Los Angeles Business Journal

SXSW: L.A. Companies Show Off at Sunday Funday

By Natalie Jarvey Monday, March 11, 2013

If you came late to the Silicon Beach company showcase on Sunday, you might have thought you were missing out on the hippest party at the South by Southwest interactive conference in Austin, Texas.

Midway through the daylong Sunday Funday event, a line stretched down the block to get into the hot dog and beer joint named Frank where the showcase was taking place.

Twenty L.A. companies set up booths inside Frank to pitch their ideas and demo products for the hundreds of investors, entrepreneurs and tech enthusiasts who filtered through. The list of companies included a broad mix of startups and public companies, big data and social apps.

Santa Monica public companies Demand Media and Cornerstone OnDemand both represented more established Silicon Beach names. Meanwhile, just a few booths away was e-commerce startup 20Jeans, which is currently part of the Amplify accelerator program.

Retention Science Chief Executive Jerry Jao said the event was a great way for his company to make connections with potential investors and business partners. Online publishing platform Glossi, on the other hand, spent part of its day demoing its product to potential clients.

But the showcase wasn’t just about raising the profile of the individual companies. Instead, the entrepreneurs involved seemed to rally around the idea of promoting the L.A. tech ecosystem.

“Everybody keeps talking about Silicon Beach and asks, ‘Who are we?’” said Michelle Haworth, director of marketing communications for Cornerstone OnDemand. “But I think when you get people together this way, it helps to define the unique companies starting in Los Angeles.”

Silicon Beach hosted a similar – though much smaller – event at Frank last year. Event co-producer Nicole Jordan said she wanted this year’s showcase to highlight a range of L.A. companies to give a well-rounded look at the companies emerging from the L.A. tech scene.

Tech types came from far and wide, including San Francisco, New York and London, to check out the Silicon Beach companies while they washed down Frank sausages with Shiner Bock beer.

But, ironically, the consensus among the L.A. tech crowd was that some of the best connections were those they made with other Angelenos even though they were 1,400 miles from home.

“I heard L.A. companies leave the event and say, ‘I didn’t even know these companies were also in Los Angeles,’” said Jordan, who is also the founder and chief executive of communication firm Radix Collective. “That was half the point of doing this event. We saw L.A. companies connect with each other and we saw people from outside L.A. check out the event.”