Early one morning almost three years ago my partner Neal and I sat in the Nickel Diner on Main Street with Alex Paxton (CRA/LA), Sean Arian (The Mayor’s Office) and a couple of other folks interested in cleantech. The subject? We were giving an overview of the incubator business based largely on our personal experience with Idealab along with some research into other area incubators.
That group of volunteers squeezed into a back booth at the Nickel would become the heart and arms/legs of the effort to create CleanTech Los Angeles, the Cleantech Corridor concept, and LACI. These were people who cared about what they were doing as everyone had day jobs. Whatever power they lacked, they made up for with enthusiasm.
A lot of time and a great deal of knowledge has passed along, but a couple of things remain as true today as then:
- The people who were the champions of building a cleantech economy in and around Los Angeles then are still driving forces today. Alex Paxton (CRA/LA), Sean Arian and Alex Fay (The Mayor’s Office), Mike Swords (CTLA and UCLA), and John Chen (LADWP) all put their efforts and reputations on the line to get LACI done.
- The vision that a cleantech incubator could be the spark for building an ecosystem that supports cleantech innovation and commercialization in the heart of the City is more vibrant, clearer, and powerful than ever. LACI will be a game changer in the City’s efforts.
- The problems we face in making this a reality are pretty much the same today as then. The City is diverse and geographically spread out making it hugely difficult to gain a consensus on what needs to be done, by whom, to whom.
- “Cleantech” is still viewed as an “optional extra” by too many business and government leaders. As a result, it’s tough to get the investment needed to invent the future, especially in these dire times with unemployment in the Corridor approaching 15%.
- The challenge of building an ecosystem to support cleantech innovation and commercialization remains a long-term effort that needs to be measured in years, if not decades of time. It’s a huge job to rebuild the city’s (and state’s and country’s and globe’s) energy and transportation infrastructure that will require trillions of dollars. Which of course, makes it a trillion dollar business opportunity.
A lot of things have changed since that meeting, of course.
- LACI is a reality. We have a temporary building that’s up and running. We have a team in place. We have portfolio companies and programs to help them. We speak with people every day about working with LACI. There’s a lot of activity going on.
- The Cleantech Corridor, and especially the Arts & Innovation District within the Corridor, is going through a significant transformation. Companies are coming. Housing is being built. There are more restaurants and bars every day.
- LA has quietly become the largest green economy in the nation. We’re a green powerhouse. More jobs, more solar, more hybrids, more EVs, more recycling, more sustainable energy than any other region in the country.
So, with our Launch Event, the journey to build LACI and its ecosystem officially begins now. Come hang with us, join in the work, and have some fun.