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Thursday, November 22 , 2018, 3:24 am | Fog/Mist 52º


Inogen Honored as Company of the Year at South Coast Business & Technology Awards

Santa Barbara Zoo, Affinity Biosensors, Sientra and UCSB professor Shuji Nakamura are also recognized at the event benefiting the Scholarship Foundation

From left, Excellence in Service award representative Rich Block, CEO of the Santa Barbara Zoo; Pioneer Award winner Dr. Shuji Nakamura, a UCSB professor; Company of the Year Award recipients Brenton Taylor and Alison Bauerlin of Inogen; Executive of the Year recipient Hani Zeini, president and CEO of Sientra; and Entrepreneur of the Year Award honorees Ken Babcock and Byron Myers of Affinity Biosensors. Click to view larger
From left, Excellence in Service award representative Rich Block, CEO of the Santa Barbara Zoo; Pioneer Award winner Dr. Shuji Nakamura, a UCSB professor; Company of the Year Award recipients Brenton Taylor and Alison Bauerlin of Inogen; Executive of the Year recipient Hani Zeini, president and CEO of Sientra; and Entrepreneur of the Year Award honorees Ken Babcock and Byron Myers of Affinity Biosensors. (Melissa Walker / Noozhawk photo)

More than 700 attendees from the local business and technology community gathered at The Fess Parker DoubleTree on Thursday night for the annual South Coast Business & Technology Awards, themed “Celebrating Leadership and Integrity” and benefiting the Scholarship Foundation of Santa Barbara.

The highly anticipated event is the largest networking opportunity on the South Coast, gathering business leaders and innovators to honor and recognize companies and individuals with a commitment to the vibrancy of the local economy.

The Scholarship Foundation is a vehicle for generosity by supporting students who are motivated to achieve a higher-education degree, and the organization is the beneficiary of the annual SCB&T Awards event.

Outstanding students attending Santa Barbara City College, UC Santa Barbara and Westmont College were also recognized for achievements with awards provided by the Scholarship Foundation of Santa Barbara.

A volunteer steering committee led by co-chairs Steve Amerikaner of Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck and Susan Rodriguez of Brown & Brown Insurance helped select five distinguished honorees for 2015.

The Excellence in Service award was presented to the Santa Barbara Zoo, which since 1961 has hosted an average of 480,000 guests annually with education, research and recreation resources for the community.

Santa Barbara Zoo CEO Rich Block graciously accepted the honor, mentioning how he’s always left inspired by attendees at past events. He also shared his own version of a David Letterman’s Late Show Top Ten List honoring the zoo’s first director, Ted McToldridge, and asking him to stand for the crowd with No. 1 on the list.

“The zoo has grown from a solid foundation of vision and leadership,” Block said. “Ted served as the zoo director from 1963, the year we opened, until his retirement in December 1997.”

Tech Awards
South Coast Business & Technology Awards Steering Committee co-chairs Susan Rodriguez, left, and Steve Amerikaner with Scholarship Foundation of Santa Barbara board president Janet Garufis. (Melissa Walker / Noozhawk photo)

Ken Babcock of Affinity Biosensors received the Entrepreneur of the Year award, and under his direction as co-founder and CEO of the company has introduced the Archimedes Particle Metrology System aiding the development of safer injectable biotherapeutic drugs, and introduced the LifeScale platform for measuring cell growth in real time.

Inogen was the recipient of the Company of the Year honor, founded by three UCSB students in 2001, who developed a lightweight and compact and travel-safe portable oxygen concentrator. A beloved grandmother, Mae, served as an inspiration for the company's oxygen therapy products that provide patients with freedom from heavy tanks and being tethered to stationary systems.

Alison Bauerlin, Inogen co-founder, shared with Noozhawk that the company’s inspiration was her grandmother and spoke about her relationship with Mae, and the challenges that her loved one faced.

“When she got put on oxygen her entire life changed and she, just everything was about do I have enough oxygen, I don’t want to run out,” Bauerlin said. “And so she was actually the one who said everything else has gotten smaller, lighter, better — why hasn’t my oxygen? And, I took that idea back to a couple of friends at UCSB and we wrote a business plan and decided that there wasn’t a better solution.”

The Executive of the Year award was presented to Hani Zeini, founder, president and CEO of Sientra, one of three FDA-approved companies for silicone breast implants, and the first to introduce the teardrop shape that is now common in the industry.

Zeini spoke to Noozhawk about the misnomer of breast implants as a superficial quality and the importance of assisting with women who have suffered from health issues.

“A big part, the part that keeps us, wakes up every morning and motivated to do this is the difference that we make in women’s lives,” Zeini said. “The unfortunate event of a woman experiencing breast cancer and ending up with a mastectomy — that is a journey that a woman goes on to restore her confidence, to restore her self image and we play a small part in that, but nevertheless a critical part in the journey to completion. So that, the stories that I hear on a daily basis from patients and the difference that we make in their lives, it is the engine that motivates us to do what we do.”

UCSB professor of Materials and Electrical and Computer Engineering Shuji Nakamura, M.D., received the Pioneer Award. He is also a past winner of the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2014, for inventing efficient blue light-emitting diodes enabling energy-saving bright white light sources.

The Excellence in Service award goes to a company providing strong customer and community service, while the Entrepreneur of the Year honor is presented to an individual with a successful career of entrepreneurial endeavors. The Company of the Year is a market leader that demonstrates profitability and strong growth. Additionally, the Executive of the Year is for a senior executive who has increased company profitability with strengthened market presence and a vigorous passion for the local community. Finally, an individual with a long history of outstanding leadership or innovations in business or technology here in the South Coast receives the Pioneer Award.

Since 1962, the Scholarship Foundation has provided more than 39,600 scholarships totaling $96.3 million for county students through financial aid, advising and scholarships providing financial aid advising services to more than 37,600 students and parents each year.

These impressive feats have earned the foundation a four-star rating from Charity Navigator, the nation’s leading independent evaluator of nonprofits.

Support from the Scholarship Foundation reached 2,948 Santa Barbara County students in 2015, with scholarship awards totaling a record $8.7 million in student aid.

The SCB&T Awards are made possible through community support from businesses and individuals, and the Scholarship Foundation of Santa Barbara does not charge an administrative fee, with 100 percent of contributions to support scholarships going directly to deserving students. Click here for more information.

— Noozhawk contributing writer Melissa Walker can be reached at [email protected]. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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