Crane Country Day School’s Flexible Approach

Crane Country Day School's Flexible Approach, originally published in Santa Barbara Independent on November 19, 2020.

Crane Country Day School’s Flexible Approach, originally published in Santa Barbara Independent on November 19, 2020.

Montecito Campus Embraces Its Outdoor Superpowers

Being a school administrator has always required balancing the needs of families, staff, and students. But in 2020, it’s more like being a tightrope walker. Very early on in the pandemic, Crane Country Day School’s head of school and chief plate spinner, Joel Weiss,
decided that a dual approach (online and on-campus) would make the most sense for his families — if, of course, there was any way of pulling it off.

“For us, it was trying to be honest but also respectful to the situations that every family really is unique,” said Weiss. “There are new rules every two weeks, and it’s just constantly changing. So having that two-pronged approach, though it’s exhausting to implement, at the same time it’s a really flexible approach.”

Crane’s back-to-school plan organized each grade into smaller groups for less exposure. For example, the 3rd grade has 22 students: 18 on-campus students are split into two cohorts of nine, each with their own teacher and dedicated indoor and outdoor spaces. The other four online students also have their own teacher, who is physically with one of the two cohorts, making sure that they still have a social connection with their
classmates, and doing much of the same work.

That ability to use the outdoor classes is what Weiss described as “Crane’s superpower
that we wanted to maximize. That’s our strong suit.” Crane has always been an indoor/outdoor school, and Weiss worked closely over the summer with Director of Development Debbie Williams, who took the lead on designating and constructing 23
unique outdoor learning spaces. With names like Pythagorean Patio, Morning Meadow, and Laureates’ Landing, they are distributed across Crane’s 12-acre campus.

“Part of it was training ourselves to see teaching spaces where maybe prior you saw utility spaces and nature spaces,” said Weiss. Each grade now has at least two indoor spaces and outdoor spaces with fun layouts designed to deliver the education program in a physically distanced, safe manner. It even lets the kids relax a little.

“We have just dumped eight buckets of rules on these kids,” said Weiss. “Kids used to be kids. They were given freedom to be wacky, and now it’s like, ‘Don’t walk here; walk there; don’t touch your face; put the mask on; stay six feet away,’ and on and on and on. So much effort is going into maintaining systems for safety that the outdoors is a little bit of a chill time. We’re trying to introduce a fun factor to all of this that feels kid-centered and lighthearted.”

SB Independent Cover, Schools of Thought, November 19, 2020.

SB Independent Cover, Schools of Thought, November 19, 2020.

Originally published in the Santa Barbara Independent on November 19, 2020. To read the section as it appeared in print, please click here.

 

Big Learning on the Littlest Little Farm

Big Learning on the Littlest Little Farm, originally published in Santa Barbara Independent on November 19, 2020.

Big Learning on the Littlest Little Farm, originally published in Santa Barbara Independent on November 19, 2020.

O’Connor Family and AHA! Engage Students on a Hope Ranch Annex Property

Organic farming utilizes the interconnectedness of nature, but an even more bountiful example of community connectedness has sprung to life on the Littlest Little Farm.

Tucked away in the Hope Ranch Annex neighborhood, this dynamic collaboration brings together teens from AHA! to work alongside two facilitators/farming educators to create, maintain, and grow a biodynamic farm. And it all takes place at the home of Laurel and Matt O’Connor, who host the farm in what is literally their backyard, working alongside the team to turn a little less than half an acre of “hard pan dirt” into an impressive urban farm.

Along with revitalizing the land, the Littlest Little Farm has also sparked something special in the teens. “At the beginning of the program, I’ll admit I was reluctant to join because I’m normally not someone who enjoys the outdoors,” said Owen Hubbell, a senior at San Marcos High. “But the amazing facilitators and environment allowed me to enjoy the outdoors more than I ever have before. I was able to learn about the value of nature and the value of taking care of it. Not only that, but I also learned the science of farming, which was very eye-opening to me, because I was never aware of the amount of work that goes
into farming. The feeling of watching something grow and develop, and to do it with a community of people I trust, is a gift I will never forget.”

The Littlest Little Farm, which celebrates its one-year anniversary this month, was indeed inspired by the documentary The Biggest Little Farm. Both Laurel (a clinical therapist) and her friend Jennifer Freed (the cofounder of AHA!’s nonprofit social-emotional education
program) were fans of the film.

“I was having my dream of wanting a farm, and she was trying to figure out how to bring a farming program to the teens,” said Laurel. “It happened really fast. Jennifer is a visionary; she’s amazing. That was in the summer a year ago, and (with support from the Manitou Foundation and other generous donors) we had kids with boots on the ground in early
November.”

Under the guidance of two AHA! alums — Julian Castillo, a clinical therapist, and Stevie
O’Connor, a facilitator (and Laurel and Matt’s daughter) — teens learn about soil nutrition, composting, row planting, amending soil, irrigation installation, worm composting, and noninvasive and chemical-free pest and weed management at the same they’re building social and emotional skills and self-awareness.

“I work with a lot of adolescent boys, and it’s definitely way better to meet outdoors and explore something than just sit there,” said Castillo. “The bigger picture that I like to tell them is that this is a little part of changing the world. The soil can actually sequester carbon. A lot of them have taken home not only plants and produce, but they’re starting
their own little home gardens. So we really think it’s a lot bigger deal, and I think they’re getting that it’s a much bigger thing than just putting stuff in the ground.”

“It’s exciting to see teens get excited about their impact on the planet,” said Stevie. “Also, we’ve harvested a ton in the last couple of months, so the teens are able to take some home and then we donate the extra produce to the Unity Shoppe. It’s great to be able to give that fresh produce back, because we want this to be appreciated.”

“Once we get more volume going, then we can expand to give to other nonprofits,” said Laurel. “So many people are always like, ‘Thank you so much for this,’ and I always feel like I’m the one who should be saying, ‘Thank you.’ I feel so lucky. It’s just a win-win situation. And especially given this time. Things are hard, and this is just such a positive
experience out here every time. It’s just a feel-good place for all of us. And we all come together in a safe way and get in touch with ourselves, with each other, with the soil, just all of it. It’s really amazing.”

SB Independent Cover, Schools of Thought, November 19, 2020.

SB Independent Cover, Schools of Thought, November 19, 2020.

Originally published in the Santa Barbara Independent on November 19, 2020. To read the section as it appeared in print, please click here.

 

Laguna Blanca’s New Center for Science and Innovation

Schools of Thought introduction, originally published in the November 19, 2020 issue of Santa Barbara Independent.

Schools of Thought introduction, originally published in the November 19, 2020 issue of Santa Barbara Independent.

Hope Ranch Campus Provides Proper Home for Project-Based Learning

Sometimes it’s all in the timing. Take Laguna Blanca’s new Center for Science and Innovation, the school’s first major facility addition in at least 20 years.

“We decided to go forward with construction on March 11 of this year, and two days later we were closing school because of the pandemic,” said Head of School Rob Hereford.

Plans for the 5,500 square feet of modern, dedicated space have been in the works since 2014, a drought year where the first big rains damaged the chemistry lab. They did a short-term fix, but Hereford knew it was past time to do some real improvements.

“When I give tours to people who were here back in the ’50s and ’60s, and they say, ‘Oh, it looks just like when I was here as a student,’” said Hereford. “That is comforting on one level, but a little disturbing if you’re trying to teach chemistry in the 21st century.”

Working with the school’s buildings and grounds committee, KBZ Architects, and the science department, the team settled on renovating two older existing locker rooms that had morphed into what Hereford called “the campus junk drawer, where anything we didn’t know what to do with we would just throw it into that space.” But the size was right, and there was already plumbing, which would be needed for lab space. One of the “odd advantages” of having closed the campus for so many months is that the project — which
includes biology and chemistry labs, a STEM Research and Innovation Lab, outdoor research areas, a physics lab, and a teacher innovation lab, which gives teachers from different grades and disciplines a space for collaboration — is now on schedule to open sometime in January 2021.

“We had an outstanding science program, and we were doing it in spite of our mediocre facilities,” said Hereford. “This allows us to have really up-to-date facilities that we can grow into. There is space for teachers to be able to do more and expand the programs in ways that are really going to be terrific. When I think of what we’ve been able to pull off in these substandard facilities, it’s exciting to think about what our teachers will be able to do in these brand-new spaces.”

SB Independent Cover, Schools of Thought, November 19, 2020.

SB Independent Cover, Schools of Thought, November 19, 2020.

Originally published in the Santa Barbara Independent on November 19, 2020. To read the section as it appeared in print, please click here.

 

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), Software.com, Alias Wavefront, Yardi, Lynda.com, 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!    apeelsciences.com

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 chowmatch.com.

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 wildnoteapp.com.

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 evmatch.com.

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 carryhitch.com.

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 final.co. 

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

 

Thermal Imaging: Hotspot for Seeking Heat

Santa Barbara is a world leader in infrared technology, with a long history that dates back to the scientists at the 1960s-era Hughes Aircraft Co., which later became the Santa Barbara Research Center.

With present-day industry bigwig FLIR located here, along with defense and aerospace industry heavyweights like Raytheon and Lockheed Martin and companies such as SE-IR Corporation, Electro Optical Industries, Seek Thermal, and Teledyne Scientific & Imaging developing technology for consumer and industrial applications—from smartphones and cars to night-vision cameras and sensors—this sector of tech is definitely a hot one.

“The Santa Barbara office is really the nerve center of a lot of our cores and components,” said Vatche Arabian, director of content marketing for FLIR, whose name is an acronym for “forward-looking infrared.”

With the Central Coast as the home to approximately 450 of its 3,000 employees worldwide, FLIR is considered the global leader in the design, manufacture, and marketing of thermal imaging infrared cameras.

Seek Thermal was founded in 2012 by industry pioneering scientists Bill Parrish and Tim Fitzgibbons, who spent 40 years advancing the state of military and professional-grade thermal-imaging technology. Seek is their third venture, following the successful acquisitions of their last two companies, Amber Engineering and Indigo Systems, which is now part of Raytheon and FLIR, respectively.

Their mission is to make thermal imaging a part of everyday life. “We make devices, for example, that turn your phone into a thermal imager,” explained Seek’s CEO and president Mike Muench. “We make handheld thermal imagers. We make products specifically for the fire and safety space, which are also stand-alone thermal scanning products.”

With manufacturing on-site in Goleta, the team of 100 employees at Seek Thermal was able to respond quickly to the COVID pandemic and the demand for screening measures. Said Muench, “We now make a scanning system for helping businesses to screen employees for elevated body temperature.”

thermal.com

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.

reickerpfau.com

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.

flir.com

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

 

Invoca Applies AI and Analytics to Phone Calls

Nathan Ziv of Invoca, photo by Daniel Dreifuss for Santa Barbara Independent.

Nathan Ziv of Invoca, photo by Daniel Dreifuss for Santa Barbara Independent.

As a SaaS (or “software as a service”) company that connects the dots between branding campaigns and customer phone calls through AI and analytics, Invoca is experiencing massive changes to its business during the pandemic.

“We have really had to remain agile for the last few months since March and COVID,” said Nathan Ziv, the company’s VP of product management. “And not just learning internal ways to adapt, but consumer buying behaviors have shifted a ton.”

With a client list that includes big-name brands such as Samsung, Mayo Clinic, LendingTree, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, and Open Table, Invoca specializes in studying the behaviors of their “customers’ customers.” For obvious reasons, they’re seeing a lot more online and phone-call buying now.

“We’re seeing that the volume of calls from consumers calling into these brands has never been higher,” explained Ziv. “We know those conversations are more important than ever. Luckily, we’re in a good place to help brands do that.” Some sectors, though, like the travel industry, are hurting despite Invoca’s help.

Invoca’s team, which includes about 200 people headquartered in Santa Barbara with offices in Denver and San Francisco, is very used to meeting with customers in person, whether in quarterly meet-and-greets or taking clients out to dinner to review their portfolios. With the pandemic restrictions, said Ziv, “We’ve had to learn to do all of that over Zoom and find different ways to keep engaged with them.”

Invoca has ramped up webinars as one tool to engage their customers. “We’ve helped a lot of our clients understand that they have a lot of customers calling and talking about the pandemic,” said Ziv, explaining that healthcare clients are receiving insights into the confusion over elective surgeries.

“What’s great about our software is, we can be agile and be adapting to all of that,” he explained. “All we’re trying to do is keep adapting so our customers can maintain healthy business with their consumers and that we can all get over this weird time.”

invoca.com

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