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Three California Event Tech Leaders Explain the State’s Advantage
Warner Bros Upfronts Party. Credit: BARTKRESA studio.
It’s clear that California is the place to be if you’re in the field of technology.
- California counts 1.88 million technology workers–more than twice the number as the next ranked state.
- California added more tech jobs than any other state since 2010.
- California’s economy alone accounts for over a quarter of U.S. tech productivity.
- Seven of the world’s top 10 AI investors are based in California.
Meetings Today checked in with three California-based companies that are among the leaders in event tech to see why the Golden State delivers such riches when it comes to innovation.
This Silicon Valley-based company is revolutionizing simultaneous event translation across multiple languages, opening meetings and events up to a truly global audience who can participate in their native languages, while also allowing attendees who may have sight and/or hearing challenges to join the conversation.
For Wordly CEO Lakshman Rathnam, starting his company in the world capital of technology was never in question.
“There’s a reason innovation happens in California, because there’s so many technologies that are out here, and new technologies come from the amalgamation of new technologies coming together. I can see the future here,” he said. “It was never in doubt that we would base our company here, although we were invited to many places. Our technology serves a global workforce, and if you’re working for a global workforce, there’s no place like California, which has the highest density of global workforce in the world.”
For the development of Wordly’s simultaneous-translation software—which has been featured at the meetings industry’s top events held by MPI, PCMA and IMEX Group, as well as across Europe for UNESCO and the Green Climate Fund—the company had to tap the talent of the top cloud computing and AI experts, and then get them working together.
“These new technologies happen faster here before they propagate into the world, and there is more talent available here,” he said. “That’s the benefit of setting up something that’s innovative in California—being able to find talent quickly, find experts quickly and move forward quickly.”
The fact that California is such a diverse state—it was ranked the most diverse state in the U.S. in a September 2021 study by personal finance website WalletHub—also means that its workforce is natively adept at understanding and interacting with different cultures, languages and business customs throughout the world.
“This is the best place to find people with experience with technology globally,” Rathnam said. “They empathize with the problems—they’ve all experienced different situations and meeting with global team members, and often don’t have a language barrier.”
While Wordly’s simultaneous translation solution is really best showcased at larger venues—one client wanted simultaneous translation between multiple languages in real time for up to 100,000 people—Rathnam said the highly scalable software has also been pressed into duty for groups as small as 10 or 20 people.
For San Francisco-based online event platform provider Hubilo, tapping the immense talent pool and imminently flexible mindset of California’s tech culture resulted in a pandemic pivot that reshaped the company. The transition led to it raising $153 million in financing in 18 months as it launched the first version of a new virtual platform, which can also be used as a hybrid meeting application.
“We were always in the hybrid space because we were doing matchmaking [for in-person meetings],” said Liesl Leary-Perez, VP of corporate marketing. “We basically had to create a new platform in 2020. It was basically a Hail Mary pass—what’ll we do now?!”
Leary-Perez echoed Rathnam’s opinion that it’s the mingling of talent that is California’s true tech sweet spot.
“There’s so many advantages—you’re not going to get any better cross-pollination of tech people than in California,” she said, “because at the end of the day, we’re not just looking at creating better events, it’s about where the world is going.
“The companies that are going to be the most successful are the ones that are going to engage their audience the most,” she continued. “We’re really looking at building up that community of event planners, and you’re not going to do that without engaging event planners and cross-pollinating with the technology communities.”
Leary-Perez added that one element of California’s labor and intellectual property laws also places it in prime position to lead.
“If you compare it to a place like Boston, you have similar profiles—universities churning out really smart people, lots of patent lawyers, lots of money,” she said. “What makes California different from Boston is the non-compete situation. In Massachusetts, non-competes are actually very strictly enforced—you can’t sue someone in California for going to a competitor. The cross-pollination is so important. Without this diversity and inclusivity, you’re just going to think the same way the whole time.
“More patents come out of California than Massachusetts,” she added. “Do a Google search.”
In fact, according to analytics software company Statistica, it’s not even close, with California accounting for 46,564 patent grants in U.S. fiscal year 2021, followed by Texas (12,294); New York (9,332); Washington (8,424); and then Massachusetts (8,407).
The leveraging of California’s tech expertise resulted in Hubilo building one of the most engaging virtual and hybrid platforms going, via leaderboards, gamification and polling, among other techniques, which translates to success in digital meetings.
“Everyone is complaining about Zoom fatigue,” Leary-Perez said, “but have you ever heard anyone complain about Netflix fatigue, Amazon fatigue? It’s because they’re so engaged.”
When it comes to jaw-dropping special event effects, Santa Monica, California’s BARTKRESA studio, which produces breath-taking projection mapping displays for large corporations, movie studios and multimedia conglomerates, may be without peer. Clients have included Universal Studios, HBO, Warner Brothers, Pope Francis, Coldplay, Oprah Winfrey, Paramount Pictures, the Grammy Awards, Audi and ABC.
Owner Bart Kresa, a master projection designer, believes being based in California places his company both in the heart of the technology industry, providing him with the highest-skilled workers and collaborators in the world, and also the entertainment industry, with benefits that include the availability of master set designers, hardware and high-tech production equipment.
“There are many advantages of being here,” Kresa said. “On the hardware side and fabrication, the film industry is here so we came up with solutions for custom hardware mounting and other equipment.”
Having a concentration of major tech-forward companies that value lots of sizzle for their events is also an advantage of being based in Southern California.
“We’re so unique that we’re always the icing on the cake,” Kresa laughed.
This article was produced in collaboration with Visit California.