News / USA

California's 'Silicon Beach' Draws Tech Start-Ups

Elizabeth Lee
LOS ANGELES — California's Silicon Valley, near San Francisco, is world famous as a haven for technology companies, including giants like Google and Facebook. Many young entrepreneurs are bypassing Silicon Valley, though, to start their companies in an area called Silicon Beach.

On the west side of Los Angeles, people from around the world come for the beach, year-round sunshine and warm weather. This also is where Gregg Spiridellis and his brother operate the online comedy and e-card company, JibJab.  

“We are two blocks from the beach. It’s 72 degrees [i.e., about 22 degrees Celsius] and sunny every single day,” said Spiridellis.

Tech companies crop up

Spiridellis moved his company 10 years ago from New York to the beach in Los Angeles, after the dot.com crash almost wiped out his company. The move gave new life to his business.

“When we first moved out to L.A., there was no technology community. We did not move to Los Angeles for technology in 2002; we moved to artists for creative talent,” he said.

About four years ago, new technology companies started popping up, especially around Los Angeles beach neighborhoods, says University of Southern California engineering professor Ashish Soni.

“Definitely the unemployment and the economy in 2008-2009 did entice a lot of people to move from the traditional corporate path and to try and take a stab at their own venture,” said Soni.

Since then, the number of start-up technology firms in the area has exploded, with a large majority of them based along a five-kilometer stretch between the beach neighborhoods of Santa Monica and Venice - an area some in the industry call “Silicon Beach.”

Large pool talent available

Many people in the local technology community, including Soni, say the beach lifestyle and mild weather are reasons they bypassed the Silicon Valley and choose to work in Silicon Beach.

"It’s definitely becoming part of the everyday vernacular in the tech community here," said Soni.

But JibJab's Spiridellis said he does not like the name Silicon Beach.
 
"The only kind of silicon you see here on the beach is typically a part of someone’s body. I don’t really understand the need for a new brand," he said.

Venture capital firm Rustic Canyon is based here in Santa Monica. Managing Partner Nate Redmond says the Los Angeles region is unique and should not be likened to Silicon Valley to the north.

"While it’s understandable, I believe ultimately it doesn’t do justice or isn’t really fair to the entrepreneurs who are here building a community and building an ecosystem, which truly is much more native to the region and not an off-shoot from Silicon Valley per se," said Redmond.

Location is key

Entrepreneurs say another reason they prefer Silicon Beach over Silicon Valley is its proximity to Hollywood. Venice, where most of the special effects for movies are created, also is nearby.

Brett O’Brien is founder and chief executive officer of the technology company Viddy, which developed an application that helps users capture, enhance and share video.

“So the most talented production effects people in the world, from movie directors to cinematographers -- they're based here in Venice,” said O’Brien.

Viddy has attracted 38 million users in a little more than a year. O'Brien says the celebrities who use Viddy and their fans have fueled the company's success.

“There is certainly a benefit to having the access to influential users, famous talented people at every level. And for the types of businesses we create here in southern California, it’s a real competitive advantage,” said O’Brien.

Growing trend gains momentum

Rustic Canyon's Nate Redmond said people from around the world, including Silicon Valley, are coming to Los Angeles to work or start their own technology companies. He said that even venture capital firms in Silicon Valley are starting to take notice.

“The dollars invested in early stage companies within the L.A. region in 2011 last year was higher than any of the prior 10 years,” said Redmond.

Redmond said the most significant shift occurred 18 months ago, and it has accelerated since January. He said e-commerce firms also are drawing from the manufacturing industry in Los Angeles and the two major sea ports in the region. There also are engineers here who are creating online marketing and data analysis firms.

Analysts say that although Silicon Valley continues to be a leader in high technology, they expect the industry to grow and mature in Los Angeles.

You May Like

Video Positive Messaging Helps Revamp Ethiopia's Image

In country once connected with war, poverty, famine, headlines now focus on fast-growing economy, diplomatic reputation More

Russian Activist Thinks Kremlin Ordered Nemtsov's Death

Alexei Navalny says comments of Russian liberals who think government wasn't involved are 'nonsense.' More

Video Land Disputes Rise Amid Uganda Oil Boom

Investors appear to be cashing in by selling parcels of land to multiple buyers More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Imagei
X
Marthe van der Wolf
March 03, 2015 9:03 PM
Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Image

Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Cyber War Rages Between Iran, US

A newly published report indicates Iran and the United States have increased their cyber attacks on each other, even as their top diplomats are working toward an agreement to guarantee Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon and to free Iran from international sanctions. The development is part of a growing global trend. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Answers Elude Families of MH370 Passengers

For the families on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, an airline official’s statement nearly one year ago that the plane had lost contact with air traffic control at 2:40 AM is the only thing that remains confirmed. William Ide reports.
Video

Video Land Disputes Arise Amid Uganda Oil Boom

Ugandan police say there has been a sharp increase in land disputes, with 10 new cases being reported each day. The claims come amid an oil boom as investors appear to be cashing in by selling parcels of land to multiple buyers. Meanwhile, the people who have been living on the land for decades are chased away, sometimes with a heavy hand. VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
Video

Video In Russia, Many Doubt Opposition Leader's Killer Will Be Found

The funeral has been held in Moscow for Boris Nemtsov, the opposition leader who was assassinated late Friday just meters from the Kremlin. Nemtsov joins a growing list of outspoken critics of Russia under the leadership of President Vladimir Putin who are believed to have been murdered for their work. VOA’s Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Simulated Astronauts Get Taste of Mars, in Hawaii

For generations, people have dreamed of traveling to Mars to explore Earth's closest planetary neighbor. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports that while space agencies like NASA are planning manned missions to the planet, some volunteers in Hawaii are learning how humans will cope with months in isolation on a Mars base.
Video

Video Destruction of Iraq Artifacts Shocks Archaeologists

The city of Mosul was once one of the most culturally rich and religiously diverse cities in Iraq. That tradition is under attack by members of the Islamic State who have made Mosul their capital city. The Mosul Museum is the latest target of the group’s campaign of terror and destruction, and is of grave concern to archaeologists around the world. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Smartphones May Help in Diagnosing HIV

Diagnosing infections such as HIV requires expensive clinical tests, making the procedure too costly for many poor patients or those living in remote areas. But a new technology called lab-on-a-chip may make the tests more accessible to many. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials have expressed concern over reports of a crackdown on Afghan refugees in Pakistan following the Peshawar school attack in December. Reports of mass arrests and police harassment coupled with fear of an uncertain future are making life difficult for a population that fled its homeland to escape war. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports from Islamabad.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Prepare to Defend Mariupol

Despite the ongoing ceasefire in Ukraine, soldiers in the city of Mariupol fear that pro-Russian separatists may be getting ready to attack. The separatists must take or encircle the city if they wish to gain land access to Crimea, which was annexed by Russia early last year. But Ukrainian forces, many of them volunteers, say they are determined to defend it. Patrick Wells reports from Mariupol.
Video

Video Moscow Restaurants Suffer in Bad Economy, Look for Opportunity

As low oil prices and Western sanctions force Russia's economy into recession, thousands of Moscow restaurants are expected to close their doors. Restaurant owners face rents tied to foreign currency, while rising food prices mean Russians are spending less when they dine out. One entrepreneur in Moscow has started a dinner kit delivery service for those who want to cook at home to save money but not skimp on quality. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Presidential Hopefuls Battle for Conservative Hearts and Minds

One after another, presumptive Republican presidential contenders auditioned for conservative support this week at the Conservative Political Action Conference held outside Washington. The rhetoric was tough as a large field of potential candidates tried to woo conservative support with red-meat attacks on President Barack Obama and Democrats in Congress. VOA Political Columnist Jim Malone takes a look.
Video

Video Southern US Cities Preserve Civil Rights Heritage to Boost Tourism

There has been a surge of interest in the American civil rights movement of the 1950s and '60s, thanks in part to the Hollywood motion picture "Selma." Five decades later, communities in the South are embracing the dark chapters of their past with hopes of luring tourism dollars. VOA's Chris Simkins reports.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More