What is Silicon Beach?

LMU's Center for the Study of L.A. Recently Posed the Question to Voters

The name Silicon Beach may be relatively new, but it is beginning to make its way into the region's consciousness, a survey by LMU's Thomas and Dorothy Leavey Center for the Study of Los Angeles has found.

When StudyLA posed the question "What is Silicon Beach?" during its recent voter exit poll, nearly 40 percent of those surveyed correctly answered that the moniker refers to L.A.'s growing tech and startup hub. LMU students distributed 2,829 exit surveys on Nov. 8 at 25 randomly selected L.A. city polling places.

Loyola Marymount University, the University of Silicon Beach®, is contributing to the growing creative community by bringing to it the spirit of the encouragement of learning, a key component of the university's mission.

LMU recently announced plans to set up its graduate programs in the School of Film and Television at a new Playa Vista campus, putting LMU students in proximity to the dynamic, entrepreneurial and creative energies of Silicon Beach.

The Silicon Beach moniker has come to mean innovation and creative energy – as demonstrated by the number of startup companies populating the area defined roughly from Santa Monica to the South Bay. Still, StudyLA's research shows that many people in Los Angeles have yet to associate the name Silicon Beach – a finding that offers important insights about the public's understanding of an area rich in opportunity.

"Local leaders are excited about the idea, but our research shows that Silicon Beach is not common knowledge," said Brianne Gilbert, associate director at StudyLA and a lecturer in political science and urban studies at LMU. Still, Chris Rico, innovation director of the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp., said in a recent KCET story that investment in the area is growing. "In 2012, there was $319 million worth of venture capital. In the last two years [2013 and 2014], it's gone over $3 billion both years."

In terms of how to widen the recognition of Silicon Beach, Gilbert said, "The best way, although not necessarily the easiest, is to make Silicon Beach relevant or meaningful among communities who may not be familiar with the area." Gilbert suggests the starting point is with schoolchildren, including career days at schools, hosting expos for kids, and perhaps LMU facilitating field trips for a particular grade.

"Let the children see what awesome jobs are available not so far away and let them – and their families – see a path to get them to these jobs. What kind of skills do they need to earn these positions?" she added.

It's not clear when the term Silicon Beach was first coined, and according to media accounts not everyone has been eager to adopt it.

But given the growth of companies like Google, Facebook, Netflix and Amazon, and the attention Silicon Valley venture capitalists are giving Los Angeles, the LAEDC's Rico said: "it's definitely the hottest startup ecosystem in terms of growth and buzz on the planet right now."