Among the rock stars of the Central Coast innovation culture, Inogen co-founder Ali Bauerlein will always be near the top of our list.
It was her grandmother’s health problems that sparked the idea for a new type of oxygen concentrator more than 20 years ago. And Bauerlein followed the company from an award-winning student business plan to co-founder, capital raiser and eventually CFO, with a successful IPO and the fielding of countless analyst calls along the way. Over the years, she got married, became a mom and survived a tumultuous two decades in business.
The Business Times has closely followed her career, naming Bauerlein and her co-founders to our 40 Under 40 class early on in the 21st century. Bauerlein has been a Top Women in Business honoree, a keynote speaker at our Spirit of Small Business Awards and has earned other honors, particularly a coveted “Venky” award from her alma mater, UC Santa Barbara.
We were a bit surprised to learn that she’s stepping down from the CFO post at Inogen, following in the footsteps of her two co-founders, who resigned from the company earlier this year. But as many of us have learned over the past five years, helping to navigate a Central Coast company through fires, mud slides, California’s increasingly regulated workplace and COVID-19 protocols can take a heavy toll.
In a post on LinkedIn, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates wrote about 2021 being a “difficult year” that has made it harder for executives to remain connected. The internal gratifications of success are harder to achieve when workforces are scattered at work and at home, vaccination is somehow a contentious issue, and the next iteration of the COVID-19 virus threatens to upend plans one more time.
For Bauerlein, it has been two decades of meeting challenges head-on. It’s been a great run and we can’t wait to learn about her next chapter.
KEEP COMMUNITY OVER PARTY
San Luis Obispo County was once described as the “happiest place on earth,” a moniker that made Santa Barbara and Ventura counties feel just a big jealous.
But when it comes to politics these days, it is Santa Barbara and Ventura counties that have found a path to relatively collegial relationships, while SLO County is now the most contentious in the region.
Over the objections of the San Luis Obispo Chamber of Commerce and others, the Board of Supervisors narrowly approved a redistricting plan that preserves a conservative majority by reshaping the districts along what appear to be partisan lines. Now a lawsuit over the redistricting is possible, and perhaps likely, amid a push by some organizations to return to something closer to the maps that have been in effect for the past decade.
We would point out that SLO County’s history is one of consensus politics and a commitment that puts community over party. It was a pioneer in creating a Red Cross chapter, in welcoming a state university to the area and, more recently, in welcoming innovation in software and viticulture.
With the smallest population of the Tri-Counties, SLO County has a relatively smaller GDP. But the county has made a significant investment in REACH, an organization that is regional in its economic development focus. However the redistricting fracas is resolved, it is important for SLO County to remain focused on the future, and to keep economic considerations in mind.