Why Silicon Beach is Growing
After I raised money in 2008 I got my first office for my action sports startup in Santa Monica, pre this town being dubbed “Silicon Beach”, pre the hype of tech co working. I got this office because it had a movie theater attached and I wanted to host film screenings for the skate/snow/surf community. My investors owned the largest action sports film distribution company so it was a natural fit. Back then I’d fly to Silicon Valley to meet others in tech. I even hustled my way into one of the first ‘Startup School’ events held at Stanford (now called ‘Y Combinator’). There was no tech scene in LA that I was aware of and I desired to meet like minded people in a non ‘networking’ type way. I started a local Meetup group called “Entrepreneurs Anonymous”. It was before accelerators, before tech mixers happening every night, before VC firms relocating here from the Bay. It was 2008.
Some of us worked out of BlankSpaces on Wilshire. At that time Michael Liskin would produce panels there. He gave me my start as a moderator. The informal hub we had back then consisted of maybe 30 of us, hosted by Paige Craig doing BBQs at his house, Scotty Snacks on the grill, the Venice Beach ocean water in eyesight.
In our group were people like Sean Percival who created a blog called Lalawag, (now a partner at 500 Startups). Andrew Warner who led an offline speaker series here in LA which has evolved into a mecca for online business education, Mixergy. Shira Lazar, the defacto tech event Interviewer at the time, now TV host sensation and founder of the ‘go to’ resource for all things YouTube entertainment, “What’s Trending”. Efren Toscano had launched an LA tech news site, TechZulu, and now also produces the infamous local tech crawls. And Kevin Winston led his first tech panel under Digital LA which now organizes the LA Tech conference Silicon Beach Fest. At that time we were all doing what we could to find like minded people in the LA startup world.
In 2009 all of #techLA fit into one photo when we’d flock to South by Southwest together. (Thanks Jonathan Dingman for inviting me to Austin that first time. Back then I thought SXSW was only a music festival.)
At one of my meetups back in 2009 is where I met the co founders of CoLoft (later launched in 2010). They asked me to come by and check out their co-working space, in construction, just a few blocks away. Little did I know they would plant the seeds to change and accelerate what is now a booming tech city. What they did is create an accessible hub for founders like me, engineers, product managers, investors, growth hackers and designers to connect and be inspired. Their mission was simple; “Community First, Profit Second”. They stood true to that. It all blossomed after a conference room brainstorm with me, Tyler Koblasa and the founders of CoLoft. I began introducing them to community leaders like Jason Nazar. At the time Jason was doing these cool speaker talks at the Santa Monica library. Tyler helped organize the educational and connective events held at CoLoft. The founders decorated the shared office space with bright colors, motivational messages, Aeron Herman Miller chairs, and complimentary desktop monitors. Walking in you felt loved and looked after. They ran operations and authetically and consistently engaged with the Silicon Beach community both online and off. By 2012 PandoDaily was calling CoLoft the “CHEERS of the LA Tech Ecosystem” and dubbed it’s co founder Cameron Kashani, ‘The Godmother of Silicon Beach’. Pivotal leaders in the startup space spoke at their events like “Start with Why’s” Simon Sinek and “The Lean Startup” Eric Ries to AppSumo’s Noah Kagan. Shortly after CoLoft ignited the Santa Monica tech buzz the media took notice and started reporting on it, accelerators opened house and more coworking spaces popped up.
It was then in 2012 that I decided as a community project to create the WeAreLATech video series. I wanted to help highlight the startups I was proud to know. In that same year using a Google calendar I manually aggregated and inputted all the LA Tech events happening in the city from west to east and north to south. I thought it would be a great way to keep the community connected.
It’s amazing that we’ve gone from just a small handful of events every couple weeks to several tech events a day. Now, in 2016, you walk into a coffee house and you hear tech talk just as you do in SF.
So why is Silicon Beach growing? Easy… it’s growing because who doesn’t love the beach, the cost of living is lower than New York and San Francisco, YouTubers base themselves here, hence both old school Hollywood and new digital talent are a 405 to the 10 and sometimes the 101 drive away. But mostly because we look out for one another. People describe the LA tech scene as being collaborative. Being that I am born/raised LA and built my startups here, I am excited to see this city thrive and looking forward to what’s to come.
To easily see and scroll through the calendar of all LA Tech events we recently built the community a WeAreLATech iPhone app here, wearelatech.com/app ( thanks to LA developer Ira Herman). Feel free to add the LA tech event google calender to your personal calendar if that’s better for you via wearelatech.com
The video series has since evolved into the WeAreLATech podcast where we highlight what’s going on in the world of LA Startups. Looking forward to connecting with you. Always feel free to reach out on Twitter here, @WeAreLATech.
Continue to be excellent to one another xo,