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Why can’t LA keep its tech and engineering grads?

Wednesday, May 27, 2015, 7:00pm - 9:00pm
Cross Campus 929 Colorado Avenue Santa Monica, CA 90401 Map and directions

For May’s AT30 event, AirTalk host Larry Mantle and his guests convened at Cross Campus on Wednesday, May 27 for KPCC’s “The state of Silicon Beach and tech in Los Angeles” to discuss L.A.’s homegrown tech hub in the form of Silicon Beach, an area that encompasses Culver City to Santa Monica, that has seen an explosion of new startups and venture capital activities. Panelists included James Briggs, Tracy Thrower Conyers, Chad DePue, Cyndi Hench, Kara Nortman, Scott Perry, and Ashish Soni.

“If you live in L.A., you take L.A. for granted. If you live outside of L.A., you take L.A. for granted.” –Scott Perry, founder of L.A. Tech Digest

Southern California graduates more engineering students than any other city in the country. Still, despite some big successes, the L.A. area has struggled to keep top talent in the area. What’s holding it back?

Airtalk host Larry Mantle convened a panel of guests at Cross Campus, a 14,000 square foot coworking and office space in the center of Silicon Beach. which includes the area from Culver City to Santa Monica where L.A. has been working to cultivate its own homegrown tech hub. The site has seen an explosion of new startups and venture capital firms in recent years.

Once a city completely disregarded and avoided by engineers because of a perceived lack of opportunities, Los Angeles is now home to a critical mass of start-ups: more than 1,000 companies, according to Represent L.A., which maps area tech companies.

Heavyweights Tinder, Snapchat, and Whisper have chosen Silicon Beach as their epicenter. Along with them, perceptions of the Southern California tech environment have been rapidly changing.

“In the last few years, things have felt different in Silicon Beach,” said Kara Nortman, partner at Upfront Ventures. “Now we have IPOs, permanent sources of funding, and mentorship” here in Los Angeles, qualities widely thought to be unique to the engineering ecosystem of Silicon Valley

So what’s behind L.A.’s newfound success in attracting tech talent? Wednesday’s panelists mentioned a few key factors:

Still, Silicon Beach still faces huge hurdles in its quest to compete with Silicon Valley. Its biggest obstacle has been in retaining its engineering talent. So what’re the problems it faces?

One last factor was universally agreed upon. An audience member’s question was greeted with unanimous assent from panelists and audience: “We are the creative capital. Can we please come up with a better name than ‘Silicon Beach’?”

Are there other factors you think are critical to keeping engineering grads in Southern California? Let us know in the comments!

Larry Mantle - Host of AirTalk

James Briggs - CEO of Briabe Mobile

Tracy Thrower Conyers - Founder, Silicon Beach Properties at Coldwell Banker

Chad DePue - Chief Technology Officer, Whisper

Cyndi Hench - President, Neighborhood Council of Westchester / Playa Vista / Playa Del Rey

Kara Nortman - Partner, Upfront Ventures

Scott Perry - Founder, LA Tech Digest

Ashish Soni - Founding Director of the Viterbi Student Institute for Innovation (VSi2) at the University of Southern California

This event was part of the AirTalk 30th anniversary tour.