Since the arrival of Google in Venice last year, westside beach communities like Santa Monica, Playa Vista and others have seen an influx of tech companies, startups, investors and software businesses of all kinds burst into the neighborhood now dubbed "Silicon Beach."
As they scramble to get a piece of what many think will be the next big boomtown, companies are snatching up all the commercial real estate they can find. But this is L.A. and appearances mean everything.
LA Weekly explains what a handful of companies' choices in office buildings -- essentially their outward projection to the world -- says about their style in general.
9. Launchpad LA: Ivy Moneybags
If you're a startup and you get in through the doors of Launchpad LA, half of your trek to becoming a new technology entrepreneur has been accomplished. Launchpad is an accelerator -- that's what folks used to call an investor. But today in Silicon Beach, the seed money business looks very different than it did 30 years ago in Northern California. Launchpad's initial deals usually include something like a $50,000 investment for a startup and a free loft space in which to work in their building on 2nd street in Santa Monica.
Needless to say, the building is buzzing with creative types and deal makers. Hidden from the street (the office is the taller, two story portion in the back with its windows peeping out in the image above), the interior of Launchpad LA features lounge-y roof decks, ocean views, and pristine and spacious common areas with really nice furniture.
8. Silver Pictures at the Venice Post Office: The Old Guard
Joel Silver, movie producer and CEO of Silver Pictures, is currently renovating the historic former Post Office in Venice's heart at the turnaround just east of the arches on Pacific avenue. The building will soon house Silver Picture's offices, and they're spending a good load of cash to update the 73-year-old building building to meet new technology requirements.
But Silver has emphatically promised to keep the historic integrity of the building intact. He and his design team seem intently serious about all aspects of the renovation, down to the the cleaning and restoration work being done on Edward Biberman's WPA "Story of Venice" mural located there. Social Media used to mean going to see a movie in a theater. Silver Pictures remembers that, and is simultaneously positioning itself to do business next door to the newbies.
7. Grub With Us: Work, Live, Eat
In the hip neighborhood just south of Venice boulevard, along Abbot Kinney Boulevard, one finds warehouses, motorcycle shops, French cafes and bungalows nuzzling together on a zig zag street pattern that keeps itself a little more isolated than other parts of Silicon Beach. Residing at the center of this all is a newish addition to the neighborhood, the lofts at Victoria Avenue, which house the dating-meets-restaurant-hopping social media site GrubWithUs.com.
The blocky and bright-colored live work lofts are just blocks from the beach, and they border the much-sleepier Marina del Rey. The location points to GrubWithUs's distinguished tastes and drive for fun, but the quiet residential block and homey feel hint that they might just want to find someone nice and settle down.
Up next: TheWrap.com
6. TheWrap.com: Backlot at the Beach
The movie industry website TheWrap.com is located in a truly Hollywood-style building that looks like it could be on a backlot somewhere off Melrose, but instead sits on the swanky corner of National Boulevard and Barrington Avenue in Mar Vista. In a neighborhood booming with boutiques, juice bars and beautiful, fit moms with expensive strollers, TheWrap's location is about as laid back and sunny as they get in this Silicon Beach-adjacent locale.
TheWrap.com runs a tight, scrappy ship, in this strip mall that poses as a faux colonial estate with copper-clad tower, brick cladding, even real, alive moss on the roof - and a Starbucks downstairs. A set-up like this is quintessentially L.A.
5. Amplify: The Cool Kids
Amplify has it all. Graffiti on the side of its building, parties in the parking lot and money to give away. Like Launchpad LA, Amplify is also an accelerator, investing seed money in new startups and renting out space to smaller businesses it feels will foster collaborative working situations. Just across from Silver's future production studios, Amplify's bigwigs have said they're excited about the "convergence of tech and entertainment."
The Amplify building, by L.A. architect Steven Ehrlich, is a collection of stacking volumes all tied together by a sinewy steel stairwell on the north side, and anchored on the corner by a round storefront. The now-historic building echoes back to a Venice Beach of the 80s when design was booming and postmodern architecture still offered excitement, freshness, optimism and fun. Amplify seems to be reveling in something like that all over again.
4. HitFix.com & MetaCritic.com Entertainment News: The Remote Location
HitFix.com, MetaCritic.com and countless other online publications and tech startups in Silicon Beach (and everywhere else in the world for that matter) have no brick and mortar address. Instead, their physical address is actually the UPS store on Wilshire boulevard in Santa Monica.
Even Steve Jobs needed a garage, but that's not the case for developers anymore. The sea change working its way through the broader real estate world is this: entrepreneurs can work from home or a Starbucks. An actual address is meaningless for some, and until overhead, meetings and employees become issues, the street presence can be put off, or set up in a strip mall as an afterthought. With a Santa Monica address, at least they're on the map. Ironically, the UPS store here is situated just a Subway sandwich shop away from a closed and abandoned U.S. Post Office location.
Up next: Goodreads
3. Goodreads: The Bookish Type
Unintentionally or not, this building -- on a quiet, sunny residential street in the Santa Monica area -- perfectly emulates the dowdy librarian demographic Goodreads.com might be going for. It also kind of looks like a library.
On the other hand, we don't want to judge a book only by its cover. Goodreads is the social media sleeper hit of the internet and app world. Ranked the 10th-largest social media network with as many as 7,000,000 members, Goodreads is the place where bookworms recommend books, log books they're reading, track what others have read and make wish lists for future reads.
The locale in Silicon Beach is efficient, reserved and a little bit shy hiding behind those magnolia trees, but, obviously, there are some hot-n-heavy techy types inside this brick-clad bore that're burning up the social media world.
2. Zambezi: The Jack of All Trades
At Westminster & Riviera Aves. in Venice, just steps away from Abbot Kinney in one direction and the beach in the other, the Zambezi crew does it all -- advertising, branding, surfing, partying on the deck upstairs -- and their building is definitely a little bit of everything too. Their clients range from non-profits, to the Lakers, to Vitamin Water. Green, grey and blue rotundas, decks, window boxes, glass block facades, Christmas lights, hanging plants, a shower -- it's a bit of an architectural mess but it's a good indication of the creative buzz that's going on inside.
1. Google: The Great and Powerful All Seeing Gods
Google is by far the best known of the companies leading the Silicon Beach boom, so it's only right that they're in a building by the best known architect in the city (and the world, for that matter) -- Frank Gehry. (With contributions from Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen.) It's uncanny how well the building suits Google (even though it was originally built for the ad agency Chiat/Day). Seriously. A building that looks like a pair of binoculars for a company that is a search engine -- it's a genius match.
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But there's more to the serendipitous union than just a corny coincidence. The three-building complex straddles Venice and Santa Monica at the fulcrum of Rose Avenue. The location is central to Silicon Beach even as its geography expands and changes, and the building is an iconic figurehead with an unmistakable graphic quality.