A technology event on the Santa Monica pier under a big tent for 2 days sounds kind of crazy, doesn’t it? It has happened and was great venue for a conference focus on tech, startups and creatives that took placeon Thursday and Friday, November 22 and 23 – called Techweek aka TechweekLA.
While Techweekla, November 17 – 21, may seem like a long time ago, a significant number of presenters, panelists and startup companies at the 2 day conference and additional events happening throughout the week are Silicon Beach area companies.
Starting with a rooftop kickoff party Monday night at Ristorante al Mare on the pier was a great way to mix and mingle with entrepreneurs, speakers and venture capitalists, while enjoying complimentary drinks. the Abbot Kinney First Fridays blog team met up with Founder of CivicEagle, Damola Ogundipe and Kenny “G” from Philadelphia, a startup with a civic social engagement mobile platform that connects users with local and national leaders and information on political issues.
They also participated in the LAUNCH competition on Thursday, where startups competed for a 50K prize aka funding. We met The Prep Source Founder, Eddie Lin, whose startup is based in Orange County (yes, there are startups there too!) that helps people find jobs they love (namely recent college graduates) with coaching that perfect job with a mentor in the same field.
Other attendees at the TechweekLA kickoff party were Mike Salem, CEO from Vorex, based in Dallas, Corina Irvin, Senior Associate at Cushman & Wakefield real estate services in Century City and Ahmed Shabana, CEO of Hathory, an Egyptian online boutique with a Hollywood office.
The second night featured the Techzulu tech crawl that toured various Santa Monica offices in the startup scene. We had the chance to checkout Neohire, a recruiter and Washio an on demand laundry service. The evening ended at newly renovated The Chestnut Club (formerly 14 Below) to celebrate Efron Toscano’s birthday, CEO of Techzulu. Wow, what a night, celebrating and meeting new people!
Fast forward to Thursday, the start of the conference on a sunny day and waiting in line to get conference passes, chatting with local influencer Jason Okuma. We met Ford Davis from Reframe, a cool app for trying on glasses so you can see how you really look- cool! They were also in the LAUNCH competition on Thursday, which featured so many interesting companies. More on that below.
The notable aspect about this conference and recent ones that there is more diversity and more women speakers than ever participating in the conference – while there is still a long way to go, this is a step in the right direction!
The 2 day conference featured a bunch of fast paced panels and sessions. AKFF Blog faves were the Women in Tech Network panel about women in the tech field.
Panelists included Marina Lee, CEO of Women in Tech Networking (and panel organizer), Belinda Van Sickle, CEO of Women Games International, Karen Eng, CEO of CSMI, a process & packaging engineering firm, Bret Lockett, M2 Jets and former football player, Frank Grant, angel investor and Senior Counsel with Perkins Coie, LLP and Susan Hirasuna, KTTV news anchor.
During the spirited panel, which was expertly moderated by local news anchor, Susan Hirasuna, who kept the pace flowing, and the alarming rate that women owned startup companies are NOT being funded. About 3-4% were the stats given during the panel, which is pretty horrific. In addition, it was noted that the number of women engineers is about half of what it was in the 1970’s (currently about 17%). So there is much progress to be made and discussing it in a panel with women and men in it is a great way to spearhead this effort. In addition, the audience was close to evenly split female to male ratio, so that’s encouraging!
A fave session was with Brock Pierce, Bitcoin Evangelist who spoke passionately for 20-30 minutes on the topic, clearly explaining Bitcoin: what it is, how it works and the blockchain infrastructure. After the session, he was mobbed with people asking additional questions. This is a hot topic and one that will continue to be featured in tech conferences.
Back to the LAUNCH competition, which showcased a slew of startups from across the us in a competition on Thursday. Local startups were represented, including Dary Rees, from Art as Home, a cool way to visualize buying a work of art in a gallery that uses an app to snap the picture and see how it looks in your home. She is the founder of Vey Venice Gallery, formerly on Abbot Kinney Blvd, in Venice, now an online gallery.
Santa Monica entrepreneur Brian Mac Mahon, showcased Expert Dojo, which aggregates users to get help from experts of all kinds Dr. Wes Boudville from Enteractv was also there with multiple tech ideas he has patented. Quick legal was the winner, a Legalzoom model – congratulations to them, though we hoped the judges would go for a more innovative concept.
The conference also featured exhibitor tech companies from across the US such as Yapstone, featuring a new payment system for renters to make payments online; with the overwhelming number of renters in the area, this is an idea whose time has come.
Girls in Tech Los Angeluses a newer group with the purpose of empowering and mentoring young girls and women topers the tech field. The City of Santa Monica Information Systems were there; the City provides free wireless on the pier which was a must have for this type of event, especially when many people could not connect to the Techweek network.
A fashion show with CEO’s of tech companies as the models was a fun way to end it though it needed to be done right after the sessions ended. There could have been more wearable tech items in the show.
For next year, some improvements (improvements are always part of the picture) would be a few short breaks between sessions and a lunch break, a networking hour during the day,a few longer sessions and lastly screens that can cover the clear cutouts in the tent that let in the blazing sun- a simple low tech solution! It’s great to have natural light, however, it got blistering hot in the first half of the day. All in all, it was a lively, fast paced conference that covered numerous topics in a short amount of time, that will be welcomed back next year.