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A SXSW of Santa Monica? OASIS Summit attracts top tech investors

Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt is among the business leaders who will be speaking at the two-day OASIS Summit in Santa Monica.
Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt is among the business leaders who will be speaking at the two-day OASIS Summit in Santa Monica.

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This Friday, South by Southwest gets underway in Austin, Texas. The hugely successful conference has spawned many imitators, including a two-day event that starts in Santa Monica Wednesday.

No conference could come close to scale of South by Southwest, which now includes three separate tracts: Music, film and interactive. But what it lacks in size, Santa Monica’s OASIS: The Montgomery Summit tries to make up for with an alluring pitch: We might make you very rich.

“There’s been billions of dollars raised here," said Santa Monica-based tech investor Jamie Montgomery, who founded the conference.

His invitation-only event matches up 145 start-ups wanting to raise capital with more than 400 investors and 400 executives from around the world.

This year, companies generally fall under the theme of social, mobile, analytics, or cloud computing and come in three sizes: “First Look” companies generating less than $10 million in yearly revenues; “Emerging” companies with revenues between $10 million and $50 million; and “Growth” companies with yearly revenues exceeding $50 million. 

About 20 percent of companies are local, including Santa Monica-based True Car and Venice-based Dollar Shave.

“The important thing for us is that we want to have world-class event," said Montgomery. "We want to take the companies that we have in Santa Monica and put them on the stage and have them hold their own against the best companies in the world in front of the best investors in the world. This isn’t some pizza and beer Silicon Beach event.”

Expanded focus this year

The OASIS Summit is an outgrowth of the Montgomery Technology Conference, which ran from 2004 to 2013.

Montgomery sold his investment banking business last year and decided to rebrand his conference as OASIS and broaden the focus.

This year, alternative medicine guru Deepak Chopra will be on hand to talk about technology and wellness and indie-darling Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros will perform on the Dodo Bus made famous at Burning Man.

“We’re just going to have a lot of fun," said Montgomery. "It’s going to be a fantastic conference.”

The 150 start-ups presenting at OASIS were whittled down from more than a thousand with the help of crowdsourcing and Montgomery expects about two-dozen companies to break through.

"Somewhere in there is the next jewel," said Montgomery.

Among the success stories from previous years include Pandora, Facebook and Twitter.

Montgomery said there was alot of excitement when Facebook presented in 2006 but much to his regret, he didn’t see much potential when Twitter's founders came to his conference in their early days. 

"Twitter, I don't think I understood very well," said Montgomery.