Forbes Blog Attempts to Crown Los Angeles Ahead of Silicon Valley in the Startup Race

We might be so bold as to say that Los Angeles surpassing Silicon Valley in the startup race is not going to happen.  However, this recent article in Forbes does not actually discuss the placement of Los Angeles or Silicon Valley in the startup race. Instead, it speaks of the resistance one marketing tech worker had in moving to Los Angeles from San Francisco.  Despite the misconceptions that some Silicon Valley residents may have about the tech and startup scene in Southern California, this article points out that there is a lot of promise in Los Angeles.  A good argument that is made in the article is if L.A. wants to gain a traction on a higher spot in the tech startup race, there needs to be more tech talent that is interested in entrepreneurship.

All differences aside, we have a lot of tech in Los Angeles.  If aerospace technology were to be included, we may blow away Silicon Valley.  During the dotcom boom, Los Angeles had the number four spot in venture capital funding behind Silicon Valley, Boston, and New York according to the National Venture Capital Association.  Guess What?  We still have the number four spot.  As the technology industry comes back as a whole, Los Angeles tech is coming back as well.  We are rebuilding the infrastructure we had during the dotcom boom.  Although some valuations may appear bubbly–venture funding does not even come close to rivaling the dot com boom.  Venture funding reached $99 billion in 2000 versus $28 billion in 2011.

Los Angeles will not catch up to the Bay area anytime soon in technology and startups, and conversely, the Bay Area will not catch up to Los Angeles in the movie and media realm.  Both have too much history, infrastructure, institutions, and alumni in each of their respective areas of domination.  Los Angeles can excel in the niche tech areas of content convergence, such as Hulu and Demand Media.  LA can also do extremely well in advertising and marketing tech (Adly), and ecommerce (Shopzilla, Fandango).

Incorporating Coffee Shop Ideals in Creative Office Space Design

An article from Gensler was published recently which discusses what we can learn from a coffee shop relative to the current design of office spaces.  One observation the article mentions is to have people sit facing away from walls.  When you go into a coffee shop alone and select a seat–you will typically take the seat with your back against the wall and facing out.  Gensler concludes that this is the way most people prefer to work.

The article further talks about this method being implemented in one of their studies with fantastic results.  The seating approach used has increased collaboration in the office.  The way people sit at their desks and can be seen by others allows people to better notice when someone else is available talk or work with.  With increased collaboration and respect among employees, this workplace becomes a more comfortable and enjoyable place to be.

The article also points out that different generations of people tend to exhibit the same tastes in regard to seating and working at a coffee shop.  This too, can be great for a company that is wanting to transition to a open plan.  Knowing that workers of different ages don’t greatly differ in their office style work space tastes will help make the decision to change the layout of the office an easy one.

There are seven points to this article to take into consideration in remodeling or designing creative office space.  Companies may experiment with these ideas and possibly make an effort to modify the office plan in order to increase collaborations and creativity throughout the workforce.

We have not tried any of these ideas out.  However, we have seen the importance of the kitchen and break area grow.  In one 12,000 square foot suite, we built two kitchen and break areas.  In another 10,000 square foot deal, the tenant refused to move in until the kitchen break area was totally finished because the tenant viewed it as a critical part of the space.

Opower, an Energy Efficient Software Company, is PMI’s Newest Tenant at Harrison Property in San Francisco

Our newest tenant on the second floor of 642 Harrison in San Francisco has a goal to make the world more energy-efficient.  It’s a pretty lofty goal for a company only founded in 2007.  Opower is a software as a service company that partners with utility companies to promote energy efficiency.  According to their website, Opower is a new customer engagement platform for the utility industry.  It reinvented the way utilities interact with customers—from the quality of the information provided to the way it’s presented and delivered.  It helps people use energy more efficiently and ultimately save money on their energy bills.  And it vastly improves the overall customer experience by making energy use personally relevant.  For example, when monthly invoices arrive at a customer’s home, they can see the average utility bill cost in their neighborhood, along with suggestions on how to reduce their energy consumption.  If they are well over the average compared to other homes in the area, they then have Opower’s suggestions right at their fingertips to help alleviate some of their energy costs.

Opower decided to PMI Properties’ 642 Harrison would be a great candidate for their next office because of its size and prime location.  Opower’s decision to choose Harrison in the competitive SoMa market was featured in this article as well: Big Race for Space in SoMa, Wall Street Journal, January 26 2012.

They also have established an online presence with social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter, as well as having their own, “Hey, it’s OPOWER!” blog.  Their website has many interesting and innovative ways to share information about their vision and what the company has accomplished.  There is an “OMeter” page that keeps a running tab on how many kilowatt-hours Opower has saved, and lists some interesting facts on what could be done with all that energy.  Opower also finds ways to engage and entertain their employees.  Their website lists activities such as a quarterly company outing, innovation day, soccer and ping-pong teams, and the ability to bring your dog to work.

Photo courtesy of Opower's website.

Opower was founded in 2007 by long-time friends Dan Yates and Alex Laskey.  When they started their company, lots of people were excited about cleaner energy production using renewable energy sources, like the sun and wind.  Dan and Alex knew that these sources wouldn’t be tapped in the short-term, even though they are important.  Their answer to reducing carbon emissions right now was curbing wasteful use of the types of energy produced today.  By utilizing the 1.4 billion utility bills that are mailed to customers each year, they would be able to send energy-saving ideas to hundreds of millions of households.  After creating a prototype, they went to two of America’s major energy markets, California and Texas.  The amount of interest they received from utilities, state legislators, and environmental groups soon led to first round venture capital funding from MHS Capital.

Photo courtesy of Opower's website.

They have garnered support from other green centered companies, as well as President Barack Obama. He visited their headquarters in Arlington, Virginia in 2010 and praised their work ethic and success during the hard economic times in addition to their ability to provide clean energy jobs.  They have been featured in articles from The Wall Street Journal, Techcruch, CNN, and Green Tech Media, to name a few.

You can visit Opower’s website at You can read their blog at and follow them on Twitter @Opower and Facebook:

Creative Spaces for Creative Companies– Applied Semantics

Gil Elbaz co-founded Applied Semantics, later acquired by Google in April 2003 for $102 million.  Google used the technology from Elbaz’s software to create the AdSense program.  Adsense allows publishers in the Google Network of content sites to serve automatic text, image, video, and rich media advertisements that are targeted to site content and audience. For example, if an article appeared about dogs, advertisements for dog food may appear with it.  Applied Semantics was located in Santa Monica at PMI’s at 2644 30th Street building from 2003-2005 both prior to and after Google’s acquisition. PMI produces creative spaces for creative people.

Image courtesy of the Los Angeles Times