By Andrea Chang
3:46 PM AKST, December 12, 2012
The Los Angeles technology scene isn’t getting the respect it deserves, a situation that the city is looking to change, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said Wednesday.
At an event in West L.A., Villaraigosa said that despite a boom in new start-ups, so-called Silicon Beach still suffers from perception issues and funding problems that have hindered it from reaching its potential as a major tech hub.
“We’re known as the entertainment capital in the world, but we’re not known for Silicon Beach, and that needs to change,” he told a crowd of reporters and tech enthusiasts.
Villaraigosa was joined by members of the recently formed L.A. Mayor’s Council on Innovation and Industry to present the city’s plan to highlight local innovation and outline steps to attract new entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and start-ups. He noted that a successful start-up community would bring positive attention to L.A. and spur further job growth.
To help funnel more money into the region, council members said they were actively reaching out to venture capital firms and wealthy Angelenos to publicize the early-stage companies taking root here. By getting the word out, they hope investors will focus their spending in L.A. instead of in Silicon Valley or elsewhere.
“Without capital, our young entrepreneurs will not have the fuel that they need to grow their companies to the next level,” said David Hernand, a partner in the Santa Monica office of law firm Cooley who advises tech and new media companies. “The supply of growth capital in Los Angeles is inadequate relative to the level of growth opportunity that we see here. There’s an imbalance.”
The 25-member innovation council, which was created in the spring, is also working with local universities including USC, UCLA and Caltech to persuade students to stay in the area after they graduate.
According to the council, since 2008, 54% of UCLA’s engineering graduates have chosen to relocate. By launching the Edge.LA Fellowship Program, which will connect graduates to established businesses and entrepreneurs, Villaraigosa’s tech council hopes would-be entrepreneurs will realize there are opportunities for innovation in L.A.
Villaraigosa is also hoping the extension of the Expo Line to Santa Monica will bridge the disparate tech communities around the county. Established tech companies, start-ups and accelerator programs are spread out in Venice, Santa Monica, Culver City, Hollywood, downtown Los Angeles and Pasadena, making collaboration and uniformity difficult.
To underscore the light-rail line’s potential to bring those communities together, council members are urging people to call it the “(t)expo line."