Recently I participated as a judge in the Startup Showcase at the Data Con LA conference. Data Con LA was started seven years ago spearheaded by Subash D’Souza “with the mission of giving back to the community.” It has since grown in scale with over 2000 participants attending this year’s event. Seven among the startups that applied to compete in the Startup Showcase were selected to present to a live audience and to an expert judging panel from academia, tech, and investments. Product ideas ranged from a startup offering a one-stop shop for music creators to another startup pitching connecting hair stylists to the right clients and yet another startup presenting a solution for furniture and home supply retailers looking to expand sales using AR/AI (Augmented Reality/Artificial Intelligence).
This Startup Showcase offering in Data Con LA was a true reflection of Silicon Beach, which is home to over 500 tech startups and is located on the Westside of Los Angeles, by the Pacific Ocean, with Santa Monica on the southern end and Playa Vista on the northern end. Silicon Beach gets its name due to the high concentration of tech companies in this area, similar to Silicon Valley in the San Francisco—Bay Area region.
Silicon Beach has become an integral part of LA’s identity with startups, incubators and tech giants. Unlike Silicon Valley, however, where the focus is Tech, the startups here are as diverse as Los Angeles’ economy and span across sectors including fintech (ZestFinance) and real estate (Peer Street), in addition to new media (JibJab), new automotive (Bird, Fair) and emerging technologies such as AI (Retina AI), Virtual Reality (Wevr) and Blockchain (GEM). In addition to startups, tech giants including Google, Facebook and YouTube have established a strong presence in this region and Silicon Beach now boasts its own success stories that include Snap, Hulu and Ring. The concentration of startups in this region has also given rise to Incubators (Mucker), Accelerators (Techstars) and Co-working spaces (Cross Campus). Los Angeles county, because of the rapid growth of Silicon Beach, has attracted more skilled millennials looking to work in tech than ever before.
This premier tech hub of innovation, creativity, and entrepreneurship offers an opportunity for academic institutions and specifically, Business Schools to get involved, as they seek to prepare the workforce of the future. In a future that includes emerging technologies such as AI, data and IoT (Internet of Things), learning, networking, and collaborating with the talent in Silicon Beach is an opportunity sitting in our backyard and not to be missed. While engineers and computer scientists abound in the tech world, MBAs can play significant roles from marketing, operations and finance to product management and innovating founders. Business schools need to provide opportunities to their MBAs to network in small groups, to be mentored one-on-one, and to experience working with tech leaders while they are in school. With Silicon Beach in our backyard, this is an opportunity that must not be missed by Business Schools in Los Angeles.