OK, there’s no way for me to hit all interesting SoCal companies in four posts…or even twenty, but this short series is my basic overview of the world the way I see it from my PivotPoint desk. Think in terms of this famous “New Yorkers’ View of the World”. My blinders are trained on digital media, tech–and increasingly cleantech–between Santa Barbara and San Diego. I’m especially interested in those that are actively growing and hiring new market-facing professionals (sales, marketing, and/or product management). I specifically do not work in aerospace. I keep getting tempted to try biotech…but my total lack of knowledge has thankfully held me back. There is a LOT going on in SoCal; we rank at least top 5 nationally in just about any ranking of tech, media, cleantech, VC, entrepreneurship, or anything that measures how much new business stuff is happening. There are regions, areas, and neighborhoods where businesses cluster. This tour is for the vast majority of us who have spent most of their time head down doing their job well and haven’t tried to understand what’s going on nearby, 10 miles up the freeway, and 50 miles “over the hill”.
The companies that make the cut, in no particular order: a) huge companies that define the region b) huge companies many have never heard of c) notable newer companies d) companies that have accelerated recently e) notable (to me) venture capital firms and lastly f) blatant plugs where friends or I have worked.
Santa Barbara Launch…
We start our high speed tour at the corner of Hollister & Coronado in Goleta at the HQ of Citrix Online—makers of GoToMeeting. This is maybe the best known tech company in the S.B. We continue south on the 101 and very quick pass by our first PivotPoint client, Occam Networks—now known as Calix. Going just a little faster than 65 mph, we get to a block of four: RingRevenue, DFJ Frontier, Rightscale, and Commission Junction. DFJ is the biggest VC in the area; RR and Rightscale are startups aggressively expanding, and CJ powers online advertising as part of Valueclick. Ten minutes further down the road is my first “who knew” company: QAD. Makers of CRM/ERP software…they’re over $200M and have been around since the 70’s. Lynda.com is a relatively new find for me. Somehow they’ve found a way to get people to actually pay for stuff online. Novel! After Lynda, we kick the Maserati up to a-buck-fifty so we can get to Camarillo in a few minutes. Here we get our first look at companies that operate more in assembly language than Ruby on Rails. These four semiconductor companies were the high flyers in the 80’s…but every business becomes staid eventually. CalAmp is $150M and are now in a wide range of equipment, including routers and modems. Semtech has revenue of $450M this year on huge growth. They make a variety of chip level products, and they must be making them good. Power One and Vitesse are right across the street from one another to delineate the Santa Barbara sub region. Power One has reinvented itself as a cleantech company right under my nose and has made a HUGE jump from $400M in revenue to over $1B in ’11. Vitesse makes a variety of super geeky networking gear that should never be seen outside of a too-cold room with bad fluorescent lighting. They pull in a little under $200M a year. Yes, there are some big companies up here, and we’re just getting started. We almost immediately cross over into…
The Land of 1,000 Oaks
We’ve crossed an imaginary line, but the companies haven’t changed too much. Xirrus is first. It’s a private company that makes wireless networking equipment, specifically Wi-Fi arrays that cover various service areas. Still moving at 150, Ben Kuo‘s SoCalTech is 2 minutes away on our right. To our left–Inphi is across the freeway. If we wanted to stop, stretch our legs and casually engage in some high-speed analog circuit design for broadband network applications…this is where we’d do it. Pass, for now.
Slow the Maserati down to 140 or we’ll blow right by Valueclick and Move, Inc. who can peep in each other’s windows—but I wouldn’t approve. Valueclick is one of the heavyweights in online advertising technology to the tune of $450M and Move runs Realtor.com among other real estate web properties and is a $200M business in total. Videogame publisher THQ is just a few seconds away. They’ll always have a place in my heart for providing a great assignment for our final MBA project at UCLA Anderson. Ixia is building rack networking gear nearby, jumping from $170M to $270M in revenue year to year. What recession?
Continuing, we find Avanquest, a global packaged software publisher/distributor. Exit, turn north on Topanga Canyon and roll by ReachLocal, who completed their IPO last year. They’re in the practically infinite space of selling online marketing services to small and medium business (SMB). They field an army of sales reps that knock on doors and get the local restaurant to hit the ‘net with their advertising. Further up Topanga, MRV and its spinoff Source Photonics are close enough to spy on each other as they design and sell optoelectronics gear. After DataDirect Networks (high-performance & cloud storage) we pull a U and head back to the Ventura Freeway and continue south.
Next Bat-Post, we trade in the Maserati for a Prius and cruise through Tinseltown taking in some different sights than the usual tourist.