What I Learned in 2014: Kevin Winston

Over the last couple of weeks, we've featured a number of reflections on the year from movers and shakers in the local high tech community. Our last (belated) one is from Kevin Winston, the founder of Digital LA, the big networking group which helps to connect Silicon Beach through an extensive lineup of events.

What was the most significant event for you or your company this year?

I like events. As founder of Digital LA, I run one to two tech events every week bringing together tech, startups, investors, Hollywood, developers designers, and more. My most significant event of 2014 is definitely Silicon Beach Fest, the multi-day tech community fest, which just keeps getting bigger. Silicon Beach Fest 2014 attracted more than 2,000 attendees, with more than 350 speakers, of which more than one third were women. The agenda expanded to 70 panels and sessions over five days, 25 startups pitching at the Startup Showcase, as well as 10 parties, 7 beach games and even one pool party, all to increase networking opportunities. Demand Media hosted a welcoming opening party at the Vicerory, and Media Temple organized an amazing closing party at Cross Campus with aerialists, DJ, interactive displays - and people are still talking about the delicious food. The themes expanded to include both hot new startups, as well as companies like Cornerstone OnDemand, Belkin, and Telesign which have been part of LA tech for more than a decade. We also added panels reflecting LA's growing tech communities from the West Side to Pasadena, and topics including health tech and space tech, as these industries grow. And we added a Gadget Sandbox to showcase 3D printing, virtual reality, wearables, and other gadget tech that is increasing. While attendees are mostly from LA as SBF is LA's first original community focused fest, we saw more attendees came from San Francisco, New York, London, Asia, and more. We are thankful for continued support from Demand Media, City National Bank, Richardson Patel, Business Wire, Sheppard Mullin, General Assembly, and others. We are looking forward to this year's Silicon Beach Fest 2015 continuing these themes and being bigger, adding more international, biotech, and more.

What was your biggest lesson learned this year?

The biggest lesson learned in 2014 was that all the hard work we've put into LA tech over the past few years has started to pay off big time in the form of IPOs, large funding rounds, valuations, and exits. At the end of 2013, we were excited when there was an investment round of $20M to $30M. With this year's big deals, we've seen two IPOs by True Car and Rubicon Project, and deals have jumped to the $200M to $3B range. Disney's acquisition of Maker Studios for $500M-$1B set the tone, and soon after, Facebook acquired Oculus for $2B, and Apple acquired Beats By Dre for $3B. Multichannel networks have been a shining star, with the Disney - Maker deal paving the way for the Fullscreen acquisition, StyleHaul investment valuation of $200M, and AwesomenessTV investment by Hearst. Beyond entertainment, ad tech is huge with Rubicon's IPO and the TrueX $200M acquisition by Fox. This is just the start. Watch for more in 2015.

What technologies are you looking at in 2015?

As far as technologies, look to more wearables, virtual reality, guesture control, drones, and fingerprint ID. Also looking forward to the community continuing to grow with more events, investment, connections to the city and universities, and of course Silicon Beach Fest 2015 in June.

Kevin Winston is the founder of Digital LA, the largest LA-based networking group of digital professionals, reaching more than 50,000 members weekly via its newsletter, Facebook, Twitter @DigitalLA and LinkedIn groups. Kevin is founder of Silicon Beach Fest, the first and largest tech, startup and entertainment conference in LA, attracting more than 2,000 attendees, and mentioned in the New York Times, Forbes, TechCrunch, LA Times, and other national and local press. Previously, Kevin has worked at Fox Interactive Media, MySpace, Sony Pictures Digital Entertainment, and McKinsey & Company. He was named in a recent Forbes article as one of "12 Entrepreneurs That Are Changing LA Forever." Kevin graduated from Yale University, and has a masters from Harvard University.