What LA Tech Week Really Signifies
Let me be clear – LA Tech Week was GREAT! It was exactly what many of us needed after two years of lock-down and isolation. I personally participated in several events and collectively my team hit over 20 of the more than 200 events packed into the week which attracted over 15,000 attendees!
I applaud Andreessen Horowitz (also known as A16Z) and in particular the leadership of new LA-based Partner, Katia Ameri, for a terrific first effort. I embrace many of the sentiments she shared in her LA Tech Week launch statement, excerpted below:
While media and entertainment still dominate the narrative, LA has a number of strong engineering pockets across industries including health, space, transportation/logistics, crypto, gaming, fintech, cleantech and more.
LA tech week brings together the top builders, seasoned operators and funds in an effort to create community and serve as a reminder that LA is not just a city where you can build, it’s a city where you can scale.
As an LA native, it has always been my dream for LA to be the top tech ecosystem. I’m so happy to be back here and working with the ecosystem to make this dream a reality!!
As the Executive Director of the Alliance, which supports the broader SoCal innovation ecosystem as opposed to focusing only on LA, I admit I have a bias towards opening the aperture for a wider view. Therefore I couldn’t help but notice that, although some of the industry “pockets” were showcased, in reality LA Tech Week was primarily a celebration of Silicon Beach and its consumer-media ecosystem for which LA is already well known. Approximately 90% of the events were held in Silicon Beach though more than half of the sessions were either industry agnostic or non-consumer which was encouraging.
I hope in the future, LA Tech Week will showcase the broader geographic region of LA like when Chris Rico, while at the LAEDC, passionately led a similar effort called InnovateLA from 2014-2018 which helped define our region as a diverse, distributed collection of up and coming innovation communities. I know first hand that Chris had to be super scrappy to pull off InnovateLA and struggled to get VC support and secure underwriters. With the powerhouse of A16Z behind LA Tech Week, I think the events were generally top shelf with many selling out and the often elusive VC community showing up in force. This is a great compliment to the reputation and resources of the lead organizers as well as the evolution of the ecosystem which has grown in both size and stature since 2018.
So this gets me to my final and most important point. What does a successful LA Tech Week say about the state of LA’s startup ecosystem? First, the fact that a global leading VC firm like A16Z committed its resources and its marquis brand to showcase the region says a lot. Add in the exciting news that A16Z recently opened a 30,000 sq. ft. office staffed with 25 full time employees (and growing), and it is compelling validation that LA is indeed an innovation hub of global significance. We know that the vast majority of the ~$30Bn of venture capital invested in SoCal last year came mostly from non-SoCal firms but few broadly publicize the intensity of their activity or have enthusiastically committed to the region. While other top firms like Sequoia, NEA, GV, Lightspeed and Lux have had SoCal-based investors for many years, they too often characterize them as remote workers connected to their NorCal offices. This feels different in a meaningful way.
It is the combination of critical mass of deals in LA (A16Z shared they alone already have 40 local investments), and broader industry acceptance of the idea that legitimate VC can happen outside of Silicon Valley, that is creating a domino effect. Dot.LA’s recent article Venture Capitalists Flock to LA for the Deals—and the Beach amplifies this point. So while LA Tech Week was a groundbreaking festival long in the making, I believe the bigger story is that LA (and hopefully broader SoCal) is on its way to becoming a legitimate and public center of operation for many of the world’s most prominent venture capital firms. I will be bold and claim SoCal has hit the critical tipping point that so many of us have been waiting for – of course time will tell!