For the past decade, the tech industry in Los Angeles has generally gravitated to the west side of town, specifically to an area popularly known as "Silicon Beach", consisting of coastal communities like Venice, Santa Monica and Playa Vista. However, in just the last few years, this tech migration to the beach has begun to change course and head to downtown L.A., taking advantage of the lower real estate prices and untapped resources, not to mention a hip urban "vibe" that appeals to the younger millennial generation.
Credit for this change goes partially to the efforts of the City of Los Angeles government and the mayor's office which has put an emphasis on building appealing new high-rise housing units downtown, improving transportation -- such as the new Gold Line which provides service from downtown to the beach -- and encouraging new restaurants, entertainment centers and shopping centers (including grocery stores) that make the downtown environment much more livable than it has been since its heyday in the 1950's and '60's.
These efforts have been going on for years, but the movement has clearly hit an "activation energy" recently, creating energy and excitement among tech entrepreneurs for living and working in LA's urban core (and not incidentally, avoiding the hassles of long commutes).
Downtown Techies Organize as Grid 110
It was this shifting landscape that excited Stephen Kane. A local East sider himself, Stephen held a vision of Downtown LA becoming a modern-day tech hub. In April 2014, he was elected to downtown neighborhood council and created an unofficial task force comprised of fellow DTLA based entrepreneurs and community organizers to look at the best way to achieve this. They began to meet up regularly which quickly turned into a sort of support group. And it was this way that Grid 110 was born.
Their vision: support entrepreneurs to positively impact the economy in Downtown LA. The idea was to help start-ups get over the hump many entrepreneurs face when trying to expand and grow—the same challenges they as a group were facing. They decided the best way to meet this challenge was to connect start-ups to affordable office space and offer access to mentors and funding to help them grow into sustainable companies, which in turn would support the start-up ecosystem downtown.
To achieve this, they first reached out to the Mayor’s Office, a big force behind revitalizing Downtown LA, who facilitated discussions with developers and potential partners. One of those conversations was with Brookfield, a major property owner and eventual building partner interested in attracting tech companies into their office buildings.
According to James Malone, Vice President of Leasing at Brookfield, supporting organizations like Grid110 is a strategic no-brainer. “With seven Class-A buildings in the Downtown core, partnering with Grid110 was a natural fit with our vision to diversify our portfolio of tenants. Traditionally our tenants have been banks, insurance companies, law firms, and consulting firms, but as we are seeing growth from technology tenants in this market along with the rising Millennial population living and working downtown, we wanted to figure out how we could make our buildings more attractive for their needs.”
“Start-ups shouldn’t be scared of high rises," Malone continued, "From an infrastructure standpoint, our buildings are robust, offering superior bandwidth, on-site security, and other amenities that growing companies need. Since we house a number of banks, investors, and other types of service businesses in our buildings, this gives start-ups strategic access to companies that they need. Plus, our rental rates are very competitive to Silicon Beach and there’s nothing wrong with having a view!”