Our goal is to offer the Santa Barbara business community a place to learn from the best organization leaders around.  We want to help distill the kind of wisdom that you can only get from those that have gone through the tough quest of building a successful business. 

We host leadership chats about every two months at the Impact Hub Santa Barbara (event information below). The gatherings offer rich learning opportunities as well as a chance to catch up with old friends and meet some new people.  

This is not an event for business leaders looking for sunny views of entrepreneurship and how it’s all about following your passion. The CEO Leadership Series meets the need of executives and aspiring entrepreneurs by sharing perspectives that are battle hardened and applicable to the challenges they face.  For our audience, inspiration comes from relating to the sacrifices and the ups-and-downs behind every “success story.” 


The CEO Experience Series interviews are led by Kit Cooper, a lifelong entrepreneur who now calls Santa Barbara home.  

Kit has spent the last fifteen years of his career working with private equity sponsors to build great companies, both as a founder & ceo and as an executive search professional with Signal Partners.  

Kit brings an operator's perspective to search, helping Signal calibrate quickly and empathize better with investors and executives. Through a top heavy approach to search, Signal effectively de-risks operating plans for sponsors and portfolio companies through a focus on executive team build out. Kit has executed a range of executive search assignments for private equity firms such as CI Capital, New Mountain Capital, Serent Capital, Anchorage Capital among others.

Kit co-founded Hispanic Teleservices Corporation when he was 26.  He and his business partner started the company while earning their MBAs at Georgetown.  He helped grow this "press 2 for Spanish" niche into a 3,000 employee business, eventually selling the company to Carlyle Group in 2005.

In 2008, he founded a 501c3 called the Quality of Life Project, which provides life best practices content to people around the world.  Kit has interviewed well-known folks like Richard Branson, Kelly Slater, Gary Player, Tony Hsieh and Tom Skerritt, as well as less-known but equally interesting individuals like Solly Amon, who runs a popular fish market in Seattle.

In 2010, Kit founded Granada Corp, a leading virtual customer support business where he serves as non-executive chairman.  Granada was sold in December 2017. 

Today, Kit is a partner at Signal Partners, an executive search firm purpose-built to help private equity firms and their portfolio companies hire force-multiplying talent.  

Kit Cooper |  LinkedIn

Kit Cooper | LinkedIn



Our events are generously underwritten by the following leading business services companies in the central coast region: American Riviera Bank, Bartlett Pringle & Wolf, and Buynak Fauver Archbald Spray.


Upcoming Events


CEO Experience with Emily White
Friday, September 27 2019

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Emily White has spent the last two decades helping build and operate some of technology’s most notable companies including Google, Facebook, Instagram and Snap. Currently, Emily is President of Anthos Capital, a Los Angles-based investment firm.  Emily is also a board member and advisor to companies including lululemon, a public athletic apparel retailer, Zayo, a public a communications infrastructure company, X-Prize, a non-profit devoted to creating industry-changing technology that brings us closer to a sustainable world, Virgin Hyperloop One, a privately-held company out to reinvent transportation and Graco, a 100-year-old public manufacturing company focused on fluid dynamics.  She is also an advisor and former board member of the National Center for Women in I.T., a non-profit coalition working to increase the participation of girls and women in computing and technology. Emily is a wife, mother, artist, horseback rider, very bad guitar player and breast cancer survivor.

Prior to joining Anthos, Emily was Chief Operating Officer at Snapchat, Inc., from 2014-2015. Prior to joining Snapchat in January 2014, Emily was at Facebook where she held several key roles, most notably running Business Operations at Instagram where she built and launched monetization. From 2001–2010 Emily worked at Google (employee 200), where she ran North America Online Sales and Operations, Asia Pacific & Latin America Online Sales & Operations and the Emerging Businesses channel.

Emily received her B.A. in Art History from Vanderbilt University and resides in Los Angeles with her husband, three kids (and many animals.)


Past Events

CEO Experience with Patrick Spence

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Patrick Spence is the Chief Executive Officer and serves on the Board of Directors for Sonos.

Patrick joined Sonos as Chief Commercial Officer in 2012. He has played a central role in the development and launch of some of the company’s most successful products. Patrick has also led the company’s expansion into new territories including China, France, Australia, and Mexico.

Prior to joining Sonos, Patrick spent over 14 years at RIM/BlackBerry in a variety of roles, including overseeing sales channels and country marketing operations in various regions including North America, Asia Pacific, Europe, the Middle East and Africa, ultimately becoming the Executive Vice President of Sales & Marketing. During Patrick’s time at RIM/Blackberry, the company grew from $50 million in revenue to more than $20 billion, and from 150 people to more than 17,000.

In 2007, Patrick was named one of Canada’s Top 40 under 40, a national program to celebrate leaders of today and tomorrow and to honor Canadians who have reached a significant level of success.

Patrick holds an Honors Degree in Business and Administration from the Richard Ivey School of Business at the University of Western Ontario in Canada.


CEO Experience with David Kilimnik
Friday, March 15 2019 - TAKEAWAYS FROM THE EVENT

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David Kilimnik is the founder and CEO of Hero Digital, one of the fastest-growing business services companies in the lower middle market.  Dave and his team have built one of the world's leading digital customer experience companies.  Any major company wanting to better empathize with their customers at scale across digital  comes to Hero for leading-edge CX/UX design strategy and downstream technology solutions. They deliver like no other in the sector; fueling their execution capabilities are best-in-industry employee engagement levels.  

Dave grew up in Massachusetts and started running services businesses early on.  He figured out that one way of improving customer experience with his snow removal services was to use dental tools to get the ice out of the driveway cracks! Dave got started in the tech economy as a an e-commerce software platform corporate trainer, and from there what has driven him is a desire to simply go after the steepest digital CX learning curves out there. 

Dave co-founded Hero Digital in 2014 and without any outside capital or sales team grew the company to $25 million in two years.  And they did it with high margins and limiting scale by how rigorous they approach new hire screening. They partnered with CI Capital in 2016 and since then have doubled from $25M to $50M and are now tacking towards a $150M revenue run rate.  What’s amazing is how well Hero continues to perform in the area of employee experience/engagement during such rapid growth of a services business. 

Dave did his undergrad at UC Berkeley where he studied biology. He later got his MBA at Babson, where he graduated magna cum laude. 


CEO Experience with Kevin O'Connor
Friday, June 15th 2018 - TAKEAWAYS FROM THE EVENT

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Kevin O’Connor has over 30 years of experience in high tech, both as an entrepreneur and investor. Kevin was the founder, CEO, and chairman of internet advertisement-technology giant, DoubleClick, which was acquired by Google in 2007 for $3.1 billion.

Kevin is currently the CEO of Graphiq (acquired by Amazon in 2017), a technology company whose mission is to drastically simplify the process of accessing the world's knowledge. Graphiq turns complicated data into vivid and contextually-rich visualizations and knowledge products. 

Kevin also runs O’Connor Ventures, from which he has invested in companies such as Internet Security Systems, Procore, 1-800-Flowers.com, HotJobs, and MeetUp.

Kevin grew up in Michigan.  He attended the University of Michigan, where he obtained a Bachelors of Science degree in electrical engineering. 


CEO Experience with Peter Nolan
Thursday, April 26th 2018


Peter Nolan is one of the most well-respected investors in the private equity industry.  He started his career off in investment banking, building DLJ’s LA presence in the early 90’s to a 100-person office. Leonard Green was an important client and in 1998 he joined them as managing partner along with Jon Sokoloff and John Danhakl.  Under their leadership, the firm completed over 80 principal investments and grew assets under management from $500 million in 1997 to over $24 billion today.  Peter transitioned to his current role as Senior Advisor in 2014.  Today, Peter also makes private equity investments out of his family office entity Nolan Capital.  

Peter presently serves on the Board of Directors of Diamond Wipes International, Inc., Fresh Brothers, La Fresh Group, Inc., AerSale Holdings, Inc., and Activision, Inc. Peter has served on the Board of Directors of Aspen Dental Management, Inc., FTD Group, Inc., Liberty Group Publishing, Inc., Motorsport Aftermarket Group, The Palms Hotel and Casino, Scitor Corporation, VCA Antech, Inc., Wavetek Corporation, White Cap Industries, LLC, Werner Ladder Corporation and the Supervisory Board of Adidas AG. Peter is a Trustee Emeritus and was vice chairman of the Executive Committee for Cornell University, and he is currently a member of the Investment Committee for the University's endowment. Peter serves as a trustee of the United States Olympic and Paralympic Foundation. He is also a member of the Loyola High School Endowment Investment Committee and is a former Eagle Scout. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Agricultural Economics and Finance from Cornell University and an M.B.A. from the Johnson Graduate School of Management at Cornell University.

Peter has a lot of rich experiences and perspectives to share, and we’re fortunate to have him up from LA for a candid discussion followed by lunch.  Among other topics, we'll cover the exciting and challenging parts of his PE career, what has served him well as an investor and how entrepreneurs should approach private equity partnerships.  


CEO Experience with Mitchell Green
November 17, 2017 - TAKEAWAYS FROM EVENT


Mitchell Green is the founder of Lead Edge Capital, a highly innovative venture capital firm focused on late stage growth tech companies.  They have built one of the most value-added limited partner bases of any VC firm, comprised of former Fortune 500 executives  that are involved in helping portfolio entrepreneurs as part of the investment partnership.   Mitchell focuses on two things:  finding unusually high-growth startups and helping them get customers through old school hard networking.

Lead Edge is currently investing out of our third fund $290M fund.  Portfolio includes Alibaba, Uber, Duo Security, Toast POS and Spotify.  Among other highlights, Alibaba investments returned approximately $1 billion to his limited partners.

Mitchell graduated from Williams College, then went to work at UBS as an analyst in the M&A group. From investment banking, Mitchell went to work at Bessemer Venture Partners, where he met his now-partner Brian Neider.  From Bessemer, Mitchell was a partner at a hedge fund under Tiger Management.  And in 2009, he started Lead Edge Capital.  Mitchell and his family now call Santa Barbara home.  


CEO Experience with Daniel Muth
September 8, 2017 - TAKEAWAYS FROM EVENT

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CEO Experience with Daniel Muth
September 8, 2017 - TAKEAWAYS FROM EVENT

Daniel’s diverse, collective work experiences have helped him build a career as one of the most effective PE-backed CEOs and operators around. 

Daniel grew up in Wisconsin, and after watching Charlie and the Chocolate Factory at a young age, decided he wanted to get into business.  After high school, Daniel made his way to Stanford, where he majored in quantitative economics and graduated with distinction.  After some work experience, he earned his MBA from Harvard Business School, and from there joined Bain for a ten-year stint.  While at Bain, Dan gained valuable foundation experience, working around the globe in a number of industries and functions/domains. 

At the time of becoming partner at Bain, Dan deliberately pivoted to the operator side.  He joined Roll International (Teleflora, Pom Wonderful), where he ran their operations improvement and acquisitions group and later became the CFO for the $300M Teleflora holding.

In 2002 after three years at Teleflora, Dan partnered up with PE firm Swander Pace Capital to acquire and run Fleischmann’s Vinegar, which at the time had 50% market share in the U.S. for vinegar.  After five years, he and his partners sold the company for a 3X return.  With 75% of their COGS being corn supply, navigating the ethanol craze required agility, innovative strategy and focused execution.  Through effective management relations and data analytics, Dan and his team were also able to significantly increase alcohol yield, one of the most important operating metrics in that business.

Around that time, Dan partnered again with Swander Pace to serve as CEO of International Fiber Corporation, a $100M revenue producer of powdered cellulose and insoluble fiber products for the food and industrial applications markets.  One of the key ways they added value to this holding was launching sales teams into new markets.     

Today, Dan serves as chairman of Encore Consumer Capital-backed Van Law Foods (private label and contract manufacturer of salad dressings and sauces) and as an operator partner and board member of Altamont Capital-owned Excel Fitness Holdings (fitness club operator). 

As an experienced operator often working with private equity sponsors, Dan has deep experience handling the multi-faceted strategic and operational challenges that come to companies in crisis from fast-changing industry dynamics.  He has extensive experience in senior and mezzanine debt financing and in transactions to buy and sell privately owned companies.

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CEO Experience with Annie Duke


Annie is a World Series of Poker bracelet champion, winner of the 2004 Tournament of Champions and a widely admired thought leader in the area of leadership and decision strategy.  Prior to becoming a professional poker player, Annie was awarded the National Science Foundation Fellowship, which led to her work in Cognitive Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania.  Now, as a professional speaker and organizational strategist, she merges her poker expertise with her cognitive psychology background to help leaders and their teams with the concept of decision strategy.  

Annie commented, "Whenever we make a choice based on imperfect information or with consequences over time, we use decision strategy.  In the workplace, success depends on how we make those choices through decision strategy. Everyone, from the newest employees to the principals, is part of the continuous cycle of deciding and learning."

In addition to sharing about her inspiring background and career, Annie will discuss the systematic obstacles that prevent us from making our best decisions and what these obstacles cost us in the workplace and throughout our lives. Furthermore, she will explore with the audience how to create practical solutions that make decision-making more rational.

CEO Experience with Rick Stollmeyer

Rick and has been a software entrepreneur and CEO most of his professional life.  He co-founded Mindbody (Nasdaq: “MB”) in 2000 and has grown the company from a garage concept to a publicly-traded company.  MindBody, which is a leading SAAS company serving the wellness and spa sector, started off as a desktop software company in the early 2000’s and bravely migrated to a SAAS delivery in 2006 as a very early adopter of this deployment model.  Salesforce.com, which was and remains at the vanguard of SAAS through secure cloud hosting, was not widely accepted during that period by industry as a secure and efficient platform for service delivery.  It was a bold move, which paid off richly to MindBody’s employees and investors.   

Rick grew up in southern California and then moved back east to attend the Naval Academy for college.  He graduated in 1987 and for the following six years worked as a submarine officer for the US Navy.  From 1994 to 2000, Rick embarked on his career and in his words things did not take off until, to put it simply, he changed his mindset.  A client of his recommended he read Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits book, and in Rick’s words, it changed the way he looked at the world and indirectly paved the way for his future success as an entrepreneur and business leader.

We appreciate Rick trekking down to Santa Barbara from San Luis Obispo for this talk. It should be a great event! 

CEO Experience with Shaun Tomson
February 9, 2017

Shaun Tomson is a world-class athlete and a highly accomplished entrepreneur and leadership consultant.  Tomson has been listed as one of the 10 greatest surfers of all time.

Sean grew up surfing the beach breaks in and around Durban, South Africa.  He went on to dominate amateur surfing competition in South Africa.  He always dreamed of reaching the real proving grounds of north Oahu, and in the late 1960s, courtesy of a Bar Mitzvah present from his father, his dream was realized.  It was on one of these trips that an awestruck 14-year-old Tomson witnessed at first hand the so-called "Biggest Wave Ever Ridden" by Californian Greg Noll at Mākaha in 1969.

During his career, Shaun was both the youngest and oldest surfer to win a pro event and is considered to be one of the key architects in helping launch professional surfing in the late 1970s.  The quality and innovation of his tuberiding is one of the dimensions of his surfing that has most influenced the sport.

Shaun founded, managed and sold two market leading clothing brands – Instinct in the 80’s and Solitude in the 90's - and has held executive positions with lifestyle brands Patagonia and O'Neill. He has consulted with Fortune 500 companies, is the author of the best-selling books Surfer’s Code and The Code - The Power of "I Will", and the writer and producer of the award-winning documentary film Bustin’ Down the Door.

He has a Bachelors in Business Administration and Finance, and a Master of Science degree in Positive Leadership. He is a World Surfing Champion, an inductee in the Jewish and South African Sports Hall of Fame, and the US Surfing Hall of Fame.  He is a former board member and ambassador for Surfrider Foundation and the Santa Barbara Boys & Girls Club.

He lives with his wife Carla and son Luke in Santa Barbara, California and still finds time to chase the perfect wave. Shaun talks about the influence of a positive spirit and the power of a personal code in dealing with the waves of change in life and business based on his own experiences of overcoming seemingly insurmountable challenges, in and out of the surf. He has spoken internationally and inspired and touched the hearts of audiences as large as 3,000 people, has shared the stage with well-known personalities including Sir Richard Branson and Malcolm Gladwell, and inspired corporations like General Motors, Cisco, Price Waterhouse, Toys R Us, The Gap, Disney and Google.


CEO Experience with Kevin McGibben
Dec 9, 2016


Kevin McGibben is the CEO of LogicMonitor, a global SaaS business based in Santa Barbara that provides IT infrastructure monitoring solutions to the world’s leading brands.   Kevin has led LogicMonitor from a start-up to a globally-recognized solutions provider.  Kevin is a hands-on CEO who has experienced all aspects of the challenges facing organization leaders today.  Earlier this year, he and his team executed a $130M investment partnership with Providence, a leading private equity firm.

Prior to LogicMonitor, Kevin founded 32 South, which assisted mobile and new-media technology companies expand into international markets. Kevin also founded firms in the VOIP, consumer products, and Web 2.0 industries. His experience includes international marketing, channel development, and general management positions with technology companies Fujistu, TEKELEC and CIDCO.

Kevin grew up in Santa Cruz and now calls Santa Barbara home.  When he’s not working, he’s usually with his family and can be found driving his kids to sporting events all over town. 

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All events are hosted at Impact Hub Santa Barbara's 1221 Chapala location:

1221 Chapala Street
Santa Barbra, California 93101

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