Gardening for the Greater Good

Sustainable Gardening and Agricultural Best Practices from Santa Barbara’s CEC and Lotusland

Originally published in the Santa Barbara Independent. Credit: Neslihan Gunaydin / Unsplash

The benefits of sustainable gardening and regenerative agriculture took the spotlight at a recent sustainability salon featuring Community Environmental Council (CEC) climate resilience program director Sharyn Main and Lotusland sustainability manager Corey Welles. Here are some of the nuggets they shared at the gathering in Belle Hahn’s beautiful garden on the Upper Eastside.

1) Change Can Happen:  After 32 years at Lotusland, Welles certainly has the dirt on the esteemed garden’s best practices in plant healthcare. “Lotusland wasn’t always a perfectly organic operation,” he admitted. “In the very beginning, it was completely conventional, and they used pesticides. If you were an organic farmer walking in, you would have been horrified.” But the will to become more environmentally sound was there, and they worked to find the way.

“We literally cracked the code; we stopped listening to the conventional minds and started listening to biologists,” he said. “Fertilizers caused 80 percent of the diseases at Lotusland. Once we got the pesticides and chemical fertilizers out of there, we never went back. It was a moment of taking responsibility ​— ​if something’s wrong, you take responsibility for it.” And it worked. The first year, they had a 70 percent reduction in pests, and it increased from there.

2) More than No Pesticides:  A sustainable garden involves more than just getting rid of chemical pesticides. Other key principles include using natural materials such as alfalfa meal, sea kelps, and organic nitrogen sources to feed plants and the soil.

Building up insect ecology is also important. While it may seem counterintuitive, Welles shared that increasing the number and variety of insects in the landscape and providing a habitat for beneficial insects helps control invasions of plant pests. Native plants are especially good for this.

The other key sustainable practice at Lotusland is recycling all of the plant material removed from the garden back in the form of compost teas and mulches that are reused in the garden.

Originally published in the Santa Barbara Independent. Credit: Courtesy

3) Demonstrate the Way:  Lotusland wasn’t yet open to the public when Main was a teenager in the 1970s, but she confided that it didn’t stop her from sneaking in to explore. As one of the first wave of environmentalists working for CEC, Main and her colleagues had an organic demonstration garden at the organization’s first offices on the Mesa in one of the earliest green buildings in the country. They had composting toilets (“the cutting edge for energy efficiency”) and a green rooftop with plantings to help cool the building, and they taught people about organic agriculture and gardening while discouraging the use of pesticides. She even co-wrote a book called BUGS (“Beneficial Urban Garden Strategies”), which was published in both English and Spanish.

“That garden was super important to our program,” said Main. “We talked a lot about the value of using native plants to protect biodiversity and improve soil health as part of an organic food garden.”

4) Regenerative Ag:  One of the ways CEC is working to reverse the climate threat today is by encouraging regenerative, climate-smart agriculture. “These practices ​— ​like applying compost on working lands and planting native plants along edges of fields ​— ​can actually help sequester carbon from the atmosphere. By restoring a natural balance in this way, plants respond by pulling more carbon from the air (through photosynthesis) into the ground, where it’s beneficial to the soil and plants,” said Main.

Carbon farming, a land-based, natural solution to climate change, is a way to transfer excess carbon out of the atmosphere ​— ​where it is causing a lot of harm ​— ​and store it in the soil, where it does a lot of good.

CEC is actively working with ranchers and large landowners, said Main. “If we can apply compost to just 10 percent of our agricultural lands, we could offset the emissions of the entire agriculture sector in Santa Barbara County. So this is doable. This is actually a reasonable thing we can achieve.”

5) Everyone Can Compost:  One of the simplest ways for people to help at home is by making and using compost, said Main. Mow or trim weeds instead of pulling them out at their roots, and compost instead of landfilling yard waste and food scraps.

6) Watch Your Water:  Last but not least on the path to sustainable gardening is the importance of carefully managing water use, a key factor that was mentioned by both Welles and Main. Water conservation is made much easier when pests are under control through the promotion of pollinators and beneficial insects, natural materials are used to feed plants and soil, plant materials removed from the garden are recycled into compost or mulch, and native species are primarily what is planted.

Following sustainable practices includes avoiding polluting chemicals, preserving natural resources, and reducing waste whenever possible. Sustainable gardening is not just about growing plants and maintaining a garden; it’s also about growing a greener future. As Welles said, “You don’t have to sacrifice beautiful, breathtaking gardens to be responsible.”

Originally published in the Santa Barbara Independent. Credit: Courtesy

Santa Barbara Independent, May 19-25, 2002. ON THE COVER: Madame Ganna Walska, taken c. 1958. Photo by J.R. Eyerman/Lotus- land Archives. Design by Ava Talehakimi.

Originally published in the May 19-25 issue issue of the Santa Barbara Independent. To see the story as it originally appeared click here.

The Lowdown on Lotusland

Montecito’s Eccentric Garden Paradise Comes to Life in New Book

Underneath the canopy of towering dragon trees (Dracaena draco) is a large, candelabrum-shaped Isolatocereus dumortieri as well as eye-catching clusters of golden barrels (Echinocactus grusonii), which were some of Madame Ganna Walska’s favorite cacti. | Credit: ©Lotusland by Rizzoli, New York, 2022. Image ©Lisa Romerein

Show business ran deep through the veins of Madame Ganna Walska, so when the time finally came to showcase her legendary garden in book form, the pressure was on.

And like the creation of Montecito’s extraordinary 37-acre public garden extravaganza, it took a whole cast of characters to bring the new, 288-page coffee table book Lotusland: Eccentric Garden Paradise (Rizzoli, 2022) — stunningly photographed by Lisa Romerein — to life.

Architect Marc Appleton, a longtime supporter and former trustee of Ganna Walska Lotusland, had unsuccessfully tried to drum up support for a book project for years, but the stars never quite aligned until 2019, when the “Book Committee” — comprised of Appleton, current trustee Dorothy Gardner and former trustees Suzanne Mathews and Alex Morse — was formed.

Lotusland is sited on a gently sloping hill and spans 37 acres. With the area’s coastal Mediterranean climate — and almost 300 days of sunshine per year — the property has been a testing ground for experimenting with new types of tropical and subtropical plants since 1882. | Credit: ©Lotusland by Rizzoli, New York, 2022. Illustrated by Janice Blair

The county permit limits the number of visitors to the garden to just 15,000 people a year, so it’s always a challenge to share Lotusland with as many people as possible

“We raised independent funds from subscribers to establish a publication budget, and we were off and running,” said Appleton. 

“Everyone said yes, which is kind of remarkable and a testament to their relationships. It really was volunteer driven and that’s important to appreciate and highlight,particularly in this town where so many volunteers do so much,” said Executive Director Rebecca Anderson.” 

Curator Paul Mills, Historian Rose Thomas, Jeff Chemnick, Mike Furner, Corey Welles, Founding Trustee Arthur Gaudi, Eric Nagelmann (who designed the cactus garden) and Madame Walska’s niece Hania Tallmadge (who recently passed away) were but a few of the many people involved in this team effort.

The book has a lot of ground to cover — and it does. Anderson explained, “while it’s meant to focus on the garden today and our future, it’s meant to be a garden book. It’s not meant to be a retrospective of how the garden began. But I really appreciate that we were able to get in there the people who created this place because without a little bit of that it’s not a complete story.”

Indeed the dramatic flair and inimitable spirit of of Madame Walska is woven throughout the book and the world-renowned horticultural showplace, which is home to more than 3,400 types of plants, including at least 35,000 individual specimens, 

Another important factor Anderson emphasized is “making sure that people not only have takeaways about inspiration and ideas for design or knowledge of particular plants in that index in the back but also that they understand that this is all done with

organic materials and sustainable practices.” 

With such a large scope of the gardens to be documented, Curator Paul Mills worked with photographer Lisa Romerein and her assistant Dean Courtois to shoot over the span of a year, “to try to catch as many moods and happenings in the garden as possible.” Mills said, “Lotusland really is not a ‘flowery’ garden, it’s more about bold and dramatic presentation of plants. But each season does present different opportunities to capture and I would help guide them to these.”

Madame Ganna Walska picks fruit from the lemon arbor, c. 1958 | Credit: J. R. Eyerman, Ganna Walska. Lotusland Archives

He continued, “Every plant on the property has a story, but I would try to lead them to the ones that are more intriguing for one reason or another – a cycad that is now extinct in the wild and only exists in gardens like Lotusland, a dragon tree that dates back to the 1880’s when Kinton Stevens had his nursery on the property, a cactus that is endemic to the Galapagos Islands and rarely seen in botanical collections. The first shoot was in summer, so the main goal was to catch our namesake plant, the sacred lotus, in all its glory. Winter had to focus on the Aloe garden because that is when those plants light up with their torch-like inflorescences and also on the Japanese garden which really shows that season with the golden carpet of Ginkgo leaves and shapely, dormant maples. I would scout the garden before their arrival but so many times we would just happen across things – a flowering bromeliad, a fern leaf unfurling or the perfect lighting for an overall shot.” 

With 19 distinct gardens to spotlight, choosing a favorite is like choosing a favorite child, but when asked which section of the book he’s most proud of, Mills confided, “I would have to say the chapter on the Dunlap cactus garden. It’s my favorite garden on the property, not only because I was so involved in moving the collection to Lotusland and helping to oversee its installation, but because of the story behind it. Lisa was also very drawn to this garden so it got a lot of attention and amazing photos in the book.”

He continued, “We’d often be on the cart heading to a different garden, passing by the Dunlap garden, and Lisa would shout, ‘Stop!’ because she saw something looking just right. This garden was installed after Madame Ganna Walska had passed away, but the project actually started in 1966, when Merritt ‘Sigs’ Dunlap wrote to her wanting to bequeath his cactus collection to Lotusland. She saw this as something great and accepted. Luckily Sigs turned it into a donation and we moved the collection in 2001 and built the garden in 2003 where he celebrated his 97th birthday. We know Madame Ganna Walska would approve of this garden – she loved cacti and dramatic landscapes and its completion signified the fulfillment of her and Sigs’ wish.”

Credit: ©Lotusland by Rizzoli, New York, 2022

“Making the book happen in the right way was challenging, and there were ultimately a lot of interests to entertain along the way, ” said Appleton, who worked on a somewhat similar project with Rizzoli for Casa Del Herrero in 2009, and wrote the introduction to Lotusland. “But I think the book will have a long life as a fairly comprehensive presentation of Lotusland and  why it is such a special garden. Lisa’s photos are amazing, and capture its magic.”

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Limited spots are available for a Luncheon on the Lawn to celebrate Lotusland: Eccentric Garden Paradise on Saturday, May 21 at 11:30 a.m.  

In addition,Lotusland’s 2022 season is now open to reservations through August. Admission is $50 for adults and $25 for children ages 3 to 17. For more information and reservations, visit lotusland.org.

Lotusland: Eccentric Garden Paradise is available at local retailers as well as through the onsite gift shop and online at lotuslandshop.org

Santa Barbara Independent, May 19-25, 2002. ON THE COVER: Madame Ganna Walska, taken c. 1958. Photo by J.R. Eyerman/Lotus- land Archives. Design by Ava Talehakimi.

Originally published in the May 19-25 issue issue of the Santa Barbara Independent. To see the story as it originally appeared 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

 

Insight From HG Insights’ Elizabeth Cholawsky

HG Insights' Elizabeth Cholawsky, photo by Daniel Dreifuss for Santa Barbara Independent.

HG Insights’ Elizabeth Cholawsky, photo by Daniel Dreifuss for Santa Barbara Independent.

A global leader in technology intelligence, HG Insights (formerly HG Data) recently hit a benchmark that CEO Elizabeth Cholawsky is justifiably excited about. “We just topped 100 employees, which is fantastic,” she said. “We were half that about when I got here two and a half years ago, and about three quarters of those employees are in Santa Barbara.”

The former CEO of Support.com and a VP at Citrix Online, Cholawsky jumped at the opportunity in 2018 to work at HG, which is known as a “data as a service,” or DaaS, company, in 2018. “It was way too good to pass up, because the company is just a growing blockbuster,” she said. “It’s really been fun.”

One of her first moves was purchasing Pivotal iQ, a London-based partner that’s now home to much of her sales team. “When we could travel, one of the things that I did was make sure there was a lot of back and forth, so that we could cross-pollinate,” Cholawsky explained. “People from Santa Barbara were thrilled to go spend a week or two in London. And for the London team, we keep one of the apartments at El Escorial, so we can house people coming over. We really encourage that to keep the bicoastal thing going. I do encourage my executive team to get out of what I call the four walls of Santa Barbara and make sure you get that influence from other things going on.”

She’s never felt “too disadvantaged” as a woman in the traditionally male-dominated tech industry, and she has seen increasing opportunities open for women to progress within organizations. “But I don’t think Santa Barbara is immune from the problems, or from the progress that we’re making,” she said.

She’s a fan of basing companies on the Central Coast, where the culture centers on enjoying the outdoors and natural beauty. “I’m not talking about taking time off to go surfing,” she said. “You have more time here. You don’t have the congestion and the traffic problems. And for your life, you just have more hours. That impacts the culture of companies because the stress level goes down and people have both more time to invest in themselves as well as in the company.”

hginsights.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