Hustlers in Paradise: Silicon Puke and Other Thoughts, This Week in LA, Volume II

Hustlers in Paradise: Silicon Puke and Other Thoughts, This Week in LA, Volume II


Eleven months out of the year I feel schadenfreude as I watch my Facebook friends all points east of here post about miserable weather, snowstorms, tornados and a yearning for spring. But every June we watch the rest of the world jubilantly start the summer and we still wait. Even this year, which I consider a mild version of June Gloom, summer has not started. On the bright side (bad pun intended), it’s another month to hustle before everyone decamps to the beach works from home on Fridays.

The weeks’ events took me a few places, at least figurative places, I didn’t anticipate. On Tuesday, I attended an event hosted by the Social Media Club of LA at WeWork in Hollywood. Before the panel began I met Andrew Good, who serves as a Public and Media Relations officer for USC. I have represented several Trojan entrepreneurs, so naturally I hustled for them. I asked Good whether USC would tweet for its alums if, for example, they were the founders of a new company. USC has 29,549 Twitter followers who presumably span the globe. A nice reach to help out a new company.

Alas, Trojan entrepreneurs will need to find another way to Fight On because Good said the university would not. But don’t worry, Notre Dame (25,281 followers) won’t either. Liz Harter, the Social Media Program Manager at first responded by tweet that Notre Dame “occasionally” published submissions from alumni but via email clarified that it has been a policy not to include alumni business ventures in the class notes section of the Notre Dame Magazine and that this policy now extended to the official social media feeds. She stated that “to do otherwise would turn our various communications channels into advertising networks.”

On the one hand, I appreciate the fine line walked by universities. Who wants to log into Twitter to see that someone from the class of 1972 is now offering tax preparation? On the other hand, why wouldn’t I want to see that? Assuming no specialized expertise was required, I would prefer to hire someone from my own university network because of shared trust.

I followed this subject deep into the rabbit hole because: i) I believe that the development offices of both universities will somehow manage to find any alumni entrepreneur after their big IPO, even though they are not willing to do so much as a tweet today; and ii) I have a suspicion that there’s a slight bias against beginning entrepreneurs who need the university for validation versus alumni receiving promotions in Fortune 500 type positions. I see the latter being mentioned in class notes, probably because they provide validation for the university.

A last note on the subject: Stanford (124,491 followers!) did not respond. Perhaps they are too busy swimming in money from their legendary, entrepreneurial alumni?

The headlines on Wednesday reported to be shocked by the death of James Gandolfini, reportedly from a heart attack. Really? Shock? In the category of perhaps too soon, I immediately felt regret about going to In and Out last Saturday night. My college professor Tom Chiarella had a great write up about Gandolfini for Esquire, except that in being so gracious it ended with a sense of defeat. Like Chiarella, I also experience clerks or cab drivers referring to me with a name (usually Boss, which makes me think of Boss Hogg) and like Chiarella I think wow am I some sort of fat slob? To my fellow Big Guys/fat slobs/Bosses out there, I don’t want to diminish the loss of James Gandolfini or the immense grief his family is feeling, but if this does turn out to be a heart attack, take it as a reminder that we need do our best to make hard choices about our lifestyles.

On Thursday, Michael Carney (who I must credit for the term Silicon Puke) published a plea bemoaning the name Silicon Beach, to which I say, Yes, Yes and No. Yes the name makes me want to puke as well. Yes, the whole name is phony and there will never be another Silicon Valley. No, your proposed name LA Tech does not work. It sounds like the name of a high school for students on the industrial arts track.

Bollywood, as Carney argues, isn’t Hollywood. Further, schools billing themselves as “the Harvard of fill-in-blank” are most certainly not Harvard. We appreciate Janet, but we call Michael the prodigy. There’s Broadway and Off-Broadway. We would all cringe if a child told us that the Beatles sang Daydream Believer.

The essence of this is difficult to put into words, but the late Margaret Thatcher was close when she said, “Being powerful is like being a lady. If you have to tell people you are, you aren’t.”

Which brings us to the point. Slapping the word Silicon in front of something is the Milli Vanilli of economic development nomenclature. It suggests that you will never be the real thing. The companies implicated in the recent PRISM scandal are a Who’s Who of technology companies and to my knowledge not one called Los Angeles home.

For those of us who are disappointed with the name Silicon Beach (and as Carney points out there are many) I see two possible strategies.

The first is patience based on the confidence of our destiny. A metonym must occur authentically and Silicon Beach will wear away. Something will take its place because what happens in Los Angeles intrinsically matters and our city defies easy convention. When we needed water, we bought a whole valley and embarked on the largest public works project in America at the time. When we became the second largest city in America, the diminutive term “Second City” stayed with Chicago. When we briefly closed a freeway, that shit became international news (here, here, and here, and a fourth for good measure). (Also available in France as a t-shirt!) And as it relates to the burgeoning tech scene, this same moxie will cause a name to percolate naturally, much like how the idea of “DTLA” has arrived without the icky feeling of Silicon Beach.

For those of you with no patience, please stop trying to come up with alternative names yourselves and go to the experts in this town on this sort of thing. Have you ever heard of Margaret Hyra, Steveland Judkins, Caryn Johnson, Cornelius Chase, Joan Molinsky or my favorite, Henry John Deutschendorf Jr.? (Otherwise known as Meg Ryan, Stevie Wonder, Whoopie Goldberg, Chevy Chase, Joan Rivers and John Denver.) If all of them (and so many others) can change their name after decades of life, then I suppose a nascent Silicon Beach can too, but I suggest we need a little help from our cross-town friends in the most famous metonym and hype machine of them all.

If the name doesn’t change, what are we supposed to do? Blame it on the rain?

Los Angeles, California.

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    Suzanne Preston

    Good points made. You know, Ball State University publishes a section in their Alumni magazine that’s all about births, deaths and new jobs, listed by the decade of graduation. Many years ago someone who graduated 10 years before me, wrote that he had just taken on a new job at the American Embassy in Vienna, Austria. I contacted him through the alumni association and he and his family were instrumental in making my move to Vienna possible and much easier than it could have been! It’s now 17 years later and I’m still in Vienna. The guy who helped me is back in the States, I believe– or so the last I “heard” via the alumni magazine… :)

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