Represent LA: Geographical Breakdown of Startups in Los Angeles

Represent LA is a website that maps the location of new tech start ups and investors in Los Angeles.  The map is useful because it allows people to browse according to location, investors, or company name.  With Represent LA, it’s easy to see which areas have the highest and lowest numbers of startups, which could be a factor for a new startup in their search for leasing creative space.  The creators of the website also promote a sense of community and support by offering up the ability for companies who do not see their business on the map to submit their information to be added.

The geographical breakdown of startups within Los Angeles can be determined by exploring the Represent LA map.  Currently, downtown Santa Monica and Venice have the highest concentration of start ups, followed by the area east of downtown Santa Monica.  Surprisingly, Santa Monica airport area has many startups while Playa Vista does not.

Downtown Los Angeles, Hollywood, Culver City, El Segundo, Pasadena, Tri-Cities, and the greater South Bay have moderate levels of start ups.  San Fernando Valley, Century City, Westwood, and the Beverly Hills area contain low levels of startups.  The fewest startups, however, are located in Malibu, South Los Angeles, Mid-City, East Los Angeles, and the San Gabriel Valley.

It seems that Silicon Beach is continuing to grow as an area that start ups are drawn to, which is consistent with the articles we have shared about in past.  Conversely, Pasadena’s start up activity seems to be on the decline.  Represent LA’s map is a great way to find start ups, coworking space, investors, or consulting firms in Los Angeles and will hopefully be another resource tech start ups will be able to efficiently use.

From the Dark Days in SoMa to a Bright, Booming Future

In 2003, after the dot-com bust, PMI sensed an amazing purchasing opportunity in San Francisco. The area south of Market, known as SoMa, had vacancies reaching upwards of 40%, leasing brokers  began describing the area as “toxic.” SoMa looked like a promising area to recreate the magic acquisitions PMI assumed in the Los Angeles Westside during the mid-90s property grab.

By 2003, entertainment, advertising, and media companies on the Westside of Los Angeles had helped the area stage a rapid comeback from the tech crash. Late in 2003, PMI sold a 75,000 square foot Santa Monica creative office property to a Texas-based realty pension adviser. It was the first time an institutional buyer purchased a Westside creative office building. Soon after, the buying frenzy started and creative offices were being bought and sold at record prices. Comparatively, in SoMa during 2003 and 2004, only residential converters were buying creative office buildings and for under $125 per square foot.

PMI targeted San Francisco as a prime place to purchase creative office buildings for several reasons:

  1. The city has an incredibly large workforce of highly educated individuals.
  2. The city has one of the greatest concentrations of software engineers in the world.
  3. Two of the top universities in the country are located in the area.
  4. The city is dominant in venture capitalism.
  5. We took into account Richard Florida’s “Creative Class,” in which he argues that the world’s power and wealth will be concentrated in super regions of knowledge workers. We agreed with his theory and believed San Francisco  fit the paradigm perfectly.
  6. We considered the study of the history of innovation, which shows that the discovery of disruptive technology tends to end in a bursting of bubbles and is followed by an even greater and more mature expansion of the technology (a cycle that can happen many times).

While San Francisco seemed a great arbitrage, we were too frightened to buy anything in 2003. It wasn’t until late 2005 that we bought our first property, with the tenants and cash flow in place at the time. The deals were not as good as buying empty buildings, but they were a lot better than the creative office deals on the Los Angeles Westside. Rents climbed from $22 modified gross per square foot in 2005 to $36 modified gross per square foot in 2007and then collapsed below $22 modified gross per square foot in 2009.

With rents at an all time low and a building half vacant, we went on a search for the best start-up companies we could find and made them deals they could not refuse. Our first two takers were Eventbrite and Yammer. In another building, we leased a space to a startup called Twitter.

As described in this article from the San Francisco Business Times, things got much better in San Francisco. Rents are now well over $40 modified gross per square foot. The arbitrage between San Francisco and the Los Angeles Westside is no more. REITs and institutional investors dominate the business now.

“My warning,” says Jeffrey Palmer of PMI Properties, “is that this is a very volatile business. At some point in the cycle–both on the rise and fall, what you are experiencing may be volatility.”

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).