POP quiz. When you think of tech startups, you think:
A. Silicon Valley
B. New England
C. Los Angeles
If you had answered C in the past, you may have gotten a pat on the back for being an idealistic local booster. The correct answers were A and B, of course.
But that was the past. Los Angeles has emerged as a legitimate capital of tech-dom. One reason: Today's tech companies tend to have something to do with getting entertainment and creative content on to the Web, and that's L.A.'s sweet spot.
You may have known that or at least sensed it, since it's a trend that's been developing for a time. For example, in the last two quarters, Southern California edged out New England for the No. 2 spot in venture capital funding. Silicon Valley is still No. 1.
But the trend will smack you if you read the special section in this issue about the fastest growing private companies. The section includes a list that ranks 100 up-and-coming companies in L.A. County, and the list is heavy with Internet businesses.
Even the once-reviled dot-com name is making a comeback. Five years ago, there was no company with dot-com or dot-net on the list as part of its name. But this year's list has four such names, including the No. 4 company: Reunion.com.
Russell Reeder, the founder of NxTV Inc. (No. 10 on the list), is quoted in one of the articles as saying: "Los Angeles is definitely the digital media hub, where technology, finance and the media all intersect. The content side being here and the deal makers being here are what made the difference."
Reeder's last comment alludes to another issue that's extremely important. Los Angeles has, for lack of a better term, a culture of entrepreneurism. Universities are here, along with the creative community and funding sources. What's more, there's an attitude that allows, even encourages, people with bold ideas to start a business and give it a try and not just tech businesses.
A number of cities don't enjoy such a culture. They'd love to duplicate L.A.'s spirit of entrepreneurship but have trouble doing so because culture is the hardest thing to change. As a result, many opportunities die in those places.
I think a lot of Angelenos take L.A.'s culture of entrepreneurism for granted or aren't even aware that it exists. But that culture struck me right away when I moved here. It still surprises me. And if you look over the special section, you may be reminded of the strength of that culture.
It's just one guy's opinion, but I believe the culture of entrepreneurism is L.A.'s greatest economic asset.
You have to wonder if Rick Caruso has engendered jealousy from his competitors. Why else would a big mall operator like General Growth Properties kick a little mall developer like Caruso by trying to prevent a Cheesecake Factory restaurant from opening in Caruso's new mall in Glendale? (In case you missed it, Caruso won more than $89 million from General Growth in a lawsuit over the matter.)
Caruso pays attention to detail and creates inviting places where people actually want to spend time. Contrast that to most other developers, who keep putting unimaginative boxes on asphalt. If they look at what Caruso has done, they must be jealous.
Charles Crumpley is editor of the Business Journal. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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