Though many LA entrepreneurs don't like it, the startup scene in Los Angeles (and Santa Monica) has got the name "Silicon Beach" due to the massive number of tech startups that call the nation's second largest city home. The spectacular exits of both Maker Studios ($950 million to Disney) and Oculus ($2 billion to Facebook) have spread the word that it's not just a cool place to start a company, it might actually be one of the best. Today over 1,000 startups are based in LA, and more are taking notice as investors are thirstily eyeing the scene and networking opportunities are plentiful. After a recent trip, I dug into the local startups that I think will take off in 2015.
Along with having one of the most powerful domain names you could own, Women.com is an exclusive women's only social media platform where women can freely discuss anything from TV shows to their careers on a platform that they get to curate for themselves. They've raised $120,000 in seed funding so far, and while I can't log on for obvious reasons, Amanda Hess from Slate called it "Yahoo Answers stocked with a diverse crew of smart women." That's a pretty strong accolade.
As a sort of anti-Yelp for travel, Trippy wants to help you accomplish one thing: make you have a better vacation. The key is that you can get travel questions answered by actual local experts, learning about local customs or getting recommendations for an awesome lunch spot. It's like Fortnighter, but quicker and cheaper.
Like Quora, questions are posted and people who know about the area respond, readers can "like" the best answers. The most liked answers move to the top and become the first responses one sees. The team recently raised a $3.5 Million dollar round of investment. Their last two ventures (VirtualTourist.com and OneTime.com) ended up being bought by Expedia. While I'm far from Expedia's biggest fan, there's a strong track record that suggests Trippy's team will see another big success.
It might seem a stretch to call a YouTube channel a startup, but considering one of Maker Studio's biggest successes was Epic Rap Battles of History, and game-vlogger PewDiePie is estimated to be making over $4 million a year, it might be time to start considering them.
The next big YouTube success might be DanceOn. It's a YouTube channel that publishes dance videos from around the world, with over 10 million subscribers and videos have been generating over 2 billion views since its launch. They've grown through high-quality content--similar to Maker's work, but with a lot more movement. There's a relatively high potential that they'll take off in the same way many YouTube/Vine stars have, but using the quality production houses out of LA to out-do the video studios.
While they swim in a pool populated by less-than-optimal companies like Outbrain, Buzzstarter is a more ethical advertising/content distributor across a massive network of blogs and social media accounts, offering brands content marketing at scale (versus deals with each separate publisher).
Their platform is a bit different in that it allows users to target highly specific demographics, A/B test different campaigns (i.e. "Does this article actually get read--and why?") and monitor said data in real time. The proof is in the pudding, too: The company has already partnered with companies like Yahoo!, Unilever, Campbell's and General Mills.
Growing out of the first Disney/Techstars Accelerator program, Codarica is trying to introduce children as young as 6 to coding. As someone who completely failed to learn to code after trying to learn at the age of 25, I think this might have worked.
By combining good storytelling, interesting characters and interesting graphics, Codarica believes they can teach kids seemingly complex skills in a fun and entertaining way that'll actually work. As well as generating a fair amount of media buzz, it's clear that this model has worked for a different crowd: Both Udemy and CodeAcademy have taken unique routes through code education and risen to dizzying heights.
6. Fuisz Media
Unsurprisingly LA has a huge amount of media startups. Fuisz Media caught my eye because they make video content that allows viewers to discover, share and purchase the things they see. While I'm not the world's biggest fan of product placement, the insane success and growth of ShopYourTV proves that there's a gigantic market opportunity. The site itself is an edification for Fuisz. Girls regularly, for example, know exactly what the characters from ABC Family's Pretty Little Liars are wearing thanks to the site, but oftentimes fall short thanks to many of the items being unavailable. The now-canceled Fashion Star was NBC's first foray into this market too: Designers pitched their designs to potential buyers, and as the show ended, you could literally log onto the buyer's website. Saks, for example, has their own Fashion Star page. This is potentially the future of e-commerce, and the show's failure was only in the need for a high-budget cast and immense inventory planning. Fuisz's opportunity is simply adding a layer to that which can already be shared and bought through a show. It could be huge.
Bannerman offers security on demand, allowing people to bypass the task of hiring private security for events. When I recently received what was a relatively light threat on my person, I actually used the service, was called back in about 30 minutes and was within a few hours provided with a hefty man to protect we. It worked. It was reasonable. It's sort of like Uber: You enter your address, what you need, when you need it and the "problem" you're facing--from event security to personal security. At $35 an hour per person (though this can differ depending on what you want), that's actually rather reasonable. Background checks and hiring is handled by Bannerman themselves, and the guard I was given was prompt (to the minute), well-armed (with legal permits he promptly showed me) and immensely professional and serious. Considering Uber's issues with professionalism, it felt good to have my doubts almost immediately dealt with.
Silicon Beach is playing to its strengths: content, both written and video, the huge travel sector, and in Bannerman's case the consistent need for event and personal security. There's a remarkable honesty to it. While Silicon Valley has an air of, "Hey, we're doing this to better the world," LA's focus is incessantly pragmatic: Give people what they want, when they want it. And with better weather.