SLO Insider Vol. 1 Issue 01 "The Founders"

The Uber Files – VOL 1, Ride 41

Good Business Needs Notice

Students are a majority of the Uber experience here in SLO, but they are not the complete story of my Uber connections. I also meet folks who work with local businesses and they enjoy talking about what they do and how they do it.

Given that SLO has become over the years a hot bed of technological innovation (think GoDaddy, iFixit, MindBody), it is not surprising to find companies contributing mightily to our community and well beyond. Now and then, I run into some of these people.Recently, I had three close encounters in three days. The way it went down, one has to wonder … coincidence, or …

The first of these passengers was a couple who work for:

Hearst Ranch Winery

After introductions, I found out they both worked for Hearst Ranch Winery in San Miguel. She worked on the production side and her boyfriend worked in marketing. We chatted a bit about that, and then I segued to …

“You know the politics of water in San Luis Obispo, particularly in Paso Robles,” I said generally to the couple. They nodded in affirmation, as if to say, “We know that well.”

I went on talking, trying to draw them out. “I recently read an article that discussed how apps are utilized to monitor water usage, which allows farmers to use water more efficiently. Do you guys do anything like that at your winery?”

The young woman responded eagerly. Clearly, she had knowledge and interest in the topic.

“People don’t know what’s happening with water monitoring. Not only can we measure water use, but we can evaluate soil composition deep into the ground around a plant to determine water retention capability, as well as how much water is retained and for how long. Not only that, but we can put “armbands” on each vine to measure water movement within the plant itself. Monitoring also helps with fruit quality, you know, when to harvest.”

“That’s cool.” I said. “I now have a real-life example to go with the academics of the topic.” I turned my attention to the young man. “Dude, this is what you need to be telling customers in the tasting room. You need people to know that Hearst Ranch Winery is committed to conserving water.”

“The wine is our focus, but I think that’s a good idea.” He seemed somewhat enthusiastic by my suggestion, but not quite convinced. Maybe he wasn’t sure how it would fit in.

“Trust me. I managed Corbett Canyon’s tasting room and what people wanted as much as tasting the wine was information about the wine, the winery, and the process of making it. Using technology to conserve water is good information to be giving out about all of those things. Customers will dig it and it will help your PR. Tell your staff to start talking about this.”

I glanced at him in the mirror. He seemed more energized about the idea. “Yeh, yeh,” he said enthusiastically. Funny how quickly things can change. He was genuinely excited, as if he had just come to understand a math equation not understood before.

He said he would get that going, and I told him I would mention Hearst Ranch Winery’s efforts in this blog, and so it goes …

The next day, I picked up three men at the starting point of their careers who work for:

Hortau Simplified Irrigation

We were driving out Los Osos Valley Road, and as we passed a vegetable farm, I heard one of the men comment about poor water use. Given my propensity for conversation, I immediately told them about the article I read and the discussion I had with the couple from the winery. Suddenly, laughter erupted in the car. All three of them found what I said very funny, apparently.

“Okay, so what did I say?” I asked sheepishly.

The young man directly behind my seat quickly said, “That’s crazy.” The other two voiced their agreement. “No, dude, It’s not you,” I heard from behind me. His next words brought both the humor and the serendipity of it home for me.

“It’s what we do. We work for a local company that installs smart irrigation systems. And you are right. The wineries are horrible at marketing their efforts to use water more efficiently.”

They went on to explain the origin of Hortau, what is was all about, and how they were getting work in and out of the area. The conversation enlightened me for sure, but more than that, it made it painfully obvious the community needs to know digital technology has come to town in more ways than just Facebook, credit card swiping, and Uber; it is helping us with a problem we all share– limited water.

The day after my ride with the smart-irrigation guys, I picked up a rather intelligent woman who enlightened me about a local company providing clean and cheap energy from the sun. With a bit of trepidation, I told her my wife and I had  Solar City install our rooftop solar panels.

Her unexpected but sincere response struck me as, well, not fitting into the business norm, at least the norm I understood.

“That’s great. The important thing is you went solar.”

She works for:


When talking with her, I logically connected the dots between clean energy and water conservation. It occurred to me that smart irrigation systems require power, as does water collection and distribution, so I called Sunrun to see if it does business installations. It does not directly, but does through its affiliate REC Solar. A common thread among all three conversations emerged – local companies benefiting the community on their way to profit.

The above three businesses are doing just that – making money while keeping the community in mind. Ya gotta love that, and as community members we should be telling others about these businesses that are doing the right thing. In other words, we should support their efforts. Oh, and BTW, I receive no compensation from any of the above businesses. Shocking huh?

However, if you should decide to contact any of them for more information, please mention The Uber Files. It helps build my readership and that helps me.

Tune in and don’t drop out,
Mr. Uber Driver

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