It's been several years in the making, and several hundred people gathered Wednesday night to celebrate the long-awaited opening of the Goleta Entrepreneurial Magnet, or GEM, incubator space in Old Town Goleta, which aims to serve as a catalyst for startups in the area as well as a way to capture young talent and ideas emerging from UCSB.
The organization is a collaboration of the Goleta Valley Chamber of Commerce, the City of Goleta and UCSB, and will provide affordable office and conference space for local startups as well as mentorship and coaching.
The 4,500-square-foot space sits to the rear of the ATK Space Systems property at 600 Pine Ave. in Goleta.
The project sets itself apart from a traditional incubator space because it partners its occupants with mentors and advisors, according to Doug Lynch, GEM executive director.
"This has been a labor of love for a long time," the chamber's Kristen Miller said to the crowd packed with local business owners, City Council members and other supporters gathered to hear about the offerings of the new space.
Growing local business and fostering entrepreneurship are just a few of the goals of GEM, she said.
The idea began popping up about 2½ years ago and was simmering in the minds of those at the city and the university when local venture capitalist Chris Felipe offered matching funds to get the GEM program off the ground.
ATK now rents the space at a discounted rate to the nonprofit, Lynch said, and the space is currently about one-third full, with offices and cubicles still available to rent.
Four "hot desks" are also available for people to rent as workstations for their computers, and a kitchen space, key-locked doors and 24-hour security are just a few of the amenities at the space.
GEM is hosting a summer accelerator program to give six local startups work spaces at the locations as well funding and mentorship, and on Wednesday night, each team gave the crowd a one-minute introduction to their idea or service.
The summer program "does in two months what would traditionally be done in a year," Lynch said. He added that they had 14 teams apply, "and it was tough to narrow them down to the six."
Four of the teams are related to the new venture competition at UCSB.
All of the teams are startups, all looking for mentors, advisors and funding.
Norah Eddy, co-founder of Salty Girl Seafood, which connects small scale fishermen and chefs through an online marketplace, expressed excitement about the new space and opportunity.
"We're really excited to be here at GEM," she said, adding that their goals are to continue signing on fishermen and that the company is in the midst of raising their first round of seed funding,
Anyone wishing to be a funder, mentor or tenant of GEM should contact Lynch at 805.637.6660 or email@example.com.