The Breakdown

Explaining Southern California's economy

The end of the 'Sand Hill Road dance' for L.A. tech?

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Great little post by the L.A. Times' Andrea Chang about how the technology industry in Los Angeles is growing up (she's reporting on an event that took place in Venice). Importantly, it's one thing to have the idealistic startups — but quite another to bring in the funding:

Panelist James Citron, chief executive and co-founder of mobile marketing firm Mogreet, said Southern California has come a long way and is finally attracting investment capital and interest.

“Ten years ago, it was very hard,” he said. “You had to fly up to San Francisco and do the Sand Hill Road dance, for those of you who know the venture capital world. Now they’re coming down here looking for great companies, so that’s a big fundamental change.”

Thomas Williams, senior site and engineering director for Google’s Los Angeles office -- which recently relocated to the Frank Gehry-designed Binoculars Building in Venice -- said he wanted to bring more tech events, mixers and partnerships to Venice to help it become “more of a tech hub.”

Sand Hill Road is the center of the U.S. venture capital universe, a cluster of VC firms in Silicon Valley that have made the U.S. tech industry what it is — and gotten very rich in the the process. 

But VC is changing. There are far fewer firms than there were ten years ago, fundraising has gotten tougher, and firms are now competing more furiously to find the next big company. At the same time, Silicon Valley alternatives are emerging across the country. The Bay Area isn't an inexpensive place to live or do business, so some innovators are deciding to set up shop elsewhere. 

Southern California is benefitting, as "Silicon Beach" reestablishes itself (there was a Silicon Beach, along with a Silicon Alley in New York, during the run up to the dotcom bust). Other areas are gaining speed, as well. In Pasadena, home to KPCC's Mohn Broadcast Center as well as a small startup scene and an established investment community, we're seeing the beginnings of what I call "Silicon Arroyo."

So the VCs now come south. But the local VC is also building itself up as a Sand Hill Road alternative. The firm may not be as large or well-capitalized. But they're here, and from what I can tell, they're optimistic about the future of the region as a driver on entrepreneurship.

Follow Matthew DeBord and the DeBord Report on Twitter.

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