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Reflections on 2016: Kevin Winston, Digital LA

This holiday season, we are again sharing the reflections on 2016 from Southern California's technology ecosystem. This morning, we have Kevin Winston of Digital LA (www.digitalla.net), the organization which is LA's largest digital networking group and which is behind the Silicon Beach Fest, the first and largest tech, startup and entertainment conference in LA. You'll be able to see all the many 2016 reflections here as they are posted.

What's was biggest news from you or your‏ firm this year?

Kevin Winston: Digital LA's biggest news of 2016 was celebrating our fifth annual Silicon Beach Fest, with more than 2,000 attendees at the Marina del Rey Hotel. It's amazing how much LA tech has grown since we first started Silicon Beach Fest five years ago. When we first started in 2012, panel programming focused on how to fund your startup, find a CTO, etc. This year's fest has expanded to included panels on how to grow your startup internationally, maintain your company culture, manage developers in multiple countries, and reach mainstream audiences using TV advertising combined with digital. Fashion tech company JustFab announced its new name TechStyle Fashion Group, reflecting its growth to hundreds of employees, and new business lines. Icon Media Direct described how it helped TrueCar use TV ads plus digital to reach mainstream audiences and increase revenue. The fest has grown with the community. Attendees really enjoyed the quality panel discussions, and openness and friendliness of meeting others in LA, and recent newcomers to LA. Someone just thanked me last night, saying he got two clients at Silicon Beach Fest and was able to help several others.

To recognize Silicon Beach Fest's five year anniversary of helping grow and connect the LA tech community, we were honored to receive a Certificate of Recognition from LA Mayor Eric Garcetti. Also, the week of Silicon Beach Fest, I also was honored to be included in the inaugural 500 Most Influential People in Los Angeles listing by LA Business Journal. It was great to see two dozen other tech leaders, startup CEOs, and VCs recognized in the listing, which encompasses all LA industries, not just tech. It was amusing and humbling to find my name in the alphabetical listing, appearing after Oprah Winfrey and before Reese Witherspoon.

What's the biggest lesson you learned this year?

Kevin Winston: The biggest lesson learned is that LA tech is entering its second phase. In the first phase of many industries, you have an explosion of new ideas and companies. In the film industry in the 20s to 40s, there were lots of movie companies churning out Hollywood films. Similarly, the LA tech scene had had hundreds of startups pop up over the past 5 years. Now, we seem to be entering the second phase where there's a maturing. Some companies run out of money and fold, like Vrideo. Some are acquired, like Dollar Shave Club for $1B, or start acquiring, like Engage:BDR and SharkReach. Some grow nationally and internationally, and get huge valuations like Snapchat, and some IPO. It will be fun to see what's next over the next few years.

What's your favorite technology gadget, device, or innovation you ran across this year?

Kevin Winston: Virtual Reality is my favorite innovation of 2016. LA is a perfect hub for virtual reality, where tech hardware companies, visual effects companies, filmmakers, and Hollywood studios have all increased their interest and experimentation with VR as a new immersive way to tell stories. This year, Disney Accelerator graduated Jaunt VR at its demo day at the Dinsey lot. This year, VRLA's Summer and Fall Expo expanded to larger halls at the Convention Center. This year, we added a VR track at Silicon Beach Fest. This year, the VR on the Lot conference featured VR and VFX companies and Hollywood filmmakers on the Paramount Lot. I was waiting to try a VR demo, when director Bryan Singer came in to try it too. This year, at the Streamys Awards recognizing influencers and content creators in Beverly Hills, creator Matthew Patrick won the first VR 360 award, for his GameLabs videos, produced with help from Specular Theory VR company, which has spoken at several of our events. This year, more VR speakers from LA started to speak nationally and internationally at conferences. This year, I organized the first VR panel at the Cannes Film Festival - American Pavilion, with VR speakers from LA, Oculus, and around the world. As a bonus, right after our VR panel, Carrie Fisher was scheduled to speak about her film at Cannes. Luckily got a selfie with Princess Leia :)

Finally, what do you think will have the biggest impact on the technology industry in 2017?

Skip this one, I think I wrote too much already!


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