DOWNTOWN — Santa Monica is showing off its tech cred this week with Silicon Beach Fest, a four-day series of panels, networking and parties meant to bring together and celebrate the unique blend of technology, entertainment and capital that gravitate to the beachfront town.
The event, which kicks off in Santa Monica on Wednesday, is a natural fit for the city by the sea because many of the companies and individuals who participate already call the Westside home, said Kevin Winston, founder of Digital L.A., the company organizing the event.
Santa Monica officials have long touted the city’s ability to lure top talent with its beaches, walkability and plethora of nice restaurants and night life.
CityNet, the dark fiber that rockets 10 gigabyte-per-second Internet speeds to businesses in the city limits, doesn’t hurt either.
“If you look at a map of where all of the startups are located, 75 to 80 percent of them are in Santa Monica and Venice,” Winston said.
This is Digital L.A.’s second go at the fest, which stuck to the beach cities last year as well.
Tickets for the entire event go for between $399 and $699, and give attendees access to wide-ranging discussions and educational panels, but also the chance for someone with an idea to connect with a designer or developer that can make it happen and the investor who gets it off the ground.
Winston and his team designed the program to bring together aspects of the industry that are unique to Los Angeles in an attempt to foster a “local” feel.
He got the idea for the original fest from South By Southwest (SXSW), an arts, tech and culture festival in Austin, Texas, but wanted to make Silicon Beach Fest something that could not be replicated anywhere else.
That meant bringing together entertainment, fashion and technology-minded entrepreneurs and creators to learn from one another and possibly see room for collaboration, Winston said.
“We want to have good conversations, sharing and learning,” he said.
In its inaugural year, Silicon Beach Fest was spread through locations across the Westside.
This time, the event will have a home base at Real Office Centers (ROC), a flexible workspace company based in the former Google building at Sixth Street and Arizona Avenue that provides offices to dozens of small startups.
ROC doesn’t have exclusive hold on the fest itinerary, with other networking events and panel discussions spread throughout other restaurants and offices elsewhere in the city.
Some events early in the week were held in other cities altogether, like the Pasadena Day, hosted by Idealab, and Hollywood Day, put on by the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce.
ROC’s decision to host will provide more of a centralized location than last year, in which activities were held in a larger number of venues in Venice, Santa Monica and other cities.
Ron McElroy, CEO of ROC, embraced the Silicon Beach Fest vibe — in many ways, it closely mirrors the kind of real estate business that he runs.
ROC provides shared office space to small start-ups fresh out of their incubators. There, people can work together without the expensive trappings of large office buildings and can feed off of not only their co-workers, but other businesses in the same building.
“This is a culmination of making the office environment evolve,” McElroy said. “To bump shoulders while getting coffee, bounce something off of someone with a more creative mind, it’s brilliant. You don’t have that every day.”
Many of the companies involved in the four-day event already have office space at ROC, which McElroy calls the “Switzerland of business” for its efforts to maintain a “come one, come all” policy about its offices.
For those who still want to get some work done those days, there will be enclosed areas and space to do so, he said, vowing solid crowd management.
Silicon Beach Fest will end with what McElroy describes as a “significant closing party” at ROC, and then attendees will part ways, hopefully with new connections for their trouble.
While the event is designed so that people will have fun, success is often measured in the number of relationships built at the end of the day, Winston said.
“Last year, so many people came to me and said they’d met people that led to a job, or an investor developing them,” Winston said. “We’re looking for lasting things to happen.”
For more information on the festival, visit siliconbeachfest.com.