Los Angeles

Digital Family Reunion Celebrates SoCal Innovation

dfrIt’s become a holiday tradition I look forward to each year. Co-hosting the Digital Family Reunion reconnects me with friends and colleagues from the dot-com era and opens new doors too. More importantly, when we gather several hundred of Southern California’s most influential digital media, technology and entertainment leaders on Wednesday, we will recognize the connectedness of our community and celebrate those who inspire us with their success.

Part of the ritual is to bestow the Outstanding Achievement Honor on one person whose leadership, technical innovation and business acumen has made a significant impact on Southern California’s digital media community. This year, we will honor William Quigley, managing director at Clearstone Venture Partners. Additionally, Mark Turk and Stephen Hughes of Silicon Valley Bank will each receive the inaugural Industry Catalyst Honor.

William Quigley joined Clearstone Venture Partners more than 10 years ago, helping launch many successful companies, like MP3.com, Tickets.com, and Emusic. His current portfolio reflects his passion and belief in the digital media industry with companies like AOptix, SoonR, Meru Networks and Novariant. Prior to Clearstone Venture Partners, Quigley worked at The Walt Disney Company for more than seven years in a variety of business planning and operational roles. William received his MBA with distinction from Harvard Business School, and holds a BS in Accounting with Honors from the University of Southern California. He is also a CPA and a Kauffman Fellow.

Mark Turk, Managing Director, and Stephen Hughes, Senior Relationship Manager, of Silicon Valley Bank, lead the Los Angeles Corporate Finance Department focused on the banking and growth needs of early and late stage technology companies. Together, Turk and Hughes have completed more than $1 billion in debt financing to more than 250 different Los Angeles-based technology companies in the past five years.

Mark Turk is a managing director at Silicon Valley Bank and he manages the SoCal Corporate Finance team. Prior to joining Silicon Valley Bank in 2000, Turk was chief credit officer at Pacific Century Bank, a $1.3 billion business bank headquartered in Los Angeles and was also a vice president at Wells Fargo Bank and Bank of America. Turk earned a bachelor’s degree from Purdue University and an MBA from UCLA’s Anderson Graduate School of Management. He is currently a board member of the Los Angeles Venture Association.

Stephen Hughes leads Silicon Valley Bank’s (SFV) Early Stage team in Los Angeles. The Early Stage team focuses on the banking needs of technology, life science, and clean-tech companies from start-up through mature companies with revenues of $75 million or more. Prior to joining SVB, Hughes served as Founder and CFO of a venture-backed software company (How2TV) and Head of Royal Bank of Canada’s US Technology Banking Group. He earned both his MBA and an Honors BA in Business Administration from the Ivey Business School in Canada.

The Digital Family Reunion will be held at Wokcano restaurant in Santa Monica from 6-10 p.m. on Wednesday, December 8, 2010. The event is sponsored by: Geico, Namesake.com, Catalonian Trade and Investment Agency, City Sourced, SoCalTECH.com, Social Radius, Digital Media Wire and WITI. Tickets to the event are available at http://www.digitalfamilyinc.com/dfr/2010/.

Digital Family serves to unify the Southern California technology and business communities by convening 30+ regional trade groups which reflect the digital spectrum and interweave them into one memorable night celebrating everyone’s connectedness and honoring those who’ve made major contributions to the industry. Selected by members of the Digital Family community, the Outstanding Achievement and Industry Catalyst Honors recognize those exceptional individuals whose achievements have impacted our local economy, advanced our community and inspired our collective vision for what is possible in the greater technology and business communities.

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Bocce Gets Hip in West LA

bocceblitz1Who knew Beach Bocce was so cool? Apparently it’s the new thing to do in Los Angeles these days, and will catch a big wave on October 2 as Bocce Blitzkrieg comes to the Santa Monica Pier for a great cause. I’ve been volunteering with communication efforts for the Room to Read chapter in LA. If you’re interested, this will be a fun way to learn more about RTR and meet a diverse group of individuals who support its global mission to support literacy and equality in education in the developing world. I’ve posted the press release below for LA chapter members (or anyone else) to help spread the word.  

 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Media Contact: Allison Wilson 213-925-9633

Event Contact: Dominic Bernacchi, 310-664-4530

BOCCE BLITZKRIEG STORMS SANTA MONICA PIER WITH LOS ANGELES’ FIRST BEACH BOCCE BALL TOURNAMENT TO BENEFIT ROOM TO READ

Registration is now open, with all ages and skill levels invited to experience bocce while making a direct impact on literacy in the developing world.

Santa Monica, Calif. (September 16, 2010) – Los Angeles’ first-ever Beach Bocce Ball Tournament will hit the sand on Saturday, October 2, with all proceeds to benefit Room to Read and its fight for global literacy and gender equality in education.

 when Los Angeles’ first-ever Beach Bocce Ball Tournament comes to the Santa Monica Pier on Saturday, October 2. All proceeds will benefit Room to Read and its fight for global literacy and gender equality in education.  The all-day event is open to the public and will begin at 9 a.m. in the sand near the northern corner of Santa Monica Pier parking lot. Registration is now open, with entry categories for men, women and couples teams. Registration is $70 for teams of two.  The tournament will feature early round robin play funneling into brackets that will result in one team reigning as Beach Bocce Champions in each division. Trophies and prizes will be awarded to each and every bocce master.

Beach Bocce has been gaining in popularity in recent years, and can be enjoyed by competitors of all ages and all walks of life. The game is an adapted form of the traditional Italian ball game, played on the sand.

There will be just as much action off the sand, with games of skill open to everyone including Blindfolded Bocce, The Awesomely Accurate and the infamous Ball Handling competition. The Beach Bocce Blitzkrieg will also include special appearances by KCRW DJ Dan Wilcox and The Bocce King, “Giuseppe Napoli” as well as some of LA’s finest food trucks and an oasis from the heat of the competition provided in the Bud Light Beer Garden.

To register or make a donation to Room to Read in the name of Bocce Blitzkrieg, please visit http://www.bocceblitzkrieg.com.

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About Room to Read

Room to Read is an innovative nonprofit leader dedicated to promoting and enabling global education. Founded in 2000, the organization is based on the belief that education is crucial to breaking the cycle of poverty in the developing world. Since then, the organization has supported over three million children by providing better access to higher-quality educational opportunities. Room to Read has catalyzed the construction of more than 700 schools, established 7,000 bilingual libraries with 5 million books, and continues to support the education of nearly 7,000 girls. Room to Read is providing opportunities that change children’s lives and communities throughout Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Laos, Nepal, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Vietnam and Zambia. By 2010, Room to Read hopes to improve literacy for 5 million children by establishing over 10,000 libraries and distributing close to 9 million children’s books. For more information visit our website at www.roomtoread.org.

About Room to Read Los Angeles Chapter

Room to Read chapters are comprised of dedicated individuals who have made a long-term volunteer commitment to promoting Room to Read within their networks and communities. Since 2006, the chapters have collectively helped source over one third of Room to Read’s operating budget and they have an equally ambitious goal for 2009. Currently Room to Read has 39 chapters in the U.S., Asia, Europe and Australia. Room to Read’s Los Angeles Chapter was launched in 2008 and to date has raised more than $250,000 toward Room to Read’s goal of reaching 5 million children by 2010.

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Fixing Advertising Los Angeles | July 2010

CaptureRarely does a panel discussion achieve an optimal mix of education, entertainment and controversy the way the Fixing Advertising session did on Monday night in Los Angeles. The education series, sponsored by Dapper, has now made its way to every major U.S. media market in an effort to not only make sense of the fragmented display advertising landscape, but to actually do something about it. Bravo!

Credit for the effective cadence and tone of the session goes to Pete Kim, General Manager of Yahoo! SmartAds, who clearly being qualified to serve on the panel himself had the audience on the edge of their seats just by knowing just when to dial up and down the intensity. He began by asking the audience what level of discussion they wanted to hear, which was promptly met with shouts of “deep dive” and “hard core!” And the panel did not disappoint. 

So what is being done to “fix” advertising? Kim began the conversation by asking the panel to articulate what’s broken — and everyone had an opinion about given the theme of the evening. 

According to Zack Coelius of Triggit, advertising is broken because it’s fragmented. It’s broken when it costs 20 to 30 percent of the media budget just to plan, buy and manage the process, especially when you don’t know where your ads are going and when you don’t have control over the buy.

Frank Adante of Rubicon echoed his sentiment from the publisher perspective, explaining how the sell side is fragmented too. Finding the money is difficult, he says, when an estimated two million advertisers are buying from one thousand sources and at least 500 sales teams worldwide. Not to mention the difficulties presented by multiple billing, collections, reporting systems. The solution, he suggests, is a central platform for selling and the  need for automation.

According to Jon Aizen of Dapper, people enjoy the web and get great value, but they don’t like display ads, which cover 10-20% of the visual real estate. After all, banners haven’t changed much since 1994. Advertisers actually have sometthing people want, but the advertising isn’t reflective of their offering, which Dapper hopes to change by matching visitors to relevant content.

Amy Lehman of United Online made a compelling case for how expensive it is to manage campaign reporting, metrics and attribution and how insane it is that we have not dealt with this as an industry already. Furthermore, she said, the industry is “beyond commodotized” and we make enable fragmentation which only makes it harder on ourselves. Ultimately, according to Lehman, most facets of the fragmented ecosystem (analytics, rich media, creative optimization, ad verification, etc.) belong resident in the ad server. 

As automation of these processes takes hold, will jobs actually be eliminated? Probably not, since machines can’t do creative or strategy, but more junior level roles centered around manually running reports and  managing pivot tables may evaborate, or at least their jobs will change, as the industry continues its rapid trend toward automation. According to Adante, automation is partly the cause of the fragmentation, referencing how a huge SEM/SEO services industry was built upon the backs of the major search engines.

Jon Aizen spoke about page saturation, consumer immunity (banner blindness). Unlike how a half page ad in print is half the cost of a full page, more ads on the page online are sold at the same rate, thus creating banner blindness. In Aizen’s view, sometimes it is more prudent to know when not to serve an ad. He also claims display units are too small and not intrusive enough. After all, when was the last time a banner ad made you laugh or cry?

The days of arbitrage models where middlemen add no value are over. If Terrence Kawaja’s now infamous GCA Savvian fragmentation slide is an indicator of some future consolidation, the Kim asks “by whom?” According to Coelius, “it’s going to be a going out of business process, not a buying process.” For those vendors who help to add insight and extract real value for advertisers, however, the outcome may certainly be acquisition by those larger media players and agencies who must continue acquiring such technology to compete long term.

Partly justifying the need for so much data and analytics is how much more multi-dimensional and dynamic display is compared to search. The mere fact that campaigns are distributed among thousands of sites in and of itself is complex. Then add in the critical creative component, which according to Michael Baker, a recent DataXu study found was the single most important factor in driving conversions, followed by consumer and context.

Being hosted at The Rubicon Project, Adante diligently represented the voice of publishers, whose role in all of this cannot be overlooked. According to some, a publisher backlash related to how networks use their data is looming, but there shouldn’t be any at all if publishers are simply paid for each impression based on what it is worth to the advertiser, which is what DSPs and sophisticated ad networks are set up to do.

Best quotes of the evening:

“We’re trying to kill online advertising and replace it with content.” – Jon Aizen

“Arbitrage just needs to die.” –  Zach Coelius

 “These little buy and sell side technologies are like plaque in the teeth of Google.” – Michael Baker

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From left to right: Amy Lehman, SVP Advertising, United Online; Zach Coelius, Founder & CEO, Triggit; Frank Addante, Founder & CEO, The Rubicon Project; Jon Aizen, COO & Co-Founder, Dapper; Peter Kim, General Manager of Yahoo! SmartAds; Michael Baker, CEO, DataXu, James Beriker, CEO, Dapper.

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Venture Capital Investment Up in Q2

pwc logoAccording to a report from PriceWaterhouseCoopers and the National Venture Capital Association, based on data from Thomson Reuters, venture capitalists funneled $6.5 billion into 906 startups in Q2, an increase of 53 percent over the same period in 2009. The software industry led the way with 229 rounds of funding, but clean tech led financing with $1.5 billion going into 71 deals. Internet-specific companies received $879 million via 212 deals in the quarter. TechCrunch has a good graphic of funding by category and quarter-over-quarter trends.

What does all this mean for the Southern California technology sector? According to SoCalTech.com, we’re tracking second only to Silicon Valley in year-to-date funding, with $857 million going into 91 investments in Q2, nearly double the $451 million put into 69 deals in Q2/2009. Among the largest Southern California firms receiving funding were Miles Electric Vehicles and Tri Alpha Energy. Redpoint Ventures and Steamboat Ventures were the most active Southern California firms involved in transations nationally.

All in all, it sounds like positive signs for the economic recovery, innovations in technology and the growth of Southern California’s software, clean tech and Internet industries.

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What’s Your Superhero Power?

MOTM logLast night I had the pleasure of dining with 18 fascinating technologists and entrepreneurs, reminding me again of the depth and diversity of the talent pool in Los Angeles and the emergence of our region as a technology center for the world. We were gathered for a “vision-casting” session for MOTM (Meeting of the Minds), a salon made popular over the past two years by its unique format and the ability of its thoughtful founders, Kurt Daradics and Baron Miller, to lead intimate discussions of well-curated groups of individuals gathered around important industry issues of the day.

The hallmarks of MOTM networking events are their spontaneity, unscripted introductions by the hosts of each of the 40 or so invited guests and a speakers whose role is equal parts teacher and moderator — all buttressed by networking made richer by the contextual relevance of the participants.

Last night was different. Gathered around a large dinner table, our commonality was not around an industry sector, but rather our desire to help the founders chart a course for the group in light of two key developments: 1) MOTM is expanding beyond Westlake Village to include events  in Santa Barbara, Los Angeles and Orange County; and 2) MOTM is partnering with Ben Kuo’s socalTECH.com, bringing a live events component to the venture-focused newsletter and introducing the local financial community to MOTM’s mostly technology and entrepreneurial set.

As often is the case at MOTM, I was impressed by each of the guests in their own right — CIOs, gamers, musicians, programmers, content developers, bloggers, an executive coach, a television personality — and the potential not just of those assembled, but what’s possible if the power of all MOTM’s participants were to be harnessed, either for commerce or for good.

About halfway through introductions, and as an offshoot of a Marvel/Disney discussion, Kurt began asking each person to state their “Superhero power,” obviously intending to call attention to something special about each of his guests. While some were more comfortable joking about fictional powers like X-ray vision and the ability to breathe under water, more thoughtful answers included “guitar shredder” and “social chameleon.”  

Although not called upon to answer this question, my faux answer would have been the transformative Wonder Twins powers my sister and have enjoyed joking about since childhood. My more serious answer would have been “master networker,” for the enjoyment I receive from meeting new people and my desire to connect those who haven’t met yet in order to help each other advance their own agendas.

So, what’s your Superhero Power?

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