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Tech Haus Incubator Offers Tools for Emerging Entrepreneurs

Latest Santa Barbara haven for small business focuses on providing right environment for collaboration

Natalie Spilborghs Puglisi and Christopher Puglisi are gearing up for the grand opening of their Tech Haus business incubator in Santa Barbara.
Natalie Spilborghs Puglisi and Christopher Puglisi are gearing up for the grand opening of their Tech Haus business incubator in Santa Barbara. (Gina Potthoff / Noozhawk photo)

The whole mindset of “get a good-paying job and keep it until retirement” is shifting.

“There’s no security in that anymore anyway,” said Christopher Puglisi, a serial entrepreneur and nomadic startup hound who settled in Santa Barbara three years ago.

More and more people — especially younger ones — want to work for themselves, and that’s where entrepreneur incubators come in, offering a space for budding ideas to grow.

Several of those business incubators have opened up locally in the past few years, but the tech accelerator vision of Puglisi and his wife, local attorney Natalie Spilborghs Puglisi, is slightly different.

Think of an exclusive club, where a tremendous amount of marketing, design, consulting and even investor services are at the fingertips of those entrepreneurs, who are handpicked in a thorough application process to nurture the best tech ideas.

Applications are already rolling in to Tech Haus, which will host a grand opening next Thursday at its recently renovated 631 Chapala St. headquarters.

The open space was nearly complete last week, decorated with reclaimed wood from France, furniture from Carpinteria’s Brothers of Industry, and local (soon-to-be rotating) artwork, complete with a Sonos sound system and flat-screen TV — what the co-founders call “collaborative tools” for gathering feedback.

Phase one, as Puglisi puts it, involves getting up to 15 individuals or small teams into assigned desks within the first year. Phase two requires knocking down the wall to next door, expanding the office space and building a kitchen.

Desks at the new Tech Haus business incubator in Santa Barbara are waiting for the right people to fill them. (Gina Potthoff / Noozhawk photo)

Entrepreneurs will pay $800 a month for 24/7 access to a private conference room (with video conference capability and projector), high-speed wireless and wired-in Internet, a color printer/copier/scanner, water cooler, locker storage and security system.

Businesses would ideally stay at least three months, reevaluating whether they should remain every three months. If they’ve outgrown the space, Tech Haus has a couple real estate companies on stand-by.

“There’s people in there that are going to be working on really cool stuff,” Puglisi said. “We’re not just looking to fill seats with anybody. We want to bring folks in here that we want to invest in.”

Puglisi has seen his fair share of tech incubators, having been in the startup-building business since the 1990s.

The Connecticut native helped construct the world’s first digital prescription pad — raising $70 million in initial funding for a device now used by more than 10,000 healthcare practitioners —and worked on a startup called Mellow Militia, which manufactures a Tiki Toss game for sale in over 500 U.S. retail locations.

“I felt like I kind of knew the elements that needed to come together,” he said. “It’s a lifestyle change. It’s not a 9 to 5.”

Tech Haus isn’t competing with other incubators on the South Coast, Puglisi said, adding that the Goleta Entrepreneurial Magnet (GEM) was probably the most similar model, since the space offers help from mentors and networking events.

Santa Barbara's SYNERGY Business and Technology Center and workzones both also offer co-working office space.

The new incubator inspires bouncing ideas off other businesses, promoting educational workshops and healthy lifestyles (think yoga and rock-climbing), funding opportunities, pitch sessions, legal help and anything else tenants require.

“We want everyone to be contributing,” Natalie Spilborghs Puglisi said, noting the couple will be operating its own digital agency out of the space.

The couple is investing in Spilborghs Puglisi’s hometown, seeing Santa Barbara as an emerging tech area, with creative graduates coming out of Santa Barbara City College and UC Santa Barbara.

“He and I both have a passion for helping people,” she said. “We want to keep businesses here and jobs here.”

They invite the public to check out Tech Haus May 7 during a Santa Barbara Downtown Organization First Thursday event.

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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