We spoke with Kevin Winston, the organizer of Silicon Beach Fest (www.siliconbeachfest.com), which is currently going on in Santa Monica and runs through Saturday, about the energy here in Southern California, as well as a little bit about what's going on with the event this year. Kevin is also well known as the organizer of the Digital LA networking group (digitalla.net), which hosts dozens and dozens of events in Silicon Beach every year (Editor's note: socalTECH.com is a media sponsor of the event).
What's new with Silicon Beach Fest this year?
Kevin Winston: Silicon Beach fest is growing every year. We have a couple of themes this year. First of all, we have many more people coming from other parts of LA, as well as from out of the area, from the rest of California, the rest of the country, and even from out of the country, just to see what is going on here. The second thing we have going on, is we're expanding beyond the cool, hot social apps, which we still have lots of, but to other companies in other areas. For example, we had a keynote from Patrick Soon-Shiong, who talked about his new health incubator, and Frank Addante, at Rubicon Project, talking his ad-tech services. We have Chet Pipkin, talking about Belkin. We're showing people that we have the cool media-entertainment stuff, which is cool and great, and we love that. But, we also have this other stuff too. We're revealing our broad depth of technology, something we've actually always had. The third thing, is it's not just Santa Monica and Venice. While we happen to be located here, we have panels throughout today and tomorrow, talking about where in LA should I build my startup -- we have people from Hollywood, Pasadena, USC, talking about those neighborhoods. It's really about revealing parts of Silicon Beach that haven't discovered yet, and talking about that.
What is the biggest thing you've learned about the startup business from running these conferences?
Kevin Winston: You've got to have passion. People have a great idea, and they just do it. The startups that do well, is you have to have passion, and be willing to get it done. The second theme is community. Everyone when they first come here is trying to figure that out. We have a number of speakers who have figured things out, people like Frank who have done this and are now willing to help out and give others some advice. It's just bringing the community together, which is the point of the festival.
Speaking of community, you've been doing this for a few years. What drives you to organize all of your events?
Kevin Winston: I love to connect people together. I get excited when people connect, and I really get excited when someone gets a job referral, or someone finds a designer. There's something in me that gets excited when people connect and good things happen. I view that my goal in the community is all about connecting people. In fact, this conference connects people who might not have met, it might connect a designer with a bizdev person with a developer. It might connect someone with a person from San Francisco they might not have had a chance to meet. It's all about connecting people and making things happen.
Why are connections important for them?
Kevin Winston: You never know when someone you met can help you out, or if you can help someone else out. It goes both ways. In fact, the best connections are the ones that go both ways.
Finally, what are some of the new things at the conference this year?
Kevin Winston: We've added a women's track. We have four or five panels which are 100 percent women speakers and moderators. Women are very strong in the tech scene here. Someone tweeted to me yetserday that she counted the speakers in the program, and have something like 100 women speakers and 200 male, which is 33 percent of the speakers. That's pretty darn good. Most technology conferences are lucky if they even have ten percent. There are a lot of women entrepreneurs and VC. We also have a new gadget sandbox. We've taken over a storefront, which is a popup location. We'll be featuring things like wearable technology, virtual reality, 3D printing, and other technology. All of those are very big, and we wanted a place to show that off. The third thing we have is a startup showcase. We have 25 startups who will be pitching for a chance at a big cash prize.