Pioneer of the Year

John Petote

When John moved to Santa Barbara from Pittsburgh in 1983, it wasn’t just his desire to live by the beach that drove his eventual success. It was his ambition, acumen, and ability to adapt to an ever-changing business landscape. John started CIO Solutions with just $8,000 and an apartment in Isla Vista, and has weathered four recessions and two company transformations over the last 30 years. As CEO and co-founder, he was instrumental in building CIO Solutions into a multi-million-dollar, high-tech company that supports many businesses in our community by designing, implementing, and supporting customized information technology and voice communications solutions. While he has handed off the duties of CEO, he still serves as Chairman of the Board and continues to mentor and support the company that, as he says, “was his training ground for investing in startups.”

Being chairman of a successful venture might be enough for most people, but not John. He describes himself as more of a business person than a technical person, and has subsequently invested in over 70 startup companies, as well as various VC funds and real estate partnerships. He has made private investments in start-ups focusing on information technology, internet marketing, bio-tech and medical devices, consumer goods and financial industries. One of the companies John invested is also receiving an award tonight: AppFolio. Other local investments include Appeal Sciences, Active Life Scientific, Invoca, Inogen, Impact Radius, and LogicMonitor. His portfolio extends outside of our community, as well.

One of the reasons that John invests in the South Coast is because he believes that it is a vibrant community and a great place to start a business. He started the Santa Barbara Angel Alliance in 2016 to encourage local investment. John provides strategic mentoring, problem solving, and leadership coaching to the companies in which he and the Alliance invests.

John is also very generous with his “free” time He serves on the board of several organizations, including the MIT Enterprise Forum, the UC Santa Barbara Economic Forecast Project, and the United Boys & Girls Club of Santa Barbara.