Talk about unfortunate timing.

At a recent tech conference in Los Angeles, organizers scheduled a panel discussion on the advantages the L.A. tech community has over Silicon Valley. But minutes after the panel started, one of the panelists, the chief executive of a highly acclaimed West Hollywood startup, announced he was moving his company to Silicon Valley.

David Sacks, the head of Yammer.com, said July 31 that he would pull his company out of its offices on Sunset Boulevard and move to San Francisco. The company's 30 employees headed north last week.

The move is a blow to L.A.'s tech scene, which took great pride in Yammer. The company, which offers a blogging service for businesses, won a coveted award at a Silicon Valley conference last year and recently raised $5 million in capital.

Sacks' other L.A. area startup, Geni.com, which helps users to track their family genealogy online, will remain in West Hollywood for now. Keith McCarty, marketing manager for Yammer, said Geni may also move to Silicon Valley, possibly as soon as its building lease expires or when the company can negotiate an early end to the lease.

Sacks said that while the L.A. tech community had grown over the past several years, he felt Silicon Valley offered more experienced entrepreneurs, better access to capital and a more evolved business environment.

"Obviously you can be successful anywhere and you can assemble a great team anywhere," Sacks said at Twiistup 6, an L.A. tech showcase and conference in Universal City. "And I'm not trying to put anybody down."

He said the issue was where to find the best engineers, adding, "I don't even think it's a question that that place is Silicon Valley."

The announcement clearly surprised members of the audience, a couple of whom booed when Sacks broke the news. Sacks' fellow panelists quickly raced to defend L.A. tech.

"I accept your decision and I don't think it's wrong," said Mark Suster, a partner at venture capital firm GRP Partners in Century City and another one of the panelists. "But I just don't think moving to Silicon Valley is for everybody."

Win for ExpenseBay

Of the 10 startups selected to exhibit at Twiistup, a Santa Monica company won the conferences' best of the show award.

ExpenseBay.com, which that helps businesses streamline their expense reports, was selected by Twiistup judges as the most promising company to exhibit during the two-day conference. ExpenseBay beat nine other startups from Los Angeles, Silicon Valley, Santa Cruz and New York.

ExpenseBay allows users to fill out and track all their company-related expenses on ExpenseBay's Web site. Every morning, the site automatically formats and delivers an expense report into the user's e-mail inbox.

The company also tries to automate as much of the expense report process as possible. For example, users can link their ExpenseBay account with their bank account so that when they swipe a personal credit card for a corporate lunch, the charge will automatically post to ExpenseBay.

Eric Sikola, ExpenseBay's chief executive, also demonstrated an application for the iPhone that allows ExpenseBay users to snap a photo of a receipt for a business-related expense. The photo is automatically transmitted to the user's ExpenseBay account for easy printing.

Sikola said the company's main objective was to make filling out expense reports a faster, easier process.

"Doing an expense report might normally take 45 minutes," he said. "We can get that down to five."

The company offers its services for free, if the user doesn't mind their expense reports arriving in a limited number of generic templates. If a user's employer requires that expense reports be filled out in a specific format and presumably many companies do then the user has to pay $10 a month. (Sikola said ExpenseBay offers group rates for companies that enroll employees.)

And what did the company win? Besides access to investors, Sikola also took home a small yellow trophy made entirely of Legos.

Juice up

CFX Battery Inc., an Azusa company that builds rechargeable lithium ion batteries for vehicles and electronic devices, recently raised $4.2 million, according to a Web site that tracks venture funding.

A Caltech spinoff, CFX is researching and building a new type of battery that company executives claim will last longer and recharge faster than current models of lithium ion batteries. The additional $4.2 million came on top of $11 million CFX raised late last year.

Joe Fisher, CFX chief executive, said the company would use the additional money to hire more staff and conduct research with the goal of moving its batteries closer to mass production.



Staff reporter Charles Proctor can be reached at cproctor@labusinessjournal.com or (323) 549-5225, ext. 230.

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