A tech flex from Los Angeles
LOS ANGELES – On Saturday night, over 250 people crowded into a modern mid-century mansion in the Hollywood Hills for a party at the end of LA Tech Week, a six-day series of events across town.
The party was hosted by House.ai, an entrepreneurial collective, and Mirra, a telemedicine start-up. “We start businesses, we invest and we celebrate,” said Robbie Figueroa, 27, one of the founders of House.ai.
The first wave of guests arrived shortly before sunset. A DJ played soft EDM music by the pool all evening. Dozens of boxes of Domino’s pizza, a packed cooler with Dezo coconut water, and a Dippin ‘Dots ice machine were ready to freshen up the participants.
And who were these participants? “It’s nerds, including me, who have been constipated and let loose at home for the past six months,” said Mr. Figueroa. “Everyone relates to one another with their Twitter handles.”
Nikil Viswanathan, a founder of Alchemy, a blockchain developer platform that recently raised $ 80 million, showed up in a sailor suit. (He attended a theme party afterwards.) Austyn JR Brown, a TikTok star and card game developer with nearly five million followers, and Eric Wei, a founder of Karat, a credit card for influencers, also attended.
There were also more traditional Hollywood types, including a Netflix executive and Arturo Castro, who appeared on Narcos and Broad City. Employees from Snapchat, TikTok and YouTube also got involved.
Los Angeles has long had a thriving technology industry. TikTok and Snapchat are headquartered in town, and many tech executives, including Elon Musk, call them home. But more recently, Gen Z and millennial tech executives have emerged building hyped startups like Dispo, Poparazzi, PearPop, and more.
Many moved to town and started their businesses during the pandemic, and LA Tech Week was their first chance to meet in person.
It’s not surprising that the series of events came together on Twitter, considering who makes the scene. Kyle Brastrom, 22, an entrepreneur and founder of Dive Chat, a Generation Z chat platform, moved to town in May. This month he tweeted, “We’re having a dinner in LA this Wednesday for founders, investors, and start-up people. Comment or DM if you want to join or tag someone you think you shouldn’t miss. “
“Literally 300 people answered me,” said Mr. Brastrom, “and I think people in Los Angeles really want to go out. That triggered everything. “
He recruited two of his roommates – Michelle Fang, 22, and Ami Yoshimura, 19 – to be the organizers. The series was originally scheduled for May, but organizers postponed the launch date to June 14, the week Los Angeles fully reopened. A week of official and unofficial events – many of which were only announced at the last minute – led to the closing party on Saturday night.
“It was all Gen Z-style and embraced the chaos of the situation,” Brastrom said.
For seven hours on Saturday, guests in colorful tops and streetwear cycled in and out of the house. A woman had made a dress out of a garbage bag. There wasn’t a single Patagonia vest in sight.
The organizers had limited the number of participants, but people tried to get in touch by the time the party started. Due to the mixed-age audience, there were bracelets for those over the age of 21.
While the tech world in Silicon Valley is rooted in power and exclusivity, the Los Angeles tech scene is more about creativity and openness. The event embodied a shared enthusiasm among young people in Los Angeles. At the party were TikTok stars, start-up founders, direct-to-consumer marketers, songwriters, engineers, college students, live streamers and artists in front of a sparkling view of the city.
“If you believe the creator economy is the future of consumer technology, there is no better city than LA to be the epicenter of that energy and dynamism,” said Jeff Morris Jr., founder and managing partner of Chapter One Ventures.
Jasmine Johnson, 24, founder of Knowhere, a travel planning app, said the event brought her to a different side of tech than she was used to, including meeting TikTok creators. “In some other tech communities, people come from more homogeneous backgrounds, like, ‘Oh, we all went to business school together,’ or went to certain Ivys and private schools,” she said. “It’s an interesting and cool mix of people from different backgrounds.”
Caitlyn Lubas, 22, a travel content creator, said Los Angeles has “an entirely different energy that I really think was captured by the Tech Week events.”
Others also seemed grateful for the sense of community. Cat Orman, 22, founder of a drone delivery company, moved to the city during the quarantine and was looking forward to getting in touch again. “Now that we get out of this, it’s nice that everyone is aware that they are building a community,” she said. “The energy is very good, it doesn’t feel conscious or overly networked.”
Chris Grant, 29, a product designer who arrived at the party around 9, said he felt like “all of the LA technology” was there. “Every moment I walk around I meet friends from different circles,” he said. “It’s like, wow, you’re here too? Sick! “Upstairs, some founders set up their start-ups in the house’s plush cinema, a somewhat quiet room isolated from the dance party breaking out below.
Snakes arrived minutes later. The guests took turns holding the five large reptiles for photos and TikTok videos. Casey Adams, a 20-year-old entrepreneur, had a snake wrapped around his neck when he kissed her on the head. Mr Figueroa said he met the snake handlers at another party and asked them to come.
At any given time, crowds of people had pulled out their phones and exchanged Instagram handles. “People work together and want to come together,” said Brastrom. “That’s what I love about this city, people lead through collaboration rather than competition.” Mr. Brastrom has already founded an event 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 start-up writers collective. “This is not an island. The people here are not looking for the next interesting thing, they are the next interesting thing. “
Dro Hambarchian, 18, an aspiring student at UCLA who is developing a movie recommendation app called Script, came with two school friends, Ethan Keshishian, 20, and Arek Der-Sarkissian, 19, founder of Unicorner, a start-up newsletter. “LA Tech Week embodies LA and how diverse it is,” said Hambarchian. “I am a first generation American and have met other immigrants. It’s refreshing. “
Katia Ameri, the Mirra founder, who hails from Los Angeles, said she was waiting for the moment when the Los Angeles tech ecosystem could rival the Bay Area, and now is the right time. “We got isolated from each other,” said Ms. Ameri, 29. “Now we’re all vaccinated and come out and see who is here.”
At 1am the party had started to relax. Guests waited at the gate of the house, vying for the billowing Ubers. Some who were unable to get a lift saw “The Conjuring” in the cinema of the house. Ms. Ameri took on DJ duties and played dance music from Dr. Fresch.
Mr. Brastrom, who was still chatting with guests, seemed pleased with the hype he’d 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 that’s crazy in the best sense of the word.”