Three weeks ago we began a tour of the significant technology and digital media companies in Southern California. There’s a mixture of objectively significant companies, and those that are maybe just significant to me (see the criteria in the previous post). Hey it’s my blog! We covered Santa Barbara through Calabasas and now we’re moving into the dense meat of the tour. We pick up our tour on the southbound 101 freeway in our politically correct, Hollywood approved Prius, at about Reseda Blvd. For the next portion of the tour we’ll cover a little less mileage, but just as many companies…and we’ll start seeing some household names.
Next a Loop Through Pasadena
We cross the 405 and 170 freeways and the 101 becomes the 134 freeway. Take the exit toward Burbank airport and stop at Yahoo! Search Media (formerly known as Overture). They have served as the most obvious (and increasingly weaker) foil to Google’s search dominance. The page even looks like Google now. Before continuing south on the 101 (it’s actually east) we head back due south so we can see the NBC Universal west coast headquarters. Whether we jump back on the freeway or take surface streets, we get to Warner Bros within a few minutes. Continuing east, we get to Walt Disney Company even quicker. If there is a power center for West Coast, American, and world entertainment…this stretch of real estate is probably it.
I’m sure there’s something interesting between our current location in Burbank and the center of Pasadena ten miles east. But I’m not stopping for it. For those that want their finger on the pulse of up-and-coming tech companies in SoCal, Idealab is a must-follow. This Pasadena incubator, run by Bill Gross, has started, nurtured, and sold some of the heavyweight companies in the internet business; Picasa, CitySearch, and United Online among the best known. Head south on Fair Oaks to visit FastSoft and OpenX who are across the street from one another. FastSoft accelerates TCP/IP protocol which is the basis of internet communication… and was an early PivotPoint client. OpenX is a major force in internet ad serving technology and is moving strong into ad exchanges. Heading back to the freeway where the 134 turns into the 210, we visit Guidance Software. Another cherished PivotPoint client, these guys are maybe the purest play in the e-discovery business.
Continue east away from Old Town Pasadena to Central Desktop to get a look at their business collaboration software. They’re expanding nicely right now. We move another seven miles east (a trip some might say isn’t worth it) to get to our last Pasadena area company: Parasoft (another early PivotPoint client). These guys are stone cold geeks, and even they have social media links, so I guess that marketing channel is fully mainstream now…at least for California tech companies.
For the only time in our four-part tour, we now need to pull a U and backtrack. We’ll head back to Westside Los Angeles, get off the freeway for a while and visit a bunch of digital media companies in a substantial cluster.
Cruise Through the Westside (Part 1)
We put a solid 15 miles on the Prius, heading west then south on the 110 freeway to Downtown LA to see Oversee.net. Oversee was a pure internet land grabber in the earliest days of the web, and made good money selling juicy domains for a profit. Now they’re in the performance ad game. That’s our only stop downtown, and we hit the road north on the 101 for about 6 miles, get off at Melrose and take a look at Paramount Studios. Through parent Viacom, they work closely with MTV Networks which is based further west in Santa Monica. From there we drive straight for the Hollywood sign and stop just before we get to the hills to see the HQ of j2 Global. They’re the makers of eFax online fax service in addition to other business communications technologies. Let’s head south and west along Sunset Boulevard for a few miles to check in with the West Coast HQ of Interactive Corp. It serves as the main HQ of a number of IAC’s digital media businesses. Backtrack a little to La Cienga and drive by the first company to specialize in guerilla and social media marketing that I know of: Fanscape. Back down a little south to Santa Monica Blvd we find LiveNation a major player in online ticketing, especially for concerts. Nearby on Wilshire is RealD, one of the major brand 3D formats for movies along with Disney and IMAX. Head east on Wilshire for a few blocks to pass by Break Media, one of the premiere digital media properties, focused on entertainment for the young male demo. Another few blocks and we hit Spark Networks, runner of JDate and various other specialty dating sites. A little further still, and there is Total Immersion—a leader in augmented reality. Basically, they author really cool software used for all kinds of interactive amusement and advertising purposes.
We’ve made a good start, but there’s still plenty of ground to cover on the Westside. On our way back west toward the Pacific, we’ll take note of two companies based in Century City. Fox Entertainment and GRP Partners are both located on Avenue of the Stars. Mark Suster of GRP authors one of the best VC blogs in Southern California. Head towards UCLA and make two more sightings before taking a break. Boingo Wireless operates a large chain Wi-Fi hotspots and was one of our local companies that celebrated the gradually loosening grip of the Great Recession by completing an IPO earlier this year. This part of the tour finishes at the UCLA Anderson School of Management: home of noted economic forecaster Ed Leamer and new Entourage star Bhagwan Chowdhry. Aside: my team crushed both their challenging classes in our MBA program!