On a day that Net stocks are taking a beating and Santa Monica is clouded in gloom, Richard Rosenblatt seems remarkably sunny. At 30, Rosenblatt has reason to be happy he just sold his Internet company, iMall, for some $425 million.
You might not have heard of Rosenblatt, or perhaps iMall, which was launched in 1994, back in the Jurassic era of the Internet. "There was nothing out there then," Rosenblatt recalls over a chicken sandwich. "There were about one-hundred sites and virtually no commerce. But I saw an opportunity there."
Unlike many of the Internet's more illustrious, or at least well-sung, companies, iMall labored in obscurity, building a network of some 2,000 merchants that they displayed on the Net. Even as the company grew, iMall and Rosenblatt received virtually no coverage in the national press.
In many ways, iMall's predicament is common to L.A.-based Internet firms. Companies based in New York or the Bay Area benefit from a network of investment bankers, venture capitalists and their media lackeys, who consider promoting local Internet companies as a kind of civic duty.
"Most of the industry media players aren't here, they are in New York or San Francisco. It's all a question of whose hyping your IPO," Rosenblatt explains. "If you're not high-profile you don't get coverage."
Indeed, Los Angeles has been the Rodney Dangerfield of the Internet. Even companies that eventually emerge Geocities, eToys, CitySearch generally do so more slowly than if they had been located elsewhere. Major national media seems unable to locate Southern California in "cyberspace." While numbers compiled by Ross DeVol at the Milken Institute show Los Angeles at the very top of high-tech regions behind only Silicon Valley and ahead of New York and Boston few national reporters bother to cover either place as a high-tech center.
Orange County, ranked eleventh in total high-tech output, outpaces highly hyped Raleigh-Durham and Austin by roughly 50 percent. Even in high-tech services, L.A. beats New York hands down, with over 80,000 more jobs.
Yet whatever the reality, Southern California firms, like iMall, continue to be largely ignored. This is not a matter simply of pride; it has real effects on the progress of the region's high-tech firms, whether in software, e-commerce or hardware. Meanwhile dubious firms such as Earthweb and TheGlobe.Com receive lavish national cover stories thanks to massive help from New York media and see their stocks soar. iMall has enjoyed modest success and virtually no exposure.
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