SXSW: Eric Garcetti on How to Turn L.A. Into a Platform for Innovation

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Eric Garcetti

The mayor of Los Angeles spoke with Nasty Gal CEO Sophia Amoruso and Atom Factory CEO Troy Carter at SXSW in Austin.

Just like many technology entrepreneurs come to South by Southwest to pitch their startups, L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti came to the annual festival to pitch his city. 

During a keynote speech, Garcetti spoke about how he's trying to engineer Los Angeles as an innovative place for people to live and businesses to thrive. "You can't afford to not be in L.A.," he said. "We have space, weather, diversity, geography and innovation on every single block."

Garcetti has long been a supporter of the Los Angeles tech community and heavily courted their vote when he ran for the mayor's office. He's also known as being a tech savvy mayor, using Twitter to respond to complaints from citizens and releasing his press releases five minutes early using Snapchat. 

During the speech, Garcetti highlighted some of the work he has done during his first 20 months in office to turn L.A. into a more technologically savvy city. He hired Peter Marx as chief innovation and technology officer in February last year, for example, and has made efforts to release public data through the Open Data Initiative.

He also touched on efforts to encourage technology and engineering education in high density neighborhoods like South L.A. "Why shouldn't the next Mark Zuckerberg be a young, African-American woman coming out of South Los Angeles?" he asked. 

After his talk, Garcetti invited Nasty Gal CEO Sophia Amoruso and Atom Factory CEO Troy Carter onstage for a roundtable discussion. Although neither Amoruso nor Carter are native Angelenos, both chose to start companies in the city.

Carter, who invests in tech companies through his music management firm, said that early on he would visit San Francisco and "people (would) look at you like you've got two heads." But as time has gone on, L.A. has developed a reputation as being a technology town and "you see more guys from up north hanging out in L.A. now." 

Added Amoruso: "It's been an incredible place for the company to flourish." She noted that her company has grown from 12 in Los Angeles to more than 150 and later joked, "in L.A. you're forced to be happy because it's really nice."