Tech Start-Ups Move to the Beach

Jefferson Graham describes how an influx of tech start-ups are turning Los Angeles into "Silicon Beach" - the newest hot spot for entrepreneurs with an entertainment, celebrity or mobile edge.
July 19, 2012, 9am PDT | Emily Williams
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Perhaps it shouldn't be a surprise that in a city with a rich history of technological entrepreneurship (think Walt Disney), new tech start-ups seem to be popping up left and right. But for companies like Brett O'Brien's Viddy, which released a smartphone app that allows users to make, edit and share videos, the cheaper rents and better weather are an enticing alternative to the infamous tech hotbed to the north.

Writes Graham, "More than 500 tech start-ups have sprouted in sprawling Los Angeles and its environs, according to members of the L.A. tech scene who have compiled the list online as But most of the action is at the beach." That's right, this is no Silicon Valley. Nestled between Venice and Santa Monica, you'll find a sea of laptops and smart phones blending in quite nicely with the surfers, rollerbladers, and body builders.

One of the reasons Silicon Beach is such an attractive location for start-ups is its adjacency to Hollywood. An increasing number of tech start-ups are forging business partnerships with celebrities, a win-win situation for both parties. "The natural resource of Los Angeles is celebrities," says Bill Strauss, CEO of ShoeDazzle. "We couldn't have done it anywhere else."

Local universities have begun to feed into the start-up machine, with professors sending recent graduates to work for them. More graduates are choosing to stay in the area, writes Graham, and are getting hired to work for a start-up instead of moving away. "Our vision for the school is to support the local ecosystem and our community, so this is fabulous," says Ashish Soni, a professor at the University of Southern California School of Engineering, and the executive director of its Digital Innovation lab. "The frequency of students staying in Los Angeles has definitely grown over the last two years."

"This would have been hard to accomplish if we were up north," O'Brien says. Los Angeles seems to have that magical combination of innovation, network know-how, and entertainment capital to grow these budding companies and connect them with a global audience.

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Published on Sunday, July 15, 2012 in USA Today
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