Pasadena wants to create its own tech and design innovation hub that's separate from Silicon Beach — one that's geekier, older and geared toward science and engineering.
The effort is being led by a group called Innovate Pasadena and will include a series of events called "Connect Weekend," expected to draw 1,000 participants this weekend. The goal is to create a collaborative environment where tech and design companies can thrive and support each other in Greater Pasadena.
"If you want to have an innovation- and entrepreneurial-driven area, you need to have a community to de-risk that endeavor," said Andy Wilson, Innovate Pasadena's co-chairman and co-founder. "When you climb Mount Everest, you don't do that by yourself."
Last year, Innovate Pasadena held 75 events, which connected or engaged around 4,500 people, Wilson said. This year, it plans to grow that number to 10,000 people, he added.
Competition with Silicon Beach?
Wilson said the effort isn't about competing with Silicon Beach, it's about creating more choice and diversity. He said Silicon Beach tends to be younger and have projects that are more consumer- and media content-oriented.
"We're not trying to steal companies," Wilson said. "We are trying to expand the size of the pie."
Pasadena has organized a group with a similar mission before. There was Entretech, but it went dormant during the economic downturn. Wilson said his group's execution will be different from Entretech, with events being created and driven by innovators and focused more broadly. Entretech's last chairman, Michael Giardello, is the co-chairman of Innovate Pasadena.
Innovate Pasadena is supported by institutions like the City of Pasadena, corporate members and underwriters, Wilson said. He estimates Innovate Pasadena has 50 to 75 committed volunteers.
Businesses move closer to innovation hubs
Promoting Pasadena's entrepreneurship and tech scene can also spur more companies to move there, said Pasadena Mayor Bill Bogaard. Already, companies like Microsoft are opening offices in Playa Vista, considered part of Silicon Beach.
"New companies like to be where similar activity is taking place, and if they become aware of the level of innovation efforts in Pasadena, they will be more inclined to come here or stay here and expand," Bogaard said.
Bogaard said people in Pasadena were "understated" about their financial and technological successes in the past, which may speak to why people don't think of Pasadena when talking about the tech scene. He said that's changing with efforts like Innovate Pasadena.
"We want to show off what's going on here in a way we haven't given priority to in the past," Bogaard said.