The Startup Genome recently ranked Los Angeles third among the world’s leading startup ecosystems behind Silicon Valley and Tel Aviv. But Forbes is reporting that with its booming growth, LA is posed to take top honors in the near future.
The LA tech scene isn’t just littered with startups of course (500 and counting). It’s also home to Google, Yahoo, YouTube, Amazon, MySpace—even Facebook AND the Winkelvoss twins. LA’s westside is often referred to as Silicon Beach and it might be a tech hotbed now, but as little as five years ago the pool of locals who had any kind of real web experience was pretty shallow.
Co-founders Sara Hicks and Aaron Judd were here during those lean times. Although Sara was pulled away for a few years to the Bay area as well as NYC, as a fourth-generation Southern Californian, she’s happy that the tech trend has followed her back home. “You used to say that everyone in LA had a screenplay or a headshot in their trunk. Now it’s a pitch deck and a demo. Everyone’s still hoping to be discovered, but the focus has shifted. Now I walk down the Promenade in Santa Monica, and there’s a tech conversation going on at every corner. All the coffee shops on Abbot Kinney and Main Street have an entrepreneur and a VC hovered over a computer. I love it. It’s a fun, creative environment.”
Aaron moved up from San Diego, lured by the prospect of being involved in a larger startup tech scene without sacrificing and becoming another developer or tech executive in Silicon Valley. Silicon Beach didn’t exist then, but there were “old school” technology innovators like eHarmony and Ticketmaster. Even though a lot of the talent was heading to Silicon Valley, LA appealed to him because it was smaller with an existing creative industry. “Because it’s more tight-knit here, it’s easier to get recognized and make quality connections. The phenomenal growth of Silicon Beach is fun to be a part of right now because it’s helping to grow local talent, bringing Los Angeles tech investment and some really creative startups who want to stay here as well.”
When Ben Stocks, Director of Product and Operations, left his previous job in Oregon, he was ready for a big move. He narrowed his choices down to two locations: Silicon Beach or Silicon Valley. After spending time interviewing and getting a feel for each environment, he packed up the moving truck and made the longer drive south. “I found the LA scene to be smaller and more intimate. Instead of having to fight through the noise of San Francisco, I feel like LA offers space to grow and have a larger impact. With only a few hundred tech companies, the community is still small, and yet it’s making big waves in the tech sphere as a whole.”
Sara agrees Los Angeles is still a manageable size. “Here there’s more of a neighborhood feel. Everyone’s connected by just a few degrees so you have easy access. And the fact that LA has roots in aeronautics and movies means you get a lot of good crossover of creative people and entrepreneurs. Plus with great schools like UCLA, CalTech and USC, there’s a more promising pool of talent. Oh, right, and then there’s the unbeatable weather.”
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