Explaining Southern California's economy

Chris Dodd wants Hollywood and Silicon Valley to patch things up

CinemaCon 2011 - Day 2

Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Former U.S. Sen. and new Chairman and CEO of the Motion Picture Association of America Chris Dodd speaks at The Colosseum at Caesars Palace during CinemaCon, the official convention of the National Association of Theatre Owners, March 29, 2011 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

You could say that it's the great business question of our era. Certainly it is in California. Why can't Silicon Valley, seat of the tech industry, and Hollywood, capital of the entertainment business, join forces and create a juggernaut of technotainment that will establish the Golden State as the most important place on Earth for innovation and global media?

In theory, it should be a no-brainer. But in practice it's a case of colliding business models. Big Content has built up its ownership of media over the course of a century. It's not going to share the goodies without claiming its cut.

Big Tech, on the other hand, wants all that content to be free, free, free. Chris Anderson pretty well laid it all out, in detail horrifying to Hollywood, in 2009, in his aptly titled book "Free: The Future of a Radical Price." Why? Because the ability to fragment and share content is a critical piece of Silicon Valley's overall business model. Users need to be able to do this by the millions if not billions, so that various Web companies and appmakers can sell ads against the — wait for it — free labor of those users. 


Goldman CEO Blankfein warns against risk of good times

Earns Goldman Sachs

Richard Drew/AP

The price of Goldman Sachs stock is shown at a trading post on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2012. CEO Lloyd Blankfein recently gave a revealing (sort of) interview to Bloomberg.

You heard it here first, folks! Well, actually, you heard it from Bloomberg (and I did via Naked Capitalism). The news service did a sit-down with Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein in which the Vampire Squid King delved into Goldman's various businesses and potential conflicts, in the aftermath of Greg Smith's notorious "Muppets" op-ed in the New York Times. 

(By the way, he thinks the whole "Vampire Squid" thing is hyperbole. That awkwardly suggests that while Goldman doesn't deserve to be called a Vampire Squid — in Matt Taibbi's infamous phrasing — it could perhaps be compared to a lesser cephalopod, perhaps a cuttlefish or adolescent octopus.)

Stay tuned until the end of the clip (see below), when Lloyd smartly notes that there's a disconnect between gloomy economists and more optimistic market people, such as...Lloyd Blankfein! He wryly asks us to look past the pundits who paint gloom-and-doom scenarios when, in fact, 90 percent of the time the situation actually improves. Then he suggests that we avoid getting distracted by the risk of things going wrong and focus on the risk of things...going right!


Mark Suster doesn't like the term "Silicon Beach"


It's a beach. Just don't call it a Silicon Beach.

I missed this when it was fresh, but the debate is more-or-less evergreen, so I don't feel too bad about picking it up from Brad Feld's blog about tech and investing in Boulder, Colorado rather than Mark Suster's blog about tech and investing in Los Angeles. The topline summary: Mark — who started LaunchpadLA and is a VC at the biggest firm in town, GRP Partners — doesn't like the term "Silicon Beach."

It's not like he's breathing fire or anything. He's just trying to gently incite a larger discussion about the L.A. tech scene and the whole question of regional branding:

For me Silicon Beach doesn’t quite encapsulate the wonderful, dynamic, creative, large, thriving community that is the 13 million proud Angelinos any more than Silicon Alley captures the bustling 2012 community of New York City.

If anything using the word “Silicon” seems a bit derivative to NorCal. Don’t you think?

Interestingly, nobody I know in NorCal EVER calls it Silicon Valley, “Silicon Valley.” It seems to either be “The Peninsula” or “San Francisco” or even just “The Bay Area.”

To me, LA will always be a creative hub for TV, film, music, video games and now technology. We need to be different & unique. Not derivative.


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

Binoculars Building

Bobak Ha'Eri

Where the Googlers are in Los Angeles.

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.”


In Silicon Valley, nice guys aren't for real

Paul Sakuma/AP

Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg poses at Facebook headquarters in Palo Alto, Calif., Feb. 5, 2007. This was long before he became a modern-day robber baron.

At Breakingviews, Rob Cox lays into our presumptions about the virtues of Silicon Valley startup founders like Mark Zuckerberg, Mark Pincus, and (by implication) Steve Jobs. Here's a salient paragraph:

Though Silicon Valley’s newest billionaires may anoint themselves the saints of American capitalism, they’re beginning to resemble something else entirely: robber barons. Behind the hoodies and flip-flops lurk businesspeople as rapacious as the black-suited and top-hatted industrialists of the late 19th century. Like their predecessors in railroads, steel, banking, and oil a century ago, Silicon Valley’s new entrepreneurs are harnessing technology to make the world more efficient. But along the way, that process is bringing great economic and labor dislocation, as well as an unequal share of the spoils. Just last week, the Justice Department warned Apple that it planned to sue the company along with several U.S. publishers for colluding to raise the price of electronic books - monopolistic behavior that would have made John Rockefeller proud.