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Efren Toscano, the founder and CEO of TechZulu (www.techzulu.com), is charismatic yet shy, with mussed hair and an understated demeanor. He is also ubiquitous. Seeing the TechZulu crew lugging and setting up their equipment through the hallways and backstages of auditoriums has come to be a staple of L.A. tech events.
Starting his odyssey in the realm of conferences in order to network for his former parent company Medmania, Toscano presciently sensed a need for someone to chronicle Los Angeles’ Web-industry events. A year ago last November, Toscano, armed with an idea and a few video cameras, decided to build a start-up with the goal of becoming the industry’s multimedia hub. He financed his dream with a combination of “credit cards, paychecks, everything” and came up with the hybrid name TechZulu: “Tech because we cover tech, and Zulu because L.A. is very dispersed and junglelike, and there was no one place where people could come and find out what’s happening.”
With its event current live-streams bringing more than 200,000 uniques to his site each time out, TechZulu is blowing up. “It’s just crazy,” Toscano says with awe. With 20 to 30 page views per visitor and 20 to 30 minutes spent on the site per visitor, Toscano and crew are poised to grow. There’s even talk of a deal with Microsoft. But first, there’s still hard work to do.
Toscano is based in Santa Ana but TechZulu travels from Santa Monica and Altadena to Orange County and San Diego. “If you’re willing to be successful, it doesn’t really matter where you live, with all this new technology,” Toscano says. “And because of TechZulu, I’ve met a lot of people.”
In fact, it was Toscano who introduced the founders of a start-up called GoGreenSolar to Twiistup, Los Angeles’ biggest start-up showcase. “They applied and got in!” he says.
TechZulu is working virtually, looking at potential office space while being based out of correspondent’s Amanda Coolong’s apartment. What Toscano likes the most about the L.A. tech scene is that “everyone has been amazingly nice and willing to bring people in; we were just accepted by everyone because everyone wanted to get exposed.”
Pushing toward the service-provider model (as opposed to “if you build it, they will come”), the TechZulu “we” is Toscano, Coolong, Christopher Darbro, Geoffrey Emery, Joe Said, Chris Pogue, Alex Reich, Melani Gordon, Damien Howley, Martine Beerman, Josh Highland, John Rays, Christina Cinque, and the eminent scene photographer Mark Salburry.
After once having had to jump through hoops for press passes, Toscano no longer has to bootstrap with the shoestring budget of yore — two years back. It wasn’t so long ago that when the company didn’t have enough money to have shirts made, they “just went out and bought plain black and red shirts, and went to Michaels and bought iron-on letters.”
And so another L.A. new-media success story was born.