As I sit here in the Twenty Eight restaurant during this night's Startup Grind, I find myself pondering the state of Orange County startup culture. This restaurant is really nice. We were given drink tickets as part of our entrance fee and the event is being held in the indoor / outdoor atrium area in the middle of the restaurant. There's a tree in here and people are all around at tables and couches facing the speaker taking about his latest fundraising round.
It seems like a common thread in OC is high-class. From the freeway we look like almost empty land with intermittent buildings. Along the road toward Newport you see tall, reflective office buildings with logos of big companies like Oracle, Western Digital and Google. The venue we are sitting in right now is in the shadow of the gargantuan Google building that houses a large development team for the corporation.
It really takes time to dig beneath the surface and discover the rich community here with barriers to entry into each startup circle thick with extreme opinions and fear of competition.
Don't you understand that we need to work together?
Everyone knows eventbrite events are stodgy and sponsors are only there to pitch for more sales. Meetups are cool and having a banner with your group's logo on it legitimizes life itself. And if you have t shirts, woah!! You're legit.
I implore you to reconsider your notions of the status quo. disrupt, disrupt, disrupt! Create your own group, create community around you and seek to connect people and help emerging entrepreneurs to raise the money they need or find the engineers that they need to hire.
Since I started OC Tech Happy Hour last year we've grown to nearly 1,600 members and meet about twice a month. I pour my soul into the events and do my best to act as a good host and encourage collaboration and hope you are inspired to do the same. We need more! Convince LA startups to move down here! check it out at http://octhh.org
There's Eureka which aims to be a true startup campus. You can wander the halls and get lost in your thoughts. I often contemplate the next move with a big client while looking up at their inspiring atrium.
There's PeopleSpace where I got my start. They're all about the lean startup approach. You should go there if you want to get focused and accomplish the creation of your MVP.
There's ROC Newport which is good if you're an accountant or lawyer or just want something swanky and overpriced.
There's ROC Irvine which models the Santa Monica startup vibes and honesty does well at fostering a high end clientele to rent their space. It's truly beautiful, but the offices kind of look like fishbowls with clear glass.
Next is Innovate OC -- their co working space might be small and mighty, but the view overlooking the rest of the flexible building and architecture tech is truly inspiring. Their conference room is also very cool.
I've never been to crash labs.
Tech space in Costa Mesa is alright. I've been there for a meet up but there wasn't enough space and sometimes it feels like they're just dressed up corporate space pretending to be a startup hub.
Institute for Innovation is cool for science and research and has the most badass tech conference space I've ever seen. It's a natural extension of UCI and I'm so happy it exists.
And finally there will be Ignition Loft. It's my personal project and will be a culmination of what I've learned working in different spaces and how I'd like to lead my own community toward success in connected home technology, automotive technology, drone technology and security and aeronautics software.
The feel of the building will be like Rob Dyrdek's fantasy factory for entrepreneurs.
RAISING A FAMILY
With Irvine being the safest city in the country and the surrounding areas growing faster than any other town I've seen, this is an emerging Silicon Valley 2.0 where you'd actually want to raise a family. As I prepare to get married to my kick ass and ridiculously supportive fiancé, I'm deciding to firmly rooting myself here in OC.
Let's be honest. There's plenty of capital in Orange County. I think it's completely possible to instead of complain that they aren't investing in your model, craft your business model around what they want to invest in. But, who cares what I have to say? I've never gone after a big Series A, I've only had experience with Seed rounds and bridge capital.
Good night OC! See you again soon.
Written by Lee Decker