Innovation/Entrepreneurship Initiative


EconAlliance 2017 Innovation Awards

Innovation Award Sponsor: Pacific Coast Business Times

This year’s EconAlliance Innovation awardees included Mob Armor (Technology), with the award being accepted by Solve It Companies’ Vice President of Business Development Trevor Orrick and Lead Engineer Joel Hitchens, as well as Allan Hancock College (Education), with Kevin Walthers, Superintendent/President, accepting.

The Innovation Award Committee is chaired by Ben Oakley, EH&S/Gov’t Affairs Manager of ERG, with award criteria focusing on the technologies, devices, processes, programs, software, applications or other innovations having a significant impact on Northern Santa Barbara County.

Overview of 2017 Awardee innovations:

Mob Armor – “Innovative approach to securing mobile devices”
Mob Armor smartphone and tablet products take an innovative approach to securing mobile devices in UTV’s, daily drivers, race trucks, fleet and emergency service vehicles. The product line started with the Mob Mount as a product of necessity because nothing in the existing smartphone industry was up to the eventual Mob Armor standards. The brand has grown to 80+ SKUs & our new IOS Off Grid Navigation Application. Mob Armor products are built to last. Metal components are used in lieu of plastic, and the company focuses on robust design concepts, and an obsession for quality. In its 3rd year of operation Mob Armor has brought together North County’s most talented people, while also creating great entry level labor positions. With engineering, media, marketing, sales and assembly all under one roof, Mob Armor is able to innovate faster than the competition.

AHC Promise Program – “Placing higher education within reach of everyone”
In August 2017, Allan Hancock College unveiled the Hancock Promise – a comprehensive program designed to transform lives by placing higher education within the reach of everyone. Beginning in Fall 2018, every student who graduates from a high school within the boundaries of the community college district will receive one year of free tuition and fees (a $1200 savings). While other community colleges in California have instituted similar tuition-free programs, Hancock is the only college to offer a comprehensive four-phased program that starts with 5th graders and their families. Bulldog Bound, which began in late September, provides early outreach and campus activities to develop a college-going culture. AHC is partnering with companies like Aera Energy to showcase various career options available to students and to help them ‘dream big’ on what their path might look like. The additional program phases, Path to Promise and Extended Promise, provide continuous support to students throughout their educational journey– culminating with graduation or transfer options.
Community support and interest in the program has been tremendous. More than 2000 students have already signed up for Bulldog Bound programs.

Innovation Award Presentation Photos

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2017 Future Forum/Annual Dinner to Take Place November 9th!
This year’s EconAlliance Future Forum/Annual Dinner will take place on Thursday, November 9th, at the Hotel Corque in Solvang beginning at 6:00 p.m. (no-host wine and cocktails), with dinner at 6:30 p.m. and the program to begin at 7:00 p.m.

Each year, EconAlliance combines its annual dinner with a presentation on a trend or technology bound to change the future of our businesses and our lives. This year the focus is on artificial intelligence (AI), a technology, or set of technologies, that is now daily in the news, with high-visibility innovators/thinkers such as Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk and Physicist/Cosmologist Stephen Hawking both warning of the potential of grave consequences of AI for humanity at large, while others cannot say enough about the positive impacts of AI in nearly every sector of human activity. EconAlliance has organized a panel to be moderated by Steve Burgess, President of The Foresight Institute in Palo Alto, and also Founder/Principal of Burgess Forensics. His panelists include Dr. Terence Yeoh, Assistant Principal Director, The Aerospace Corporation and Aerospace Team Lead for IBM Watson AI XPRIZE and Paul Cook, CIO for CoastHills Credit Union.

Also on the program will be Tim Williams, CEO of Digital West, who will be providing an update on broadband, both globally and locally.

Another highlight of the evening will be the announcement of the 2017 EconAlliance Innovation Award recipient.

A silent auction benefiting EconAlliance will also be held that evening, so attendees are encouraged to bring their checkbooks or credit cards!

Please see flyer for more information and registration link. Those with questions and those wishing to reserve tables may contact Victoria Conner, 805-345-0688 or Email [email protected]

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Innovation/Entrepreneurship Initiative

“To keep the American dream of widely shared prosperity alive, we need to choose entrepreneurship and competition over the vested interests of the status quo”. Restoring confidence in the economy by creating a meaningful and compelling plan for moving forward is a top priority for elected officials as well as leaders from business, education, and labor groups throughout the country.

Source: Enterprising States-Recovery and Renewal for the 21st Century (a project of the U. S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Chamber Foundation, June 2011).


Initiative Team:
Ben Kiblinger Head Shot 2016

Ben Kiblinger
Founder & Managing Partner at

Steve Burgess

Steve Burgess
Principal, Burgess Consulting & Forensics

Current Advisors
John Greathouse
Partner, Rincon Ventures

Walt Harasty, Retired
Former Principal, Boardroom Consultants

James Lisi
Partner, American Value Metrics
Sponsor/Speaker, Wild Horse Labs
Sponsor/Investor, Tech Coast Angels

Peter Luttrell

Jo Anne Miller
Managing Partner, Browndog Partners
The IDEA (Innovation Development Entrepreneurship Acceleration) Initiative is to foster and invigorate regional innovation and entrepreneurship by proactively organizing and providing support services for existing companies, entrepreneurs and start-ups. This may be done through:

IDEA Initiative Objectives:

Current and Near-Term Activities

May 31, 2016 Meetup

2016 Future Forum (in planning, date TBA)

Tech Transfer Roundtables (August 2016 – date TBA, January 2017 – date TBA)

Past Activities & Events

Bi-monthly IDEA Meetups

2015 Quarterly Startup Tech Transfer Roundtables

Organization of 2015 Future Forum

IDEA Meetups

Future Forum – October 2013
Keynote: Robert Tucker, Innovation Speaker and Author
Virtual Keynote: Joe Kutchera, Advisor, Author, and Lecturer Specializing in Hispanic/Latin American Markets

Initiative Event – March, 2012
Keys to Northern Santa Barbara County Prosperity:
Strategic Industries, Access to Capital, Emerging Growth Companies
Keynote: Jon Gregory, Co-Founder/CEO, Grow-California LLC
“Game-Changing Innovation and Emerging Growth Companies”

Start Up Weekend Santa Maria – April 2012
Participation in Startup Weekend Santa Maria 4-day event

Support for innovation affiliate – June, 2012
Innovation North State – Sierra Nevada Innovation Challenge
Rick Bess participation as judge

Innovation OpEd – 2012

Futures Forum – November, 2012
Virtual Keynote: Simon J. Anderson, Futurist & Co-Author of Foresight 20/20
On Site Keynote: Rick Bess, PreBeta, Inc., a Silicon Valley firm specializing in innovation solutions for organizations
Event also featured an “Online Vision Campaign” gathering input on our region’s future

Future Forum featured a unique visions idea campaign driven to accelerate dialogue about the future of our region.

Advocacy Issues
Access to start-up capital
Access to venture capital
Joint workspace for entrepreneurs, start-ups

(Image credit)