TechFire is the work of David Murphy who produces tech summits and fireside chats featuring nationally prominent tech leaders. David, who previously founded Angelenos Against Gridlock, is helping advance LA's emergence as Silicon Beach, also known as (largely) transit-free Century City West.
Lucky for me, Wilshire and 4th in Santa Monica where the conference was held, is a straight shot from Koreatown on the Metro 720 Rapid. And in spite of Beverly Hills' and Santa Monica's opt out of the rush hour bus-only lanes, at 7 a.m. it's still not too bad a commute westward.
But it is quite a contrast -- the tired faces on the bus and the over-caffeinated at TechFire. The 720 bus is mostly working people at 7 a.m., a blue collar and work boots crowd off to their jobs on the Westside. Instead of the work pants and worn boots of the bus riders, the TechFire crowd's hundred dollar sneakers and ripped jeans are pre-washed and intentional. Even the lawyers are open collar. The attendees -- it's probably a lot of job seekers but there are also a lot of bona fide entrepreneurs who have already raised their first round capital for a promising business idea.
These events tend to feature a lot of L.A. vs. Silicon Valley talk. How is it different doing a start up here versus San Francisco or Mountain View? What are the challenges to raising financing in L.A.?
One of my favorite speakers was Paige Craig of Arena Ventures. Craig's expletive-laden talk accentuated the positives about the tech startup business in Los Angeles. The natural assets we have over the increasingly odorless and colorless Bay Area thanks to our cultural and economic diversity and creativity. Craig and other presenters stressed the potential Los Angeles has in the start-up space thanks to its deep bench of entertainment and design talent. And there's no shortage of money here either.
My least favorite part of the day: the bagels were terrible. Life is too short to eat (and serve) bad bagels.
Maybe I should move along from the public transportation thing and start a genuine bagel place? I wonder if Paige Craig or another of the VC at today's event would fund me to do that?
Until then, I am hoping Metro's new CEO Phil Washington will be disruptive to the way public transportation is delivered in Los Angeles. As riders know, we need new models of service delivery. Here are my hoped for Metro startups: all-door boarding for faster service on the busy 720 Rapid and TAP card validators on the street (coming) to faster construction through a combination of Measure R2 and public private partnerships (P3) of the Crenshaw Line, the Wilshire Subway extension, the Regional Connector, a rail line through the Sepulveda Pass and all the other transit lines we need.
Los Angeles can be all of that and more.
Yours in transit,