Whirlwind Tour of SoCal Digital Media & Tech (Part 2 of 4)

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-Top Executive-Search-Los Angeles  - Whirlwind Tour of SoCal Digital Media & Tech (Part 2 of 4)Executive Search Jobs SoCal Industries 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 Top Executive-Search-Los Angeles  - Whirlwind Tour of SoCal Digital Media & Tech (Part 2 of 4)Executive Search Jobs SoCal Industries 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!

Whirlwind Tour of SoCal Digital Media & Tech (Part 1 of 4)

OK, there’s no way for me to hit all interesting SoCal companies in four posts…or even twenty, but this short series is my basic overview of the world the way I see it from myTop Executive-Search-Los Angeles  - Whirlwind Tour of SoCal Digital Media & Tech (Part 1 of 4)Executive Search Jobs SoCal Industries PivotPoint desk. Think in terms of this famous “New Yorkers’ View of the World”. My blinders are trained on digital media, tech–and increasingly cleantech–between Santa Barbara and San Diego. I’m especially interested in those that are actively growing and hiring new market-facing professionals (sales, marketing, and/or product management). I specifically do not work in aerospace. I keep getting tempted to try biotech…but my total lack of knowledge has thankfully held me back. There is a LOT going on in SoCal; we rank at least top 5 nationally in just about any ranking of tech, media, cleantech, VC, entrepreneurship, or anything that measures how much new business stuff is happening. There are regions, areas, and neighborhoods where businesses cluster. This tour is for the vast majority of us who have spent most of their time head down doing their job well and haven’t tried to understand what’s going on nearby, 10 miles up the freeway, and 50 miles “over the hill”.

The companies that make the cut, in no particular order: a) huge companies that define the region b) huge companies many have never heard of c) notable newer companies d) companies that have accelerated recently e) notable (to me) venture capital firms and lastly f) blatant plugs where friends or I have worked.

Santa Barbara Launch…
We start our high speed tour at the corner of Hollister & Coronado in Goleta at the HQ of Citrix Online—makers of GoToMeeting. This is maybe the best known tech company in the S.B. We continue south on the 101 and very quick pass by our first PivotPoint client, Occam Networks—now known as Calix. Going just a little faster than 65 mph, we get to a block of four: RingRevenue, DFJ Frontier, Rightscale, and Commission Junction. DFJ is the biggest VC in the area; RR and Rightscale are startups aggressively expanding, and CJ powers online advertising as part of Valueclick. Ten minutes further down the road is my first “who knew” company: QAD. Makers of CRM/ERP software…they’re over $200M and have been around since the 70’s. Lynda.com is a relatively new find for me. Somehow they’ve found a way to get people to actually pay for stuff online. Novel! After Lynda, we kick the Maserati up to a-buck-fifty so we can get to Camarillo in a few minutes. Here we get our first look at companies that operate more in assembly language than Ruby on Rails. These four semiconductor companies were the high flyers in the 80’s…but every business becomes staid eventually. CalAmp is $150M and are now in a wide range of equipment, including routers and modems. Semtech has revenue of $450M this year on huge growth. They make a variety of chip level products, and they must be making them good. Power One and Vitesse are right across the street from one another to delineate the Santa Barbara sub region. Power One has reinvented itself as a cleantech company right under my nose and has made a HUGE jump from $400M in revenue to over $1B in ’11. Vitesse makes a variety of super geeky networking gear that should never be seen outside of a too-cold room with bad fluorescent lighting. They pull in a little under $200M a year. Yes, there are some big companies up here, and we’re just getting started. We almost immediately cross over into…

The Land of 1,000 Oaks
We’ve crossed an imaginary line, but the companies haven’t changed too much. Xirrus is first. It’s a private company that makes wireless networking equipment, specifically Wi-Fi arrays that cover various service areas. Still moving at 150, Ben Kuo‘s SoCalTech is 2 minutes away on our right. To our left–Inphi is across the freeway. If we wanted to stop, stretch our legs and casually engage in some high-speed analog circuit design for broadband network applications…this is where we’d do it. Pass, for now.

Slow the Maserati down to 140 or we’ll blow right by Valueclick and Move, Inc. who can peep in each other’s windows—but I wouldn’t approve. Valueclick is one of the heavyweights in online advertising technology to the tune of $450M and Move runs Realtor.com among other real estate web properties and is a $200M business in total. Videogame publisher THQ is just a few seconds away. They’ll always have a place in my heart for providing a great assignment for our final MBA project at UCLA Anderson. Ixia is building rack networking gear nearby, jumping from $170M to $270M in revenue year to year. What recession?

Continuing, we find Avanquest, a global packaged software publisher/distributor. Exit, turn north on Topanga Canyon and roll by ReachLocal, who completed their IPO last year. They’re in the practically infinite space of selling online marketing services to small and medium business (SMB). They field an army of sales reps that knock on doors and get the local restaurant to hit the ‘net with their advertising. Further up Topanga, MRV and its spinoff Source Photonics are close enough to spy on each other as they design and sell optoelectronics gear. After DataDirect Networks (high-performance & cloud storage) we pull a U and head back to the Ventura Freeway and continue south.

Next Bat-Post, we trade in the Maserati for a Prius and cruise through Tinseltown taking in some different sights than the usual tourist.