Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Spotlight: Santa Barbara – Santa Maria – Goleta, CA

Santa Barbara, CA

The Santa Barbara – Santa Maria – Goleta cities are home to a number of colleges and universities, a robust agricultural environment, and several major aerospace and defense companies.

Santa Barbara, Santa Maria, and Goleta are three cities in Santa Barbara County, CA. Home to a number of colleges and universities, a robust agricultural environment, locations of several major aerospace and defense companies, the area has a varied economy that allows for entrepreneurs to carve a niche and succeed. Of course, the state of California as a whole has long been an entrepreneurship powerhouse: it ranked 3rd in both the “Business Environment” and “Access to Resources” categories and 8th overall in WalletHub’s 2019 list of the best states to start a business.

But while places like Silicon Valley or Los Angeles may get the most attention, Santa Barbara county also contributes to the state’s entrepreneurial success. WalletHub also listed the best small cities to start a small business in 2019, with Santa Barbara finishing at 688th overall (67th in the “Access to Resources” category) and the much smaller Goleta at 1111th overall (with a more impressive ranking of 495th in the “Business Environment” category.) Finally, a 2019 Verizon of the most innovative metropolitan areas in the United States had the Santa Barbara, Santa Maria and Goleta area at 34th overall.

Based on these rankings, FundingSage has reviewed the resources that make up Santa Barbara, Santa Maria and Goleta’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Entrepreneurial Meetups:

The Central Coast Entrepreneurs Meetup Group aims to support entrepreneurs throughout the Santa Maria Valley area.

The goal of the meetup group is to host regular networking events and educational workshops to help entrepreneurs grow their startups.

The meetup hosts weekly events to support the launch and expansion of small businesses in the area.

Located in neighboring Ventura County, they host a variety of regular events in California. Some are designed specifically for women in entrepreneurship.


Regular Entrepreneurial Events:

The Eastside Library hosts 1 Million Cups every Wednesday morning. This gives the opportunity for entrepreneurs to share coffee and meet one another.

Among the variety of events hosted by the Santa Maria Valley Chamber are networking mixers, an annual awards ceremony and a small business expo.

The city is home to the annual Startup Weekend, a two-day entrepreneurship conference organized globally by Techstars.


Startup Competitions:

The University of California Santa Barbara hosts an annual 36-hour hackathon challenge. Over 400 people compete in programming challenges for a variety of prizes.

Santa Barbara City College hosts the New Venture Challenge. The event is open to all college and high school students throughout the County.

Students at UCSB can compete in the school’s New Venture Competition. This is an eight-month educational experience with the finals held every spring.


Co-working Spaces:

Kiva Cowork offers several flexible membership plans for entrepreneurs and hosts regular events for its members.

Located in Goleta, The Perch offers a full membership plan starting at $99/month in addition to day passes and conference room rentals.

The Sandbox is a co-working space in Santa Barbara. They offer traditional co-working space as well as private offices and desks for rent, with a day of free co-working every month.

Workzones offer a number of amenities to its members, including 24-hour access, complimentary coffee, free access to networking events and more.



Located at Allan Hancock College in Santa Maria, the Central Coast Makerspace offers a wide variety of tools and equipment. This includes 3D printers, a laser cutter and even a pizza oven.

Founded in 2010 and technically located in Goleta, the Hackerspace is a workshop full of high-tech equipment for its members.

The SLO Makerspace is a small machine, wood and electronics shop with three options for membership plans. It’s located just down the road from Santa Maria in San Luis Obispo.



The Business Development Center runs a number of resources to support small businesses and economic opportunities in the Santa Maria Valley region.

StartupSB is a program that works to support area entrepreneurs by scheduling and organizing events and running monthly support programs.

Not a traditional workshop as the name suggests, Santa Barbara’s Union Street Makerspace provides kitchen space and other tools to help support food manufacturing businesses.

Also known as “The Garage,” this is UC Santa Barbara’s incubator program that works to support student startups.



Students at Santa Barbara City College can participate in the school’s Enterprise Launch program. This is a three-course program designed to help students launch startups.

Organized by UCSB, the TIA Startup Support Program is open to “anyone in the UCSB community” that recently launched or is considering launching a small business.



In Santa Maria, Allan Hancock College’s Small Business & Entrepreneurship Center offers its students a pair of degrees in entrepreneurship.

The local college organizes a wide number of opportunities for entrepreneurs, both inside and outside the classroom.

Students at the UCSB can take advantage of the school’s many entrepreneurial programs. This includes a pitch competition, incubators, regular lectures and more.


Angel Groups/VCs:

With offices located in Santa Monica and Santa Barbara, Bonfire Ventures aims to invest in promising software startups based in Southern California.

Santa Barbara is home to one of five nationwide locations of Frontier Venture Capital. They invest in promising early-stage technology companies.

The SBAA has invested a total of over $25 million in over 200 companies located across the entire United States.

With several offices throughout Southern California, Tech Coast Angels is a major investment firm that works with early-stage technology startups.


Entrepreneurial Newsletter Coverage:

The Los Angeles Times runs this weekly newsletter that covers the biggest business news throughout the entire state of California.

The city publishes and sends a number of newsletters focusing on the region, including a quarterly Business Newsletter.

Noozhawk, an online newspaper covering the Southern California region, offers daily newsletters containing the biggest headlines.

The Pacific Coast Business Times offers a newsletter that covers business news in Ventura, Santa Barbara, and San Luis Obispo counties.


Are you familiar with the entrepreneurial ecosystem infrastructure in Santa Barbara, Santa Maria, or Goleta, CA not included in the article above?  If so, let us know via a comment below, and we will add it to the article. 

Interested in Ecosystem Spotlights of other cities in the USA?

San Francisco, CA, San Diego, CA, Sacramento, CA,

Quinn Pilkey

Quinn is a journalism major at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. He also serves as a freelance author for Hashtag Basketball where he writes about the NBA's Charlotte Hornets and at FundingSage where he researches and writes about entrepreneurial ecosystems.