PacBiz Times: New arrival on Santa Barbara tech scene starts biz-tech group

Peter Sullivan and his wife had dreamt of moving to Santa Barbara for a decade. Last year, that dream became a reality, when Sullivan and wife — along with his software company, Jackpocket — moved to Santa Barbara.

There were the usual obvious reasons for wanting to move to the area, like the climate, natural beauty and lifestyle, but Sullivan also saw a bustling tech community.

“We noticed a thriving tech community here, but what we figured out is that not many people had been telling the story correctly outside of Santa Barbara,” he said. “Not many people knew.”

Now, Sullivan and Jackpocket want to show their commitment to the area by bringing the tech business community together under a new organization: Silicon Riviera.

Jackpocket, a software company with an app to purchase state lottery tickets, was founded in New York and opened its second headquarters in Santa Barbara late last year.

Jackpocket launched Silicon Riviera on March 9, and it is establishing the group as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit affiliated with the Santa Barbara Foundation.

Sullivan said Silicon Riviera will be “highlighting Santa Barbara as a place where you can live an amazing lifestyle, but also be part of a thriving tech community.”

“We want to be rebranded externally to the rest of the world,” he said.

It won’t be the first group to represent Santa Barbara’s technology sector. A variety of networking and other professional associations have surfaced over the past couple of decades, including Ventech, which was the MIT Enterprise Forum Central Coast until MIT ended that program last year.

Steve Sereboff, Ventech’s chair, said Silicon Riviera has contacted his organization about teaming up.

Our board is discussing it and the mood is supportive,” Sereboff said. “It’s good to see folks who are new to town looking to collaborate with our institutions for the greater good.”

A few weeks ago, Sullivan attended Upfront Summit, a tech conference in Los Angeles, where he kept running into people from LA who had no idea that Santa Barbara has a sizable tech sector.

“Santa Barbara in particular has a really interesting dynamic where you have access to great universities, you have a small enough community and you also have not only people that are coming out of those communities, but you’ve actually had some success stories here, some larger corporations, and you also have successful entrepreneurs that want to give back to the community,” Sullivan said.

He praised local companies such as Sonos, Procore and Evidation Health as evidence of the strength of the Santa Barbara tech scene.

“There’s so many awesome companies that are here and so many new companies and what we’re trying to do is just bring that all together under one cohesive unit,” Sullivan said. “When I read press around companies that have raised capital here, they need to tie it to this concept that there is a Silicon Riviera going on here. But they’re never going to do that unless we build that.”

Silicon Riviera will host its first event, a ping pong tournament mixer, on March 31 at the Jackpocket offices on State Street.

The organization’s goal is to grow to a point where it can surround entrepreneurs with access to capital, mentorship, networking, recruitment and more. To do that, it plans to work with UC Santa Barbara and Santa Barbara City College to help connect young, local talent to the tech companies in the area.

The organization has already made connections with venture capital firms, such as Santa Barbara Venture Partners, which invested in Jackpocket’s Series D round.

Sullivan also wants to work with City Hall. “It has to be part of the city’s branding, saying that this is a place where you can build an awesome technology company and you’re going to have the support of the city.”

In the few weeks since starting up, Sullivan said Silicon Riviera has met with the City Council, the city economic development team and the Santa Barbara South Coast Chamber of Commerce.

One day, Silicon Riviera could expand into Ventura County, which has its own tech standouts, including The Trade Desk.

But, for now, the goal is to start with Santa Barbara and rebrand its image.

“We do think Santa Barbara actually has something really special, and so we’re trying to figure out the best way to highlight it now,” Sullivan said.