Santa Monica embraces Silicon Beach -- don’t call it Tech Coast
On Thursday, the city devoted much of its annual State of the City address to promoting the tech community, with Mayor Richard Bloom declaring: "Today we are not just Santa Monica, but Silicon Beach and the Tech Coast." (In an unofficial vote later, hundreds in attendance overwhelmingly threw their support to the Silicon Beach name.)
"Our technology-qualified workforce, creative workplaces and leading broadband infrastructure will keep our economy well-positioned for future growth," Bloom said.
After the mayor's address and a short video touting the rise of tech companies in Santa Monica, Jason Nazar, who is chief executive and co-founder of local start-up Docstoc.com and has become one of the main boosters of Silicon Beach, moderated a panel of people connected to the tech scene.
The group -- Paige Craig, CEO of start-up BetterWorks; David Travers of venture capital firm Rustic Canyon Partners; Chui Tsang, president of Santa Monica College and Keith Klein of law firm Bryan Cave -– discussed the region's success so far and what needs to happen here in order for the tech community to thrive, such as partnerships with local schools, financial resources and other incentives.
Travers said the "critical issue" was getting a future tech powerhouse to stay put in Santa Monica and “be the tent pole around which many other companies will blossom."
"The next Facebook or Amazon or Google or what have you -- the next multibillion-dollar great company needs to not only come out of here but needs to be able to stay here," he said. "Once a company starts getting big it needs a larger campus, you have a lot of MBAs sitting around thinking about how to optimize tax policy…. Santa Monica needs to be ready for when one of these companies takes off."
Tsang said he hoped tech employers would be "a little more active, a little more pushy with us in letting us know what it is they’re looking for" so the college can make sure its curriculum is relevant.
And despite the Silicon Beach name, the region needs to develop its own tech identity, Travers said.
"We compare ourselves a lot to Silicon Valley. I think we have to stop obsessively benchmarking ourselves against that," he said. "We need to stop acting like the little brother who’s always comparing themselves and just be ourselves."
-- Andrea Chang
Photo: (Left to right) David Travers, Paige Craig, Chui Tsang, Keith Klein and Jason Nazar discuss Santa Monica's tech start-up scene during a panel discussion. Credit: Andrea Chang / Los Angeles Times