Wrapping up the Indian summer and just in time for the holiday season, three back-to-back tech and startup events in Silicon Beach kept both experts and attendees busy.
First was Techweek LA from November 9 to 14, with activities and social gatherings throughout the week and then three days of jam-packed sessions and discussions starting Thursday. More then 4,000 people joined to hear 70-plus speakers share their insight on new technologies, running a tech startup and keeping up in LA’s fast-paced tech scene. Speakers included Dollar Shave Club CEO Michael Dubin, Jason Feinber of Pandora, Washio CEO Jordan Metzner, TechStars managing director Cody Simms and Ryan Nance of Tradesy.
Thursday’s schedule included sessions on health, music and food tech, as well as several on fintech. Highlights included a female-led session “Successful, Innovative and Glamorous: Insights from Female Entrepreneurs” – featuring Jewel Toned CEO Rachel McCrary and HelloGiggles CEO Sophia Rossi – and a fireside chat with Talenthouse founder and CEO Amos Pizzey.
Much of Friday’s sessions centered on design and disruptive technologies. But that afternoon, Techweek announced the winner of the festival’s Launch competition: Pick My Solar. More than 80 startups pitched their businesses at the festival in hopes of winning $50,000 in prizes and a chance to compete at Techweek Miami at the Launch National Championship for a $50,000 investment.
During the week, the group was narrowed down to just 16 before Techweek turned to fans and festival attendees to name the People’s Choice winner. Pick My Solar also took home the title for that award, too. “We are thrilled to be recognized by Techweek,” co-founder and CEO Max Aram says. “It really validates our mission and business model. We can’t wait for what’s next.” Pick My Solar will compete against the five other regional Techweek Launch Champions at Techweek Miami in December.
Just as Techweek LA closed out with a Hackathon on Saturday, LA Startup Week kicked off with its opening party on Monday night at Cross Campus. Highlights from Startup Week included the all-day “Expert DOJO 12 Step Program to Start, Expand and Exit your Business Successfully” and “LA Startup Demo Day,” both at Santa Monica Place.
Another highlight from the week, though separate from the Startup Week festival, was the LA Tech Summit hosted by Cornerstone OnDemand at the Fairmont Miramar Hotel also in Santa Monica. The morning featured a couple fireside chats: one with filmmaker and Moviefone co-founder Andrew Jarecki for a conversation on the conversion of film and tech, and one with Upfront Ventures partner Mark Suster and LA-based Latino-centric media company Mitu.
After lunch, was LA Tech Summit’s version of Shark Tank moderated by tech entrepreneur, investor and writer Jason Nazar. During the 50-minute session, four local, early-stage startups pitched their ideas to judges Baron Davis formerly of the New York Knicks, GoodRx co-founder Scott Marlette and Workpop co-founder Chris Ovitz. On Thursday, Cornerstone OnDemand announced MakieLab as winner and Sensay as runner-up.
MakieLab, which was accepted into Disney’s new Startup Accelerator this year, is an England-based customizable toy maker that allows kids to download and print 3D dolls and accessories. Sensay, meanwhile, is from Los Angeles’ very own Silicon Beach. The Venice-based startup is an Amplify LA portfolio company that offers on-demand platform for answers (from humans) on anything users may need to know.
“The four companies we saw today all showed great promise and made for a thrilling competition,” says Nazar. “The passion, drive, and sheer level of ambition in Los Angeles make for this to be such an exciting time to be a young company here.”
The rest of the afternoon included sessions on B2B startups, fintech, gaming, digital content, e-commerce and on-demand services. Before the summit concluded for drinks and networking at the Fairmont’s Bungalow, it ended with a session on the convergence of sports and technology, featuring the LA Dodgers Accelerator.
Since purchasing the team, the new Dodgers ownership has invested in elevating the organization to new heights in franchise expectations and fan experience. So earlier this year, they introduced the accelerator program, in partnership with R/GA, to help facilitate that goal. The program received nearly 600 applications from companies in 34 countries, according to panelist Tucker Kain, CFO for the Dodgers organization. Other panelists included Jonathan Bradley, partner at R/GA Ventures and director of the LA Dodgers Accelerator; Kai Sato, co-founder and president of accelerator participant FieldLevel Inc.; and Cavan Canavan, co-founder and CEO of accelerator participant FocusMotion.
“Until recently, sports had this umbrella over it, and tech and sports had different approaches,” explains Kain, “but now we’re building a roadmap for them together. We have this innovative, forward-thinking muscle that we can develop.”
In line with the accelerator’s goals, FieldLevel offers a leading athlete-recruiting software tool used among scouts. “Our [platform] opens doors for more authentic and organic dialog between brands that care about sports and youth looking for opportunities,” says Sato. “We’re creating better recruiting opportunities that ultimately help fulfill dreams.”
“The Dodgers need to be where the fans are,” says Kain, “rather than us pulling them from their day. We need to elevate the conversation and make sure to be where they are.”
While the place to be for Dodgers fans is inarguably Los Angeles, panel moderator Jon Erlichman asked the panel if the city is the sports tech hub. “It made a lot of sense to come here because there’s fan engagement both in and out of the stadium,” Bradley says. “And when you think about user content, LA has that in spades. It has content, it has tech and it has sports.”
Adds Kato, “There’s never been an easier time to raise capital as a sports tech company. All of our businesses are reflective of where the opportunities are, and it’s not just in the later stages.”
Different from typical accelerators and incubators, the 10 companies that were accepted into the LA Dodgers Accelerator in August have varied sates, raised funds and revenue streams. Reports TechCrunch, “Instead of shaping themselves up to close a seed round, these companies will be leveraging the network of the Dodgers and R/GA to run pilots, forge partnerships and ramp up sales.”
Although Techweek LA, LA Startup Week and LA Tech Summit are behind us, there’s plenty in store for LA tech scenesters in the coming months. Check back for a list of upcoming tech events worth checking out.