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Sunday, November 18 , 2018, 9:09 am | Fog/Mist 52º


ONTRApalooza in Santa Barbara Inspires Entrepreneurs to Create Better Businesses

ONTRAport founder Landon Ray speaks from experience as hundreds of professionals gather for the three-day conference

Crappy visions create crappy work environments.

Landon Ray found that out the hard way more than a decade ago, when the serial entrepreneur launched Page One, a software company working to improve search engine optimization for real estate websites.

The goal wasn’t as awe-inspiring as Ray had hoped.

“What we had was people who were there for the paycheck,” he said Thursday morning to a crowd of hundreds attending ONTRApalooza 2014 at Lobero Theatre.

A picture of Bakersfield flashed across a screen, symbolizing said “crappy” vision, which elicited laughter from entrepreneurs in the audience.

Ray, founder and CEO of Santa Barbara’s ONTRAport, went back to the drawing board before coming up with ONTRAport. The company, founded in 2006, takes technological challenges away from entrepreneurs, helping automate that part of business with services and products so owners of small and mid-sized companies don’t have to.

The company has grown from a half-dozen employees to more than 100, and, more importantly in Ray’s mind, has been awarded several honors for workplace quality.

Ray said entrepreneurs who bought tickets for the annual three-day conference — featuring speakers and workshops that conclude Friday — shouldn’t strive for riches and fame.

They should create better businesses that boast believable missions, making a difference in a fun, worthwhile way, such as Toms shoe company, he said.

“What I want is for us all to have a life that we really love,” Ray said. “Why are we creating a business at all? What happens if you succeed? Help, I think, comes from people, and the best help comes from people who are inspired.”

Ray gave tips during a keynote at ONTRApalooza, which drew entrepreneurs from across the county, although this year’s festivities focused on bringing in more locals.

Helping Realtors didn’t stir Ray or his employees, but assisting entrepreneurs overwhelmed by technology got the creative juices flowing.

“All of a sudden we were the best version of ourselves,” he said. “All of a sudden help arrived.”

With investors and product reviews, ONTRAport gained traction, earning awards such as a No. 10 ranking for software by Inc. 500’s 500 Fastest Growing Privately Held Companies, Red Herring’s Top 100 North America Tech Startups and one of Achievers’ 50 Most Engaged Workplaces.

On Thursday, Ray announced the company had also been named to Outside’s Best Places to Work 2014.

He wished everyone the same luck in finding an idea they could be passionate about.

“Making yourself rich is not good enough,” Ray said. “No smart person is going to work to make you rich.” 

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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