create / 2015

Rebuilding LA’s port communities one business at a time

Idea submitted in the My LA2050 Maker Challenge by PortTech Los Angeles, International Trade Education Programs (ITEP), Port of Los Angeles High School (POLAHS)

The PortTech Pitch program provides comprehensive outreach, education and mentoring services to promising tech startups focused on solving global challenges. Through dedicated one-on-one mentoring, we begin the process of transforming these startup teams into thriving businesses. At the Pitch Competition and PortTechEXPO, we provide an opportunity for entrepreneurs and investors, industry and civic leaders, students and researchers to explore new technologies and connect with innovators.


In what areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?

  • Harbor area communities surrounding the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach

How do you plan to use these resources to make change?

  • Engage residents and stakeholders
  • Expand a pilot or a program
  • Inspire the next generation of entrepreneurs

How will your proposal improve the following “Create” metrics?

  • Concentration of manufacturing activity in LA
  • Federal research grant funding
  • Patents per capital
  • Jobs per capita
  • Minority- and women-owned firms
  • Gini coefficient
  • Number of high growth startups
  • Venture capital investment
  • Measures of cultural and global economic influence (“soft power”) (Dream Metric)
  • Percentage of graduates from local higher education institutions that remain in LA County 5 years after graduating (Dream Metric)

Describe in greater detail how you will make LA the best place to create.

PortTech helps entrepreneurs transform high-aspiration ideas into high-performance companies to solve pressing global challenges by supporting innovative technology startups linked to the ports/goods movement industry.

Through the PortTech Pitch program, PortTech identifies emerging technologies that address transportation, energy and environmental challenges. Many of these solutions address the impacts of port operations on local communities. The PortTech Pitch program is comprised of three phases – entrepreneur mentoring followed by the Pitch competition and EXPO.

First, PortTech prepares startup companies for growth. The months-long Pitch program provides entrepreneurs with one-on-one coaching, constructive critiques and mock judging sessions to prepare them to vie for markets, audiences and resources to grow.

Second, PortTech’s Pitch Competition Finals readies startups for real-world competition. Finalists chosen from startups participating in the mentoring program present their companies to a panel of experts who judge their viability. The day-long contest draws hundreds of participants – entrepreneurs and investors, industry and civic leaders, students and researchers – who view the event live or via webcast. For many entrepreneurs, it’s the moment they pull the wraps off their idea and launch their company into the real world.

Third, the PortTechEXPO engages Los Angeles-Long Beach port communities through top-notch speakers, tech demonstrations and industry panels. The EXPO attracts media attention and 600 professionals annually. Through the EXPO, PortTech provides meaningful education opportunities for local students and community members to learn about technology and innovation during panel discussions, guided tours, and conversations with entrepreneurs and port leaders.

This comprehensive three-pronged program is key to PortTech’s success and the growth of the entrepreneurial ecosystem in the region. It embodies the important work we do as we coach startup companies, showcase their good works publicly and explain to the broader community what our work is about.

As our entrepreneurs succeed they contribute to the local economy by creating jobs in marginalized communities adjacent to the Ports. By 2050, PortTech will be the nexus of a thriving technology and advanced manufacturing-based business cluster. The Ports will run cleaner, greener and more efficient. And the Harbor area will be an economic development engine in the L.A. region.

Please explain how you will evaluate your work.

In the short term, we measure success as follows:

  1. Outreach: We track the level of participation in social media, attendance at events (professionals and students) and the number of applicants to the PortTech Pitch program.
  2. Education: We analyze the quality of our programs and events through surveys, allowing us to continually refine and improve our offerings.
  3. Mentoring: We videotape the entrepreneur presentations and mentor comments so that presenters can review their performance and incorporate feedback. We also video the final competition presentations. The “before vs after” presentations verify the tremendous improvements of entrepreneurs and validate the efficacy of the program.
  4. Student Participation: Follow-up interviews are conducted with teachers to solicit feedback for program improvement.

Over the long term, we measure progress using the following metrics:

  • Jobs created
  • Dollars invested
  • Pilot projects initiated
  • Businesses established in the Harbor area

How can the LA2050 community and other stakeholders help your proposal succeed?

  • Money (financial capital)
  • Volunteers/staff (human capital)
  • Publicity/awareness (social capital)
  • Community outreach
  • Network/relationship support