A Los Angeles Tech Flex
LOS ANGELES – On Saturday night, more than 250 people gathered at a mid-century modern mansion in the Hollywood Hills for a party at the end of LA Tech Week, a six-day series of events held across the city.
The party was organized by House.ai, a collective of entrepreneurs, and Mirra, a telehealth start-up. “We incubate businesses, we invest and we party,” said Robbie Figueroa, 27, one of the founders of House.ai.
Just before sunset, the first wave of guests arrived. A DJ played soft EDM music by the pool throughout the evening. Dozens of Domino’s pizza boxes, a cooler filled with Dezo-enriched coconut water and a Dippin ‘Dots ice cream maker were on hand to keep attendees cool.
And who were these participants? “These are nerds, myself included, who have been stuck at home for six months letting go,” Figueroa said. “Everyone refers to each other by their Twitter IDs. “
Nikil Viswanathan, founder of Alchemy, a blockchain development platform that recently raised $ 80 million, showed up in a sailor suit. (He then attended a theme party.) Austyn JR Brown, a TikTok star and card game developer with nearly five million followers, and Eric Wei, founder of Karat, a credit card for influencers, were also present.
There were also more traditional Hollywood types, including a Netflix executive and Arturo Castro, who appeared in the “Narcos” and “Broad City” series. Staff members from Snapchat, TikTok and YouTube also mingled.
Los Angeles has long had a thriving tech industry. TikTok and Snapchat are headquartered in the city, and many tech executives, including Elon Musk, live there. But more recently, Gen Z and millennial tech leaders have emerged, creating start-ups like Dispo, Poparazzi, PearPop and more.
Many moved to the city and started their businesses during the pandemic, and LA Tech Week was their first opportunity to meet in person.
It’s no surprise, given who makes up the scene, that the series of events came together on Twitter. Kyle Brastrom, 22, entrepreneur and founder of Dive Chat, a Gen Z group chat platform, moved to the city in May. That month, he tweeted, “Host a dinner in Los Angeles for founders, investors and startups this Wednesday. Comment or DM if you want to join or tag someone you think shouldn’t be missed.
“Literally 300 people got back to me,” Mr. Brastrom said, “and I’m like, oh, the people of Los Angeles really want to go out. It started it all.
He recruited two of his roommates – Michelle Fang, 22, and Ami Yoshimura, 19 – as organizers. The series was originally scheduled for May, but organizers have pushed back the start date to June 14, the week Los Angeles fully reopens. A week of official and unofficial events – many of which were only announced at the last minute – led to the closing night on Saturday night.
“It all unfolded Gen Z style and embraced the chaos of the situation,” Brastrom said.
For seven hours on Saturday, guests dressed in brightly colored tops and street wear rode their bikes in and out of the house. A woman had made a dress from a garbage bag. There wasn’t a single Patagonia vest in sight.
Organizers had put a cap on attendance, but people were trying to confirm their attendance until the party started. Due to the mixed age crowd, there were bracelets for those over 21.
While the tech world of Silicon Valley is steeped in power and exclusivity, Los Angeles’ tech scene is more about creativity and openness. The event embodied a collaborative enthusiasm that drives the youth of Los Angeles. At the party were TikTok stars, start-up founders, direct-to-consumer marketers, songwriters, engineers, students, streamers and artists, all mingling in front of a sparkling sight of the city.
“If you think the designer economy is the future of mainstream tech, there’s no better city than LA to be the epicenter of this energy and momentum,” said Jeff Morris Jr. ., Founder and Managing Partner of Chapter One Ventures.
Jasmin Johnson, 24, founder of Knowhere, a travel planning app, said the event exposed her to a different side of technology than she was used to, including meeting with the creators of TikTok. “In other tech communities, people come from more cohesive backgrounds, like ‘oh we all went to business school together’ or went to some Ivy and private schools,” she said. “It’s an interesting and cool mix of people from different backgrounds. “
Travel content creator Caitlyn Lubas, 22, said Los Angeles had “a whole different energy that I think was really captured during the Tech Week events.”
Others also seemed grateful for the sense of community. Cat Orman, 22, the founder of a drone delivery company, moved to the city during quarantine and was thrilled to find a connection in person again. “Now that we’re out of this, it’s good that everyone is aware of building a community,” she said. “The energy is very good, she doesn’t seem self-conscious or overly networked.”
Chris Grant, 29, a product designer who arrived at the party when he was around 9, said he felt “all the tech of LA” was there. “Every moment I walk around, I meet friends from different circles,” he said. “It’s like, wow, are you there too?” Sick! ”Upstairs, some founders planted their start-ups in the opulent home cinema, a somewhat quiet room secluded from the dance party below.
A few minutes later, the snakes arrived. Guests took turns holding the Big Five Reptiles for TikTok photos and videos. Casey Adams, a 20-year-old entrepreneur, let a snake wrap around his neck giving him a kiss on the top of the head. Mr Figueroa said he met the snake keepers at another party and asked them to come.
At all times, groups of people had pulled out their phones, swapping Instagram handles. “People are working together and want to come together,” Brastrom said. “That’s what I love about this city, people lead with collaboration rather than competition.” Mr. Brastrom once founded an events studio called Crescendo to recreate experiences like Saturday night.
“It feels like there are real people here, not just VCs,” said Nathan Baschez, 32, founder of Every, a collective start-up of writers. “It’s not insular. People here aren’t on the lookout for the next interesting thing, they are the next interesting thing.
Dro Hambarchian, 18, a sophomore at UCLA who is developing a movie recommendation app called Script, arrived with two friends from school, Ethan Keshishian, 20, and Arek Der-Sarkisian, 19, founders of Unicorner, a start-up newsletter. “LA Tech Week embodies LA and its diversity,” said Mr. Hambarchian. “I am a first generation American and have met other immigrants. It is refreshing.
Katia Ameri, the founder of Mirra, who is originally from Los Angeles, said she was waiting for the moment when Los Angeles’ tech ecosystem could compete with the Bay Area and now is the time. “We have been isolated from each other,” said Ms. Ameri, 29. “Now we’re all vaccinated and we go out and see who’s here. “
By 1 a.m., the party had started to subside. The guests were waiting by the door of the house, arguing over the soaring Ubers. Some who couldn’t make it watched “The Conjuring” in the home theater. Ms. Ameri assumed the duties of DJ and played dance music from Dr. Fresch.
Mr. Brastrom, who was still chatting with guests, seemed pleased with the hype he had created. “I’m a random 22 year old who came to this town and just said ‘Let’s do this’ and everyone just said ‘Yes’,” he said. “And I think it’s crazy in the best way.”
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