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Long Beach Hack Night Puts Start-Ups On The Map – Literally

By Joshua H. Silavent - Staff Writer

February 26, 2013 - Entrepreneurs in Long Beach now have a new Web presence to connect with each other and their customers thanks to the creation of an innovative digital map that pinpoints the location and company information of tech start-ups across the city.

A few dozen of the brightest tech minds in Long Beach gathered at WE Labs downtown in late February for a night of coding and website design (dubbed Long Beach Hack Night) aimed at putting local start-ups on the map – literally.

John Grefe, left, operations director for The Waypoint, and John Wilson,
development manager for The Waypoint, look over the work accomplished by
Long Beach Hack Night contributors.
(Photograph by the Business Journal’s Thomas McConville)

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Copywriters and data-miners pitched in to create the content now found on the website, also known as LBConnect.

So what will you see when you visit map.longbeachtech.org?

“They’ll see a map of the City of Long Beach with, hopefully, most of the technology ecosystem that exists in the city displayed on the map,” said John Grefe, U.S. operations director for The Waypoint, a local start-up that provides online bookings for marinas to list their vacant berths and boat owners to search, book and pay for moorings.

Grefe organized the event along with a few of his techie cohorts, such as Steve Kochan (comfreight.com), DW Ferrel (episocial.com), Mike Stewart (zaferia.net) and Ali Kohani, executive director of incubator Long Beach Tech.

Visitors to the website will see a Google map of Long Beach fitted with pins spotlighting dozens of local start-ups. Scroll over each pin and a window pops up showing the company name. One click on the pin reveals core company information, including links to web pages and contact information.

Grefe said the map establishes a sense of community among entrepreneurs by showing where co-work spaces can be found, or where graphic designers are congregating, for example. Moreover, the website allows businesses to plug in their own information and create their own profile. “That’s one of the coolest things about this,” Grefe said. “It’s not just a static directory.”

Those involved in developing the LBConnect map hope it will be a starting point for supporting the burgeoning tech industry in Long Beach and recruiting new companies to the city.

“Our goal is to create a creative environment and at the same time bring awareness to Long Beach as a technology city,” Kohani said. “Hack night will produce an organic environment where entrepreneurs and technology folks will be able to come together and create relationships, and hopefully be the reason why new companies will form in Long Beach.”

Kohani is somewhat baffled that major tech companies don’t typically associate with Long Beach. With the largest seaport complex in the nation in its backyard, universities and colleges, a growing airport, robust sailing community and talented workforce, “There is really no good excuse why Long Beach shouldn’t be a leader in Southern California technology space,” Kohani said.

WE (work evolution) Labs hosted Long Beach Hack Night. The collaborative
workspace is located at 105 W. Broadway in Downtown Long Beach. Pictured,
from left are: Markus Manley, WE Labs co-founder; John Grefe, operations
director with start-up The Waypoint; Robbie Brown, WE Labs co-founder;
John Wilson, development manager with The Waypoint; and Nathan Israel,
WE Labs co-founder.
(Photograph by the Business Journal’s Thomas McConville)

Grefe said having the map will help recruit new tech businesses and entrepreneurs to Long Beach by showing that a community of industry professionals already exists here. “The decision becomes a lot easier knowing there’s a big, social, cohesive group of other start-ups that are right there with you,” he added. “People are going to start to realize that this tech industry is the new emerging economy and it’s something that’s deeply integrated into the city.”

Blair Cohn, executive director of the Bixby Knolls Business Improvement Association, attended Hack Night and expressed a measure of wonder and awe about what was taking place and how it could facilitate the growth of the tech industry and new businesses in Long Beach. “It just has so much potential, which I think is the exciting part,” he said.

Cohn imagined that a day might come when a robust tech industry in Long Beach looks back at Hack Night as the start of it all. And he’ll be able to say he was there, witnessing what “a smart group of people” committed to a cause can accomplish in a single night. “Don’t you want to be at ground zero?” Cohn asked rhetorically. “Didn’t you want to be there when The Clash made their debut?”