It’s the term commonly used to describe the bustling startup scene in Santa Monica, a scenic beach city that is a part of the Greater Los Angeles Area. Some love the term while others lament it. Some want to emulate Silicon Valley to the tee to build a tech scene here in Los Angeles while others feel like it needs to be its very own, very So Cal.
I tend to agree with the latter. Los Angeles, which we the Angelenos fondly call L.A., is unlike any other metropolis in the world. More than anything, it’s where Hollywood is. So, it’s quite natural to conclude that Hollywood has to play a major role when we consider the growth of the L.A. tech scene. And that’s what would give it the So Cal flair.
However, as natural and logical as it seems, just how to go about bringing Hollywood and the L.A. tech scene together is still the million-dollar question. Sure, some Hollywood A-listers can invest in some exciting new local startups, but that in and of itself cannot create a booming tech community here in L.A.. It needs to be an on-going business relationship, not simply dropping some money in the beginning.
So, how do we go about doing this?
When we look at the tech sector in general, it has been focusing its efforts mainly on how and where to deliver content. We have seen some great product innovations in smartphones, smart TVs, tablets and so on. Even one local company has been drawing a lot of attention recently for its cutting edge technology and more so for its $2 billion deal with Facebook. Yes, I’m talking about Oculus VR, an immersive virtual reality company based in Irvine, just south of L.A.
But what we need here in L.A. are the technologies that actually help Hollywood create its content, not simply deliver them. This way, the technologies are intricately connected to the very fabric of Hollywood, and it will encourage the rise of the L.A. tech scene. Other technologies like the ones found in all those media devices can come from anywhere in the world, but the creative technologies that are integral to content creation should come from L.A. where the Hollywood producers live and work. The creative process is, well, a process. So, for the creatives and the technologies to work together in this time-consuming process, location matters. It’s not simply dropping money in the beginning or simply delivering content when it’s done. It’s about fueling Hollywood’s creativity with technologies.
Beyond the usual digital animation and CGI technologies that are readily used in productions, we are now seeing innovative interactive technologies that engage the online audience with the digital content, sometimes even in real-time. Mostly used in digital marketing for now, it’s possible to allow the online viewers to control a machine or a robot that is a part of the brand experience (e.g. San Pellegrino’s Three Minutes To Italy). They can also vote, using hashtags, and activate a system, whether virtual or real, that can impact the storyline (e.g. Bud Light NFL Superstitions Machine). And they can come together in real-time to collaborate on some creative process, again influencing the outcome of an online story (e.g. Edding’s Wall of Fame).
As more startups focus on creative technologies and actually producing interactive digital content, more attention will come from Hollywood, and we all know, Hollywood will spend good money when it sees the opportunity to grab hold of the future of entertainment. Just look at Maker Studios, a YouTube content creator, that was recently bought by Disney for $500 million.
We’ve already had some buzz-worthy startups sprung up here in L.A., such as Oculus VR, Maker Studios, Snapchat, Tinder, Whisper and Nasty Gal. And thanks to them, the L.A. tech is getting the attention and the influx of talent and money like never before. And now, with cutting edge creative technologies on the rise, it is even better aligned with the city’s top legacy industry, Hollywood, that still reigns supreme on the cultural and mass market fronts.
When we say creative technologies, what comes to your mind? Are you a content creator? How are you leveraging these various creative technologies? Share your thoughts.