Never Mind the Valley: Here’s Los Angeles

Best known for its movie stars, sun and surf, Los Angeles probably isn’t the first place you’d think to breed technology. But when you consider the influence of investors like Jason Calacanis and Mark Suster, in addition to the fact that companies like Demand Media and Docstoc call Southern California home, it’s not surprising that the community is emerging as one of the country’s hottest startup hubs. ReadWriteWeb caught up with some defining characters of the LA Tech scene to find out why they’ve made their homes away from the traditional tech haunts of Silicon Valley.

RWW’s Never Mind the Valley series:

FUNDING

Says Sean Percival, developer and founder of LA tech blog

Lalawag

, “The tech space in the Valley feels over saturated at every level, at least to me. Here in LA there are still so many untapped resources and opportunities.” Similarly

Twiistup

producer Francisco Dao remarks, “There’s certainly a smaller funding infrastructure in LA but it is MUCH more accessible. SoCal VC’s can be easily found at events looking to meet entrepreneurs. In Northern California, it’s harder to get into the loop and get to know some of the VCs and players.”

In some cases, competition to pitch angels in the Bay is so fierce that entrepreneurs have paid to present their companies. Upset by the exploitative practice of pay-to-play angel pitch sessions, serial entrepreneur Jason Calacanis recently launched the Open Angel Forum. Based out of LA, the Forum allows companies to submit an application free of charge with the best applicants invited to dinner alongside some top-tier angels. Other LA-based funding sources include firms like Rustic Canyon Partners and GRP VC. Dealmaker Media also hosts regular LA-based events where founder Debbie Landa invites some of the country’s top VCs to coach LA startups through industry trends and tactics.

MENTORSHIP

As for mentorship opportunities, in 2009 GRP VC‘s Mark Suster created Launchpad LA to offer help to early-stage LA-based entrepreneurs. The group meets virtually 2 times per month and seasoned veterans pass their knowledge on to startup newcomers. Some of these newbies include companies like band app-maker Mobile Roadie and parenting social network Totspot.

Says Suster, “We historically didn’t have a ton of successful tech companies. But things have changed and now companies like PriceGrabber, MySpace and Shopzilla are well established. LA is seeing a resurgence in second time entrepreneurs and it’s this generation of people that are helping breed success for others.”

Docstoc CEO Jason Nazar also works with Dealmaker to host a monthly Startups:Uncensored meet up series. Meanwhile, Francisco Dao’s Twiistup is the event to attend for SoCal tech networking.

Says Dao, “I think the smaller more familial environment in LA may act as almost a natural incubator. Everyone talks to everyone else here.”

There’s an old saying that “a cloudy day is no match for a sunny disposition.” Lucky for them, the LA tech scene gets to experience warmth in more ways than one.



Photo Credit: Lisa Newton

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