

Sherylle Mills Englander, photo by Daniel Dreifuss for Santa Barbara Independent.

From filament LED lighting and cloud computing to medical diagnostics, virtual reality, and everything in between, researchers at UCSB have played a key role in developing technologies that improve our lives. Tasked with building relationships between UCSB and industry is the Office of Technology & Industry Alliances (TIA), which was established in 2005 with Sherylle Mills Englander as director. She answered some questions about the office’s role.

HOW DOES TIA WORK? A lot of our discoveries are what’s called curiosity-based research, aimed at getting a fundamental understanding. The more we understand fundamentally how things work, the more innovation we can place on top of that. A lot of the research we do is extremely important and not necessarily ready for a commercial partnership.

CAN YOU GIVE AN EXAMPLE? Let’s say we have a new way of sorting cells for diagnostics where we can really quickly separate out cancer cells from any other cell and we can do it very rapidly and very effectively, so that’s got a definite benefit. If our researchers publish in scientific journals to let others learn about it and build upon it, that’s great; we’ve given a whole new process to the world.

But if absolutely anybody can use it commercially, that can be a disincentive for a company to develop it. We need a company partner to invest in making that initial discovery something that can be used in every doctor’s office.

SO THE SCIENCE AND THE PRODUCT ARE TWO DIFFERENT THINGS. It’s a very different question. How do you sort cells quickly and rapidly without hurting them? Or how do you build a machine for it that is going to be affordable, reimbursable, and easy enough to use to be in everybody’s office?

If we simply publish, would a company invest the millions of dollars it takes to create a product only to have the fundamental discovery of that product be able to be used by competitors? Most likely not. So to encourage it to be translated into actual commercial products, we apply for a patent on that original idea and then we go to a company who has a strong passion and expertise for it. If they commit to developing something that will benefit the public, we will give you the exclusive access to that patent.

What we’re basically doing is using the intellectual property scheme of patents and copyrights to encourage and facilitate companies to create products and services based on our discoveries.

DOES UCSB GET COMPENSATED FOR SUCCESSES? What we do is called a license, effectively giving permission for a company to use it. There are some standard deal structures. Obviously, we require royalties. Essentially, we want to assure that if they do succeed with the technology, the University of California shares in that success in a reasonable way. We are looking to make sure our innovation and our contribution to their company is fairly compensated, but it’s structured in a way that allows them to spend the money to develop a product and to get it out there.

HOW ABOUT THE INVENTORS THEMSELVES? Most of our innovations have students named as an inventor or author because they are so active in our research. The university will give the inventors 35 percent of our net revenue, and they share it equally. Just because you are a faculty member doesn’t mean you get more. If there are three inventors, they each get a third of that net revenue.

Their job is to teach and to discover science, and it takes an enormous amount of help to make that innovation happen. So that 35 percent back is a recognition of the effort of the effort that they are doing to take this invention out.

IS THIS A BIG MONEYMAKER? This is not a scenario where tons of money is coming in. The university has over 12,000 active inventions. The top 25 patents earn anywhere from 70 to 80 percent of our income in a given year.

We want our contribution to be respected, and we want the California taxpayers to get a return on that investment. Every bit of money we get in royalties is reinvested to support future research at UCSB, and we want to keep that going.

SO THE MOTIVATION IS NOT THE FINANCIAL RETURN. The reason we are doing this fundamentally is we want our innovations to turn into products that actually help people.

Tech Talk Special Issue for Santa Barbara Independent, published October 1, 2020.

Tech Talk Special Issue for Santa Barbara Independent, published October 1, 2020.


Tech Talk Special Issue for the Santa Barbara Independent, originally published on October 1, 2020.

To read the issue as it appeared in print, please click here, Tech Talk 768_10_01_20


The Cutting Edge of Robotic Surgery

Robots are no longer a futuristic notion. In fact, they’re becoming more and more common in nearby operating rooms. Robotic surgery is an advanced form of minimally invasive surgery that makes use of computer-controlled robots to do what humans can’t—and also to do what surgeons can, only better.

Think about how bulky human hands are when compared to a robot’s. “The robotic instruments are articulated at the end of the instrument where the working end is, so the working end can move like a hand would, as if it had a wrist,” explained Dr. Anne Rodriguez, a gynecologic oncologist and breast surgeon who heads up the Cottage Health Robotic Surgery team.

“That gives you the ability to maneuver much more than you would with a straight instrument. And that ability can get you into small spaces, can get you into difficult spaces, and can allow you to do a lot finer technique, so to speak.”

In 2019, the Cottage Robotic Surgery Center performed 574 robotic surgery procedures with the da Vinci XI manufactured by Intuitive. The most common surgery was hysterectomy, with 117 of them performed last year, said Maria Zate, the hospital’s public relations manager, followed by prostatectomy and hernia.

Dr. William Gallivan of the Orthopedic Institute of Santa Barbara is a big proponent of the technology. “In 2005, I started using computer navigation,” said Gallivan. “It was new technology back then, and I haven’t gone back.” He’s performed robotic surgeries on knees since 2014, tallying 350 surgeries as of August 2020, using the NAVIO Surgical System and recently the MAKO Robotic-Arm System.

The precision advantages of robotics for knee surgeries are critical. “When we use robotics, we can actually do a better preservation of bone,” he said. “For young people who want to be active, they will be able to have a very high level of activity. We’ve got this technology that allows better preservation and maintenance of bone and other soft tissues and is very effective.”

Rodriguez also pointed out the advantages of the robots for surgeons themselves. “You’re basically sitting at a console to control the instrument rather than controlling the instrument at the bedside,” she said. “So ergonomically, it’s easier on the surgeon and that gives advantages both short-term and long-term in terms of your ability to continue to do surgery.”

Other advantages include shorter hospital stays and faster recoveries, in part because there is less need for narcotic pain medicine.

“About 95 percent of my patients are wide awake with a spinal anesthetic,” said Gallivan. “It’s the safest way to do it, and the patients have more fun being awake.” Patients can listen to music (“unless it’s something bad,” he laughed) and watch 3D models and cartoon versions of the operation.

Virtually scar-less, single-site surgeries can also be handled by robots, such as single-incision hysterectomies. Rather than making several incisions, the robotic process makes just one incision through the belly button, which decreases blood loss and shortens recovery time.

“Robots have obviously been used for a long time by the aviation, automotive, and military [sectors], and then health care,” said Gallivan. “But the robotic technology has never diminished or exited from an industry that’s adopted it. It’s not going anywhere. I’m a firm believer that this technology we’re using is here to stay.”


UCSB graduate Dr. Yulun Wang is considered one of the fathers of modern surgical robotics. The founder of both InTouch Health and Computer Motion, Wang developed AESOP, the first FDA-approved surgical robot (1990), and the ZEUS Robotic Surgical System. ZEUS was used in the world’s first tele-surgery procedure, known as the Lindbergh Operation, in 2001. The da Vinci surgical system now used by Cottage Health was developed by Intuitive Surgical following its merger with Computer Motion in 2003.

Tech Talk Special Issue for Santa Barbara Independent, published October 1, 2020.

Tech Talk Special Issue for Santa Barbara Independent, published October 1, 2020.


Tech Talk Special Issue for the Santa Barbara Independent, originally published on October 1, 2020.

To read the issue as it appeared in print, please click here, Tech Talk 768_10_01_20