“What is Silicon Beach?”
I asked this question when I attended the annual Silicon Beach Festival in Santa Monica, now in its second year.
While the idea of ‘Silicon Beach’ has received notable press over the last year, exactly what it means is still a point of debate, both inside and outside of LA.
The name ‘Silicon Beach’ is a play off of Silicon Valley:
“Silicon Valley is the southern region of the San Francisco Bay Area in Northern California, in the United States. The region, whose name derives from the Santa Clara Valley in which it is centered, is home to many of the world’s largest technology corporations as well as thousands of small startups. The term originally referred to the region’s large number of silicon chip innovators and manufacturers, but eventually came to refer to all the high-tech businesses in the area, and is now generally used as a metonym for the American high-tech sector.” — Wikipedia
Silicon Beach can therefore be the name/metonym given to the tech startup community of Los Angeles County. Some will argue the name ‘Silicon Beach’ doesn’t make sense because you won’t find the production of silicon chips, which gave the Valley its namesake, but for me, the name ‘Silicon Beach’ is fitting. Unlike other burgeoning tech communities, like in New York or London, Silicon Beach actually has close connections to our northern neighbors, and increasingly, has the direct investment of Silicon Valley companies like Google (whose move into Venice got real estate tongues wagging).
The energy of the festival and the LA Tech community is that of a startup, an idea with the essential elements of a good startup: value and story. The Los Angeles community of tech interests appear to be getting behind and investing in the idea, which makes it prime to take off in a big way. Is it possible for ‘Silicon Beach’ to become something like ‘Silicon Valley’? “Anything is possible” and “think big” was the mantra the echoing throughout the four-day festival.
What most sets Silicon Beach apart from Silicon Valley is fact that it is more entertainment and creatively focused, less about hardware. If the Festival schedule is any indication, Silicon Beach is decidedly focused on entertainment, social media, gaming and content distribution oriented startups. The historic focus of Los Angeles on entertainment is a benefit to Silicon Beach, as the creative community of Hollywood and the associated creative industries (gaming, advertising, fashion) has the effect of making the Southern California tech scene that much more unique, and maybe even gives it a creative edge.
Los Angeles County has long been home to technology related industries like Aerospace, so Silicon Beach has a local base of skilled computer and engineering talent to draw from. Only a few miles down the beach south from Santa Monica and the Silicon Beach Festival is a the city of El Segundo, which has Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and Xerox among it’s top employers. Also within the county are several world renowned science and technology research universities, CalTech, USC and UCLA. CalTech made an appearance at the festival and displayed some of it’s 3-D printing technology (very cool I might add). USC recently completed state-of-the-art facilities in for film production, virtual reality and gaming on its campus, and operates the Institute for Creative Technologies in Playa Vista. UCLA is also an incubator of talent for startups. Throw in Idealabs and the Pasadena tech scene which was present at the festival and all of this is like water on the seeds of Silicon Beach.
With the growing dependence, focus, and investment by Hollywood in technology (3-D, visual effects, digital distribution) and social media (for advertising, metrics, distribution), the presence of tech startups all over the county already, and skilled and motivated human resources nearby, the stage for a new hub of tech startups is set and lit. Google and Facebook (as well as others) are also building/operating facilities and a presence in Los Angeles to follow the trend of Silicon Valley integration with Hollywood.
So what is Silicon Beach?
Silicon Beach is the triumvirate of Los Angeles based Technology resources/talent, Global Media Conglomerates, and Creative artists (content creators). Silicon Beach is the love-child of Silicon Valley and Hollywood. It’s a banner and metonym under which Los Angeles County startups and tech scene can form a community to learn and grow together. Silicon Beach is a startup.
“If you are successful in your startup what does that look like?” “What is the heart and soul of your business idea?” — Matt McCall, New World Ventures
If the Silicon Beach “startup” is successful, the Los Angeles tech and creative communities have a new incubator of innovation, a way to attract talent and new business, and economic growth. The ‘heart and soul’ of the idea is to form a community of innovators with common goals and interests to promote and grow the community, and its interests.
Julian Tyler is a screenwriter and media professional from Northern California. A Los Angeles resident for six years, he has worked on several hit films and TV shows, and follows the entertainment industry closely. A graduate of the University of California, Santa Barbara, Julian has studied the media industries for many years. When he is not writing, working on films, TV shows, or media projects he is attending the best events in Los Angeles. Julian is proud to be a contributor to Pacific Punch. Follow him on twitter @JulianTyler and the Pacific Punch @ThePacificPunch.