Republicans Wanted

Personal Update: Why I Moved To Silicon Beach

Pixels & Politics has been fairly quiet the past few weeks. Many of you have written and called, wondering if you’ve missed an essay or two, some even fearing that P&P was over. Fear not. After almost a decade in digital politics, working in and around Washington, D.C., I simply needed a change. In addition to leaving the social and financial conveniences of a life built in the Beltway, I knew leaving would present a unique set of cultural and professional challenges, no matter where I landed. But, after much thought, I finally moved to Silicon Beach.

“So, why did you leave D.C.?”

Having come from poor, rural backgrounds, my parents felt it extremely important to give my siblings and I the wide variety of experiences they never had. But, growing up in a small town in Alabama, that wasn’t always easy to do. Driving all over the country, my siblings and I were uncharacteristically exposed to the arts through music lessons and painting classes, sports foreign to the south like hockey and lacrosse, and to the occasional summer spent at a science camp (a big hit with the middle school ladies, let me tell you). Those experiences and the underlying philosophy of my parents have played a large role in my life. In particular, the desire to constantly challenge myself with new experiences. It was with this mindset that I left family and friends after graduate school and headed to the nation’s capital. And it is in this spirit that I leave it now. Having built my first website in middle school (An educational blog with animated GIFs galore, aimed at helping teens better understand investing — told you, big hit with the ladies), it wasn’t long before I was the newest member of a one-man digital analytics team in a downtown public affairs firm shortly after arriving in D.C. I’ve been working in or near political tech ever since. But, over the years I’ve noticed something troubling. D.C. and its insular industries were not keeping up with broader private sector trends, especially those in internet marketing and technology. As such, I felt that I needed to better understand those differences. And that’s the draw of Silicon Beach, the Westside of Los Angeles where technology startups and investments are on the rise. There’s a real opportunity to surround myself with a burgeoning technology ecosystem, and all the challenges that come with it.

“What is the draw of Silicon Beach?”

For me, it is about personal and professional growth. But, for many startups, Los Angeles is a lifestyle play… …Turns out the Red Bull-drinking, World of Warcraft-playing programmer in the basement actually likes sunny, 80-degree ocean views just as much as the rest of us. Companies like Snapchat, Tinder, Whisper, SpaceX, and Riot Games must have known this, as they are just a few of the startups to call Silicon Beach home. And the tech giants are beginning to take notice as well. Google, Yahoo, Twitter, AOL, and MySpace have all recently laid claim to properties along the Westside of Los Angeles. In fact, according to the mapping website Represent L.A., there are now more than 1,000 startups in the Los Angeles area alone. As such, the Southern California landscape has become littered with all things tech, including accelerators, incubators, and co-working spaces: While there is no arguing that the Bay Area remains the best environment for technology startups, Silicon Beach’s proximity to Hollywood also offers it a unique advantage over other startup ecosystems. Long known for its creative focus on content, the entertainment industry has provided direct and indirect influence on digital content, Internet marketing, and customer experience. In specific, Hollywood’s technical expertise has largely influenced a new wave of digital video content and production in the area. BuzzFeed is expanding its L.A. presence and Amazon, Netflix and YouTube have created large production spaces in Silicon Beach. While Silicon Beach continues to find its identity among the larger startup ecosystem in this country, one thing is clear, the lifestyle, the increasing pool of talent and seemingly nonstop investment have created an exciting opportunity for anyone brave enough to dive in.

“Where did you move?”

While Silicon Beach has traditionally referred to the beachside tech communities of Santa Monica and Venice Beach, all of West Los Angeles is undergoing a “bits and bytes” renaissance. For the time being, we’ve settled in the Hollywood Hills neighborhood of Franklin Village. It’s a convenient location with quick access to downtown, Hollywood, West Hollywood, and Beverly Hills. If you are in the Los Angeles metropolitan area let’s definitely get together and chat.

“What’s Next?”

So, what does this mean for Pixels & Politics? The short answer: better content. In fact, I’ve already begun work on a 2016 political cheatsheet with an amazing artist and a series of new essays with some exciting guest authors. In addition, I’ll be continuing to work with CMDI, helping bring some of Silicon Beach’s best ideas to the table as we continue to provide cutting-edge software. But what I’m most excited about is the opportunity to connect the two coasts, looking for opportunities to provide the advocacy space with further access to entrepreneurial technology and talent. If you are interested in learning more, or just wanna chat, feel free to email me at Austin [at] PixelsandPolitics [dot] com or hit me up on Twitter @AustinJames.

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