The Breakdown

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At tech conference, speed dating for start-ups

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What company will break through as the next Google or Twitter? Hundreds of tech investors have been gathering at a conference in Santa Monica, trying to find the next smash start-up.

You could think of it as speed dating, only with hundreds of millions of dollars changing hands. Here at OASIS: The Montgomery Summit there are 145 start-ups trying to attract the attention – and the capital - of hundreds of investors.

Tech investor Jamie Montgomery is the matchmaker-in-chief, the conference organizer, and says inevitably there are some companies that walk away without a date.

“Remember high school? We were all the gangling freshman at one time,” said Montgomery.

There are companies here that will set-up dog sitting online, send you a razor every month, or let you save money when you’re in a wedding.

“We are the first company to offer designer bridesmaid rentals,” said Vow to be Chic founder and CEO Kelsey Doorey.

After her 20-minute presentation - there's a countdown clock in the back of the room - Doorey was approached by several venture capitalists wanting to set-up meetings. She’s said it’s all about finding the right match.

“The raise process between investors and entrepreneurs is similar to dating,” explained Doorey. “So yes, it’s a courting process. We want to find investors that are a good fit for us and the investors want the same thing for their portfolios.”

And then, only if the stars align, they can put a ring on it.

Silicon Valley vs. Silicon Beach

The OASIS Summit is taking place steps away from Santa Monica beach, which certainly lacks the cachet of Silicon Beach in venture capital circles, but is making more of a name for itself lately.

One of the hottest start-ups anywhere, Snapchat, is headquartered a few miles from here. (The company is not presenting at the conference though CEO Evan Williams stopped by for informal meetings)

The supply of creativity and talent in Los Angeles is helpful to start-ups here, said Amit Jain, the CEO of West L.A.-based Bridg, which helps companies automate their marketing.

“I feel like there is no better place than L.A. to start a company today,” said Jain. “Definitely capital is not at the same as it is in Silicon Valley, but capital and talent go together to create a great business.”

Jain should know. He used to work in Mountain View, CA, at Google.

“In all honesty, I think when I was up north I saw people looking for their next opportunity,” said Jain.

He says people in L.A. tend to be more invested in the company they are working at and less likely to jump ship to a competitor.

Chirag Chotalia, Vice-President at the L.A office of the venture capital firm, The Pritzker Group, said conferences like this one help bolster the local tech scene, and keep companies from fleeing.

“If you look at the data, it’s irrefutable,” said Chotalia. “We’re the third-largest tech echo system.”

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