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MBA Alumnus Nobel Chang Articulates Why Los Angeles Is The Startup City of Choice

Working on Big Dreams

Government policies have helped city of Los Angeles stake out turf as supporter of entrepreneurs.

By Nobel Chang

January 13, 2017

Los Angeles has always been the iconic destination for those pursuing big dreams. People from all over congregate in the City of Angels – the thriving creative capital of the world – in hopes of achieving greatness. As 2017 dawns, Los Angeles is poised to become an even stronger epicenter of entrepreneurship and innovation, especially in the startup world, rooted in our heritage of innovation, creativity, and diversity.

As a fellow dream chaser and L.A. native, I can attest to our city’s entrepreneurial drive – and I am not alone. A recent report by the Kauffman Foundation found that Los Angeles ranks No. 3 in the country for startups, edging out San Francisco. Walk into any coffee shop and there will be someone working on the next big thing. According to Built in Los Angeles, 2015 realized $3.1 billion in funding raised as well as billions in acquisitions and exits. Startup activity has significantly fueled local economies by accounting for half of jobs created and encouraged subsequent employment growth in related industries.

When I was building my companies, I benefitted from many initiatives that our city leaders wisely put into place to propel and support up-and-coming businesses. I worry that, given our current startup success, our city leaders might be tempted to rest on their laurels and scale back support of entrepreneurial growth. Now is not the time for complacency. To maintain our business dominance, L.A.’s leaders should keep laser focused on helping our startup-friendly ecosystem thrive.

While there’s no substitute for the hard work required to building a new endeavor, I believe the interplay between entrepreneurs and the city government best positions startups for success. An entrepreneurial perspective is invaluable when assessing local venture capital markets, digital divides, and implementation strategies for creating policies to help promote a flourishing local business environment.

I’m an ardent support of Mayor Eric Garcetti’s innovative Entrepreneur in Residence program, which includes my fellow Pepperdine Graziadio business school alumnus, Jason Nazar, co-founder and chief executive of Comparably.com. The program matches successful entrepreneurs with city leaders and civic organizations to foster business growth across Los Angeles. It is one way the city has focused on getting businesses launched and stabilized.

Another is the L.A. Business Portal, an open-source platform that assists small-business owners from the startup process through the various stages of company growth. The portal also helps new business owners with location assistance, access to capital, legal help, and business preparedness as well as informs them about the New Business Tax Holiday, which exempts any new business from paying city business taxes during its first two years of operation.

Civic leaders are also developing strategic partnerships with local businesses and entrepreneurs. One example of such collaboration is the Breeze Bike Share program, an initiative of the city of Santa Monica, CycleHop, and Social Bicycle that allows people to rent and return bicycles throughout the city. This program generates revenue, reduces traffic congestion, and encourages a healthy lifestyle for its users. Imagine the endless positive benefits for our city if governments and private enterprise continue to work together.

Even academic institutions can play a role in enhancing our business environment. Helping fledgling businesses through their critical first few years will be a key focus of the Pepperdine Graziadio School of Business and Management and its new Peate Institute for Entrepreneurship, a novel incubator that will help business students launch their entrepreneurial ventures while attaining an MBA.

It is no coincidence that our business environment embodies the L.A. “cool factor.” The pioneers of the city cultivated the entertainment industry; great L.A. thinkers even helped us get to the moon and back. Now our entrepreneurial efforts are establishing a new identity for the city. Every neighborhood has its own subculture of diversity and urbanity, reflected in its unique ventures. Silicon Beach hosts hundreds of tech companies that have completely transformed Santa Monica, Venice, Playa del Rey, and Culver City. Elon Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) is headquartered on Rocket Road in Hawthorne. Communities such as Lincoln Heights, Silver Lake, and El Sereno on the Eastside are now home to vibrant new restaurants, art galleries, and small businesses.

Sir Isaac Newton once said, “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” Our civic leaders have positioned Los Angeles as a startup mecca; now they need to double down to help that environment – and our regional economy – stay ahead of the pack. Standing with Los Angeles, I see past the horizon; the future indeed looks very bright.

Nobel Chang is co-founder and chief technology officer of Easy Streak and co-founder and managing director of Radiant Sky Energy.