December 3, 2022
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New firms ready to hatch as Startup Weekend comes to Santa Barbara


Spring startup madness promises to continue into summer as Startup Weekend comes to Santa Barbara after a successful run in San Luis Obispo earlier this year.

For the unfamiliar, Startup Weekend is a Seattle-based nonprofit that helps people in cities around the world facilitate events where designers, coders and business minds meet.
Once everyone’s together, the goal is simple: “No talk, all action. Launch a startup in 54 hours.”

The San Luis Obispo incarnation earlier this year on the Cal Poly campus was a great success, drawing more than 100 attendees, generating 12 prototypes, and sending one team called Haberdash (“like Pandora for fashion”) on to a fast-track program with the Kauffman Foundation.

The Santa Barbara version will take place June 1 to June 3 at the newly opened Synergy Business Center. It is being organized by Michael Lewis, founder of StartupSB, Kyle Ashby of Kaldera Marketing and Ben Tucker of Merrill Lynch Wealth Management.

Coders, graphic designers and business and marketing folks will come together, pitch ideas, coalesce into teams and get down to it. A range of mentors, such as Lex Sisney, co-founder of Commission Junction, and product development guru Jim Semick, will be on hand to guide it all.

Semick, for example, specializes in consulting with software companies product development and market validation – basically, what you should build and who you should sell it to. Aside from execution skills, that’s what usually separates neat ideas from profitable businesses. “The single biggest cause of failure in a startup is not getting a good fit with the market,” Semick said. “If you can help them through that at this early stage, they stand a better chance of being successful.”

Semick said the advent of cloud computing and other advances have made it easier than ever to launch a startup fast — which is helpful because much of the real work will start after the 54-hour blitz ends. “Younger folks have all these great tools at their disposal to create stuff. There’s a great temptation to skip the hard part, which is getting out there in the real world and talking with customers, rather than staying isolated and building.”

Another mentor will be Garrett Lauringson, one of the members of Grappple, a winning team from the San Luis Obispo weekend that created “an inspirational social bucket list.” Lauringson attended several Startup Weekends before winning, and his team got a soft investment offer during the last weekend. They turned it down to continue bootstrapping, and he said he’s ready to impart what’s learned so far.

“It’s all about the team – really getting a well-grounded team. You don’t want to be on a business you’re not passionate about. And keep it simple. There’s a lot of crazy ideas out there. Facebook started as a very basic site. Keep it simple so people can understand the concept,” he said.

Staying put

Hathway, a Web design and digital marketing agency started in a garage by Cal Poly grads Jesse Dundon and Kevin Rice, is staying on the Central Coast. The company recently signed a long-term lease in downtown San Luis Obispo.

It joins a number of companies – such as giant Level Studios, which is building it massive new headquarters near the San Luis Obispo airport, the smaller Couto Solutions, which is adding staff at Cal Poly’s tech park, or TekTegrity, which recently moved into new digs – that are staying put as they expand.

Farther north, manufacturing software firm IQMS is adding 30,000 square feet to its offices in Paso Robles. And as we’ve reported elsewhere in the Business Times, medical device supplier Specialty Silicone Fabricators is doubling its space to 100,000 square feet, and oil technology firm Applied Technologies Associates is adding 23,000 square feet in the city.

Each of these businesses had to reach their own conclusions, of course, and about the only thing they share in common is that other cities across the country would love to welcome them. But the fact that they’ve chosen to double down on the Central Coast bodes well.

• Contact technology columnist Stephen Nellis at