Social Sustainability – Encouraging the Next Generation


by Rob White

Sarah Worley and I had the privilege of attending the Sierra Nevada Innovation Challenge yesterday hosted by the Innovate North State iHub on the Chico State campus. You can learn more about the event at (

Our reason for attending was multipurpose, including: 1) I was a judge for the Cleantech & Consumer Products Category; 2) Support local startup EveryLevel ( (a Davis Roots incubating company) as a presenter; and 3) be visible and network with many of our peers in the technology and network space from greater Northern California and the Bay Area.

The pitch event included about 35 presenting companies from all over Northern California and several presentations and panels.

The companies spanned across the technology spectrum and included companies in Agtech and Food Innovation (including California Safe Soils, a technology developed at UC Davis), Cleantech and Consumer Products, Healthcare and Medical Devices, and Web and IT.

The keynote presentations included Tim Draper, Bay Area entrepreneur and founder of Draper Fisher Jurvetson, Joe Schneider of Facebook, and Tony Perkins, founder of AlwaysOn e-magazine and previous VP of Business Development at Silicon Valley Bank.

The afternoon panelist focused on Angel Investment and Capital and included Davis’ own Cary Adams (founder of ProXimal Ventures, CEO of MedForce Accelerator, former chair of SARTA and lead for the MedStart program) (

And though all of this nexus to the Davis community and entrepreneurs was very encouraging, what really got me to thinking was the efforts to encourage the social sustainability of the region, particularly as it relates to encouraging the next generations.

Watching Ethan Garrett, the CEO of EveryLevel and a UC Davis alum, present information about the company he has helped to form to a room of about 150 people working in the innovation sector (including many associated with investors) was inspiring. And when talking with him and Anthony Costello (a founder of Davis Roots) afterwards, I was made aware that EveryLevel is currently trying to raise its early investment round and needed about 50% more to launch the next phase.

And it occurred to me that we have more than just a handful of examples of this type of ingenuity, creativity and innovation happening in Davis on a very regular basis. At all scales. And many of them are young inventors trying their hardest to connect the right mix of mentorship, financing and business plan execution to become the next local example of a successful startup.

I also think a more robust engagement of these young entrepreneurs by our local infrastructure is lacking – by the financial institutions, business services professionals and researchers (active and retired) that are plentiful in the Davis area. There are some good examples of community leaders that have taken on this effort, but Davis is a community with more per capita highly-educated and experienced people than most places on the planet, so we should see a dramatically higher amounts of community engagement in this area. It is one aspect of what sets places like the South Bay, Palo Alto and San Diego/La Jolla apart from other regions.

How many of you reading this article might be able to lend a hand at Davis Roots as a mentor? Or help leverage your network to connect the startup companies to resources that may be the difference between success and closure? Or help to identify sources of financing (both venture and institutional) that will get these startups over the critical point of investment inertia?

The one thing that most of us can do to help grow revenues in Davis is to help support and bolster the entrepreneurs of our City. The more that young entrepreneurs get the message that Davis is where you come to get educated, begin a startup, grow your business and hopefully become a wild success like Schilling Robotics, DMG Mori and Marrone Bio Innovations the more we will attract investment and talent. And these are perpetuating systems that build when positive cycles are in motion.

It might not surprise you to also hear that several tech companies have moved to Davis because their founders and corporate officers had a positive experience as a student at UC Davis. Companies like Arcadia Bioscience and Engage3. These (and others) have made a substantial investment in company growth and facilities in Davis, including Engage3’s plans to build a new building at Richards and Oak that will help provide space for startup companies.

So, here are some ways you can support the young entrepreneurs of Davis and help to create social sustainability through providing opportunity to our youth (as well as fiscal sustainability through the development of new companies):

Davis Green Drinks

Today, April 3rd from 5:30 to 7 pm (and every first Thursday)
At Monticello Restaurant
Opportunity for professionals and interested individuals to learn about companies and people addressing sustainability and environmental issues.

Bizwomen Mentoring Monday

Monday, April 7th from 7:30 to 9:30 am
Hosted by Sacramento Business Journal – Sleep Train Arena
Over 40 regional women leaders (including many from Davis) provide “speed-mentoring” and career advice.
$35 (or sponsor some young students at an affordable rate of $27)

Demo Day

Friday, April 25th from 4:30 to 6 pm
Will highlight the four graduating startups and introduce the next class
Hosted by Davis Roots – 604 2nd Street, Downtown Davis

Or you can volunteer to mentor, assist or provide resources to:

* Davis Roots –

* UC Davis Engineering Translational Technology Center (ETTC) –

* UC Davis Engineering Student Startup Center (ESSC) –

* UC Davis Graduate School of Management Big Bang Business Competition –

* Citrus Circuits FIRST Robotics Team –

* STEM (science, tech, engineering and math) Programs at the local schools, including Davis High School –

As we work together to grow the innovation ecosystem in Davis, we will see many positive impacts. These include increased skills development for our youth, job creation at all levels, increased opportunities for entrepreneurs and mentors to create new networks and solve world issues, development of diversified economic base that leads to revenue for city services and programs, and increased local philanthropy and volunteerism.

I am thoroughly convinced that one of the best thing you can do individually to help our current fiscal crisis is to use your talents, skills and resources to assist the next generation in building our economic future. As we increase one aspect of our social sustainability through volunteering to assist young companies we actually help our community become financially sustainable and increase opportunities for our youth.

I look forward to your comments and questions. My email is rwhite@cityofdavis,org if you choose to email me directly.

About The Author

Rob White is the Chief Innovation Officer for the City of Davis and was selected as a 2012 White House Champion of Change for Local Innovation. He serves as an ex-officio Board Member for techDAVIS (a local tech entrepreneur industry group), as an executive Board Member for the Innovate North State iHub, and as a Board Member for Hacker Lab and the California Network for Manufacturing Innovation. He is a candidate for the Doctorate in Policy, Planning and Development from the University of Southern California and has a Masters from USC in Planning and Development and a Bachelors of Science in Geology from Chico State.

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  1. Tia Will

    Inspiring article Rob.

    Two points.

    1. Even if a company that has its start in Davis, chooses to locate elsewhere, we should see this as a success for
    the role of Davis in contributing to the overall regional/state/or national economy. Too often on these threads I
    see a company’s choice to move defined only as an economic loss for Davis. True in terms of immediate revenue
    but false in terms of the bigger picture of our overall contribution. If we want Davis to grow and maintain a true
    leadership position we need to both develop more availability for innovation growth within our community but
    also to accept that we will continue to have limitations and should celebrate, not mourn when a company feels
    that it has outgrown Davis.

    2. I found your listing of ways for those of us approaching and after retirement inspiring. For that alone the article
    is a keeper.

  2. Tia Will

    Well, the Vanguard may be back and fully operating, but clearly my posting skills have not improved. I apologize for the preceding disjointed post.

  3. Frankly

    “True in terms of immediate revenue but false in terms of the bigger picture of our overall contribution.”

    With this logic you must be very happy about the US outsourcing jobs as it benefits somebody, somewhere.

  4. Tia Will

    Actually Frankly, I do not believe that it is the US is that is “outsourcing jobs” unless you are referring to the military or diplomatic corps or CIA. It is private companies making decisions that they perceive as in their best interest, just as you seem to believe they should that are outsourcing.

    1. Frankly

      I find it interesting that you do not consider US companies to be part of the US.

      But you skirted the point. You are making a case that as long as we are benefiting some other location by disallowing, preventing, blocking, etc… companies from locating in Davis, we should be satisfied.

      And then this brings up the obvious question about geography. Specifically what is your geographic limit for this benefit? If you are fine with the jobs going to Sacramento because it benefits the region, then why not just California because it benefits the state, or in some other state because it benefits the nation, or some other country because it benefits global humanity?

  5. Tia Will

    “You are making a case that as long as we are benefiting some other location by disallowing, preventing, blocking, etc… companies from locating in Davis, we should be satisfied.”

    No, that is not my point but one that you are trying to impose upon my position. I am not in favor of “disallowing, preventing, blocking…. anything that I perceive as a good fit for Davis, which is no different from you arguing for your vision of what Davis could be.

    I think that you are right on one point. I do not have a geographic limit on positive impact on the world.
    I believe that I would be just as proud of one of my children if they decided to practice their profession here in Davis, or somewhere else in the state of California, or anywhere else in the world where they had a positive impact.
    Now I will grant you that I have personal, selfish reasons for hoping that they will choose to live and contribute closer to home. But I recognize those for what they are, my personal desire, and should not be used to constrict the choices of my individual children.

    I feel much the same about the residents I have trained. For those who are a good fit, I hope that they will stay and contribute locally. For those who feel that their personal goals or natures call them elsewhere, why would I try to hold them here except for my own benefit ? Can we not take pride in and celebrate the accomplishments of those that we have trained or nurtured regardless of where they decide to make their contribution ?

  6. Tia Will


    “With this logic you must be very happy about the US outsourcing jobs as it benefits somebody, somewhere.”
    “I find it interesting that you do not consider US companies to be part of the US.”

    When I first read your second post, I missed the implication of this statement which I think deserves a response.

    I do consider US companies to be part of the US. I do not find them to be synonymous with the US.
    Just as I feel that my children are part of the “Will family” but do not feel that they are synonymous with that entity.
    Their actions are there own. When they are children, they have some right to blame their actions on the controlling member of the family… this case me to the degree that my actions constrain theirs. Once they are adults, they are free to choose their own path whether that directly benefits “the family” or not.
    I see this as also true for US based corporations. They have the ability to choose to stay within the US, or to locate elsewhere. This is not the entity that is the United States deciding for them, anymore than I am making the decisions for my adult children.

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