LA is making a push to brand itself with a new, tech heavy identity. (Photo Credit: Cannone)
Los Angeles—the City of Angels—known for its glitz and glamour, sun and surf, is carving out a new identity by creating a tech industry that may soon rival that of the Silicon Valley.
“We are not the Silicon Valley, there’s no question. We are a different community so we don’t want to pretend to be it, because we’re not. L.A. has its own flavor, its own value. We think it is going to have its place and leave a mark in the tech industry,” said Howard Marks, co-founder of StartEngine.
StartEngine, a business accelerator, hopes to help put the city on the map as a technology hub. Marks and a number of associates started the company in 2011.
“Our city needs to find something that revitalizes it in a permanent way, to build and create jobs and the tech industry is it,” said Marks.
Accelerators supply seed funding, mentorship and office space to startups for a period of time, in exchange for a small stake in the company.
“With over 250 mentors and millions of dollars in funding, we’ve helped 40 startups succeed,” said Marks.
Their main office, located in the Westwood area, receives applications from places like the University of Southern California’s engineering school, Caltech or other eastside neighborhoods such as Silver Lake.
Those folks would have to make the sometimes long trek to that office. If you’ve ever been to L.A., you know navigating the roads is sometimes a big pain. So, Marks opened up a downtown Los Angeles office in late January. It’s the only accelerator in downtown.
“Downtown L.A. is an up and coming area for tech startups. We are taking advantage of the fact that a lot of the entrepreneurs want to live in Silver Lake, they want to live in Downtown or near the USC campus. Some of them are in Pasadena or in Old Town and they want an accelerator as well. So by opening the office in downtown L.A., we have access to all of those communities who can easily use the subway or walk directly into our building to work,” said Marks.
L.A. is not only attracting Californians, but entrepreneurs around the nation from those interested in the L.A. lifestyle.
“We’re attracting business from Illinois, Indiana, New York, Boston, New Jersey, San Francisco. They are coming here because they see L.A. as a media city and a fast growing start up community that’s unlike any other in the country. You have 55 higher learning institutions. And that kind of talent can help your company grow. The competition is nowhere near as fierce up north in the Silicon Valley.”
If Marks hasn’t sold you yet—he says be patient—this year we will see a tech boom: “You’re going to see a ton of announcements coming out of Los Angeles.”
StartEngine is currently mentoring its fifth class of startups.
“I’m so proud and happy to see that vision I set forth more than a year ago is taking shape; that people are organizing startups here and there’s a whole new group of investors coming into town with new funds to pioneer those startups,” said Marks.
Marks has big goals for the company—to help “500 startups in the next few years… or more. It could be a decade, but we have time. We’re capable, able and willing to do it.”
“You’re seeing history being made right now, in Los Angeles,” added Marks. “Not everyone is aware of it, but they will become aware of it and it will create jobs that are high paying jobs, will offer an upside interest to business who will employ employees who will be successful. They will buy homes, send their kids to private schools and build an incredible lifestyle that is well known worldwide.”
“When L.A. wins, California wins.”