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create / 2020

DTLA: From Underdog to Innovation Superhero

Idea submitted in the My LA2050 Grants Challenge by Alliance for Southern California Innovation

The Alliance unleashes the diversity of entrepreneurial talent and ideas in Downtown LA (DTLA) by connecting startup founders with the resources they need most. We do this by first organizing and unifying key community leaders so they can better engage with their local startups. Then, we connect those startup founders with critical resources including capital, mentors, corporate partners, and peer support. We bring the pieces together to create a stronger innovation community that creates jobs and opportunity for all Angelenos.

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

  • Central LA
  • City of Los Angeles

In what stage of innovation is this project?

Pilot project or new program

Please list the organizations collaborating on this proposal.

  • Greycroft
  • Honey
  • Soylent
  • Los Angeles Mayor’s Office
  • Grid110
  • Los Angeles CIeantech Incubator (LACI)
  • AI LA
  • Downtown Center Business Improvement District
  • Central City Association (CCA)

If you are submitting a collaborative proposal, please describe the specific role of partner organizations in the project.

The Alliance recruited and engaged diverse volunteer leaders that represent key stakeholder groups and that will strengthen DTLA’s startup community:

Stewart Easterby, Partner, Greycroft (investor) Glen Allison, COO, Honey (startup) Jamie Sullivan, Director of Corporate Affairs, Soylent (startup) Jasson Crockett, Policy Manager, LA Mayor’s Office (government) Rubén Flores-Saaib, Associate Director, USC Stevens (university) Maria Anguiano, SVP, Strategy & Planning, ASU + UC Regent (university) Miki Reynolds, Executive Director, Grid 110 (community) Jim Winett, EIR, LACI (community) Todd Terrazas, Executive Director, AILA (community) Nick Griffin, Executive Director, Downtown Center Business Improvement District (corporate) Michael Shilstone, Director, Central City Association (corporate)

What is the need you’re responding to?

The potential of Downtown Los Angeles (DTLA) is staggering ( Recent improvements in public transportation have made it possible for workers to commute without worry of congestion or cost. Disadvantaged and underserved communities can now travel into the city with relative ease, opening a world of opportunities not previously available. Added to that, DTLA houses an emerging startup community, investors and leading institutions. All the building blocks are there for a vibrant startup community, yet they’ve remained disjointed and lack the glue to hold them together. We are that glue. We’ve done the research ( and we know with all the pieces in place, the timing has never been better to build DTLA into the “core” of a super city that it was always meant to be. In the wake of the devastating COVID-19 outbreak, supporting startups and founders and putting talented Angelinos back to work has never been more important.

Why is this project important to the work of your organization?

The Alliance for SoCal Innovation is a non-profit formed in 2017 that serves as a SoCal super connector bringing together research institutions, business leaders, and investors. We live the ‘it’s who you know’ mentality, and we know the right people: our amazing Board of Directors and world-class Advisory Council includes distinguished local community and corporate leaders (e.g. Edison, Kaiser, Warner Bros), successful entrepreneurs (like Eric Schmidt from Google), LA-based venture investors, and the top research universities in Southern California ( We create programs that focus on connecting and energizing SoCal’s diverse and specialized ecosystems while attracting new capital to the region. We have connected over 1,000 people through marquis events and personal introductions. We are well situated to make an even bigger impact this coming year by engaging this robust network to further strengthen the local start-up community.

Approximately how many people will be impacted by this proposal?

Direct impact
Indirect impact

Please describe the broader impact of your proposal.

We estimate that we will indirectly impact 5,800 people which is 20% of the 29K total employed in the DTLA innovation economy. We will do this by directly convening 600 people in MeetUp events and empowering 11 DTLA community leaders to drive grass-roots programs designed to engage diverse LA-based innovators to work on catalytic projects. These projects support and strengthen the community by creating not just quality jobs but also economic stability for the surrounding neighborhoods. The DTLA web platform will further enable the community to connect with other regions and attract more investment to the area. This program will crank the flywheel to generate momentum for a community that has the assets to meaningfully transform the region.

Please explain how you will define and measure success for your project.

The Alliance’s activities will enable more startups to be founded, funded, and grow here in LA. Over the long-term, our efforts have the potential to generate 200K direct jobs in tech and more than 1MM indirect jobs in Southern California by 2028. To jump start this effort and provide critical regional momentum over the next 12 months, we will focus on strengthening the DTLA startup ecosystem by 1) creating greater vibrancy and connectedness 2) enhancing awareness and visibility of resources; and 3) strengthening regional connectivity.

Project goals & targets

High-growth startups –Recruit 10 volunteer leaders in DTLA –Organize and facilitate 1 meeting/call each month w/ 75% average participation rate –Facilitate development of unified DTLA community roadmap w/ leadership –Implement 4 startup community projects outlined in timeline –Convene and connect 600 innovators through in-person programming –Encourage partners to create 5 new tech oriented meet-ups or start-up series in DTLA –Launch & community adoption of DTLA online digital portal for innovators

Global cultural and economic influence –Define a compelling DTLA brand narrative –Initiate social media promotion of DTLA start-up scene with presence on 3+ platforms –Enlist 5 DTLA partners to amplify DTLA start-up narrative –Develop and syndicate 6 DTLA success stories and case studies to media –Establish a baseline and tracking metric for mentions and identification of DTLA as tech community

Which of the create metrics will your submission impact?​

  • Global cultural and economic influence (“soft power”)
  • High-growth startups

Which of LA2050’s resources will be of the most value to you?

  • Host public events or gatherings
  • Communications support
  • Capacity, including staff