5 things Silicon Valley gets wrong about Southern California

Image Credit: AZP Worldwide/Shutterstock

For anyone from California, you know there are vast differences between the northern and southern parts of the state – so vast in fact that, to us, they could just as easily stand alone as two separate states. In a recent Forbes.com article, contributor Tara Brown wrote of her own misapprehension moving from San Francisco to Southern California, saying, “I’m a technologist and moving away from the tech hub of the world to the land of Botox seemed like a really bad career move. I assumed that the people of Los Angeles were disingenuous attention whores and didn’t know anything about technology.”

The great NorCal vs. SoCal debate is a longstanding, undeniable rivalry between the stereotypical surfer dudes of the south and environmental geeks to the north. But what Silicon Valley doesn’t know could hurt them. There are a lot of misconceptions about SoCal and it’s time we set them straight.

MYTH 1: SoCal’s nothing but beaches, Housewives, and Mickey Mouse.

Full disclosure, we do love the beach and can’t get enough of Splash Mountain, but Southern California is so much more than waves, Walt, and what you see on BravoTV. While real estate and tourism continue to be strong economic drivers, there is also a thriving business climate developing life-changing technologies. Orange County alone is home to more than 300 medical device companies with world-renowned leadership in ophthalmic and cardiovascular devices – a far cry from the “silicone” valley that Ms. Brown was expecting.

MYTH 2: Silicon Valley companies will always have the best shot at funding.

And the world’s still flat. Things change. Investors are no longer compelled to stick to their own backyard, and Southern California is changing the startup landscape, consistently ranking in the top three along with Silicon Valley and the Boston area. Just this year, Q2 investments in SoCal and New England were virtually the same, with $838 million and $843 million invested respectively, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers MoneyTree Report. With LaunchPad’s help, more than 61 Orange County companies have raised more than $97 million in startup capital, seed, and series A investments — and much of that money comes from Valley investors betting on their neighbors to the south.

MYTH 3: SoCal lacks Fortune 500 Tech Leadership.

Not only does Southern California have leaders in technology, we have innovators. Qualcomm CEO Paul Jacobs was named one of Fortune’s 10 Brilliant Technology Visionaries for 2012 alongside the great and powerful Oz’s of Apple and Google. The San Diego-based company is one of 53 California companies ranked on the Fortune 500, 22 of which are SoCal companies.

MYTH 4: Research institutions are stronger in NorCal.

Come on! Arguably the greatest research and development nexus in the United States rests in the area spanning San Diego to Los Angeles. Let’s compare. In the UC System alone in 2010, Southern California UC schools formed 49 startups, trumping the 22 started up north. Additionally, invention disclosures in Southern California totaled 925 compared to the 592 disclosed in NorCal, according to the UC Technology Transfer Annual Report. And, let’s not overlook the research juggernaut called Caltech, which managed $332 million in sponsored research and $1.77 billion for its endowment in 2011 alone.

MYTH 5: The SoCal crowd is better looking.

Okay, so they got this one right.

Moral of the story is: don’t underestimate the beach bums. We came to play.

Matthew Jenusaitis is the CEO of OCTANe, an Orange County startup accelerator whose mission is to connect people and ideas with capital and resources. Matthew has seen hundreds of startups pitch funding though OCTANe’s LaunchPad program.

[Top image credit: AZP Worldwide/Shutterstock]

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