Though Silicon Valley has long dominated the tech world, California is currently experiencing a seismic shift. This one, however, is technological, rather than tectonic. The boom in Southern California’s tech industry has already birthed the neologism “Silicon Beach,” and it shows no signs of slowing down.
According to Built in LA, 92 startups raised over half a billion dollars in the first half of 2013. Some of the more famous local success stories include Irvine-based Oculus VR, which was recently purchased by Facebook for $1 billion, and SnapChat. In a sign of Southern California’s increasing independence from Silicon Valley, SnapChat recently rejected a $3 billion offer from Facebook.
For those working in Southern California’s startup ecosystem, this is the moment to be making connections with future tech leaders. Fortunately, there are plenty of opportunities to meet up with SoCal’s many tech professionals, gurus, and influencers. Here are 5 of the best startup events to put on your calendar:
Silicon Beach Fest – June 18-21 (Santa Monica)
Silicon Beach Fest is a semiannual event organized by Digital LA, a 50,000-member networking organization. With events in November and June, Silicon Beach Fest is currently in its second year. The event reflects LA’s more laid-back attitude, billing itself as an “entertainment fest with panels, pitches, and parties.” This isn’t just hype, though—the last event featured Vine stars and other viral video celebrities alongside those working in digital marketing, the music industry, and Hollywood.
June’s event will likewise feature panelists, meetups, and pitches alongside parties and a hackathon. Plus, it’s Santa Monica in June—the weather alone is reason enough to attend.
San Diego Startup Week – June 17-21 (San Diego)
Last March, Forbes announced that San Diego was the best city in the United States to launch a startup. If anything, it’s surprising that it’s taken so long. The military presence and companies like Qualcomm have made San Diego a hub for telecommunications, aviation, engineering, and surveillance. Thanks partly to the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) and its Salk Institute, San Diego also has a long history of pioneering biomedical research.
Now, San Diego’s tech fields are bearing fruit, and the country has noticed. San Diego’s startup scene includes everything from consumer drones to green fashion. For those working in San Diego or willing to Amtrak down, San Diego Startup Week is a great event. The event is organized by Startup San Diego, a community that works as a meeting place and discussion forum for local entrepreneurs, techies, and investors.
The three-day event boasts events to introduce people from all parts of the startup ecosystem. Techies will have opportunities to seek mentors, and investors get to see demos of tomorrow’s hottest products. All this in a city with some of the country’s best craft beers—it’s a must-attend event for any startups south of Orange County.
Startup Roundtable Mentor Night – June 18 and Continuing (Santa Monica)
Startup Roundtable’s Mentor Night is a relatively low-key affair compared to the other multi-day extravaganzas. The conferences are organized by MentorNight, a private group of startup founders and entrepreneurs. They meet at monthly events to impart their wisdom to the next generation, acting as mentors to local startups.
The event features two roundtables discussions, a forum for sharing expertise with peers as well as troubleshooting specific obstacles. Events are nominally invite-only, but interested startups can request an invitation.
Startup Weekend Los Angeles – July (Los Angeles)
Does your startup have a strong idea that’s one workshop away from being pitch-ready? If so, you’re ready for Startup Weekend Los Angeles. A global movement, Startup Weekend brings entrepreneurs and aspiring thought-leaders together to hone their skills and experience.
Participants pitch ideas, vote on the best ones, and then work on them over the weekend. At the end of the three days, participants pitch their ideas to a panel whose judges have venture and startup backgrounds. Events happen several times a year, and usually sell out quickly. The nature of the event makes networking easy, too. Relationships formed at Startup Weekend LA can continue, and a network exists for year-round meetups.
Digital Entertainment World – February (Los Angeles)
Attending DEW Expo is a good indicator that your startup is on an upward trajectory. Though the price of admission is steep (nearly $1,000 for a weekend), Digital Entertainment World is “the only conference about the complete digital content ecosystem.” From music to web design, if it’s online and involves a payment, it has a place at DEW. For startup entrepreneurs, it’s the pre-eminent trade show in their field, and an opportunity to determine the direction of their industry.
As Silicon Valley’s tech giants mature, Los Angeles’s digital agencies have a bright future in Southern California’s startup ecosystem. Beyond Silicon Beach orbit San Diego, Irvine, Orange County, and beyond. Techies in Southern California have great opportunities to meet and work with one another in a market on the rise.
Have you attended any events that your startup found particularly useful? Let us know in the comments, and we’ll see you there next year.