Explaining Southern California's economy

The Wisdom of Woz: Apple cofounder Steve Wozniak explains why he and Steve Jobs were a great team

I just relayed questions from the audience. Woz dispensed the wisdom.

I got to do a very cool thing last week: introduce — and then lead a question-and-answer session with — Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak. It was part of the Distinguished Speakers Series, and the event took place at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium.

KPCC often provides on-air folks to participate in the series. This was my first opportunity, and for a person who has never really owned anything other than Apple computers since the the late 1980s, it was both a privilege and a thrill to be on the same stage as Woz.

His speech was a charming, funny, and accessible ramble through his years before and after Apple — including a stint on "Dancing with the Stars" and a new memoir, "iWoz: Computer Geek to Cult Icon: How I Invented the Personal Computer, Co-Founded Apple, and Had Fun Doing It."

Given that Steve Jobs passed away last year, however, Wozniak's memories of his co-founder were some of the most moving of the evening.

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DeBord Report sits down with Idealab's Bill Gross

Idealab

Michael Juliano/KPCC

Matt DeBord talks with Idealab founder Bill Gross.

I've written about Idealab, a well-known incubator in Pasadena, before. I've even visited the place and taken pictures! But I hadn't ever had the opportunity to sit down with founder and CEO Bill Gross. KPCC's crack video crew and I recently rectified that.

Gross is a compulsive inventor and entrepreneur — and one of Southern California's true business leaders. He started his first company in high school, selling solar energy kits. He then created a few more companies before founding Idealab in 1996.

Idealab has gestated numerous companies, including Citysearch, Picasa, and Shop.com. It's kind of tucked away on the northern edge of Old Town Pasadena, but it has an influence far beyond the Southland. Both because the incubator concept has become increasingly important for the startup ecosystem, as investors become much more discriminating about the maturity and potential of companies they want to invest in; and because Idealab is working on some projects that could have a significant impact on well-being in the developing world.

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PHOTOS: A Visit to Idealab in Pasadena

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Matthew DeBord

Welcome to Idealab, a new business incubator founded in 1996 and located in Pasadena, Calif.

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Matthew DeBord

Entrepreneurs in an innovation tank need aquatic life in an aquarium, for metaphorical reasons and to relieve startup stress.

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Matthew DeBord

Idealab is currently working with a number of companies in its innovative, open-space environment.

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Matthew DeBord

Idealab provides the services that startups require, including legal and HR.

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Matthew DeBord

If you're an entrepreneur, you're going to need financial advice, at some point. Maybe at every point.

Idealab-Shop-MDB

Matthew DeBord

It isn't just social media startups and tech companies. Idealab maintains a workshop for entrepreneurs who need to build stuff out of something other than bytes.

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Matthew DeBord

It never hurts to have an accessible rooftop, where you can prototype solar projects.

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Matthew DeBord

I'm Matt DeBord, your DeBord Report business and economics blogger from KPCC 89.3, and I approve of this visit to Idealab. More to come...


Today, I dropped by Idealab, the business incubator in Pasadena, to learn a bit more about the startup scene in Southern California. They were kind enough to show me around their unique space and briefly chat about what they do, why they do it, and how they do it. 

Here's a timeline of the operation, which was founded in 1996 by Bill Gross and has moved through a number of iterations. They are to a certain extent building the future here, and that's always a good energy to be around. Idealab is also fostering new businessers and new technologies right here in SoCal, establishing an interesting alternative to the Bay Area (although certainly not acting as if NoCal doesn't exist). They're even beginning to explore so-called "angel" investing, with a new in-house ventures group.

Have a look around! And, if you want to get a sense of how entrepeneurship is affecting working life in Los Angeles during an economic downturn, check out KPCC's Shereen Marisol Meraji and her visit to NextSpace, a co-working business in Culver City.

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