Inside the Merging of Santa Cruz New Tech and Santa Cruz Works: a Conversation with Doug Erickson


Santa Cruz New Tech Meetup (SCNTM), a longstanding centerpiece of the local tech and jobs scene, recently merged with Santa Cruz Works under the Santa Cruz Works banner.

Led by SCNTM founder Doug Erickson, the revamped organization aims to empower the local community and business ecosystem to thrive here at home and around the world.

A Slow-burning Fuse

The inspiration for Santa Cruz Works was, as Erickson puts it, a “slow-burning fuse” lit years ago by local changemakers, including Bonnie Lipscomb, Bud Colligan and Bob Cagle, who were concerned about changing the image of Santa Cruz into a place businesses and workers could launch and succeed.

The vision for Santa Cruz Works is to be an umbrella organization to bring the various pillars in the community—education, local government, businesses, organizations and VCs—together.

Erickson was asked to run Santa Cruz Works, but had other obligations, including putting his kids through college.

“I already had a five year-old organization that was growing in leaps and bounds every year—New Tech now has over 5,000 members. I was the ideal candidate to run the organization, but I also had three kids in college and a ridiculous amount of money I had to pay because I don’t believe in leaving your kids to be indentured servants.”

Recently, however, Erickson made the decision that he didn’t want to drive to San Francisco anymore for his tech work and it was time to make a move.

“Long story short,” he says, “here I am.”

The Rebrand

As for keeping the name Santa Cruz Works, Erickson explains that there were different factors that went into the rebrand.

SCNTM has the established brand and membership, it’s been around for 11 years and it’s profitable and Santa Cruz Works is still gaining momentum. However, Santa Cruz Works is already an established 501c6 entity and, as such, has obligations it needs to fulfill.

Localism and Santa Cruz Works

At the heart of Erickson’s plan is furthering localism in Santa Cruz.

“Localism is the rising tide to lift all of our local boats: businesses, organizations, issues like affordable housing, etc.,” he says. “We’re in a strange phase of U.S. politics. We are in a time when state and federal government assistance is not reliable. We can accomplish a great deal as a community: the power of localism.”

He stresses that we have the power to make a change right here in Santa Cruz—that we don’t have to wait. This, he says, is the vision for Santa Cruz Works.

“We’re working with the pillars of our community to determine what we want and bring it all together,” he says. “Everyone has different needs, but we can bring it all together and that collaboration can pay off.”

Advocating on Local Issues

Santa Cruz Works also plans to advocate on local issues, including housing. Erickson points out that the housing problem in Santa Cruz parallels that of every similar city in the U.S. and argues that it’s not due to the increase in local tech businesses.

“Look at the numbers of the average tech wages in Santa Cruz,” he says. “It’s about $80,000. But the median income in Santa Cruz is $76,000.”

These numbers reflect the fact that the income of local tech workers, as a whole, is aligned with that of other local professionals.

Santa Cruz Works Membership

The new Santa Cruz Works operates on a subscription model. A “Thinker” membership is $49 per year and gives you 50% off of any event. A “Genius” membership is $79 per year and gives you access to all events. Membership also comes with added perks, such as a free week at local coworking spaces.

Moving Forward

Moving forward, Santa Cruz Works is focused on using local collaboration to empower local businesses, workers and job seekers—and to do so in tangible, far-reaching ways.

“It’s not just patting each other on the back,” says Erickson, “it’s letting the rest of the world know about us. We want the world to know that Santa Cruz is a great place to live and work.”

Cat Johnson is Santa Cruz-based a brand storyteller and content strategist focused on community, coworking and social impact.

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Cat Johnson