Wednesday, June 7, 2006
Interview with Jon Kraft, Technology Council of Southern California
My interview this morning is with Jon Kraft, Chairman of the Technology Council of Southern California (www.tcosc.org), until recently called the Software Council of Southern California. Jon's also President of Auryn, a local startup in the animation/technology space, and was formerly CEO of Pandora Media (when it was Savage Beast). The Software Council has been a very active supporter of the technology industry here in the region, and socalTECH frequently co-sponsors events with the group, so I thought I'd catch up with their name change and hear what's new with the group.
Ben Kuo: What is the Software Council announcing this week--it looks like you are transitioning to become the "Technology Council"?
Jon Kraft: Yes, we're taking our 15 years of experience in helping to grow the software industry in Southern California and we're applying it to the broader technology sector as the Technology Council of Southern California. This is a major development for us, and it reflects the growing importance of technology to our region's economy as well as the increasing importance of software as an underlying driver of many of today's most exciting technologies.
BK: Why the transition to "Technology Council"?
JK: Over the 15-year history of the Software Council, we've seen a dramatic shift in the technology industry. The Southern California technology environment is thriving. We are seeing tremendous growth in mobile, digital media - as well as software. There is an opportunity to create connections between all technology companies that will benefit everyone, and this transition is thus a "win-win" for all involved.
BK: For those who aren't familiar with the Software Council (now Technology Council), what does the group offer to people and companies, and what's its purpose in life?
JK: The Technology Council of Southern California is the premier forum for helping the region's technology leaders succeed. Members of the Technology Council of Southern California are primarily senior executives and decision-makers. Because of the variety of activities we support, we serve everyone from start-ups to large global technology companies. In addition, we have associate members such as venture capital firms, law firms and CPAs, who provide professional services to technology organizations.
We offer what we feel are the region's best events, connections, information and resources. Our events range from regional educational programs and networking events to the region's two flagship events: our annual Industry Awards gala and VentureNet. Our targeted, content-driven programs are held in intimate settings to encourage an interactive discussion between presenters and attendees. Topics range from open source and product lifecycle development to viral marketing and strategic alliances. Our annual awards gala celebrates the area top technology companies in categories such as Software Company of the Year, Internet Company of the Year and Entrepreneur of the Year. The VentureNet conference, this year happening on October 4, showcases the most promising technology companies to leading venture capital sources. Each year competition for the opportunity to present at VentureNet gets more fierce as our committee of investors, venture capital firms, and business leaders from all around the region select the 10 companies that best demonstrate their readiness for raising financing. As many companies have found, those present at VentureNet have an incredible record of successfully completing their funding rounds.
BK: Aside from the name, what other changes are happening at the council in conjunction with the name change?
JK: In many ways, the Technology Council name change reflects the direction we have been going for a couple of years now. As such, the changes will be more evolutionary than revolutionary. We already offer events and programming that affect technology companies as a whole, and we'll continue to offer that same high quality programming now, as the Technology Council of Southern California. You will see that our membership will grow to include a broader range of companies, and that our events will also evolve to serve the growing needs of our membership. We may even be adding a third major marquee event to our calendar in the next year or two, but you'll have to wait a while before we discuss that one!
BK: What's the geographic focus of the Technology Council?
JK: The core regions we focus on include Los Angeles, Orange County, and The San Fernando Valley. We also reach into Santa Barbara and the Inland Empire.
BK: Finally, what's your opinion on where Southern California's technology ecosystem is today--do we have everything we need in place to grow our high tech industry, or are there things missing?
JK: I think Southern California is an amazing place to build a technology company. Let me throw a couple of statistics at you: According to the California Department of Commerce, regarding "Technology & Innovation," Southern California (including San Diego) is home to 46 percent of high-tech businesses in the state and produces $70 billion or 44.7 percent of California high-tech goods and services. This region has become a center for information technology and multimedia. In terms of having everything we need, I think relative to any technology region in the world other than Silicon Valley, we are in great shape. Where Silicon Valley has an edge, and where Southern California needs to grow is in the pool of experience senior executive talent. Silicon Valley simply has many more mature technology corporations, and has thus developed a tremendous population of seasoned senior technology executives, including experienced CEOs, CTOs and VP-level executives in engineering, sales and marketing. Southern California is growing in this respect every year, and while we're doing well, I think there is certainly a continuing need to improve in that respect.