University of Southern California

Catching the Wave
USC Silicon Beach Conference Highlights Innovation in Digital Media and Technology
September 27, 2012 • by News at Marshall

USC's Silicon Beach Conference captured how the rise of technology start-ups and the access to Hollywood's entertainment and creative talent have created a new hub for entrepreneurship. The event, held Sept. 12-13 and hosted by the USC Marshall School of Business, the Lloyd Greif Center for Entrepreneurial Studies, the Institute for Communication Technology Management (CTM) and the USC School of Cinematic Arts, provided a unique forum for business and technology leaders to connect with creative visionaries and entrepreneurs.

This year's conference drew an estimated 300 attendees and featured a series of panels to educate start-ups on trends in entertainment distribution, discuss the convergence of entertainment and technology as well as foster connections with venture capital and angel investment communities. Executives from Sony Pictures, Disney, Rovio Entertainment and Qualcomm Labs took part in presentations.

The conference began with a panel moderated by Jay Tucker, associate director of USC's CTM, and featured Sandy Gould, vice president of recruitment at the Disney-ABC Television Group and Kevin Winston, founder of Digital LA. Gould and Winston spoke to Tucker about how Silicon Beach in Southern California is changing the professional environment and approach to entrepreneurship.

"Technological advancements and the rise of startups are radically transforming traditional Los Angeles business sectors like Hollywood entertainment," noted Tucker, highlighting the emerging opportunities for young professionals at both startups and established companies.

"We now live in a time when actually we should be driving the change," said Gould, adding that job titles and responsibilities are no longer static, and flexibility is particularly important when pitching entrepreneurial ideas.

"It's a great time to experiment with what you want to do," Winston said. "Follow up, see your passions through. Get it done. People want to see that you're committed," he said.

The intersection of entertainment and technology makes Los Angeles a vibrant place for start-ups, the panelists noted, adding that the market is open to creativity and flexibility in addition to having several big names that can boost a new enterprise's reputation. With the rise of digital and social media, Gould said, "there's so much more capability, power and influence in the hands of the community," which makes sharing ideas and creating a user base easier.

Andrew Stalbow, North American general manager of Rovio Entertainment, the company behind the "Angry Birds" phenomenon, spoke with Lucy Hood, executive director of USC's CTM during the forum's keynote address, regarding his company's meteoric rise and future expansion plans..

What began as a 99-cent mobile app in 2009, the "Angry Birds" brand now encompasses everything from plush toys to books and lucrative marketing alliances with such leading organizations as NASA, which helped promote their newest game offering "Angry Birds Space."

"We have over a billion downloads of Angry Birds games on people's connective devices. Our marketing budget to help get those downloads is zero, not one dollar have we spent on marketing. What we have done is we've gone out and found awesome partners who can help us get our message out to a very wide range of people," said Stalbow.

In addition to insightful discussions, this year's conference featured an inaugural competition for fledgling ventures pursuing opportunities in new media platforms on Sept. 12, in which teams vied for $50,000 in prize money. Music Prodigy won first prize, $25,000 and a three-month membership at io/LA, a co-working space and accelerator. Hive Lighting finished second and netted $15,000, while CodeWars placed third and received $10,000. Winners were announced during an awards presentation following lunch on Sept. 13 during the forum portion of the conference.

About the USC Marshall School of Business
Consistently ranked among the nation's premier schools, USC Marshall is internationally recognized for its emphasis on entrepreneurship and innovation, social responsibility and path-breaking research. Located in the heart of Los Angeles, one of the world's leading business centers and the U.S. gateway to the Pacific Rim, Marshall offers its 5,700-plus undergraduate and graduate students a unique world view and impressive global experiential opportunities. With an alumni community spanning 123 countries, USC Marshall students join a worldwide community of thought leaders who are redefining the way business works.