How big is the difference between American and Irish Startup communities?
The LA ecosystem is ranked as the third biggest ecosystem in the world. I could see where this is coming from when you consider the mixture of Hollywood, media, gaming, traditional B2B businesses such as TigerText and fast growing consumer giants like SnapTalk.
Coming from Dublin where the tech scene has a very strong sense of community what I really found in Los Angeles is a group of people who are really making a strong effort to pull together. It is extremely clear from the people in the coworking spaces, incubators, universities and the local start-ups that the tech scene in Los Angeles is only going to get stronger and stronger.
Meetups such as Innovate Pasadena and Startup Grind have a very strong foothold already. Coworking spaces were once again leading real growth in the community. Cross Campus have numerous cool facilities around LA that are 2nd to none. Wework also have enormous space. The multicampus coworking space operates really well and is a great facility in a city like Los Angeles where everything is so spread out and grinding traffic is a real challenge.
Other world-class facilities include the La Cretz Innovation Campus (LACI) which is a fully renovated 60,000 square foot building located in the dynamic Arts District of Downtown Los Angeles, the Campus comprises 3.2 acres and features offices, conference rooms, R&D labs, prototype manufacturing workshop, training center, and event space, in addition to LADWP laboratories for both Customer Engagement and Energy Efficiency and Technology.
On my trip, I visited numerous Universities including UCLA, Loyola Marymount University (LMU) and USC where I was blown away by both the quality of the infrastructure and the knowledge levels of the students. We met a group of students at UCLA who are part of an entrepreneurial group and I can honestly say they were a match for any group of tech cofounders in terms of their understanding of tech trends, financing start-ups, sales and marketing processes, etc. I have judged student competitions in numerous countries and it was clear that these guys are in the top, top drawer of undergrads anywhere.
Finally, I guess the main reason we were there was the launch our own model. We were regularly referred to as venture builders which I guess is close enough but is normally more associated with businesses that generate their ideas internally rather than us where we are looking to invest in other people’s ideas.
I was delighted to see the reception that our model had. In total, we give talks to nearly 500 start-ups and we had requests from over 200 start-ups already to get involved in our investment model. I look forward to seeing how these exploratory talks work out in the next couple of weeks.
Would also be rude of me not to mention I managed to squeeze in a Lakers game to witness the genius that is Kobe Bryant perform in his last season before retirement. Happy to report that was a spectacle of the highest proportions, nobody entertains better than the Lakers!
We began to put routes in Austin, Texas, which is also ranking very highly as an eco-hub and has a thriving start-up community. The city is very similar in size to Dublin, Ireland and also a lot of their ecosystem was based in a smaller downtown area. Austin is also famous for the South by South West (SXSW) festival which is an infusion of the Tech/Film and Music industries. We’ve visited Techstars in its trendy downtown facilities and toured the facilities at Incubators such as Tech Ranch and the International Accelerator. We were guest speakers at the Capital Factory facility for the Austin Startup Grind chapter and were blown away by the packed house and enthusiasm shown by the attending start-ups.
Austin is a very close-knit community where people are very happy to help each other what reminded me Dublin. Some terrific concepts and entrepreneurs reside in this brilliant city. We made one last stop at the Austin Technology Incubator (ATI) at the University of Texas (UT) and got a great insight into how they support and help launch the start-ups which are part of their Incubator facility. Some leading edge concepts and products are breaking through now from that very successful program.