Move Over Silicon Beach, DTLA is New Startup Hot Bed Study Finds

Downtown LA represents a blossoming startup scene, with an opportunity for further nurturing according to BCG. (*Photo: By Salewskia – CC BY-SA 4.0).

Bird and Snap are among the flashy startups grabbing headlines these days. But when it comes to innovation happening in greater LA, Silicon Beach is not the full story.

Downtown LA is where tech and innovation are really starting to take off.

That’s according to the latest research by Boston Consulting Group (BCG).

“We were surprised to see downtown Los Angeles scoring so well in this analysis,” says Alliance for SoCal Innovation Director Eric Eide, “the discrepancy between capability and perception for downtown seems like a compelling opportunity.”

VCs from Silicon Valley tend to scratch their heads when trying to decipher where exactly the epicenter of tech in Los Angeles is.

So the Alliance for Southern California Innovation (Alliance) and the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) are undertaking a joint effort to clarify the landscape. And also to help innovation, and connect founders with resources from engineering talent, to corporate partnerships.

So much innovation is happening in different pockets or tech hubs in LA today, making it challenging for VCs to navigate, evaluate, and or gauge founder potential.

Enter the new interactive map that will soon be released by the Alliance for Southern California Innovation.

Geographically speaking, the map extends from Santa Barbara to San Diego – covering a whopping 50,000 square miles. (Silicon Valley by comparison is a more compact, covering 47 square miles).

Creating the map entailed looking at various startup clusters. Each cluster of innovation was scored along various dimensions important to the overall startup ecosystem: the density of startups, investors, students, and corporations.

Getting Interconnected: A Sneak Peak at the LA Tech Data-driven Map:

  • BCG’s soon to be released data-driven map will delineate fourteen clusters of innovation spread out across Southern California
  • Of the 14 distinct geographic centers, each node is ranked as Mature (a critical mass of start-up ecosystem), Blossoming (an emerging startup-up scene), to being a talent anchor (an area that offer strong talent resources due to a university etc.), and or a corporate anchor
  • The goal of mapping the landscape is to help improve interaction, impact, and help each tech hub use its unique strengths in the overall Southern California tech ecosystem

SoCal Innovation: Strong on Research, “Usability” Not So Much
The big difference between Silicon Valley and the greater Los Angeles tech scene appears to be, in a word – usability.

Borrowing from Silicon Valley product engineer speak, the Alliance study found that Southern California’s tech scene (much like a tech device) also needs to address its usability factor.

Usability in the report is a term borrowed loosely from a jargon word bandied about in the hallways of Silicon Valley. Among product engineers in the San Francisco Bay Area, “usability” usually refers to, in regards the product development cycle, creating the ease of use and learnability of a product interface.

In other words, the good news is that Los Angeles tech is marked by a depth of strong research institutions and pockets of innovation.

And that’s also the bad news.

Southern California tech has a wealth of different ethnic groups, and diverse industries, and research institutions; it’s the next burgeoning region of innovation, but hard to capture in one sound bite or one central spot.

Different from Silicon Valley

A criticism of Los Angeles often made by Silicon Valley types, is the spread out nature of Southern California’s tech scene. Recode reporter Kara Swisher seems to sum up the Silicon Valley perception of LA (during an interview with Upfront Ventures VC Mark Suster) – “It [LA Tech] doesn’t feel tight.”

By contrast, San Francisco’s peninsula lends itself to population density and also VC offices are located in one convenient, and central location on Sand Hill Row. Unlike Silicon Valley’s peninsula, Southern California will need other factors besides population density, and or this so-called “network effect” to drive VC funding.

Connecting the Nodes: Helping SoCal Tech Reach Its Full Potential

Initial research by the Boston Consulting Group, reveals that LA is on a solid base already. So the interactive map will represent a deeper dive, on the potential and how to best resource the emerging innovators in Southern California.

Engineers: No shortage
Southern California has the largest concentration of research universities including USC, UCLA, Caltech, LMU, UCI, UCSD, Harvey Mudd. Greater LA boasts nine engineering schools.

Greater LA is the third largest city in the U.S. with a population of 19 million (roughly 7 million people live in the San Francisco Bay Area). The region graduates more tech PhDs than Silicon Valley.

As downtown LA innovators take the stage, a more accurate picture of Los Angeles innovation is emerging; BCG analysts hope that this data-driven interactive map will both provide context, and fuel growth.

And at least one Venture Capitalist, Mark Suster of Upfront Partners may not be sad to see the “Silicon Beach” moniker slowly fade out.

Today’s media perceives Silicon Valley as an idea and culture, deserving of its own television show. Los Angeles based entrepreneurs are not always perceived as the innovators pushing the needle. But according to Suster, in regards to innovation happening in greater Los Angeles for the past few decades, the facts tell a different story.

For example, Santa Monica based startup Applied Semantics acquired by Google in 2003, is largely credited with developing the fundamental algorithm technology behind what is today Google AdSense.

Suster (his VC firm’s Twitter hash tag is #LongonLA) sees LA tech on an upswing.

Today technology continues shifting away from circuit boards and silicon chips, and more VC money is being invested outside Silicon Valley. Both trends bode well for the opportunity for innovations coming out of Downtown LA.

Suster has never been a big fan of “Silicon Beach” because he doesn’t believe the label accurately reflects the past twenty years of entrepreneurship in LA; he sees today’s Los Angeles innovators putting in the long hours (i.e. not going to the beach), doing the research and or filing the patents, and working hard at solving today’s big problems.

5 Ways to Achieve Your High Performance Mindset, How Dr. Michael Gervais Coaches Up USC MBAs, Top CEOs, and Olympians

Dr. Michael Gervais is a renowned expert in high-performance psychology, best known for his work coaching some of the toughest players on the gridiron, the Super Bowl winning NFL football team the Seattle Seahawks. His clients include extreme sports athletes, top Olympians, and leaders in business including Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella.

Gervais works with athletes and CEOs at the top of their game, and has developed clarity for the tools that allow people to thrive under pressure.

But this high performance psychologist believes something is broken in regards to today’s notion of corporate success – and he’s on a mission to change it.

“What we [Gervais and NFL Coach Pete Carroll] found was in the business world recovery wasn’t something being talked about.”

Today he and Coach Carroll are training executives at Microsoft, Salesforce, AT&T, and Amazon on mental toughness, and in the process hoping to create a rethink of the model for success in today’s corporate America.

“The notion that you need to do more to be more is exhausting. We need to be more to do more, and let our doing flow from our being,” says Gervais. “It’s time to flip the model.”

Gervais and NFL coach Pete Carroll between the two of them have decades of coaching experience, and by working in high stress environments have developed a framework for training the mechanics of mental toughness. And now they’re taking their combined expertise on how to compete and bounce back from setbacks from the realm of the high performance athlete, to the business world.

Specifically, Gervais and Carroll coach up the mechanics of mental toughness, using science-backed tools that break out the champion mindset into five functions and several sub-functions.

“At the center of mental toughness for us is optimism,” explains Gervais.

The high performance mindset means staying in the endeavor, staying in the tough moments, and understanding that something good is about to happen.

Mental toughness is about doing the hard work and understanding that things are going to get tough.

“It takes mindfulness, but that’s not enough,” explains Gervais.

Gervais and Coach Carroll’s training process includes five main tenants. One is self-discovery, which involves writing a personal philosophy. The other part is mindfulness. Another is psychological framework. And then mindset skills like confidence, which comes from self-talk. And then recovery; Gervais believes everyone needs a recovery program in place, which involves moving well, eating/hydrating well, and sleeping well.

Bringing Performance Mindset to USC
And now Gervais is adding to his impressive elite sports psychologist resume. He and Carroll are also partners in the USC Marshall Business School’s Performance Science Institute, the first program of its kind focused on training the science of high performance.

USC business school students will learn how to train the mind for optimal resiliency and performance, a vital skill normally overlooked in today’s top MBA programs.

According to Gervais, training mindset principles allows us to show up, be authentic, and adjust to any challenging environment; doing the work isn’t easy, but is essential to preventing burnout, waking up with a feeling of zest, and as he puts it “getting after it”.

Here’s a quick overview of the five functions of the high performance mindset:


“The greatest movers and shakers are very clear about their personal philosophy,” according to Gervais.

A personal philosophy is a phrase that consists of the principles that influence your thoughts, words and actions. Gervais recommends thinking about the heroes that you admire, and then writing out a personal philosophy in 25 words or less.

A personal philosophy is important to use in setting a vision for your life, knowing who it is you are becoming; living in alignment with your personal philosophy can enable you to live a life of meaning and purpose.

On a visit to USC, Gervais explained to undergrads that when you speak your personal philosophy out loud, each word should land, so you feel it.

Gervais’s personal philosophy?: “Everyday is an opportunity to create a living masterpiece.”


  • The four basic mindset skills are: calm, confidence, focus and trust.
  • Two things get in the way of peak performance – fear and fatigue.
  • Anxious thoughts or excessive worry, come from fear mind or survival mode.

“Unless you’re locking into the present moment more,” explains Gervais, “you will not achieve peak performance.”

Thinking well is putting into practice all of the mindset skills so that you can develop a command over our thoughts, even when you’re in uncomfortable situations. If you do this work daily you will have the tools and skills that better allow you to play in the space of the unknown and risk, while still bringing your authentic self to each moment.

The goal is to be here now, tune into the present or signal, and gate out the noise.

Mindfulness is not about not having thoughts, but recognizing when you’re mind has wandered to gently bring it back to now. Gervais encourages everyday, busy business people to start small. He and Coach Carroll have created a morning routine that involves spending just a few minutes on mindful breathing and thinking of three things you’re grateful for.

By starting a daily mindfulness practice, you’ll begin to spot thought patterns.

“If you see unproductive thoughts,” says Gervais. “You can just watch them go by.”

According to Gervais, practicing at the Tier 1 level of your craft and having an uncommonly relentless focus day-in and day-out, requires a deep commitment to recovery.

Gervais believes that sleeping, moving, eating and hydrating, thinking well are important; by practicing these habits, you’re giving yourself the best chance to perform at your best.

Thinking well, in essence, is about draining less of your energy through worry and is also part of recovery.

3 Keys to Reframing Stress:

  • The more we can look at stress as an opportunity, rather than a curse, says Gervais, the less it tends to break us down. The next time you feel overwhelmed by something, acknowledge the way you feel, and take a deep breath.
  • Our breath is the greatest reset button we have available to us. A set of deep breaths can help break the habit of automatically going into fight-or-flight mode.
  • Then ask this question: “Is there any other way to look at this situation?”

Coach Carroll’s definition of competition is a mentality that generates an energy about it, is about striving for excellence, and keeps us focused.

Winning is about challenge yourself, and supporting others who are striving to do their best.

Coach Carroll and Dr. Gervais emphasize the importance of thinking about how you contribute, show up every day, and the value you provide to your relationships. Their idea of creating a competitive organization is about focusing on relationships, instead of outcomes only.

Relationships matter and being competitive also includes bringing out the best in others around you.

There’s three different minds negative mind (self-criticism, worry, doubt, thoughts that lead to constriction of your inner experience, “choking”), and positive mind (optimism, a place that creates space), and “no mind” (locked in on the present mind engrossed and engaged in the present moment, where thoughts fade away.)

“There is no entry point from negative mind to no mind. That’s an important takeaway,” says Gervais. “You can’t go from self-critical doubt, and frustration and automatically get to no mind. It’s not how it works. The work is to recognize that you’re in negative mind”

“If we hang out in positive mind long enough,” explains Gervais, which can counter intuitively be about self-talk that isn’t always positive but simply calm and or neutral in tone, “we have a chance to slip into no mind or flow state, the most optimal state we can be in as humans.”