SARTA Ten Years Later
By Cary Adams, Founding SARTA Chairperson
It Started on a Napkin
For ten years now, SARTA has been focused on its mission of accelerating technology ventures. In 2001, the idea for SARTA -- as a joint venture among the Metro Chamber, UC Davis Connect, and the Golden State Capital Network -- was worked out on a napkin at Charlie Soderquist’s restaurant, A Touch of Class, during a Sacramento Angels dinner, among Jon Gregory, Nora Moore Jimenez and Cary Adams. This partnership was precipitated by the State’s Regional Technology Alliance grants, which were being expanded from the original three to include an additional three. Our region had several potential applicants, and we all knew that a joint proposal would be more competitive. In fact, by collaborating, we secured the grant. Unfortunately two years later the program was abandoned by the State with the change in administration – but SARTA has not just survived, but also thrived.
Connections with Sacramento Angels
The connection with the Sacramento Angels was intentional. A community needs sources of seed stage capital as well as management expertise, if it wants to promote technology-based, entrepreneur-driven companies
Leaders in the Community - The Board of Directors
SARTA has always had a strong board, including several members of our Angels group, who were looking to “do some good, make some money, have some fun,” (according to Bob Goff). The CEOs hired to run SARTA – Oleg Kaganovich, JD Stack, and now Meg Arnold – have had six or seven times as many board members as employees. This is an ongoing challenge for the organization that strove to: create an inspiring vision; implement a practical mission and develop programs and events to advance the cause.
The Launch of the Tech Index
SARTA’s first notable program is the SARTA Tech Index, a form of measurement of the health and growth of our tech industry, using algorithms developed by Paul Voiss, who soon left to head a Silicon Valley start-up Clariphy, with help from many who have struggled with the challenge of securing, analyzing and publishing the resulting index calculated from confidential employment, revenue and capital-raise data from 50 leading tech companies in our region. Over the years, it has grown from an initial index of 100 to over 260.
In 2005, Gary Simon and Mark Henwood created CleanStart, with a focus on our clean tech sector. Initially a separate program, CleanStart is now one of SARTA’s “industry verticals.” Thanks to CleanStart’s role as a champion and hub, the sector has grown from 29 companies to more than 100, helping make our clean tech employment base the fastest growing in the State – and equally importantly, through Gary’s and Mark’s efforts, clean tech became the object of concentrated, coordinated economic development efforts in the region, culminating in 2009 with Mayor Kevin Johnson’s Greenwise initiative.
Seeing the success of an industry-focused approach, MedStart was launched in 2008 and has shown we have the capacity to replicate that growth in medical devices and technology. A proposed third leg of the stool is in Ag & Food Tech, although the concept is in its earliest stages, and a Board-level champion is needed to carry it forward. We want to be a world class region, so we need tech companies that can address global markets. We already have a number of existing companies with a global vision and have a vast potential to grow these three industry sectors as well as others. The annual CleanStart and MedStart industry updates that measure progress in these two sectors are concrete evidence that we are making a difference. Although initially small as a fraction of our regional economy, these sectors have the potential to grow dramatically.
SARTA's Role in The Region
Of course, SARTA, as a nonprofit, is not going to run global companies. What we can do is to create a dense network of people with the skills, passion and resources to do so. In some ways, our most important role is to organize community-wide efforts, help remove the “dampers” that reduce awareness among our own citizens of the world class technologies being developed and marketed here and replace them with “amplifiers” that make sure the whole world knows about the Sacramento region.