Insider Guide to Silicon Beach

Silicon Beach — L.A.’s answer to Silicon Valley — is America’s new start-up rocket ship. New companies are launching daily, joining some 1,500 or more  already underway and in various stages. Silicon Beach conferences, seminars, festivals, mixers and other events are springing up everywhere.

But for many people, Silicon Beach is still somewhat mysterious. Yet it’s a smashingly vibrant scene — and growing more so by the day — punctuated with a dizzying array of cash-totting VCs and angels, along with assorted start-up accelerators, incubators, shared spaces and more, all fueling an organic, entrepreneurial energy.

This Insider Guide, from BizBest Media offers a quick overview of Silicon Beach and describes key players, events, venues, links and resources that are fueling its rapid growth.  Consider this version 1.0. We’ll be updating frequently, so please respond in Comments with ideas, suggestions and resources to help improve and expand our Guide.  (Also coming soon: SiliconBeacher.com and SiliconBeachBuzz.com, our new blogs covering the LA start-up scene.)

Beach ‘Boundaries’

While the epicenter of activity is Santa Monica and Venice, the Silicon Beach community casts a wider net, including neighboring beach towns such as Marina Del Rey and El Segundo, along with inland locations encompassing West LA, Culver City, downtown and other parts of LA proper. In other words, there’s no “official” boundary, although officials in Santa Monica and Venice have claimed it as their own.

To get an idea of how this looks geographically, check out Represent.LA, a really-cool site created by Tara Tiger Brown and Alex Benzer that maps the Silicon Beach community.  It pinpoints Tech Start-ups (631 listed), Incubators (28), Accelerators (15), Investors (50), Co-working spaces (28), Start-up Services (75) and Hackerspaces (3). Silicon Beachers can add others to the site; just fill out the submission form. This effort aims to (literally) put Los Angeles start-ups on the map!

Top Universities Meet at ‘The Beach’

Top L.A. universities are joining in the beach party as well. In September, for example, USC’s much vaunted Marshall School of Business held its first Silicon Beach @ USC event billed as “two days highlighting innovation, new ventures, partnerships and investment at the intersection of technology and digital content.”

SB@SC included panels on topics such as “Entrepreneurship & the Young Professional,” “Hollywood Meets Silicon Valley,” “Silicon Beach: Powering the Digital Ecosystem” and my personal favorite, “13 Years in the Dumbest Business in the World, and Still Going.”  There were presenters and sponsors from the likes of: Disney, Accenture, Sony Pictures, YouTube, Qualcomm, Fox Broadcasting and many others.

Cash Prizes for Silicon Beach Awards

The USC event also included a Silicon Beach Awards competition with cash prizes of $25K, $15K and $10K. Finalists were: AuraGraphics, Code Wars, Flutterly, Game Nation, Music Prodigy, Hive Lighting, iconicAM, Kuapay, Mobuku, Panjia, and TosNos.

Clustering Creates a Space Squeeze

Silicon Beach has spawned a clustering effect.  the more start-ups that locate here, the more others want to be in the same area. As a result, demand for start-up and other office space is soaring, sending rents skyward and making many start-ups scramble to try and locate near the heartbeat of the Beach.  While this didn’t happen overnight —  L.A.’s West-side has been home to many Internet and high-tech start-ups for a decade or more — it’s pace has quickened greatly.  And the more active it gets, the more talent it attracts.

Key Silicon Beach Players, Organizations and Resources

Here — in no particular order — are some of the key places, players, organizations and resources helping fuel the Silicon Beach boom:

  • DigitalLA In June 2012, DigitalLA launched the first Silicon Beach Fest, billed as a festival and hackathon to celebrate the burgeoning Silicon Beach community in Santa Monica, neighboring Venice and surrounding environs. Kevin Winston is founder. The website could use a makeover, but it’s a goldmine of links and info — along with lots of photos. Check out their frequent panels with advice for start-ups.
  • Tech Coast Angels: This active angel group has been around for years, and was one of the pioneers in putting Silicon Beach on the map.
  • LAVA: The Los Angeles Venture Association, a paid membership organization, defines itself as LA’s premier forum for entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, angel investors and professional advisors.
  • io/LA is a place to work, collaborate, and socialize. An entrepreneur-friendly month-to-month membership provides 24/7 entry to an expansive full service work space.
  • Cross Campus — no shrinking violet when it comes to hype — describes itself as “an engine of creativity and innovation, housed at our state of the art 11,000 square foot space at 820 Broadway in the heart of Santa Monica.  Our goal is to inspire creative collisions through space design, learning platforms, and extraordinary events, fostering member-driven collaboration that ultimately leads to game changing ideas and enterprises. As a member of Cross Campus, you are part of a select community of doers.  You enjoy a workspace that is designed to inspire and built to support the needs of entrepreneurs who aim high.”
  • Coloft: Calls itself “LA’s start-up hub…a community and work space focused on empowering entrepreneurs, startups & freelancers. We love tech. We believe in awesomeness.”
  • Real Office Centers (ROC), which took over the former Google space at 6th and Arizona in Santa Monica, is looking to duplicate its success with start-up spaces in San Diego, Newport Beach and La Jolla with a new space in the heart of Silicon Beach. The first floor is open — and looks great — but second and third floors are under renovation (those Google guys left it a mess).
  • Hub LA is a collaborative space for start-ups in downtown LA. It offers members access to 4,000 square feet of creative industrial space to work, meet, learn, collaborate, and play.
  • Amplify.la — to quote its own elevator pitch — is “a hands-on start-up accelerator and multi-faceted
    entrepreneurial campus in Los Angeles.” Located on Main Street in Venice.
  • Launchpad.LA is a start-up accelerator in Santa Monica that was founded as a mentorship organization in 2009 by Mark Suster with the goal of helping local entrepreneurs build relationships, get funded, and grow while remaining in Southern Cal. The idea came from Suster’s frustration with seeing LA companies receive funding from Northern Cal VCs and then relocate their teams.
  • MuckerLab, based in Santa Monica, is a mentorship-driven start-up accelerator focused on serving Internet software, services and media entrepreneurs in Los Angeles. It offers a 3 to 6 month program that includes up to $21k in funding, office space, access to world-class mentors, and hands-on product, marketing, legal and fundraising support.
  • StartEngineLA is a rapid accelerator focused on helping LA-based tech startups build a solid foundation for success in 90 days.  Created by Howard Marks, co-founder of Activision, and Paul Kessler, one of the most prolific investors in Los Angeles, Start Engine will provide local startups with the essential resources and counsel they need to become successful, self-directed businesses.
  • socalTECH.com is a news and information site covering high-tech companies in Southern Cal.  It has a great calendar of local events and a database of tech firms in the region.
  • DFJ Frontier invests in seed and early-stage tech companies in Silicon Beach (and other parts of the West Coast).
  • talkTECH Communications is a technology-focused, marketing communications firm
  • Google Los Angeles: has consolidated it’s LA offices in a high-concept building and mini-campus in Venice and is offering Silicon Beach support as well, and aims to sponsor local events and perhaps strike partnerships with some of the tech start-ups.

Stay tuned. More to come.

 Copyright © 2012 BizBest Media Corp. All rights reserved.
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Filed Under: Silicon BeachStartupSmarts

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About the Author: Daniel Kehrer, Founder and Chief Content Officer of BizBest Media, is a senior-level leader in digital media, content development and online marketing with special expertise in startups, SMB, social media and generating traffic, engagement and leads. He holds an MBA from UCLA/Anderson and is a passionate entrepreneur (started 4 businesses), syndicated columnist, blogger, thought leader and author of 7 business and financial books.

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