Santa Cruz culture gives tech start ups a competitive edge

Santa Cruz inspires Tomfoolery.

“The culture of community is Santa Cruz’s greatest export,” said Sol Lipman, one of three local entrepreneurs speaking at an event Thursday evening celebrating the growth and innovation of the local tech scene.
Sol is the founder of Tomfoolery, a start up that’s targeting the corporate sector with mobile apps that grow social networks within companies organically. He pointed out that the top three social networking platforms used for business are actually well known consumer market apps: Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, in that order. Their first product, Anchor, is already deployed in about twenty companies.
“Social interactions at work are broken,” he said. “People work at home, people work at places like NextSpace, people work everywhere. But people are unhappy.” The solution is to use social media to infuse corporate culture with the lifestyle values – friendship and fun – that employees often leave at the door.
It’s Sol’s sixth venture, the two most recent – and RallyUp – were also started in Santa Cruz, California, working out of the NextSpace coworking community, another successful venture that combines local lifestyle and culture with high technology talent.
Peter Koht and Shane Pearlman joined Sol. Peter is one of the two principals of OpenCounter, an open source portal that helps new businesses navigate the complex and often contradictory permits and approvals process required by local government. He started it when he was working for the City of Santa Cruz, as a Code for America project. The Knight Foundation was so impressed it gave him and his business partner, Joel Mahoney, $500,000 to take it national this summer. In just a couple of months, they’ve signed up several new cities, including Houston, Texas.
Shane has leveraged the Santa Cruz lifestyle into Modern Tribe, a digital design and development agency started with a desire to work where he wants to live, not live where he has to work. The firm now has about 35 freelancers and employees, distributed around the world, linked by technology and shared values and qualities that Shane boils down to happy, helpful, curious, accountable and good.
The forum was organised by the Santa Cruz New Tech Meetup and sponsored by Santa Cruz Tech Beat, Cruzio, NextSpace and the City of Santa Cruz. The next one is coming up on 6 November 2013, at the Cruzio & Ecology Action Green Building in downtown Santa Cruz.