Goodbye, Los Angeles, and Thank You

los angeles

I’m leaving Los Angeles, the city that literally gave me life, love, and so many other wonderful things.

The city that is so dear to me that I’m not sure I could ever encapsulate my true feelings about it in a simple blog post. However, I did want to say thanks and share some thoughts from the rearview mirror along with some advice before we take the 405 North.

If you’ve lived here, you understand. It’s not just the weather; it’s all the other special little things that come together to create one of the most unique locales in the world. The people, the places, even the traffic…I’ll miss them all dearly. It turns out, though, that most of the fun and chaotic elements of Los Angeles that used to excite and engage me are not so great for family life. At the same time, opportunities for online marketers are growing outside of Los Angeles, a fact that has finally become too strong to ignore.

So we’re doing the same thing my parents did once they could rub a few sticks together: we’re getting out of LA and putting down roots elsewhere. In our case, that’s going to be the San Mateo area in the heart of Silicon Valley. Here’s to new beginnings.


An LA Tech Story

I last moved back to Los Angeles in 2007 as the second cohort of LA tech was just taking off (MySpace, Mahalo, Rubicon, Userplane). It was a great time to be here, but LA tech wasn’t as strong as advertised. It was still rebuilding itself from the crash of the primary cohort (the Idealab and Applied Semantics era), which coincided with the dotcom bust. Of course, today we’re in the latest iteration, which is basically Silicon Beach vs. everyone else (YouTube Networks, Incubators, SnapChat, Cornerstone on Demand). It’s been quite a wild journey for so many people and companies in a fairly short amount of time, myself included.

I spent a dizzying few years hopping around to various startups, then joining a big company, and finally building my own startup. In just a few years I increased my earnings by a factor of ten, along with my successes…and failures. Still, I don’t think I would have done it any other way. And now that I’ve run the gamut—including building, funding, and failing with my own startup—a change of scenery is in order.

Things actually look pretty good for LA tech today, with more available capital (though still not enough) and lots of opportunities. However, most of those opportunities are in areas I personally don’t have a passion for, things like online video, mobile games, or E-commerce for young women. There’s not necessarily anything wrong with those pursuits, but they’re not for me.

The LA tech scene is larger than ever before, but it’s become polarized. Time will tell if the diverging paths that exist today will create a healthy balance or tear the place apart. Whatever happens, I’ll remain bullish on the opportunities here and I’ll certainly wish the best for those who keep building.


Some Advice for Other LA Founders
At some point, I became the “old dude” doling out advice instead of the young dude who created liabilities against others’ advice. Maybe it was the fact that I became a dad, or maybe it was just the experiences I’ve amassed over the past few years. Whatever the reason, I get a lot of emails from local founders asking for advice. I try to get to them all, but if I missed yours I do apologize. I would, however, offer this bit of general advice as you navigate the local community.

Raise as little capital and hype as you can. Too much of either can kill you.

Get to know Silicon Valley, because like it or not you’ll need their money and support to get big.

Build on the existing strengths of Los Angeles. Don’t forget, we are the world’s greatest storytellers and marketers.

Take Fountain to save time. Take La Cienega to get to the airport. Take PCH often to save your mind.


On What’s Next

I’ve actually already been working up north for a few months now, helping a few clients with marketing and working with 500 Startups as part of their Distribution Team. I’ll have some more specific job announcements shortly, but as you might imagine, I’m sticking to what I know best and what I enjoy: online marketing. The needs up there are massive for these skills, so the timing is great for me to make an impact, on both later-stage companies and startups.

So on that note, I say goodbye to dear Los Angeles. I’ve always felt I owed a debt to you, and I’ve worked hard to repay it. I feel like I’m coming up short on that debt, but I know you’re in good hands, as literally millions of souls flow through your busy streets and freeways, working toward creating, teaching, or just surviving. I doubt I’ll ever find another city like you, and to be honest, I don’t think I’m supposed to. I am forever grateful for being able to experience life here.

Sean Percival

Sean Percival is an American author, investor and entrepreneur.