Whirlwind Tour of SoCal Digital Media & Tech (Part 3 of 4)

…Continuing Through the Westside

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Take a left out of UCLA Anderson, get on the 405 South and let’s head for one of the densest clusters of tech businesses in SoCal (San Diego can also make claim). The first cluster of note is Rubicon Project, Shopzilla, Hulu, and Adconion Media Group—all near Olympic and Bundy in West LA. Hulu (jobs, blog) is certainly the biggest household name. They sprang into being in ’07 and in about a year had become the very definition of Internet TV. Shopzilla (jobs) specializes in eCommerce as a price comparison website. They’re owned by media giant Scripps out of Cincinnati. The other two companies here are more technical and B2B. Rubicon builds (jobs, blog) one of a few publisher-side platforms that exist to optimize online ad revenue for online content publishers. Demand-side platforms (optimizing for advertisers) are far more common. Adconion (jobs, blog) has built one of the world’s largest online ad networks—and most of the technology that went into it. Further west down Olympic is a cluster of three more. Rustic Canyon Partners (jobs) is one of a surprisingly small number of SoCal venture capital companies…compared to Northern California at least. eHarmony (jobs) rents space from MTV (jobs) just around the corner. No description necessary for those two. Yet further west, within walking distance of the Santa Monica pier are Clearstone Venture Partners, docstoc (jobs, blog), and Demand Media (jobs). Docstoc provides a super-wide range of useful documents for small businesses. Demand Media is parent to a bunch of focused online content brands including ehow and Livestrong. They recently went public off the money made by strategically producing content that attracts search engines and ad dollars.

Heading back east to get to the 405 and continue south, we stop by Activision (jobs). By some measures, this is now the largest independent (not Microsoft, Sony PlayStation, or Nintendo) videogames publisher. They have many hot properties, but Call of Duty is undoubtedly #1. Let’s drive by Sony Pictures in Culver City before making the big move south. Sony’s main web property is Crackle which has been terribly underutilized (given Sony’s status as one of the majors) till very recently. It looks like they’re finally trying to build it into something big. Look at this growth chart. Stamps.com (jobs, blog, ticker) moved from Santa Monica to Playa Vista, and we visit them next. They are one of the original big winners from the first internet boom; now a stalwart. Due east a few miles is Gorilla Nation (jobs). They’re unique in LA as far as I can tell. They represent and sell the advertising inventory for hundreds of owned and independent web properties. And just a little further south is Dynamic Digital Depth a maker of software that automatically produces video with 3D depth information from normal 2D video—a very important part of bringing 3D to the home.

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In a group right around LAX are International Rectifier, Internet Brands, and DirecTV. IRF (jobs, ticker) is an old school electronic components supplier that goes back to the days when packaged semiconductors were the hot new thing. Not too much hot innovation here anymore…just cranking out the products and collecting the cash. I’ll assume DirecTV needs no big explain. Internet Brands (jobs, blog) began life in ’98 as CarsDirect.com, expanded their online autos business and have moved into all the other lucrative eCommerce areas, including travel & leisure. A little further south is iRise (jobs, blog). They have an interesting niche as a rapid prototype/deployment software company that helps companies produce complex IT systems very rapidly with a well-defined process and technology.

Drive 10 minutes and we roll by PC Mall in Torrance. It’s odd that the company is known by that name, even though their MacMall property is the much more successful website. A quick Crenshaw cruise south to visit Active Storage (jobs) and their specialized storage systems for Mac-based media creation professionals. Our last stop in Los Angeles County before we cross the Orange Curtain in installment 4 is New Age Electronics in Carson—a consumer technology distribution and online retail outfit. Not the most exciting company in the area, but it’s close to where I used to live!

The exciting conclusion to our 4-part tour is upcoming. Hold your horse.