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Impact Hub Startup Incubator to Open in Heart of Downtown Santa Barbara

Latest office spaces add to growing list of new technology co-working environments for South Coast entrepreneurs

Local entrepreneur Kyle Ashby is one of four co-founders working to open Impact Hub, at 1117 State St., the latest small business incubator space to pop up in Santa Barbara.
Local entrepreneur Kyle Ashby is one of four co-founders working to open Impact Hub, at 1117 State St., the latest small business incubator space to pop up in Santa Barbara. (Gina Potthoff / Noozhawk photo)

Another startup incubator is preparing to open later this year in downtown Santa Barbara, proving it’s a buyer’s market for those nurturing the young minds of local entrepreneurs.

Impact Hub Santa Barbara expects to join the growing list of co-working spaces Dec. 1 after completing renovations inside its two-story, 11,200 square-foot space at 1117 State St.

Its model differs slightly from the rest of the pack — local founders but it’s part of a global network of Impact Hubs — although like many of its South Coast competitors, the space aims to offer happy homes and helpful advice to companies in their infancy.

While there’s bound to be some overlap in services, Impact Hub co-founder Kyle Ashby is hopeful that rivalry will breed collaboration between the incubators.

“The more the merrier is right,” said Peter Rupert, chairman of UC Santa Barbara’s Economics Department and executive director of the UCSB Economic Forecast Project.

Think of startup incubators as restaurants, he said. The more choices customers have, the more restaurants try to specialize and please.

Santa Barbara and Goleta have been home to startup incubators for years. Entrepreneur Dennis Cagan and several partners opened one, the Santa Barbara Technology Center, at 402 E. Gutierrez St. in the 1990s. Noozhawk was launched there in 2007 as was RightScale, which now occupies the entire 26,000-square-foot spaceBermant Development Co. operated a sister facility in Goleta.

Similarly, Noospheric has operated as a boutique startup incubator/investment practice in downtown Santa Barbara since 2009, acting as lead investor in TrackR and SBClick.

The latest flurry of incubation started in 2012, with SYNERGY Business & Technology Center opening on the fringe of the Funk Zone. Workzones co-working club in Paseo Nuevo soon followed, along with the Goleta Entrepreneurial Magnet in Old Town Goleta and the opening of Tech Haus earlier this year on Chapala Street in downtown Santa Barbara.

“I don’t see any qualms at all,” Rupert told Noozhawk. “There are lots of new ideas out there. Trying to get those ideas to fruition is not a simple process. They’re seeing the opportunities. They wouldn’t be coming here if they didn’t think it was worthwhile.

“There’s so much going on in this area in terms of tech. I think we’re just starting to tap into what’s going on.”

Ashby, for example, is also a member of Workzones and plans to keep that membership.

The Santa Barbara native and founder of Startup SB — an organization that also connects entrepreneurs with valuable resources — envisions Impact Hub as a productive workspace with small rentable offices, desks and conference rooms that can capitalize on the network of 67 other Impact Hubs worldwide.

That number will be 80 by the time the Santa Barbara location opens.

Ashby has put a ton of time, fundraising and his own money into the local endeavor, along with three other co-founders: Diana Pereira, who has a banking background; Claude Case, a former CEO active in Social Venture Partners; and Dan Ferrick, a UCSB alum who just moved back to Santa Barbara as a real estate broker and part owner of CorePower Yoga.

They sought out Impact Hub more than a year ago, admiring a model that also rents space to nonprofit organizations and environmental groups, hosts community events and caters to startups old and new.

“It’s really community focused,” Ashby said of the model. “There’s such a need for small offices downtown.”

Impact Hub will charge $300 for monthly use of the coworking space (that won't have assigned seating) and offer 8 “permanent desks” and 16 offices. The Impact Hub will also include a product lab in the basement for young companies like FuelBox and TrackR.

The normal amenities like kitchen, coffee and educational programming also are planned.

Ashby said an “Impact Pub” was also in the works for the State Street side of the building, which would be a café open to the public where beer, wine and food will be sold in a building that used to be a rug shop, furniture store and social club/bar.

“We have a lot of space for a lot of people,” he said. “Santa Barbara is getting more attention.”

Ashby already met with Dave Adornetto, director of UCSB’s Technology Management Program who’s also involved in GEM — the incubator collaboration between UCSB, the City of Goleta and the Goleta Valley Chamber of Commerce.

Adornetto sees room for collaboration, but nothing has been set yet.

“The prevailing thought is that, generally speaking, the rising tide floats all boats,” Adornetto said of incubator spaces.

“The majority of us are in it to help entrepreneurs. It’s in all of our best interest to find where we can work together. We all also are probably interested in our own particular niche.

“Our niche is to give newly graduated entrepreneurs a safe landing place.”

Santa Barbara’s information technology field could see benefit from the surge in incubators, which Rupert said could increase the number of high-paying jobs locally.

“Once there are enough of them, now we can start to really attract those people,” he said. “I think it’s exciting. How can we attract better jobs? This is exactly how you do it.”

Noozhawk staff writer Gina Potthoff can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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