The Beach House Effect: The Power of Accelerator Location

One of Los Angeles' key competitive advantages has always been and will always be the lifestyle.  While not being able to reward start-up employees' long and dedicated hours in monetary terms (just yet), a cool office space near the beach does wonders for employee morale, retention, and attraction. This is being proven by the blistering hot tech/creative market in Santa Monica as well as the rising tech/creative markets of peripheral areas like Venice, Marina Del Rey and Playa Vista. The Beach House Effect: The Power of Accelerator Location


Lori Kozlowski, Contributor

Ever been inside an awesome beach house? Or even a little shack by the sea? There’s something perfect about fresh sea air, the open vista of thousand miles of blue ocean, sand, sun, and surf.

Often where you start a business is just as important as what the business contributes to the marketplace.

Detail of Frank Gehry beach house 1

Amplify is a Westside tech hub that looks like a beach house, but feels like a workspace.

Their two-story base camp sits on the edge of a round-about on Main Street in the heart of Venice Beach, California. The place has all the critical elements of a beautiful California coastal home — natural light, high ceilings, open spaces for lounging, a huge kitchen, and a rooftop deck. (Sounds like a page from the real estate listings, right?)

Though in its early stages –  they just moved in this February and the building is currently under construction — eventually the accelerator will house both multiple start-up companies and offer independent workspace for established entrepreneurs.

Managing Director Paul Bricault and Executive Director Jeff Solomon highlighted Los Angeles’ specific needs.

“Back in 1999, then L.A. mayor Richard Riordan came to me and said they wanted to stimulate job growth and prevent the fleeing of tech companies from Southern California to Northern California,” Bricault, a former Executive Vice President at the William Morris Agency, explained.

“One of the ideas we had was for an accelerator. We were ready to go in March of 2000, but the dot com bubble burst. So I stayed another ten years at William Morris, running digital media there. But I always kept this idea in the back of my mind that I could bring to fruition later.”

Bricualt researched multiple accelerators across the nation before embarking on this venture, with an eye toward what Los Angeles may need as a unique market.

He said Amplify’s program is slightly different than other accelerators in that:

Investors are involved their program from the beginning (not just on a demo day). They want investors to be engaged throughout the start-up process, so that relationships can form.

They have 45 committed mentors who agree (in writing) to spending at least four hours a month with the start-ups.

Their program is 4 months long. “Most programs are 90 days. We decided that L.A. entrepreneurs — being that many of them are new to this — may need a little extra time,” Bricault said.

And last, but not least, they have their building. A physical spot right at the beach that will allow second and third generation entrepreneurs to co-mingle with first-time start-ups.

Amplify is currently interested in the areas of mobile technology, gaming, ad tech, disruptive media, and social commerce.

Bricault emphasized, however, that L.A. doesn’t have to be an exact replica of Silicon Valley to be successful.

“It’s specious for us to compare ourselves to Silicon Valley. I came from the entertainment business and you repeatedly saw places like New York wanting to be as big as Hollywood. It’s practically impossible because there’s such an enormous, entrenched business that’s been here for decades and decades. It’s really hard for anyone to replicate that,” he said.

“However, does New York have a really thriving film and television practice? Absolutely. So, do we want to replicate Silicon Valley here? No. Will we have a thriving technology ecosystem? Absolutely.”

Solomon added, “Creating this hub is going to in turn create special opportunities — businesses that may have previously gone up north may actually stay here.”

They pointed to the success of MySpace, eHarmony, Shopzilla, and PriceGrabber as examples of L.A. already possessing a proven entrepreneurial track record.

With strong ties to the entertainment industry, successful mentors, and a near-seaside center (really, add surfboard racks and an espresso machine, and no one would ever leave) — Amplify is already attracting strong local talent. Six companies are currently working away in the space.

In the end, where you are matters. It just might be to keep successful companies in Los Angeles, the sheer allure of being right near the ocean could help. After all, yards away from the Pacific is not a bad place to be.


*Shared by Ted Simpson, Scott Steuber & Jeff Vertun

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