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Villaraigosa rolls out new Council on Innovation and Industry for L.A.

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Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa hopes that a focused group of movers and shakers will help the city attract more startup investment. He says it's about much more than just job creation.

Today, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa rolled out his Council on Industry and Innovation at the Variety Venture Capital & New Media Summit. What does the mayor have in mind? He wants to turbocharge L.A.'s efforts to catch up to Silicon Valley — although it's unlikely the city will ever really close that gap.

The council’s membership is a who’s who of L.A. tech, finance, and entertainment leaders. It's been under construction since last year and includes six sub-committees that will focus on areas such as attracting investment capital to the city, improving education's role in innovation, and enhancing networking opportunities. 

Villaraigosa said that the council isn’t just about jobs and job creation. It’s about "creating a narrative about L.A. as an innovation center."

The mayor, who began forming the council last year, says that narrative has been unclear. And that’s no surprise because L.A. is know as the capital of the entertainment business. When it comes to technology and startup investment, it’s overshadowed by Silicon Valley, home to tech giants like Apple and Google. Silicon Valley has always drawn the bulk of venture funding, something like 70 percent over the past decade. That leaves L.A., New York, Massachusetts, and everyone else to fight over the rest.  

Villaraigosa is realistic about the council's prospects. He doesn’t expect to change minds overnight and suddenly see a surge in venture capital to L.A. growing startup scene. "There’s a lot of work to do here, there’s no question about it," he says. "But we have a lot of great talent here. It just needs to be nurtured."

Does it bug the Mayor that people routinely talk about L.A. as California's "second city" for innovation — and even send it into battle against the startup scene in New York?

“I love this town,” he counters. “Don’t sell it short.” He doesn’t have any illusions about how the tough the job will be. But his belief in the city’s potential is what motivates him to brand L.A. as a major center for innovation.

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