The digital world of Silicon tech collides with the flashy stardom of Hollywood at Silicon Beach Fest 2012.
By: Bret Johnson
Santa Monica, CA(Hollywood Today)6/27/12/—In the sports world, NorCal and SoCal are like the Hatfields and the McCoys. This past weekend a few digital captains from Los Angeles wanted people to gather and discuss bridging the gaps between the two areas. The goal? To increase effective usage of social media and technology; to find the future path of Silicon Valley’s digital magic carpet and Hollywood’s mecca of superficial stardom and content. It was a friendly and well-attended conference with mutual admiration from all sides; it was like being backstage inside my laptop seeing all the backend work that gets done to create what I see on my screen everyday. There were many valuable topics for anyone interested in starting or improving their small businesses like: finding VC money, celebrity association, music discovery and linking digital footprints within the realms of art, fashion and nightlife. Many attendees of this conference were entrepreneurs looking how to take the next steps and Silicon Beach Fest (SBF) offered all the support necessary.
Spread out using five main meeting areas with additional venues and cocktail parties, Silicon Beach Fest (http://siliconbeachfest.com/index.html) was trending well. I covered as much Westside ground as I could on a Friday to get immersed in panel discussions. Starting with the 10am “Meet the Accelerators” at the Viceroy Hotel (www.viceroyhotel.com), I listened to what most entrepreneurs wanted to hear, the place was standing-room only. Maybe you don’t know but we have several accelerator companies in LA! I know there are some serious destructive decelerators in LA going the wrong way every day but the gentleman on this panel want to help move the needle and expand digital business centered in the City of Angels. They encourage the crowd to use their mentorship programs to get businesses standing on solid foundations by formulating the concept, the team and the vision. Companies like Amplify (http://amplify.la/) and Originate (http://www.originate.com/) are taking applications online in hopes to find new companies accepted into their programs. As Howard Marks from StartEngine noted, “Look at Facebook mafia and the PayPal mafia, we need an LA mafia to sustain the community business here.” The room full of intently listening entrepreneurs laughed and nodded their heads in agreement; it would be great if LA could become the hub of massive digital commerce for media and entertainment.
While at the Viceroy I gave the 12pm “Meet the VCs” a listen but I felt like I was back in a college Economics class and my brain doesn’t do numbers and lingo like that. Their collective message was think bigger, find a scale of growth so your business can go from $1million to $10million, aggressively, to lure the proper capital needed for all involved to cash out and win. The best way to do that is to find a prepared mind on the other side of the table that gets your passion and is willing to invest in the project.
I quickly headed to Cross Campus (9th & Broadway), where the Opening Keynote occurred with La City Councilman, Gil Garcetti at 9am. This space was much lighter and brighter where I absorbed the topic of “Brands, Agencies & Startups: A Love Story.” The major points here were: If you want your brand to be successful, you need to find the audience that matters the most to your business model and build on that; there are too many startups that say they aggregate consumer data and not many actually do; and your brand needs to find a way to be at the end of the buyer’s purchasing process, to be that last point-of-purchase (POP) in the funnel of buying products online. Find ways to grab that click.
Picking one out of five discussion presentations every two hours was not easy and, like many conferences, you choose your path of interest. As a writer, I had to give it all a fair shake. I am not that interested in VCs or celebrity-driven stuff but I was compelled to cover it and learn about how it all works. I hustled back to the Viceroy to give HollywoodToday.net the star power it deserves. The panelists on hand represent and work with the biggest names in entertainment and was appropriately called “Celeb Power: Startups, Apps and Content.” These people manage the digital campaigns and social media power for Rihanna (with Nivea at Xomad, http://xomad.com/), Beiber, Mary-Kate Olson (http://www.beachmint.com/), Jessica Alba (http://www.honest.com/), Michelle Phan, Taye Diggs, Lauren Conrad and so many more. The take-away here is that celebs are door openers and the product they represent must be quality- same with their tweets and posts- they must be genuine and fit them and their audience. These public figures also need a team to manage their online personalities, interests and business ventures. Jason Matthews from Eqal (http://www.eqal.com/) said, “we have a proprietary network to connect all the social elements of a celebrity. We get Facebook, Twitter, YouTube videos to point to the hub site, the person’s main website. It really comes down to education and expectation when working with a super star.”
Moving on down to the Erwin Hotel (http://www.jdvhotels.com/hotels/losangeles/erwin/) for the last panel-of-choice for the day, I wished I had a helicopter. Rolling through Venice Beach on a sunny Friday afternoon and finding parking? Yeah, right. I wish SBF embraced their theme and gave bikes or skateboards for attendees to use. The panel was great and one of the hottest topics in digital business today: “Music: Discovery and Social Media.” Lindsay Gabler who runs social media for The Grammy’s stated, “at this crossroads in the music industry we are at now, we are trying to curate music experiences. We need to find on and offline experiences and tailor them to those (specific) fans.” It is so true. She explained that we no longer walk into record stores to buy a new album or wait in long lines with other die-hard fans to get concert tickets- those experiences are gone. The live streaming of music festivals seems to be a solid start to a stable solution where you have on-site attendees, a sponsored stream of the event so it can be free and an online audience having viewing parties whether close by or on the other side of the planet.
The biggest theme I heard throughout my one day and five panels is KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE. If you are out there making waves and in startup mode, almost every panelist mentioned that you need to make sure you are well-versed in the industry you are targeting, tailor that focus to that specific fan base and find the right team of good people to help you. By team they mean, finding a solid engineer who is tech savvy at writing code, genuine people that share your passion for what you are doing and visionaries with aggressive plans. Think BIG, think about all the necessary things and not just the sexy ones since the digital frontier is like the Wild Wild West of old, you gotta hustle if you want the gold!