Pacific Coast Business Times Proudly serving Ventura, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties Mon, 20 Oct 2014 22:14:55 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Citrix expands South Coast holdings with RightSignature acquisition Mon, 20 Oct 2014 22:09:50 +0000 Multinational software firm Citrix Systems announced today it has bought RightSignature, a Web-based signature capture and document management service based in Santa Barbara. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Citrix is headquartered in Florida but also runs major operation out of Goleta, where it previously acquired Expertcity, the maker of its popular GoToMeeting and GoToMyPC products. As of today, the RightSignature team has also joined the ranks at Citrix.

RightSignature’s e-signing service has been part of Citrix’s ShareFile platform since last year, and it has been “hugely popular,” Jesse Lipson, general manager of Citrix’s Documents Cloud, said in a press release.

“Having an easy, streamlined solution to handle secure file storage, syncing, sharing and signing all at once is not only highly desirable but absolutely critical to many of the key industries Citrix serves,” Lipson said. “We are looking forward to taking this integration a step further to deliver a complete, integrated end-to-end document workflow solution.”

RightSignature was spun out of Portland-based Burnside Digital, a maker of web-based apps for financial institutions, in 2009 by a group of employees that was tired of standing around the fax machine at odd hours waiting for signatures from international clients.

In 2012, company CEO Daryl Bernstein told the Business Times that, aside from its marquee signature technology, what keeps business customers coming back are the tools for creating and managing documents.

“Usually, you prepare your documents, send them out, and they go into a black hole,” Bernstein said. “Everybody is waiting on this stage. We add a new level of visibility.”

In a statement released yesterday, Bernstein said Citrix will be the “perfect home” for accelerating RightSignature’s growth.

“We started with a simple idea: to enable easy online document signing,” Bernstein said. “Now, almost six years later, professionals and businesses — in almost every industry and across five continents — sign millions of documents every year using RightSignature.”

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Ventura County’s Ebola response detailed at health summit Mon, 20 Oct 2014 15:42:43 +0000 Area hospitals are getting nearly daily updates from the Centers for Disease Control as efforts to contain the Ebola virus in the United States kick into high gear.

That was the message from Community Memorial Health System CEO Gary Wilde at an Oct. 17 panel on the future of health care in Ventura County.

Wilde told about 300 business and community leaders that CMH was getting communications “daily and sometimes overnight from the CDC” as it refined procedures for dealing with Ebola victims.

The well-publicized infection of two nurses who treated Thomas Eric Duncan, who died from the disease in a Texas hospital, has been a wake-up call. Wilde said CMH has conducted several drills in anticipation of possibly treating an Ebola victim. The hospital used the drills to improve procedures and in one case identified more precisely which room would be best for treating a potential victim, according to Wilde.

He said the hospital had treated one patient for a possible Ebola infection. The patient, who had been transferred from another clinic, had been in West Africa but tested negative for Ebola he said.

Wilde and five other health care and insurance experts participated in the 44th-annual Business Outlook Conference put on by the Ventura County Economic Development Association.

At the conference, keynote speaker Dr. Harlan Levine, CEO of the City of Hope Medical Foundation, said the Affordable Care Act has shown promise in reducing health care costs, particularly through consolidations that have made the system more efficient.

But he said one consequence is a narrowing of options for patients who have rare but deadly diseases. “Networks are narrowing to exclude high-cost centers,” he said. One solution to the problem is the creation of “new, risk-sharing partnerships” where health plans and care providers team up to manage more complex treatments.

The good about the Affordable Care Act is more accountability, more access and better coordination as well as the trend of price increases moderating,” he said. “The bad is that deductibles are higher, networks are narrower and products are more restrictive.”
A key test, he said will be whether consolidation will lead to price increases down the road as competition for services wanes. Also, he said it is fair to ask if the focus on cost control will kill off innovation, an area where U.S. medicine has been a world leader.

Participating on the panel were Peter Sepsis of Kaiser Permanente; Leanne Seeger of HUB International Insurance Services; Greg Van Ness, CEO of Tolman & Wiker Insurance Services; Wilde; Chris Champlin, Chief Strategy Officer, Dignity Health of Central Coast area; and Rigoberto Vargas of the Ventura County Health Care agency.

The program was held at the Ventura County Office of Education conference center in Camarillo.

Note: Business Times’ Henry Dubroff is a member of the VCEDA board and moderated the panel discussion.

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Air Force’s top-secret space plane lands at Vandenberg Fri, 17 Oct 2014 19:37:17 +0000 A shot of the craft after it landed at Vandenberg Air Force Base in 2012. (Courtesy photo)

A shot of the craft after it landed at Vandenberg Air Force Base in 2012. (Courtesy photo)


A mysterious unmanned space craft touched down at Vandenberg Air Force Base this morning after spending 674 days in orbit.

The X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle was launched by the U.S. Air Force, which has kept details about the mission closely guarded. While many suspect its goal may be intelligence-related, the Air Force only said the program “supports space experimentation, risk reduction and concept of operations development for long duration and reusable space-vehicle technologies.”

For Vandenberg, situated right outside Lompoc, the successful landing affirms the base’s ability to execute big-ticket aeronautical missions.

“I’m extremely proud of our team for coming together to execute this third safe and successful landing,” Col. Keith Balts, 30th Space Wing commander, said in a press release. “Everyone, from our on console space operators to our airfield managers and civil engineers, takes pride in this unique mission and exemplify excellence during its execution.”

Boeing has only built two of the X-37B crafts, which are operated by the Air Force’s Rapid Capabilities Office. Measuring slightly more than 29 feet in length, they are the world’s smallest unmanned orbital vehicles. It weighs 11,000 pounds and has solar panels that unfurl to charge its batteries once in orbit.

Although the base has been involved with the program since 2008, this may be one of the last landings of an X-37B at Vandenberg. The Air Force has leased space at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida and has said it plans to relocate the program there. The Air Force is also looking into whether an existing runway used to land the space shuttle in Florida could be used for landing future missions.

“Officials anticipate multiple missions will be required to satisfy the test program objectives, but the exact number of missions has not been determined,” an Air Force statement said.

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The Habit aims to beef up sales with IPO filing Fri, 17 Oct 2014 17:52:54 +0000 Goleta-grown fast-casual burger chain The Habit readies to go public. The company, now based in Irvine, has seen 34 percent revenue growth over the past three years. (Courtesy photo)

Goleta-grown fast-casual burger chain The Habit readies to go public. The company, now based in Irvine, has seen 34 percent revenue growth over the past three years. (Courtesy photo)

The Habit Restaurant, parent company of The Habit Burger Grill, filed yesterday to take the company public with an earnings goal of just over $86 million.

The move comes just a few short months after rumors started swirling in August that the fast-casual burger chain was considering an IPO. Founded in Goleta in 1969, the concept’s focus on quality food attracted national attention — earlier this summer, Consumer Reports snubbed brands such as In-N-Out Burger and Shake Shack when it named The Habit’s burger the best in America.

It isn’t known how many shares the company plans to sell, or on which exchange its stock will be listed, though it intends to use the ticker symbol HABT.

In 2007, founding brothers Brent and Bruce Reichard sold a majority stake in the company to KarpReilly, a private-equity firm based in Connecticut that brought in industry veteran Russ Bendel as chief executive and moved the headquarters to Irvine.

The Habit has since grown to 98 locations in 10 markets and four states, up from 26 locations location in just three California markets in 2009, according to its filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

The company expects to open 23 to 25 restaurants before the end of fiscal 2014, and another 26 to 28 units next year. Habit landed on the East Coast in New Jersey in August and company officials project that domestically the chain could reach 2,000 locations. While growth is primarily expected to come from company-owned locations, Habit started a franchise program last year and expects the first franchised location to open in 2015, the company said.

Habit has had 42 consecutive quarters of positive same-store sales growth, primarily due to increases in traffic and second quarter same-store sales rose 6.1 percent year to date, following a 3.6-percent increase in same-store sales for fiscal year 2013, according to the company. Additionally, company-owned restaurant average unit volumes increased from about $1.2 million in 2009 to about $1.7 million as of July, according to SEC documents, a nearly 34 percent increase.

The filing also shows that net income increased from $0.1 million to $5.7 million, and revenue rose from $28.1 million to $120.4 million between 2009 and 2013. With prices relatively cheaper than similar burger slingers, Habit holds it’s average bill at $7.44, putting it under the industry average of $8 to $12.

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Sonos finds its groove with wireless offering Fri, 17 Oct 2014 07:03:01 +0000 A still from one of Sonos' new TV spots, in which a home is lacquered in gold as one of its speakers streams Isaac Hayes' theme from “Shaft.”

A still from one of Sonos’ new TV spots, in which a home is lacquered in gold as one of its speakers streams Isaac Hayes’ theme from “Shaft.”

Sonos has taken its technology truly wireless as it expands its on-demand music listening capabilities.

The consumer audio gear maker is a South Coast behemoth, with $535 million in 2013 revenue and 400 employees sprawled across 100,000-square-feet at its downtown Santa Barbara headquarters. Its property holdings make it the largest private-sector tenant in one of the nation’s most coveted commercial markets.

Last month, Sonos released a major software update enabling its speakers to connect to WiFi directly; before, users who wanted to tap its streaming services had to set up a wired connection between a router and one of the system’s speakers or a secondary component, the $50 Sonos Bridge.

The company’s flurry of developments continued Oct. 14 with the release of a product called Boost, a WiFi amplifier that surpasses the Bridge’s capabilities without the need for wires. The $100 component promises to bring commercial-grade stability and range to household wireless networks, giving Sonos a possible route to expand into the Internet of Things.

To distinguish its offerings going forward, the company may have to build on the Boost’s appeal as a multi-purpose signal strengthener across technologies. A national television ad campaign launched Oct. 12 combines buoyant pop-art animation with mesmerizing tunes, encouraging viewers to “Sonos your home.” Some of the first ads aired in conjunction with the NFL football broadcast on CBS.

More immediately, however, the product aims to banish buffering and uphold high sound quality as the company continues to build the roster of streaming services paired with its speakers. Although Sonos systems have long incorporated on-demand music services such as Spotify, Rdio and Soundcloud, the company’s latest deal with French music subscription firm Deezer is a move to capture the most discerning audio streamers.

According to company representative Eric Nielsen, Sonos was an early adopter of such services because it “saw the ability to play all the music on earth in any room as the future of listening in the home.”

Deezer entered the U.S. market last month with Deezer Elite, a music subscription plan available exclusively through Sonos products. The service, which costs around $120 a year, includes access to a library of 35 million tunes delivered in an audio format called FLAC, known for providing extremely crisp sound quality in an efficient package. According to Deezer, FLAC files deliver fives times as much sonic information as MP3s.

Russ Crupnick, an analyst at MusicWatch, said the Deezer Elite service is likely to be taken up by audiophiles heretofore frustrated with the poor sound quality most streaming services relay over their expensive, high-fidelity speaker system. “The more highly engaged music fan is going to find it first,” Crupnick said, and those who value a high-end listening experience tend to be Sonos’ most loyal customers.

So far, more than 50 streaming services are available through Sonos speakers. Twenty of those were added in the last year. “We expect there will be hundreds more and we hope to have all of them,” Nielsen said.

Sonos doesn’t release data on sales of its products or rates of streaming use, but Nielsen did say on-demand service subscribers form the core of its client base. “Our customer is listening to music digitally and wanting a better way listen at home,” he said.

Additionally, Nielsen said Sonos splits its sales 50-50 between the U.S. and the rest of the world, with its largest base of non-U.S. customers in Europe.

According to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry, a global nonprofit that represents the recording industry’s interests, services such as Deezer “are seeing healthy growth in sales among a largely higher income, credit card-owning demographic, complementing ad-supported services that are free-to-consumer.” So far, the company counts 5 million paying subscribers.

Sonos’ competitors have caught on to the market for high-end music streaming. Three weeks after the ink had dried on its deal with Deezer, Bose signed a copycat agreement to offer the French company’s Premium+ music subscription, the service a tier down from Deezer Elite. And in the hardware developments, Sonos’ virtual monopoly of the multi-room audio market is at risk as Samsung and LG continue releasing products to elbow their way in.

“We love that more energy is coming into the home audio and wireless speaker space and that more and more customers are rediscovering the joys of listening to music in the home,” Sonos’ Nielsen said. “We like our head start and we’ll hopefully be leading the industry in even more innovative directions.”

Which is where the Boost comes in. “As a consumer, I know you often have trouble streaming things even if you have a higher-speed internet service,” Crupnick said. Walking around the house to search for bandwidth with a laptop can be tedious, but poor connectivity defeats the purpose of a wireless speaker system.

The company was also issued the trademark for a product called Playbase on Aug. 6, but its details remain shrouded in mystery.

And while the jury’s still out on the potential market share of streaming services, Crupnick said one certainty is the continuing decline of CD sales — digital or otherwise — at a fairly rapid rate, yielding traction to more disruptive methods of music delivery. While forgoing a CD purchase once incentivized music listeners to simply obtain songs illegally, streaming has become an easier — and thus more widespread — alternative to pirating.

“In a sense, streaming is very mainstream,” Crupnick said, pointing to Pandora’s broad demographic appeal and Youtube, which the younger generation uses to access music on-demand. “If you look at the Pandora user, they look very much like the population as a whole. You’ve got more people who are streaming than are buying CDs.”

A version of this article appeared on page 1A of the Oct. 17-23 edition of the Business Times.

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Tourism may benefit from new sanctuary Fri, 17 Oct 2014 07:02:20 +0000


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Pressing ahead: Olive growers brace for tighter standards Fri, 17 Oct 2014 07:01:33 +0000


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