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Can LA's Silicon Beach Rival Silicon Valley?


America's high-tech industry is centered in California's Silicon Valley, a sprawling region on the San Francisco Bay that is home to Google, Apple and other industry giants. But tech start-ups can also be found further south in the state, in and around the city of Los Angeles. "Silicon Beach," is an upstart rival to the larger Silicon Valley.

The company VNTANA from the Spanish word for “window,” is one of many tech start-ups near Los Angeles. It is based in the seaside community of Santa Monica, and creates holograms, three-dimensional images for education, marketing, and entertainment.

“It takes two people less than an hour to set up the screen and it can be shipped anywhere in the world," said engineer Ashley Crowder, who co-founded the company.

The system allows live remote appearances and virtual concerts. It is interactive and users can control the projected images with gestures. Company co-founder Ben Conway demonstrates with a cartoon-like avatar projected on a translucent screen. When he moves his arms and legs, the avatar copies him.

Conway says, like many Silicon Beach companies, VNTANA takes advantage of its closeness to Hollywood.

“We have a focus on entertainment and on content. And that's something that the entertainment community really understands," he said.

Silicon Valley is oriented more toward technology, while Silicon Beach focuses on entertainment.

But the sector is diverse. A recent gathering of Los Angeles start-ups by the group Town Hall Los Angeles included Matthew Goldman, founder of Wallaby Financial, which advises consumers on which credit cards to use.

“We help consumers to save money, earn rewards, avoid interest. Whatever it is they need to do by giving them intelligent recommendations about how to use their credit cards every day," he said.

Goldman says the app works through their smartphones

“The phone locates you and it communicates with our servers that make these recommendations and do the intelligence and send back the results to your phone, in virtually real time," he said.

The Los Angeles tech sector spreads from the city to the beach and the suburbs. Analysts say its size is hard to measure since technology permeates so many LA industries, but Silicon Beach is home to many hundreds of tech start-ups, and it's growing.

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