Friday, June 14, 2013

Entrepreneurialism in LA -- My Keynote Speech to the LA Chamber of Commerce

As many of my long-time readers know, I recently became CEO of Manatt Digital Media Ventures and am now based in Los Angeles, where the digital media and technology scene is more vibrant than ever.  Last night, the LA Chamber of Commerce opened the "Bixel Exchange," a new center in downtown LA for tech entrepreneurs that offers (1) mentorship, (2) educational programs and meet-ups, and (3) connections and access.  The Los Angeles Times covered this launch (in an article in which I am quoted).

I was asked to give the keynote for the event, discussing the state of entrepreneurialism in LA -- and I subsequently moderated a panel that featured two LA accelerators (Launchpad and Amplify.LA), as well as Tech Coast Angels.

Here is my full speech:


Opening of Bixel Exchange & LA’S Entrepreneurial Community

MEMBERS OF THE CHAMBER … FELLOW ENTREPRENEURS OF ALL STRIPES -- I AM HUMBLED … AND HONORED … TO HAVE BEEN ASKED TO REPRESENT YOU AS WE CELEBRATE THE LAUNCH OF THE BIXEL EXCHANGE -- A NEW HAVEN OF CREATIVITY TO FOSTER & ACCELERATE INNOVATION … PROVIDE MENTORSHIP AND CONNECTION … AND, A TOAST FROM THE LOS ANGELES BUSINESS COMMUNITY TO LA-BASED ENTREPRENEURS.

HERE’S THE THING.   HERE’S THE EXCITING -- BUT FREQUENTLY DAUNTING -- REALITY OF BEING AN ENTREPRENEUR.  YOUR PATH IS NEVER A STRAIGHT ONE.  IT TAKES A CAST-IRON STOMACH.  IF YOUR PLAN IS TO GO LEFT, MORE FREQUENTLY YOU SCRAP THAT ONE AND GO RIGHT …. SOMETIMES BY DESIGN ….  MOST USUALLY, NOT.  CERTAINLY THAT’S HOW MY CAREER HAS PLAYED OUT SO FAR.   AND HERE’S THE BEAUTY OF IT – I WOULDN’T HAVE WANTED IT ANY OTHER WAY (EVEN IN THOSE MOMENTS WHEN I GRABBED THE PEPCID AC).

MY CAREER ADVENTURE – NOW SHOCKINGLY NEARLY 25 YEARS OF IT! – IS ROUGHLY SPLIT 50-50 BETWEEN SO-CALLED TRADITIONAL “MEDIA” (THE MAJOR STUDIOS) -- AND NEW DIGITAL MEDIA/TECHNOLOGY (INCLUDING 4 START-UPS & GROWTH STAGE COMPANIES).  THIS CERTAINLY WAS NOT BY DESIGN (ALTHOUGH I COULD PLAY IT THAT WAY).   BUT, THIS SERENDIPITOUS AND CIRCUITOUS PATH HAS LED ME TO CERTAIN PERSPECTIVES ON WHAT ENTREPRENEURIALISM AND SUCCESS MEAN … I WILL GET TO THAT PUNCHLINE IN A MOMENT.

BUT FIRST, LOOKING BACK AT ALL OF MY MANY COMPANIES, EACH BUILT A VERY DIFFERENT KIND OF MEDIA “PRODUCT”.  SOME CREATED CONTENT.  SOME DISTRIBUTED IT.  BUT, ALL SHARED ONE FUNDAMENTAL THEME – ALL WERE STEEPED IN AND INSPIRED BY CREATIVITY, INNOVATION AND PASSION. INGREDIENTS THAT ARE FUNDAMENTAL TO IMPACTFUL EXPERIENCES IN OUR MULTI-SCREEN WORLD.  AND THAT MEANS THAT ALL OF THESE COMPANIES WERE STEEPED IN -- AND INSPIRED BY -- THE CREATIVE ENERGY THAT IS UNIQUELY LOS ANGELES.

YOU CAN FEEL THIS CREATIVITY – I FEEL IT – IN THE BUZZ AND ENERGY ALL AROUND US.  THAT’S WHY WE ARE HERE TONIGHT.  YOU CAN SEE IT HERE.  YOU CAN SEE IT WITHIN THE EVER-BUZZING WALLS OF THE 10+ MAJOR BUSINESS ACCELERATORS AND SHARED-SPACE START-UP WORKPLACES THAT HAVE SPROUTED IN THE CITY … LIKE AMPLIFY.LA  AND LAUNCHPAD, BOTH OF WHOM ARE HERE TONIGHT.  LIKE WEWORK LABS IN HOLLYWOOD.  YOU CAN’T HELP BUT SMILE AS YOU WALK AROUND THAT PLACE.  THERE IS AN UNBRIDLED URGE TO INNOVATE.  TO DO THINGS DIFFERENTLY.  TO DISRUPT!

I JUST RETURNED FROM A BUSINESS TRIP IN NYC.  I MET WITH A NUMBER OF VCS, START-UPS, MEDIA COMPANIES THERE.  IT WAS ENLIGHTENING.  ONE OF THOSE NYC VCS DIDN’T WANT TO TALK ABOUT THE NYC ENTREPRENEURIAL SCENE.  HE FOCUSED ON LA. “THE START-UP SCENE IS HOT HOT HOT IN LA,” HE SAID.  THAT’S WHY HE NOW FOCUSES HIS NEW INVESTMENTS RIGHT HERE.   I MET WITH A MAJOR NYC-BASED MEDIA COMPANY.  THEY ARE SETTING UP THEIR NEW VENTURE ARM RIGHT HERE, RIGHT NOW. 

UNIVERSAL MUSIC GROUP’S CEO JUST MOVED HEADQUARTERS FROM NEW YORK TO LA.  IN HIS WORDS, “IF YOU WANT TO BUILD AN ENTERTAINMENT BRAND, THIS IS WHERE YOU NEED TO BE.”  THAT’S WHY GOOGLE IS HERE.  AMAZON IS HERE.  TECHNOLOGY COMPANIES ARE TRANSFORMING THEMSELVES INTO NEW MEDIA COMPANIES.

THIS ISN’T AN LA V. NEW YORK THING, THOUGH.  NOR IS IT AN LA V. SILICON VALLEY THING.  BUT, LET’S FACE IT, ONLY LOS ANGELES CAN STAKE THE CLAIM OF BEING THE HOME OF DIGITAL MEDIA – THE MARRIAGE OF MEDIA/CONTENT WITH TECHNOLOGY TO CREATE ENTIRELY NEW CONSUMER EXPERIENCES, AND ENTIRELY NEW BUSINESS OPPORTUNITIES.  WHY?  BECAUSE CONTENT IS ABSOLUTELY KING.  AND RELATIONSHIPS DO MATTER.  TECHNOLOGY WITHOUT SUBSTANCE IS USELESS.  AND, LA STANDS APART WHEN IT COMES TO THOSE ESSENTIAL INGREDIENTS– NO OTHER PLACE COMES CLOSE.

THIS TIME – RIGHT NOW -- IS A SPECIAL TIME FOR LOS ANGELES.  WE ARE ABSOLUTELY IN THE MIDST – RIGHT NOW -- OF A DISRUPTIVE DIGITAL MEDIA REVOLUTION.  FREQUENTLY UNCOMFORTABLE.  SOMETIMES UNSETTLING.  BUT, ULTIMATELY REWARDING.  AND WE ARE FORTUNATE TO BE IN A POSITION TO DRIVE THAT CHANGE! 

THINK ABOUT IT.  DIGITAL MEDIA ULTIMATELY IS ABOUT HARNESSING NEW TECHNOLOGY TO SEND YOUR MESSAGES -- TELL YOUR STORIES  … TO VIRTUALLY ANYONE ON THIS PLANET -- ANYTIME, ANYWHERE.  THAT’S WHY THE THIRD SCREEN – THE SMART PHONE -- IS SO REVOLUTIONARY – IT IS WITH EACH OF US VIRTUALLY 24/7.  THINK ABOUT THAT BUSINESS OPPORTUNITY!

BUT ALSO THINK ABOUT WHAT STORIES YOU WANT TO TELL, BECAUSE THIS REVOLUTIONARY FORM OF NEW DIRECT GLOBAL ENGAGEMENT CAN GO MUCH FURTHER THAN EXCITING NEW BUSINESS MODELS. 

 SOMETHING THAT IS PARTICULARLY EXCITING TO ME, IS DIGITAL MEDIA’S POWER TO ENABLE EACH OF US TO GENERATE GREATER SOCIAL IMPACT THAN EVER BEFORE POSSIBLE.  TO AMPLIFY OUR INDIVIDUAL VOICES.  TO REACH A GLOBAL AUDIENCE.  TO ESTABLISH NEW COMMUNITIES.   TO DO GOOD.  REAL TANGIBLE “GOOD” … AT SCALE.   WORLD-CHANGING GOOD.  

THAT’S WHAT LA-BASED PARTICIPANT MEDIA IS DOING.  IT IS A “DOUBLE BOTTOM LINE” MEDIA COMPANY WHERE SUCCESS IS MEASURED BY BOTH PROFIT AND SOCIAL IMPACT … THE GREATER GOOD.  YES, IT IS OKAY TO LEAD REAL CHANGE, AND MAKE MONEY IN THE PROCESS.   THE COMPANY’S SELF-PROCLAIMED MISSION IS TO CREATE “ENTERTAINMENT THAT INSPIRES AND COMPELS SOCIAL CHANGE.”  I LOVE THAT WORD – “COMPELS.”  THEY ARE TRULY SUCCESSFUL ONLY IF THEY MOTIVATE ACTION.   THE FOUNDERS COME FROM SILICON VALLEY.  BUT THEIR OPERATIONS, CREATIVITY AND INSPIRATION ARE BASED RIGHT HERE – IN LA.   AND THEIR IMPACT IS GLOBAL IN EVERY SENSE OF THE WORD.   

ANOTHER EXAMPLE IS LA-BASED DIGITAL MEDIA START-UP GATHR, WHICH UNIQUELY HARNESSES THE CONNECTIVITY OF THIS BRAVE NEW ONLINE WORLD TO DRIVE DEMAND FOR GROUNDBREAKING INDEPENDENT FILMS.   TO FIND AN AUDIENCE FOR INSPIRING STORIES THAT OTHERWISE WOULD GO UNHEARD.

THAT’S WHAT’S HAPPENING IN LA RIGHT NOW. 

SO HOW CAN WE BE PART OF THAT ENERGY?  HOW CAN WE ACCELERATE IT?  MULTIPLY IT?

HERE’S MY ANSWER -- BY IMMERSING YOURSELF IN IT.  BY BEING ENTREPRENEURS.   BY PURSUING EVERYTHING YOU DO WITH PASSION.  THAT ULTIMATELY IS WHAT ENTREPRENEURIALSIM IS ALL ABOUT.  PASSION IN OUR WORK.  IN COMPANIES BIG AND SMALL.  IN FOR PROFITS AND NON PROFITS.   IN OUR PLAY.  OUR FAMILIES.  OUR COMMUNITIES.  

 FOR ME, SUCCESS MEANS THE PURSUIT OF PASSION – NOT JUST THE ACHIEVEMENT OF FINANCIAL GAIN.   IT IS THE DAY-TO-DAY JOURNEY – THE “WHY” AND “HOW” YOU DO WHAT YOU DO.  THAT’S WHAT MATTERS MOST.

SO EMBRACE ENTREPRENEURIALISM.  EMBRACE SERENDIPTITY.  INTRODUCE YOURSELF TO THE PERSON NEXT TO YOU.  BUILD YOUR NETWORK … AUTHENTICALLY.   DON’T JUST LOOK FOR HELP.  HELP OTHERS … ENTHUSIASTICALLY.   AND, DON’T LOOK FOR IMMEDIATE PAY-BACK.  IT FREQUENTLY HAPPENS WHEN YOU LEAST EXPECT IT.

… AND, OWN THE FACT THAT WE ARE FORTUNATE TO BE DOING THIS ALL IN THIS GREAT CITY OF LOS ANGELES. 

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