Kate Cagle
Daily Press Staff Writer

Amid the tourists and street performers who pack the Santa Monica Pier day after day, you may bump into local entrepreneur Sara Hicks walking with one of her employees.

Hicks prefers to take one-on-one meetings with her employees to the beach. Tech companies are notoriously concerned about office culture, and the founder of Reaction Commerce is no exception.

The former Vice President at Etsy believes the sight of some sand and the sound of ocean waves creates a calming backdrop for her growing e-commerce company.

“I think walking resets the mind,” Hicks said in an interview with the Daily Press in her office on Main Street. “You’re forced into a different zone or energy by being out in nature.

There’s something that reduces the tension so if there’s a conversation where you have to give more direct feedback it makes it a little less challenging.”

Hicks’ start-up, Reaction Commerce, is tucked away in an office building above Tim Clark Design, Inc. A recent visit found empty chairs in front of widescreen computers in the creative office space.

Hicks explained her employees were in town visiting from around the world and enjoying a Hollywood Bus Tour of Los Angeles at the moment.

The start-up is gearing up for some big growth after raising $8.5 million in venture capital. Hicks will soon be hiring more developers, engineers, marketers and sales reps. The CEO allows many of her employees to work remotely around the world, acknowledging it means meetings can be a tad “time zone challenged.” It’s a rare experience to have everyone in the same room at once.

Reaction Commerce is a global software engine used by retailers to get their products from digital shopping carts to buyers’ doorsteps. The software is free and open source. The company makes money by offering customer assistance to take some of the work off business owners’ hands.

“We’ve been building the core platform and the core technology for the last four years and we’re continuing to see interest in what we’re building,” Hicks said, “but it really feels like right now, with the new capital being raised, that we’re just starting out in some ways.”

Hicks has a deep connection to the City by the Sea – it’s where she was born and where she launched her career in technology at GeoCities in the 1990’s. The Santa Monica-based company was the third-most visited site on the web in 1999 when Yahoo! bought it and Hicks moved to San Francisco.

Her career took her outside the state to work at Etsy. Now she is back, running her own company where her life and career began.

“I always knew I would come back to family and vibrancy here in Santa Monica,” Hicks said. Like many entrepreneurs choosing Silicon Beach over Silicon Valley, Hicks sees the diversity of industry here as a major advantage. To Hicks, it’s not just the proximity to the beach but the size of the proverbial pond.

“I think we can be a bigger fish in a smaller pond here in Los Angeles.”


Kate Cagle

Senior reporter for the Santa Monica Daily Press