Outside The Reef in downtown Los Angeles, a line of blazer-clad, resume-toting men and women circled around building corners. Inside, a flurry of conversation emanated from jobseekers and employers interacting between brightly lit stalls. They were participants in TechFair LA, the biggest tech industry job fair held in Los Angeles on Thursday.
USC was an academic institution partner with the event.
Hoping to tap into an energetic and lucrative industry, 10,000 attendants registered for yesterday’s fair.
The event featured well-established companies as well as start-ups, and it’s these newly formed organizations that Dave Belasco, the co-director of the USC Lloyd Greif Center and an event speaker, said are most engaging.
“Entrepreneurship is a sport, it’s an all-consuming activity,” Belasco said. “It keeps you up at night; you think about whether you can make the payroll, whether you’ll raise enough money to get to the next stepping stone. You have to be comfortable with uncertainty and embrace failure.”
The idea for the fair originated from Jason Nazar, the co-founder and CEO of Comparably and the entrepreneur in residence for the City of Los Angeles. Nazar collaborated with Mayor Eric Garcetti to organize the nine-hour event, which attracted the participation of more than 250 companies, including YouTube, the Los Angeles Times and Tesla.
“The hard skills companies look for are centered around engineering, product design and performance marketing,” Nazar said. “The soft skills are [being] passionate, driven, hard-working.”
Although Silicon Valley has long been the epicenter for tech companies, Los Angeles has evolved its own tech ecosystem in recent years with startups like social media giant Snapchat and dating app Tinder. Both companies boast valuations in the billions.
Josh Brooks, the senior vice president of marketing at game developer Jam City, said that Los Angeles provides a favorable environment for startups to germinate revenue and recognition.
“In the last 10 years, the L.A. tech scene has gone from ‘something’ to ‘something really impressive,’” Brooks said. “That’s happened for a number of reasons: There are great schools like USC and UCLA focused on digital technology, there’s a significant amount of venture capitalist money here and you also have human capital.”
Ben Baysinger shares the view that human capital is abundant in Los Angeles. His company depends on it. He’s president and co-founder of HighRscout, a data science company that helps veterans start careers.
“There’s a huge pool of individuals with a wealth of experience here,” Baysinger said. “But sometimes, it can be difficult for companies to see how applicants could be a fit for them. So we’re hoping to expand networks and make that easier.”
According to Chris DeWolfe, the CEO of Jam City, the journey of envisioning a product and transforming it into reality can be tumultuous for aspiring entrepreneurs.
DeWolfe is familiar with embracing failure. He founded the social networking platform MySpace in 2003. While the website gained momentum for a few years, its popularity diminished greatly following the arrival of Facebook. After bouncing back from MySpace’s decline, DeWolfe went on to found SGN (now known as Jam City) in 2010.
“Passion’s gotta be there,” DeWolfe said. “Timing and work ethic have got to be there, and partnerships with people you trust have got to be there.”
Correction: In earlier edition of this article, Chris DeWolfe was misquoted. The post has been updated with his actual quote. The blastZONE regrets this error.