Business & Economy

'Coachella of Capitalism' concludes in Beverly Hills

A panel about innovation in cities at the 18th annual Milken Global Conference in Beverly Hills.
A panel about innovation in cities at the 18th annual Milken Global Conference in Beverly Hills.
Ben Bergman/KPCC

Captains of industry from around the world have been gathering at the Beverly Hilton this week for the 18th annual Milken Global Conference, which concluded Wednesday.

Thirty-five hundred attendees from 41 states and 55 countries have come to Beverly Hills for a sort of "Coachella of Capitalism," four days of sessions covering everything from the economic future of the Middle East to the future of higher education. There are also more locally-focused panels on Los Angeles entrepreneurship and the California economy.

Attendees paid $10,000 for admission to this annual conference, which included the opportunity to rub shoulders with top former government officials, a long list of Fortune 500 CEOs, and assorted other luminaries. 

During a single stroll through the lobby, it was possible to walk by former Disney CEO Michael Eisner, former treasury secretary Robert Rubin, and hedge-fund titan Steven Cohen, the founder of SAC Capital Advisors. 

Sheryl Sandberg, the Chief Operating Officer of Facebook, moderated a panel Monday on the future of the global economy with three former treasury secretaries – Tim Geithner, Henry Paulson and Robert Rubin.

“It’s worth noting, none of us really know anything about the future," said Geithner. 

When Sandberg brought up the issue of income inequality, Paulson, who was CEO of Goldman Sachs before he became Treasury Secretary, said "I was working on that while I was still at Goldman."

“In which direction?” quipped Rubin.

All three men agreed that the country is in dire need of entitlement reform and that gridlock in Washington is harmful to the economy. Sandberg ended with a lighting round, in which she asked what the former treasury secretaries are reading and who they think the best president has been for understanding economics. (Hint: They are all loyal to their former bosses) 

Los Angeles tech scene still has a long way to go

At a Tuesday panel on Los Angeles tech entrepreneurship, the panelists agreed that Los Angeles has an improving tech scene, but it still lags far behind Silicon Valley.

"I do think L.A. is most interesting market in the world right now," said Scott Painter, the founder and CEO of TruCar. "A lot of engineers for Yahoo used to live in Silicon Valley. Now they live here."

Painter said basing his company in Santa Monica was an important recruiting tool for engineers, and was well-worth the expensive rent.

"The idea that we would put people in 30-percent less expensive space would be crazy," said Painter.

Painter also said that L.A.'s tech scene is more creative and better at coming up with good user interfaces.

"We're now, more than ever, focused on the value of an experience," said Painter.