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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.

7 Essential Qualities of Successful Entrepreneurs

So you want to start a business of your own and be an entrepreneur. Have you got game? The qualities it takes to be a successful entrepreneur are often misunderstood. It’s much more of a personal game than most people realize. Some people really aren’t cut out to be entrepreneurs.  They feel more comfortable working a traditional job where vision, strategy and resources are all in place.

Here are seven essential qualities that make a successful entrepreneur today (and three others that entrepreneurs are not). Keep them in mind as you think about starting or building your business:

Quality #1: Successful Entrepreneurs Have a Clear Vision

Vision is about developing clarity and purpose around your business goals. Ask yourself: What are my aspirations for this business idea? Be careful. It’s not about growth rates or revenue. The vision Steve Jobs had for Apple was about building a better computer. It wasn’t about the money. Successful entrepreneurs are able to describe where they are headed with clarity and focus. Fuzzy vision won’t fly.

Quality #2: Successful Entrepreneurs are Risk Takers and Innovators

But here again, watch out. Many would-be entrepreneurs think risk is about gambling, Las Vegas style. It’s not. Entrepreneurs take calculated risks, weighing the pros and cons before they act. But they move quickly to make their decisions and then act on them.

Quality #3: Successful Entrepreneurs are Passionate

This is another way of saying that successful entrepreneurs are driven. They ask probing questions to glean critical information about their market and how what they offer will be different from everyone else. And they will tell anyone willing to listen to them why they’ll succeed. This quality also helps entrepreneurs be successful team builders because people want to follow them.

Quality #4: Successful Entrepreneurs Can Spot Opportunities

In fact, the essence of entrepreneurship is the ability to spot an opportunity and act on it. It’s not easy, and it requires seeing solutions that others haven’t seen.  But having a “concept” or a business plan won’t matter if the opportunity isn’t rock solid.

Quality #5: Successful Entrepreneurs Don’t Fear Failure

It’s hard to find successful entrepreneurs who haven’t tasted failure. What makes them different is how fast they picked themselves up and moved on, and what they learned from failing. Great entrepreneurs turn each failure into a portal of discovery. They are resilient and flexible because they know they may have to make many course changes along the road to success.

Quality #6: Successful Entrepreneurs Have a Sense of Urgency

They want everything done yesterday, understanding that speed – especially in today’s world – is often critical to success. They aren’t about to wait around for somebody else to tell them what to do next. They thrive on challenging themselves and like being their own boss.

Quality #7: Successful Entrepreneurs are Honest and Up-Front.

They understand that businesses are built on teamwork, trust and relationships.  If they aren’t forthright and honest in everything they do, they jeopardize the trust of others – including backers, partners and customers – who are vital to their success.

3 Qualities That Entrepreneurs Lack

As you assess your entrepreneurial fit, also keep in mind these qualities that entrepreneurs tend not to possess.

1.   Entrepreneurs tend not to over-analyze things. They may crunch a few numbers, but they won’t do so endlessly.

2.   They are not whiners or complainers (only the positive and optimistic need apply).

3.   Nor are entrepreneurs “organization” people who feel better when surrounded by layers of other people with narrowly defined responsibilities.

Next Steps

Here are two great resources for entrepreneurs that not only offer high quality information, but are also free to access:

•     SCORE is a non-profit that offers free 1-on-1 mentoring for entrepreneurs in person or via email. Visit www.score.org.

•     Startup America Partnership, a White House initiative launched in 2011, is a great place to find help and information for business startups.  Visit www.s.co.

Copyright © 2000-2012 BizBest® Media Corp.  All Rights Reserved.

A Secret Stash of Small Biz Capital

Small Business Investment Companies (SBICs) are one of the best-kept secrets in the world of venture capital.  These behind-the-scenes investment firms inject over a billion dollars annually into small firms. Yet they deliberately keep a low profile to avoid being crushed by businesses seeking money.

Last year alone, SBICs across the country pumped about $1.8 billion into 1,477 small companies.  Nearly 25 percent of that investment capital went to businesses that were less than two years old – firms that often need capital in the critical $250,000 to $5 million range that’s often not available through banks or private equity.

Some of America’s biggest and best-known brands got an early boost from SBIC money, including Apple Computers, Costco, FedEx, Intel, Jenny Craig, Outback Steakhouse, Staples and many more.

SBICs combine private capital with government sponsorship and are 100 percent devoted to small business. They often specialize, investing in firms by type, region, industry or other factors, and unlike most venture capital firms, SBICs invest for the long term.

New SBICs are being formed all the time.  New York-based Hudson Ferry Capital (HFC), for example, just launched a new $100 million SBIC to make “buy-in” investments in family-owned U.S. businesses. Tim Ross, an HFC Partner, defines buy-ins as “control investments with existing managers who retain substantial ownership positions; thus creating a common goal to transform a small or regional business into a large, integrated enterprise with much greater value.”  HFC has invested in 27 companies in industries such as manufacturing, building products and business services.

Best place to find SBICs and learn more about the program is the National Association of Small Business Investment Companies (NASBIC) website.

Copyright © 2000-2011 BizBest Media Corp.  All Rights Reserved.