InnovateLA celebrates creativity in the Los Angeles region



The word gets bandied around way too much. We hear it applied to everything from new cars and new computers to feminine hygiene products. In some cases the word is probably merited.

We hear it so often the meaning has become dulled. But Southern California is about to play host to a series of events that truly do showcase innovation.

InnovateLA, a countywide celebration of the breadth of innovation and creativity found within the Los Angeles region, kicked off last week and will run through Oct. 23. It incorporates Pasadena’s Connect Week, Long Beach’s Innovation Week and UCLA Innovation Week.

Tens of thousands of people are expected to attend more than 100 events that address everything from clean technology and business to manufacturing and civic engagement.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti notes that “innovation is transforming city services in Los Angeles, where we have turned regular streetlights into cell phone towers or electric car chargers, and garbage trucks into mobile sensors of street cleanliness.”

That was from a press release, mind you, but you get where he’s going with it.

Garcetti said the InnovateLA events will “celebrate the innovative spirit that cuts across our public and private sectors, our startups and large media companies, our trade colleges and research universities.”

When you think about that statement, it says a lot. It speaks to the vast resources we have here in Southern California — resources that help fuel innovations we and the rest of the world see every day.

Pasadena’s Connect Week, which kicks off Sunday and runs through Oct. 23, is being presented by Innovate Pasadena, an organization dedicated to advancing greater Pasadena as a center of technology and design innovation.

On Wednesday, a session called “Nanotechnology for Kids” will be held from 4 to 5 p.m. at the Kidspace Children’s Museum at 480 N. Arroyo Blvd. in Pasadena.

Children who attend will be able to delve into the world of nanotechnology and explore how minuscule science is changing the world around us. They’ll get to play with and manipulate strange materials to discover how tiny structures influence big materials. And they’ll learn how nanotechnology is being used in the devices and systems that make up modern life.

Beats sitting at home watching reruns of “SpongeBob SquarePants.

And speaking of sponge, a year ago I attended an “Epic Failures” event that was presented by Innovate Pasadena. The event was held to honors entrepreneurs who had grappled with failure, learned from the experience and bounced back with a high level of success.

Anyway, a company called CloudSponge won the People’s Choice Award. The software-as-a-service product provides an interface that allows users to easily import contacts from a variety of webmail services.

Founder Jay Gibb explained that the company spent “a hundred grand building something.”

“We had no idea who was gonna’ buy it or how we were going to get it to people,” he said during the awards ceremony. “So we looked at everything that we had built after we ran out of money and we found a future for the product we were building that we could sell.”

The upshot?

They put a price tag on it, put in on the website and it soon became a software-as-a-service business with thousands of customers, including Yelp and Airbnb.

Now that’s innovation.

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