Recently, some outfit called the Startup Genome – started by three young founders who want to crack the code of successful entrepreneurship – released their rankings for the top 25 world cities most conducive to building startups. Los Angeles came in at number six. Not too shabby, especially in the company of popular startup hubs like Silicon Valley, Silicon Alley, London, Toronto and Tel Aviv. Some hackles were raised online that we shouldn’t have even made it that high, above a city with a tech history and infrastructure like Seattle or one so committed to startup culture like Austin. Joining the chorus was Eric Feng, the CTO of Hulu, a startup backed by big content partners and with headquarters in…Los Angeles. One more chance for the rest of the world to give “Hollyweird” a dig, I suppose.
Ignoring for a moment that any startups that want to do content deals with, and be seen by, the studios (yes, they still happen post-SOPA) should at the very least have an L.A. office or representative covering the area between Silicon Beach and the Capitol Records building, I would argue that when it comes to the entrepreneurial spirit, Los Angeles should be at the top of anyone’s list. Silicon Valley may have the best blend of that spirit and access to technology talent and other resources, but when it comes to the hunger and hustle, there’s just no way anybody can beat L.A.
Los Angeles has always been one of America’s most entrepreneurial cities, but it is hard to recognize this because of how hardwired, literally, “entpreneurism” has become. We think “entrepreneurial” must mean “high tech startups” or other tech industry-related businesses and buzzwords, and the term conjures up images of Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg. However, this superficial image does not capture the full spirit of entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurism is simply taking nothing, applying talent, brains, financial creativity and hustle, and turning that into something. That’s happened with every movie or television show you’ve ever seen, or every song you’ve listened to, and most of those are created in…Los Angeles.
Think about it. When founders raising money head out for the circuit of top-dollar SV VC firms on Sand Hill Road what are they really doing? Pitch meetings. What do you take in Hollywood? A pitch meeting. It’s Pinterest meets YouTube. It’s Toy Story meets Hunger Games. It’s not a coincidence these two industry areas – Silicon Valley and Hollywood – use the same jargon. They share a common language, the language of the creator, of the entrepreneur.
Walk around Los Angeles and it will positively infect you. You feel the energy of the waiter who goes on auditions during the day and the mailman who moonlights as a DJ at night. The optimism exudes from the cabbie who talks your ear off about the script he’s almost finished. The guy dressed up as Charlie Chaplin on Hollywood Boulevard hitting you up for a photo (and a tip) can’t really be that excited – can he? In Los Angeles you can’t walk two blocks without running into the entrepreneurial spirit, and this is a city with a lot of blocks.
We think “entrepreneurial” must mean “high tech startups” or other tech industry-related businesses and buzzwords, and the term conjures up images of Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg.
In a way, Los Angeles has an entrepreneurial advantage because this spirit has been a consistent part of the city’s fabric for about a century (United Artists was like a kind of VC firm for star actors). Startups were thriving in Los Angeles when Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard were closer to the nursery than they were the garage. The original incubator, idealab!, was right here in LA. Now with the growth of Silicon Beach, it’s clear that more than just the traditional entertainment entrepreneurs are finding Los Angeles to be a great place to set up camp. I am excited to see incubators like Science and Amplify sprouting up to encourage the entrepreneurial spirit and provide entrepreneurs with resources.
So, Startup Genome, what do you say to a little correction to that list? On entrepreneurial spirit alone, L.A. is number one.