Components of a Tech Ecosystem

More and more regions are hoping to grow by playing host to a tech scene. And the truth is, almost any region of any size, at this point, probably has at least a small number of startups in it. But there’s a difference between having some startups and really having a viable tech scene.

Some variables that encourage tech ecosystems include one successful tech company that inspires smaller businesses, access to venture capital, educational institutions with strong tech progress, co-working/ accelerator/ maker spaces, tech reporters, lots of engineers, state of the art internet access and informal leaders.

Components of a Tech Ecosystem

Successful Companies

People are more likely to take the risk to become tech entrepreneurs if they know people who have done it and done it well. It’s one thing to hear about Twitter in San Francisco, but it’s another thing to be in Santa Cruz, Monterey or Salinas and know people that work at companies like Plantronics, Looker and FullPower.

Anthony Townsend, author of Smart Cities says, “I like to think of these as finishing schools/networking places. Look at all the people in Seattle that got their careers started and met at Microsoft.” The same can be said of every big tech company across the country. In Raleigh, serving as the home to Linux purveyor Red Hat hasn’t just meant jobs, it’s also meant lots of local businesses launching.  Locally, although not tech per se, we can see the same effect in the fresh lettuce/vegetable packing industry.

Companies like Taylor Farms and Mann Packing inspire the formation of spin-offs. In plant genetics, Driscolls’ former chief scientist spun off many years ago to form Plant Sciences in Watsonville.  City politicians can’t control whether a hometown startup will go big, but a city can get the pieces in place to make it less likely that a company has to leave if it does.

Learn about our region’s success stories.

Access to Capital

Capital needs to be near enough that entrepreneurs can travel to take a meeting with a potential investor and get back home (or to the office) within a day.  Fortunately this is true in the Monterey Bay Region.  We have the largest aggregation of venture capital in the world within a one hour drive of the major cities in the region.

John Provo, from the Office of Economic Development at Virginia Tech says, “You should also be thinking about systems of capital (angels, seed funds, early stage funds) that move companies towards venture ready status.” Provo cites several Blacksburg companies whose proximity to the D.C. Metro area has allowed them to raise some impressive rounds in the last few years.  Looker in Santa Cruz has raised two rounds now, its Series A $18M round and then recently its Series B $30M round—all from mainstream firms “over the hill.”

Central Coast Angels was started in late 2013 to help address seed stage financing.  The Western Growers Center for Innovation and Technology in Salinas is now open in the new Taylor Farms building downtown.  It’s critical that local start-ups do not succumb to the erroneous notion that capital must come from angels and VCs in their city alone.  It is more often than not an indication that the entrepreneur cannot compete on a regional, national, or worldwide basis and thus is not a good candidate for financing.  We are blessed with an abundance of available capital in Northern California, but that capital will seek the best ideas and entrepreneurs and our startups must be good enough to attract it.

List of Micro Venture Capital Firms
From Samir Kaji’s pevcbanker.com

Central Coast Angels
Providing capital and mentoring for innovative companies in the Monterey Bay region.

Western Growers Center for Innovation and Technology
Our mission is to enhance the competitiveness and profitability of our members.

The world’s largest funding platform for creative projects.

Sand Hill Angels
Smart money for great startups.

Raise money through Angel syndicates.

Angels by the Sea
New angel group formed with focus on technology, sports, health, agriculture, and speciality food.


Educational Institutions

In America, this is going to be a university more often than not, but Townsend points out that in other countries that isn’t always the case. It’s the military in Israel and the government in parts of Asia, he said. Regardless, some piece of the establishment that’s in the business of creating knowledge needs to also be looking beyond itself and into the world of practice.

Chuck Eesley, a Morgenthaler Faculty Fellow at Stanford University, explains how Frederick Terman, the engineering school dean in the ’50s, is credited for laying the foundation of what we now know as Silicon Valley. Among other things, he established a university research park and encouraged students and faculty to get involved with entrepreneurship. In New York City, NYU is working very hard to fill that role.  In the Monterey Bay Region, we are blessed to have two universities, UCSC and CSUMB, both of which can fill the role of knowledge creator and transferor to productive businesses.  In addition, there are other educational institutions like Naval Postgraduate School, Defense Language Institute, and Middlebury Institute of International Studies, as well as strong community colleges in each major metro area.

For additional data on our Educational Institutions in the Monterey Bay Region, please visit our Higher Education & Research page to view data on:

  • Reports and presentations about Higher Education in the Region
  • Higher Education & Research location map
  • College Scorecard provided by U.S. Department of Education
  • Operating Budget by Schools
  • School Enrollment
  • Faculty & Staff by Schools
  • UC Santa Cruz – Profile summary
  • UC Santa Cruz – Student Demographic
  • Community Colleges – Student Headcount
  • Community Colleges – Student Demographics
  • Community Colleges – Student Transfers to UC Schools
  • Community Colleges – Student Transfers to CSU Schools

Formal Courses and Degrees

University of California at Santa Cruz
UCSC Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship Development
Computer Engineering Courses
Computer Science Courses
UCSC Genomics

UC Santa Cruz – Undergraduate degrees awarded

To view additional data on degrees awarded, please visit UC Santa Cruz’s A Bird’s Eye View Reports, published annually. A more detailed look on degrees can be found in UC Santa Cruz’s degrees conferred data page.Additional degree data can be found in the The University of California Information Center data page on degrees awarded.The data dashboard below presents a view on degrees awarded in UC Santa Cruz provided by the University of California Information Center.
California State University at Monterey Bay– Undergraduate Degrees Awarded

 To view additional data on CSU Monterey Bay (CSUMB), please visit the CSUMB University Factbook page to dive deeper into data on:

Community Colleges – Degrees Awarded

To view additional data on Monterey Peninsula College, Hartnell College and Cabrillo College, please visit the The California Colleges Chancellor’s Office Data Mart page to dive deeper into data on:


Hartnell College
Advanced Technology Program
CSin3 B.S. Degree: Computer Science & Information Technology
Coder Dojo

Cabrillo College
Computer Science
Engineering Technology

Monterey Peninsula College 
Computer Science and Information Systems

Informal Courses and Training Programs

Santa Cruz Works
The top tech, creative, and science companies in Santa Cruz hiring talented local people.

Thrive Accelerator
Thrive Accelerator is a highly selective mentorship and investment program for technology-enabled startups in the Precision Agriculture space.

Digital NEST
Digital NEST provides youth and young adults ages 12-24 with free access to computers, software, Wi-Fi, and a full range of state-of-the-art digital tools and classes.

Central Coast SBDC and SBDC hosted by CSUMB
Offer a variety of free services and resources for present and potential small business owners in our region.

Monterey County Business Council Career Readiness Consortium
MCBC has identified and initiated a job skills program that profiles, tests and trains participants to provide employers, both public and private, with a qualified workforce.

Co-working/Accelerator/Maker Spaces
The creator of Delicious.com, Joshua Schachter, says that one aspect of building companies that inhibits entrepreneurs is leases. When all you have is an idea and six months of savings to live on, you can’t sign a 5-year lease. Co-working spaces, where individuals or firms get a piece of a larger office on short-term commitments, solve this immediate problem. They also provide ready advice just one desk over, freelance contacts, ready-to-use IT and professional meeting space. In the Monterey Bay Region, there are a number of co-working spaces, anchored by Cruzio and NextSpace in Santa Cruz, The Satellite and Slingshot in Scotts Valley, The Satellite in Felton, Western Growers Center for Innovation and Technology and the MBEST Center in Marina.

NextSpace Santa Cruz

A thriving community of independent professionals, entrepreneurs, freelancers, and remote workers out to make a living and a life on our own terms.

Address Santa Cruz: 101 Cooper St. Santa Cruz, CA 95060


Join the coworking revolution! Workspace, meeting rooms and free 100 Mbps wifi, every day of the week.

Address Santa Cruz: 877 Cedar St. #150 Santa Cruz, CA 95060


Support and resources for small businesses and startups.

Thrive Accelerator

Thrive Accelerator is a highly selective mentorship and investment program for technology-enabled startups in the Precision Agriculture space.

Satellite Felton

Coworking, private offices, virtual office plans, meeting and conference rooms — available when you need it, 24/7.

Address Felton: 6265 Highway 9 Felton, CA 95018

Satellite Santa Cruz

Coworking, private offices, virtual office plans, meeting and conference rooms — available when you need it, 24/7.

Address Santa Cruz: 325 Soquel Ave, Santa Cruz 9502

Satellite Scotts Valley 

Coworking, private offices, virtual office plans, meeting and conference rooms — available when you need it, 24/7.

Address Scotts Valley: 5900 Butler Lane #250 Scotts Valley, CA 95066

Western Growers Center for Innovation and Technology

Our mission is to enhance the competitiveness and profitability of our members.

Old Town Salinas Coworking Space

Award-winning building design with professional office space.

Address Salinas: 369 Main Street, Suite M, Salinas, CA 93901

Grain Tower Salinas Coworking Space

Great networking opportunities in a creative environment.

Address Salinas: 60 West Market Street, Suite 300, Salinas, CA 93901

UC MBEST Center 

Address Marina: 3239 Imjin Road #101 Marina, CA 93933

Startup Sandbox

Provides entrepreneurs with the environment to leverage UCSC’s research excellence to cost effectively incubate IP and launch companies.

Address Santa Cruz: 250 Natural Bridges Dr., Santa Cruz, CA 95060

​Santa Cruz Accelerates

Our vision is a local tech ecosystem that effectively supports diverse and under served innovators and entrepreneurs, and creates long-term job growth in the County.

Address Santa Cruz: 2801 Mission Street, Suite 37, Santa Cruz, CA 95060

Tech Reporters

Journalists covering the scene draw talent and buzz, and their coverage helps entrepreneurs, developers and investors find each other. Santa Cruz Tech Beat started out in Santa Cruz and is now covering our entire region. The Santa Cruz SentinelMonterey HeraldSalinas CalifornianSan Jose MercuryMC Weekly and Good Times have reporters that are quite interested in tech and cover it regularly.

Encourage your local reporters to cover tech!

Lots of Engineers

It takes all kinds to run a tech company. Business people. Designers. Salespeople. Visionaries. That said, it takes lots and lots of engineers. As much off-the-shelf software as there is today, at a certain point a real innovator will need something bespoke, and that’s where developers come in. While they earn a good salary, engineers want to be truly interested in the work and they want to hang out with other people interested in their own, similar work.

The battle for tech talent is fierce. One of the main missions of Santa Cruz Works is to redirect tech talent commuting over Highway 17 to Silicon Valley every day and make them aware of the opportunities at a growing number of local companies, thus decreasing traffic, keeping local talent at local companies, and increasing the local tax base.

There’s so much demand that a whole industry has grown up around teaching people to code with companies such as lynda.com, Code Academy, Udacity, Coursera, Khan Academy, Skillsoft, and many others.  Both the Steinbeck Innovation Foundation and Digital Nest are teaching kids to code.

Tech Jobs In Our Region

Santa Cruz and Monterey counties have large numbers of computer science and engineering professionals. More data here.

For more information on tech jobs in our region, visit our Local resources Santa Cruz Works (use the LinkedIn widget to identify people you know within a company), Santa Cruz Tech Beat, and Santa Cruz Jobs.

U.S. Census STEM Majors and Occupations

The core of a vibrant and successful tech ecosystem are STEM majors and STEM occupations. The U.S. Census provides an interactive way to look at the relationship between college majors and occupations on a nationwide basis with a special focus on STEM. The tool also provides an easy way to explore the data by sex and race. Click on the image below to go to the interactive tool.

STEM Degrees in the Monterey Bay Region

As local businesses seek to get in front of their future workforce, it is useful for them to know the sheer numbers of STEM graduates produced by local colleges annually. The below data is provided in order to showcase the number of STEM degrees awarded in the Monterey Bay region for the 2015-2016 year.  This is the most up-to-date data available.Please note that the STEM degree data collected by the Monterey County Business Council (MCBC) is provided by the colleges in our region. The degrees and majors associated with STEM disciplines are internally defined by each college. Therefore, the STEM majors included in this table may not reflect STEM majors as they are defined by the U.S. Census.

Really Fast Internet

Chattanooga has made broadband access a public utility.  Kansas City was the first to get Google Fiber, followed by Austin and Provo and soon Nashville, Atlanta, Charlotte and Raleigh-Durham.  AT&T, Verizon and Comcast are responding to Google’s challenge. The Kansas City Start-up Village was bolstered by super high-speed Internet there, and Ben Barreth established Homes for Hackers to give developers a place to work with Google Fiber in K.C.

The speed of internet access in the Monterey Bay Region provides a foundation for a strong tech ecosystem. UCSC has a 10 gigabit backbone, 1 gigabit available to most research enterprises, and 100 – 600 Mbits available to students and other administrators and faculty on campus.  In 2010, Sunesys established a fiber link connecting Level 3’s Sunnyvale hub with UCSC.  In 2014, Sunesys received a grant from the CPUC to build a new fiber truck connecting Santa Cruz and Soledad, which should be completed in the next two years. The City of Santa Cruz and Cruzio are working on a joint public/private partnership to provide gigabit service to businesses and residents in Santa Cruz.

Regional Broadband Access

The Central Coast Broadband Consortium provides an interactive map to explore broadband access where you live: https://centralcoastbroadbandconsortium.org/map/

In the link provided, type in your address to find the following information where you live:

  • Fixed Broadband Providers
  • Mobile Broadband Providers
  • Satellite Broadband Providers
  • Maximum Advertised Downstream Speed by Technology Type
  • Maximum Advertised Upstream Speed by Technology Type