Over the past decade, a change has been in the air in Los Angeles. Specifically, in the past two years, a startup ecosystem has come about as a result of both the concerted efforts of individuals driving towards a goal, and less surely, but equally importantly by entrepreneurs who were creating their own opportunities.Locals have seen evidence of the change in the myriad events around town - from hackathons with prize money to pitch events open to the public, to launch parties for budding companies, energy was high. The fervor of activities was supplemented by the launch of coworking spaces, accelerators and incubators - something only heard of a few hours up the coast in years past. (If you somehow missed the action I'm describing, check out this slide deck of Sam Teller from LaunchPad LA / General Assembly).Locals weren't the only ones noticing the activity; the Startup Genome Project recently ranked Los Angeles the number three startup ecosystem in the world in 2012! (Download the full report here.)Living in Highland Park, and then Pasadena, I loved going to events in the startup space, all for fun and games, and because I thought it was good to see more people trying new things, and taking risks to work for themselves. I was very content with my work at Energy Cache (ski lifts for rocks!), but loved hearing what other incredible things were being made.Unfortunately, the closest of these events were 15 minutes' Metro ride away, and the others required a rush-hour dash over to Santa Monica. It seemed that Pasadena wasn't even a bus-stop on the route of startups in Los Angeles.I didn't understand at first:
- Pasadena was a storied, beautiful city.
- It has plenty of historical success and a worldly name.
- It's home of the undeniably strong Jet Propulsion Lab, the "World's Top University" of Caltech, and Art Center College of Design, one of the world's best design schools, by any account.
Why isn't the young, raw talent being fused and funded by local success stories to create wonderful new things?Then I realized something that Brad Feld reinforced in a recent talk about Startup Communities (and in his book by the same name). Brad notes that there aren't hard and fast rules about how these discrete happenings need to occur. Anyone can run a tiny experiment (perhaps, launch a social gathering!), take some data (see if people show up), and then continue to evolve the idea (make it a monthly meeting!). So Jennifer Chang and I decided to start down this path earlier in 2013, right here in Pasadena.We've found massive support both from the other startup ecosystem evangelists, as well as from those talented individuals slowly coming out of the woodwork, talking about their projects, and taking the plunge to pursue a passion full time.Pasadena has amenable conditions to thrive as a successful startup community. It has some incredible talent, it has some money to take risks, it has great weather and year-round access to diverse outdoor landscapes.The sky's the limit! Perhaps we'll follow the Long Tail of business and offer specific SparkUps events for Tangible Products, and some for WebApps, and some for Social Enterprise ventures, and some for Game Theory. We're not sure. But we're here to test the Social Spark Theory (that we invented) which states that when driven, smart people play games and socialize, they will spark big ideas that change the world.Come to our next SparkUp and put our theory to the test!
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