Los Angeles: A business guide

By Lee Schneider for Business Life magazine

Photography by Getty

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June 2016

It may be best known as the centre of the global movie industry, but Los Angeles is also quietly establishing itself as a serious startup hub.

The lowdown

Los Angeles is a diverse area that encompasses diverse interests. So it’s no surprise that LA startups don’t fall into a single market. But they do share a devotion to developing superior online user experiences and a tendency to leverage and exploit existing markets.

Take the example of DogVacay, a startup that connects pet owners with pet sitters, and Tinder, the dating app that connects humans with other hookup-seeking humans. Neither platform can be called revolutionary in itself in the way that, say, Uber has arguably taken down a large segment of the transportation industry. But both have subtly but pervasively adjusted the way we connect with our needs and desires. Swipe right, Tinder’s signature gesture, has become part of our language.

The Hollywood sign is an emblem of LA, but from 1923 to 1949 it read ‘Hollywood Land’. Originally it was not an icon at all, merely a real estate marketing campaign for a housing development

Los Angeles is a large patch of urban sprawl, with a tangle of freeways wrapping around its massive cultural diversity. The startups that have thrived reflect that diversity in the markets they serve. Accordingly, you’ll find Club W disrupting the traditional notion of the wine club with an online approach. RealtyMogul and RadPad challenge the real estate investment and rental markets. TigerText’s secure SMS texting platform is changing the way doctors, nurses and other medical personnel communicate via smartphone.

Los Angeles startups often operate in stealth mode, so don’t expect flashy offices. Exceptions include Factual, a big data company in Century City, and ZipRecruiter, the employment startup, with its stylish Santa Monica offices. IdeaLab, one of the first startup incubators, is a Pasadena landmark.

But even though Pasadena may be home to the storied IdeaLab, the Los Angeles startup scene has gained special traction in the area called the Westside, which includes Santa Monica and Venice, with some action in nearby West Hollywood. This is wonderful news for the visitor, as it’s easy to get around this relatively small area via bicycle, rental car or Uber.

Discover our cheapest Club fares to Los Angeles

  • Start the day right with a breakfast business meeting at Shutters on the Beach © Jessica Abercrombie
  • A power lunch hotspot: Obicà Mozzarella Bar © Evan Sung

    Sweet dreams are made of cheese

    As its name would suggest, mozzarella is king at this Italian restaurant. In fact, it claims to be the only LA restaurant to directly import Mozzarella di Bufala DOP from cheese makers in Campania, Italy.

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  • Enjoy dinner with an ocean view at Huntley Hotel’s Penthouse Restaurant

    Up on the roof

    The 18th-floor rooftop Penthouse Restaurant has 360-degree views of the city and ocean – the perfect spot to impress on a business dinner. The Sunset ‘happy’ Hour (Monday to Friday from 16:00-19:00) is the perfect time to soak up the views with a cocktail in hand.

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Business etiquette

Most startup founders adhere to the Mark Zuckerberg school of fashion – think hoodies and athletic shoes. That said, when taking meetings with investors, jackets and slacks are in evidence, and usually open-collared shirts. Lawyers wear ties, but startup CEOs don’t. The pace of business in Los Angeles is fast. Expect meetings to start on time and go on for 30 minutes. A quick coffee is more likely as a business meet-and-greet than a formal lunch, except when trying to impress investors.

Food and shopping

Californian cuisine embraces casual eateries favouring vegetarian, organic foods, juices, and smoothies, and also elegant restaurants such as AOC, and Animal, with their impressive wine lists.

Best business breakfast: Shutters on the Beach

This hotel’s casual café, Coast, is right on the beach, so you can hop on a bike and go for a ride to work off breakfast.(1 Pico Boulevard, Santa Monica; shuttersonthebeach.com

Best power lunch: Obicà Mozzarella Bar

The outdoor courtyard location is good for conversation and the wine list is excellent. (606 Broadway, Santa Monica; obica.com

Best slap-up dinner: The Huntley Hotel Penthouse Restaurant

Accessed by a private lift, this restaurant looks like a movie set and the view is great. (1111 Second Street, Santa Monica; thehuntleyhotel.com/penthouse


Third Street Promenade is Santa Monica's premier walking and shopping area. It features a beautiful Apple store and many places to eat. Stores at nearby Santa Monica Place include the trendy 7 for All Mankind, Barney’s Co-Op New York and Bloomingdale’s. The Grove, another shopping district/mall, has a Hollywood movie set feel and impressively large movie theatres. If you need an extra bag on your travels, visit Patagonia’s Santa Monica store. In need of power bars, a waterproof phone case, rain gear or a new sun hat? REI in downtown Santa Monica has all of that and more. A taste of 1960s Southern California can be had at Fred Segal.

  • The view from The Ritz-Carlton Marina del Rey © Don Riddle

    Location, location, location

    The hotel is very close to LAX, so it’s perfect for a luxurious stopover between connecting flights – but Venice Beach and Santa Monica are also just a short drive away if you’re staying on the city for a few days.

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The Ritz-Carlton Marina Del Rey

A semi-secluded spot near the marina and Venice Beach, with easily accessible sailing and kayaking.

Book a stay at the Ritz Carlton Marina Del Rey

Ace Hotel Downtown Los Angeles

Hipster heaven in the 1927 United Artists building. The loft-style rooms provide acoustic guitars for guests.

Fairmont Miramar

This large business-class hotel is a block from the beach and its restaurant, Fig, features Californian cuisine and local beers on tap.

Book a stay at Fairmont Miramar

Viceroy Santa Monica

Across the street from the beach, with a lively bar scene, several lounges and poolside cocktail service.

Book a stay at Viceroy Santa Monica

  • Ace Hotel Downtown Los Angeles © Lauren Coleman
  • Fairmont Miramar

    A slice of history

    The hotel was originally the site of a private mansion of John P Jones, a former US Senator and the founder of Santa Monica. It was turned into a hotel in 1921, and its private bungalows have attracted Hollywood movie stars seeking refuge from the media, including Jean Harlow and Marilyn Monroe.

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  • Unwind after meetings with a poolside massage at Viceroy Santa Monica

    Rooms with views

    As the name suggests, the Ocean View Viceroy rooms have sea views as far as the eye can see. Plump for a Monarch or Empire Suites for truly cavernous marble bathrooms.

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Did you know... ?

1. One of LA’s early industries was oil, and working oil wells are present along the airport drive via La Cienega Boulevard and in West Hollywood’s Beverly Center shopping mall.

2. The office district of Century City exists because production costs of the 1963 movie Cleopatra almost bankrupted 20th Century Fox. The company was forced to sell off nearly 300 acres of its back lot, and the area was developed into an office park and mall.

3. The Hollywood sign is an emblem of LA, but from 1923 to 1949 it read ‘Hollywood Land’. Originally it was not an icon at all, merely a real estate marketing campaign for a housing development.

4. The city of Santa Monica is a yoga capital, with 20 yoga studios all within the downtown area.

5. The Watts Towers in East LA were built by one person over a 33-year period. An Italian immigrant called Simon Rodia started the project in 1921 and finished it in 1954.

6. In 1969, the internet was born in LA, specifically at UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles), when Professor Leonard Kleinrock typed the word ‘LOGIN’. Within a year, ARPAnet, the online network that became what we know as the internet, linked ten computers across the US.

Your tips

We asked BA’s LinkedIn followers for their Los Angeles tips.

‘Get a little tourist bus ($5 return) to Manhattan Beach. The streets are lined with appealing boutiques and eateries.’ – Kelley Price

‘Saturday mornings can only mean Venice Beach. Choose a boardwalk café and watch the world roll past like a cabaret show...’ – Derek McIlreavy

‘First of all, get a car – LA is vast. And avoid rush hour traffic... Have dinner in Barney’s Beanery, West Hollywood, for a good American flavour.’ – Victor Gonzalez Riano

Getting around

Use Uber or hail a cab outside the luggage claim area. It costs around $50 to get to downtown. Public transport isn't worth the trouble. If you’ve hired a car, driving into town via La Cienega Boulevard will show you some old-style Los Angeles. Lincoln Boulevard will mire you in traffic, but is the most direct route to the Westside.