The First Event Santa Cruz – September 2013


 | October 2, 2019

On September 18, 2013 we had our first Event Santa Cruz event at The Nickelodeon theater to a sold out crowd of 225 enthusiastic attendees. We can’t believe it’s been six year since that night. Event Santa Cruz has changed a lot since then but the objective is still the same – To showcase the amazing people and businesses in our community.

Speakers for the first event back in 2013 (all with the career titles at that point):

Danny Keith – Director Corporate Sponsorships at Santa Cruz Warriors, Executive Director Grind Out Hunger
Margaret Rosas – Looker Afterer at Looker, Co-Founder of TechRaising
Chris Miller – Rocket Scientist at Launch Brigade
Shane Pearlman – CEO at Modern Tribe, Real Estate Investor & Speaker (got sick and was not able to attend)
Ryan Coonerty – Director of Government Relations & Strategy at PredPol, Inc., CoFounder of NextSpace Coworking + Innovation, and CoFounderSanta Cruz NEXT
Kendra Baker – Owner/chef at The Penny Ice Creamery and The Picnic Basket
Kim Luke – Writer, performer, voice of the Santa Cruz Derby Girls and The Santa Cruz Warriors

It is so inspiring to see all our speakers at that event still going strong and growing into who they are today. Check out the videos of each talk below and then read the article by Lauren Hepler in the Silicon Valley Business Journal below the videos.

The video we played at the start of the event. Filmed by Nada Miljković

It’s Wednesday evening, and a line has already formed for a new business speaker series outside a quirky venue a few dozen miles from the heart of Silicon Valley.

Just shy of 220 entrepreneurs, employees from nearby offices and curious locals (myself included) have gathered for the launch of the series, called Event Santa Cruz. That’s a sellout crowd for the small Nickelodeon Theatre, located just off the city’s primary commercial artery on Pacific Avenue.

The suits customary at similar events “over the hill” in San Jose or Palo Alto aren’t there, but organizers are still trying to ensure that ticket holders get some return on the $10 admission fee.

Plastic musical flutes? Check. Hipster event patches? Check. Ocean decal featuring a bikini-clad cartoon? Check.

The swag is passed out at a table outside the indie movie theater, just behind a hybrid car emblazoned with the event logo. Once inside, a video features testimonial-style interviews with entrepreneurs who extoll the city’s creative work force and famously laid-back environment for helping grow their companies.

Those accustomed to more formal networking might be surprised, maybe even inclined toward an eye roll, at the eccentric event in a beach town with a hippie reputation.

But the speakers have founder stories to rival those in Silicon Valley’s hottest tech incubators or venture capital portfolios.

Ryan Coonerty is a former Santa Cruz mayor and one of the founders of co-working startup NextSpace (read more about the company’s expansion here).

Kendra Baker started the Penny Ice Creamery in Santa Cruz with the help of a federal loan. She soon found herself at President Barack Obama‘s State of the Union Address after a phone call from Vice President Joe Biden and a follow-up from “one of Michelle Obama’s people.”

So why have they all gathered in front of several dozen colleagues and local residents on a random weeknight?

“I just felt that our story wasn’t being told,” Event Santa Cruz founder Matthew Swinnerton said.

Make no mistake: The entrepreneurs assembled are not contending that Santa Cruz is part of Silicon Valley in either geography or business mentality. Rather, the monthly Event Santa Cruz series is meant to show off success stories and help brand the city as a viable location for both tech talent and professionals seeking a home base for their businesses.

“We are adjacent to and support the Silicon Valley,” said Santa Cruz tech entrepreneur Margaret Rosas. “We have a geography that separates us. People think of it as very far away.”

To underscore that even a Santa Cruz business event isn’t like its counterparts over Highway 17, Swinnerton enlisted one particularly inventive entrepreneur, Launch Brigade founder Chris Miller. He moved his web development company to the Santa Cruz NextSpace location from Silicon Valley soon after the co-working business opened and has since hired 10 employees.

At Event Santa Cruz, Miller decided to put those plastic flutes to use with a custom-built wooden frame accentuated by illuminated circles numbered one through nine. Flutes were also numbered one-through nine and tuned to a certain note (scotch tape covered necessary holes), allowing Miller to direct the audience in a cacophony of classic cartoon songs.

“I know Santa Cruz is really green, so we looked at recycled ones,” Miller joked of the flutes. “I thought you wouldn’t want to put trash in your mouth, so we had to get these from China.”

Trying again

The Event Santa Cruz series comes after a development push by the city of Santa Cruz. The effort has included a $5 million public loan for an arena to house the new Santa Cruz Warriors NBA development league team, plus a renewed focus on redevelopment near the city’s famous Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk.

When it comes to other business development channels, a Santa Cruz tech e-newsletter is now available thanks to Santa Cruz Tech Beat — an endeavor by web and project consultant Sara Isenberg.

It’s also not the first time Rosas, the NextSpace founders and other Santa Cruz startup advocates have attempted to capture a broader audience.

“I think I was one of those people who said I wanted to put Santa Cruz on the map,” Rosas recalled, “which kind of irritates me.”

She traces the Santa Cruz business push all the way back to a dinner in 2007, when Rosas, Coonerty and Ted Holladay (founder of local creative and branding agency Studio Holladay Inc.) met to discuss the city’s disparate tech scene and startup ideas.

“It was a geek dinner,” Rosas said, adding that the entrepreneurs thought “it’s all gonna be better in six months.”

NextSpace launched in 2008, and Rosas was also involved in other startups around the same time, including a video company called 12 Seconds with a model nearly identical to Vine. The company has since folded.

“There was this little financial meltdown,” Rosas said of the group’s timing with their first Santa Cruz tech advocacy effort.

By 2011, she rebounded to co-found an organization called TechRaising with Event Santa Cruz organizer Swinnerton and Andrew Mueller, the CEO and chief strategist at digital marketing firm Mueller & Company.* TechRaising aims to foster entrepreneurship through channels like weekend-long events to develop and refine startup pitches.

Rosas also found a position at Santa Cruz startup Looker, which was also founded in 2011 and melds technology and business intelligence. She is a vice president (or “looker after” — a title that does conjure associations with Palo Alto or Mountain View startups who adopt similarly unconventional job titles).

Looker has $18 million in funding from venture backers including Menlo Park’s Redpoint Ventures and San Francisco’s First Round Capital.

Right now, the company — like many startups over the hill — is on the hunt for talented engineers. She hopes momentum from ventures like Event Santa Cruz can help give Surf City an edge.

“We don’t need everyone,” Rosas said. “Just the right ones.”

Read the full story here:

Thanks to our sponsors at that time:

NextSpace, Grind Out Hunger, ipsociety, Santa Cruz Tech Beat, Jabico, Santa Cruz Computer Center, Santa Cruz Signs, BaskinGrant, RIDEMADE productions, JBQAV, ITS, THE NICKELODEON, HOFFMANN’s, Sentinel Printers, Miller Maxfield, Inc, New Leaf Community Markets, Santa Cruz Weekly, and Schafer Design.

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