The yearly Silicon Beach Fest, highlighting the local tech community, might showcase L.A.’s business presence on the Internet, but a concurrent tradition shows off L.A. tech’s prowess at a different net. The volleyball net.

For the second year in a row, Digital L.A., a tech networking group, fielded a beach volleyball team to compete in a weekend tournament sponsored by the Fairmont Miramar hotel in Santa Monica.

The team is made up of startup executives and sundry techies. Last year, they were captained by Ayinde Alakoye, chief executive of Hitch Radio and a former professional beach volleyball player. The team finished first, taking home the grand prize of a pair of Vilebrequin shorts.

This year Alakoye was out, and the team had to fill the leadership gap with deeper tenacity.

“People came out and practiced beforehand last year,” said Kevin Winston, a co-organizer of Silicon Beach Fest and a team member. This year, “it wasn’t serious but we wanted to win.”

They competed against teams from other companies and other nonprofessional groups. Winston said the techies played valiantly against well-matched opponents. Despite losing its star, the Silicon Beach team pulled off second place. A good showing, no doubt, but not enough for the championship. Or the shorts.

“There’s a certain competitiveness about startup CEOs that’s helpful with sports,” Winston said. “That and they happen to be pretty good at volleyball.”

Indian Proposal

Only a producer would think of using a filming job as a ruse to propose to his girlfriend in front of India’s famed Taj Mahal.

Neil Mandt, 43, owns a Hollywood television production company with his brother. His latest project is for a Disney film called “The Million Dollar Arm” starring “Mad Men’s” Jon Hamm. Much of the film is being shot in India and Mandt had to go there to produce an electronic press kit.

“Right from the outset, I knew this was the perfect opportunity to bring Lauren (Dixon) along, take her to the romantic Taj Mahal and propose to her,” Mandt said.

But Mandt wanted to catch the magic moment on film, which meant figuring out how to wire his 30-year-old girlfriend for sound and have a film crew nearby without her guessing what was really up.

“I told her we were doing a walk-through to test the sound for Jon Hamm later that afternoon,” he said.

But even the most elaborate plans can have a hitch. Just as he was about to drop to his knee and propose to her, another tourist couple came up to them with no idea what was going on and insisted on taking photos with Dixon due to her distinctive red hair.

After that two-minute interruption, Mandt finally proposed.

In total shock, she said, “Yes,” and then kept repeating “Oh, my God!” for the next five minutes, all caught on video.

“We’re planning on using the video at our wedding,” which will be in September 2014 in Scotland, Mandt said.

Staff reporters Tom Dotan and Howard Fine contributed to this column. Page 3 is compiled by editor Charles Crumpley. He can be reached at

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