July 21, 2024
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South Coast Biz Tech Awards: 2015 winners include Nobel winner, startups and a zoo


A Nobel Prize winner, two recent IPOs, a cultural icon who knows how to innovate and a startup entrepreneur will be honored this year at the South Coast Business and Technology Awards.

The Scholarship Foundation of Santa Barbara has announced that Nobel Laureate Shuji Nakamura, the founders of device makers Inogen and Sientra, the Santa Barbara Zoo and entrepreneur Ken Babcock will be honored at the 2015 dinner, which begins with a 5 p.m. reception on June 11 at Fess Parker’s Doubletree by Hilton resort.

One of the largest events of the year in the region, the program is a major fundraiser for the Scholarship Foundation, which last year provided $8.6 million in financial aid to 2,748 students in Santa Barbara County.

Here is a closer look at this year’s winners, who are selected by a committee that includes civic and business leaders:

• Shuji Nakamura–Pioneer of the Year. The 2014 Nobel Laureate in Physics, Nakamura is widely recognized for discovering materials crucial to the development of the blue, green and white light-emitting diodes that enabled vast improvements in the energy efficiency of lighting. His research also is instrumental to next generation Blue Ray optical storage. Since 2000, he’s been a professor of materials and electrical and computer engineering at UC Santa Barbara. He holds more than 200 U.S. patents and in 2008 co-founded Soraa, a company that operates in Santa Barbara and Silicon Valley. His Nobel Prize last year put UCSB on the map once again as an elite research institution.

• Inogen–Company of the Year.
Co-founded by UCSB undergraduate students Ali Bauerlein, Brenton Taylor and Byron Myers, the company has evolved from a business plan competition winner to a successful initial public offering, raising $70.5 million in February 2014. Its Inogen One and Inogen At Home systems are providing mobility and vastly enhanced quality of life to thousands of people suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The founders have been recognized by the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Awards, Pacific Coast Business Times’ 40 Under 40 and Inc. magazine’s 30 Under 30 Coolest Entrepreneurs.

• Hani Zeini–Executive of the Year. Zeini is a former executive at Inamed, now Allergan Medical, who struck out on his own in 2006 with the founding of Sientra, where he serves as president and CEO. An expert in the field of breast implants, he pioneered a new generation of products that provide better outcomes for patients. He led the company to a successful IPO in 2014, with $75 million raised. An engineer by training, he attended Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business and he’s been a pioneer in advancing the idea of evidence-based outcomes for the aesthetic surgery field.

• Ken Babcock–Entrepreneur of the Year. A Harvard-trained physicist, Babcock is a former executive with Digital Instruments in Santa Barbara. In 2006, he helped form Affinity Biosensors, an award-winning company that has pioneered the concept of using advanced measurement techniques to diagnose and treat for infections such as septicemia or meningitis.

• Excellence in Service–The Santa Barbara Zoo. In honoring the zoo, the selection committee recognized the 30-acre site as a “local treasure for residents and tourists alike” that traces its legacy to a gift by Lillian Child. The zoo serves 480,000 guests annually, employs some 250 workers and is home to more than 160 species of mammals, reptiles, birds, fish and invertebrates. The zoo is known for its Species Survival Plan, protecting more than 200 species from extinction. This innovative approach to conservation includes groundbreaking efforts to create new environments for the Channel Islands fox and the California condor.