this piece was originally published on Lalawag
Last week, Lalawag covered a lively discussion over on Namesake in an article entitled “Should We Start Referring To The LA Tech Startup Scene As Silicon Beach?.” The essence of the Namesake conversation was a debate over whether the nickname of “Silicon Beach” is demeaning to the local tech scene and whether or not it even matters what the nickname of the scene is. It’s a similar discussion to the one happening over on Quora, where LA tech superstar Mark Suster is leading the charge to answer the question “Why Haven’t More Successful Startups Emerged From Los Angeles?”
In both cases, our friendly neighborhood techies are insisting that, despite the sun-drenched stereotypes, there is undoubtedly a strong, successful and serious tech community right here in the City of Angels. As a member of that community, I wholeheartedly agree. We may be full of a very different kind of silicon than that valley you keep reading about in the tech trade blogs, but that doesn’t mean our tech community can’t compete with the best companies San Fran has to offer.
Which brings us to Lalawag’s new feature series, LA Tech 101. Think of it as an introductory course to the people, places and products that make the Los Angeles tech scene the unique and exciting community that it is.
Lesson 1: we may have plenty of sand, surf and sunshine (fog-drenched Nor-Cal residents, eat your hearts out), but that doesn’t mean LA-based businesses are any less serious than the ones located anywhere else. To keep things simple, let’s take a quick tour of a few of the companies that make up the three most interesting sectors of the LA industry: commerce, content and killer startups.
Money, Money, Money
If there’s one thing that the City of Angels’, well, angels, have to be proud of, it’s this fact: LA is rapidly developing a reputation as the land of the little web startup that could make money. In fact, local techlebrity Mark Suster answered the aforementioned Quora question with a treatise on LA tech’s unique startup scene that boils down to (and I’m paraphrasing here) “yeah, we have fewer large, game-changing companies to incubate younger talent, but necessity is the mother of invention, and we keep inventing new ways to monetize here.”
Need proof? Well, LA is home to LowerMyBills, DocStoc, DeviantArt, CitySearch, GreenDot,Demand Media, PriceGrabber, UberMedia, eHarmony, Ad.ly, HauteLook and my very own employer, Cooking.com. All of these companies have found a way to monetize particular niches of the web. Demand Media earned a cool $1 million in 2010 and GreenDot not only posted profits in 2010, but exceeded Wall Street profit predictions as well. From finance to fashion, there are plenty of companies with their home bases firmly planted in LA and their books firmly planted in the black.
Content Is King
Hooray for Hollywood! (and for LA tech’s close proximity to it.) Because of that proximity, LA tech companies are very good at playing in the content space. Not only do major companies like Yahooand Netflix have content-focused offices in LA, but the southland is also home to Hulu, MySpace,Break Media, GotCast, THQ Inc, Clearspring, MovieClips, BuzzMedia and many more companies creating and promoting content across the interwebs. With all that killer content creation happening here in the City of Angels, it’s no wonder Facebook recently announced that it’s looking to lease some space out on our very own westside.
Start It Up
It’s no surprise that Los Angeles ranked on Parenting.com’s list of the 100 Best Cities For Families 2010. It’s a great place to raise kids and an equally great place to raise companies. As a veteran ofRanker (a skyrocketing startup that recently raised $1.3 million in funding and happens to be based in the heart of Hollywood), I can personally attest to that. In fact, there’s a whole host of great startups that call Los Angeles home. GoodReads, Bakespace, SocialVibe, ThisNext, Stickam,ThisWeekIn, Savings.com, CitySourced, Namesake and many more young companies are all based on our sunny So-Cal shores.
Why? Well, to quote Darren Rush’s answer to the Quora question mentioned earlier:
“In the last 18 months, the emergence of active angels and smart VCs, and a panoply of interesting new startups and startup clusters, primarily in the Santa Monica-Westwood corridor are taking things in the right direction….There are plenty of newly funded startups solving interesting problems looking for talent, and the weather is 75 and sunny today from my ocean-view office. 😉 Oh yeah, and the surf is up!”
Is That All There Is?
That concludes our quick tour of LA’s techosystem (yep, that’s another fancy portmanteau I just pulled out of my you-know-what). Of course, with so much ground to cover — almost 500 square miles to be exact –there are far more LA tech companies than can be named in one little blog post. Which, if you think about it, is proof in and of itself that the LA tech scene encompasses more than just a good excuse to work by the beach. Although the fact that we can do that (in between making money, creating content and launching new companies) ain’t so bad either, is it?