Tag Archives: south swell ventures

Commuter survey finds tech talent bonanza in Santa Cruz

by Steve Blum • , , ,

Not worth the money.

Ditching a two hour commute and working in Santa Cruz is worth a 9% cut in pay, according to a survey by Civinomics, commissioned by South Swell Ventures. Most of those surveyed – 61% – said they had technical jobs, with software engineers predominating. The most commonly reported commute time was 2 hours (28%), with 80% saying they traveled at least an hour and a half a day. The sample was specifically targeted rather than random…

The survey was conducted in two parts, with half of respondents being randomly selected while boarding company buses at multiple stops, and the other half being referred through a verified link via email. The latter group of respondents are primarily single car commuters who had heard about the survey through local events and co-workers.

Car commuters, though, were more likely – 78% to 46% – to say they’d take less money for working over the hill than company bus riders, which suggests that it’s not based purely on lifestyle considerations. With gas prices hovering around $4 a gallon, there’s also an economic benefit to staying at home, which would partially offset lower pay.

The results validate the assumption that there is a significant reservoir of high tech talent on California’s central coast that’s ready to be tapped, which is an opportunity for local start-ups and growing Silicon Valley companies alike. With a new fiber optic line in the works, the central coast’s broadband capacity will also be up to the challenge, expanding location options south through Santa Cruz County and into the Salinas Valley. Unmatched quality of life combined with superior infrastructure is hard to beat.

Sustainable economic growth on California’s central coast demands cooperation

Yearning creativity seeks willing opportunity.

The economic drivers in California’s central coast region are agriculture and tourism, which account for just about half of private sector jobs in Monterey and Santa Cruz counties.

But the region also has a well educated workforce that commutes to Silicon Valley and beyond – 24% of Santa Cruz residents, according to Bud Colligan, CEO of South Swell Ventures, who spoke at a regional economic development forum in Seaside. He talked about building a regional high tech economy by creating opportunities for people to work where they live…

The usual narrative about tech on the Central Coast is about companies that have left or missed opportunities (Seagate, Digital Research, Borland, SCO, etc.) But [Cruzio, Redshift, Plantronics, Looker, Universal Audio] have been built from local technical and business talent, and in some cases are veterans of companies that left (the people stayed!). And there are many new start-ups that hope to join them.

Colligan’s prescription is to use the region’s unique assets – marine science, genomics and organics research, proximity to Silicon Valley for example – to build an entrepreneurial ecosystem centered on small companies. He’s adding necessary financial fuel: starting Central Coast Angels, a fund to connect early stage investors with innovative local start-ups, and expanding Opportunity Fund, a micro-lending institution, in the region.

There’s no lack of sparks. Santa Cruz has a growing cleantech sector, built around a coastal lifestyle and the human capital that thrives on it. Watsonville and Salinas, and the valley south of it, are home to agricultural technology companies – scrappy start-ups and quiet but long established enterprises alike – that already serve global markets.

Colligan wants to entice regional political and private sector leaders into cooperative efforts, investing in intellectual property and labor force training with regional goals in mind. The challenge is to overcome habitual hyper-local thinking. The reward is a sustainable economy that complements the region’s greatest assets – its “quality of life, natural beauty, clean environment” – and allows people who live here to thrive here.