How do we react locally to the growing tech community in Santa Cruz?
By Casey Beyer
Santa Cruz Chamber of Commerce
September 28, 2017 — Santa Cruz, CA
[Editor’s note: This is one opinion. If you wish to express an alternative opinion, feel free to contact SCTB.]
How do we react locally to ensure that our economy — largely based on agriculture and tourism — can support surges in sectors like tech, health care, and others?
A curious customer asked, why did the new shoe store owner decide to open his store across the street from a competitor? The reply was a sharply toned, “So I can keep an eye on what he displays on his window storefront and I can offer a better (different) choice to my customer.”
The marvel of Silicon Valley’s growth in the 1960s throughout the 20th century and to today can be summarized for three reasons: Location, Location and Weather. 1) The link between their Universities (UC Berkeley, Stanford, Santa Clara and San Jose State University) where the next generation of talented engineers, software designers and techies flow from the classroom to the board room of companies. 2) The link to Venture Capital funders who invest in early start-ups that become global leaders in the industry. Think HP, Intel and Apple to Google and Facebook and Tesla. 3) The Bay Area climate that draws us to the region.
The same ingredients are the reasons we see a resurgence in the tech sector growth in Santa Cruz County. Our link to UCSC, the researchers and the next generation talent pool. The surprising local VC market that wants to build Santa Cruz as a tech center and yes, the magic of our Santa Cruz climate, the ocean and the mountains.
In the past five years we’ve seen the dynamics of new starts ups and incubators forged by the University. The Silicon Valley Business Journal highlighted the growth at Looker in an article this week.
Looker is planning to grow its Santa Cruz headquarters yet again as it ramps up hiring. The 5-year-old data analytics startup is signing up for another floor in the building it leases for its headquarters at 101 Church St. in downtown Santa Cruz. (Just imagine five years earlier, Looker merged from the back room of Cruzio.) The additional 17,000 square feet of space will allow it to hire approximately 100 additional employees, CEO Frank Bien told the Silicon Valley Business Journal, across all parts of the business including engineering, sales and business development, marketing, finance and HR.
“We’re going to continue to build more product and focus on every customer, one at a time, and hopefully that leads to more growth,” Bien told the Business Journal. “This growth and scale becomes critical – we need to maintain it without the wheels of the bus coming off.”
“We are a tech company that could be anywhere and we’ve chosen to be here in Santa Cruz because having the headquarters here has worked well for us,” Bien said. “We can get substantially larger in this building and there’s other space in Santa Cruz as well – there’s a lot of potential here.”
Looker co-founder and CTO, Lloyd Tabb, said the company has been able to attract talent both locally and from over the hill because Santa Cruz offers an attractive reverse commute from Silicon Valley. “I’ve noticed a bunch of local kids who tried the San Francisco thing and didn’t like it, and they’ve liked Santa Cruz and its lifestyle” he said. “They’re like ‘yeah, I can have my life here and work there.’”
Another merging development is in the biotech space, again because of the partnership formed at the University. The Santa Cruz Sentinel’s Calvin Men reported this week that CEO Dan Heller of biotech company, Two Pore Guys, is gearing up for the company’s accelerated growth. The company just expanded the office space to 16,000 square feet and plans on doubling that space by year’s end. While the company is at 72 employees now, executives are forecasting 100 by the end of the year and 200 by June.
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