It’s probably the most expensive help-wanted sign around. Santa Cruz’s Fullpower Technologies is spending $25,000 a month to rent the county’s only billboard, which was grandfathered in years back after other unsightly billboards were torn down.

Some 61,000 people a day pass the sign, which faces southbound traffic just past the summit on Highway 17. Company owner Philippe Kahn says he hopes it will attract the best engineers for his growing company, founded in 2003, which makes wearable technology such as watches that track fitness and built-in bed sleep monitors.

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“We are looking for the most talented professional technologists in Silicon Valley and some of them commute over the hill,” says Kahn. “With Fullpower, they now have a key opportunity in Santa Cruz. Downtown! We create technology that changes the world for the better.”

The billboard was an unconventional approach.

“It’s an expensive proposition, but well worth it to find the best talent,” Kahn says. “We are hiring as many talented, passionate firmware, server, iOS/Android engineers that are at the top of their game as we can find. I’d love to hire 100, but realistically, the new superstar team members that we are looking for takes time to find. Talented, passionate team players are everything.”

Kahn is also the inventor of the cell phone camera, perhaps the most widely distributed electronic invention in the world.

Fullpower now has 75 employees and is based at 1200 Pacific Ave., above Forever 21. Its “Horological Smartwatches” were recently profiled in the New York Times, as a way to combine the beauty of precise Swiss timepieces with motion detectors and exercise trackers with a two-year battery life. One line manufactured by Swiss watchmaker Frederique Constant sells for $1,000-$1,400. On the lower end, Jawbone is using Kahn’s MotionX technology in a sleep and exercise tracking device called UP Move, which sells for $50.

Kahn, who was educated in France, says he fell in love with Santa Cruz the minute he saw it.

“The first time I experienced the Monterey Bay in Santa Cruz, I decided that Santa Cruz has it all: surfing waves, sailing wind, mountain-biking trails. What an ideal playground to create new technology with like-minded passionate engineers,” says Kahn.

Does he see Santa Cruz as the next Silicon Beach?

“Technology is about technology, not necessarily marketing and sales,” Kahn says in an email. “An IP-Centric and technology innovator like Fullpower has a great opportunity in Santa Cruz. It’s more challenging for companies with marketing, sales and distribution: They may be better off in San Francisco or Palo Alto—that’s where the marketing and sales talent is.” 


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