As I sit here writing almost two weeks later, the OC seems like a blur. But I will try to capture both my experience and what I learned from it.
My home for six nights was what my family calls “the maid’s quarters.” It is in the basement of a house owned by family, and it is a fully functional place to sleep, bathe, cook (if you cook in toaster ovens and microwaves), and hang your clothes. However, all of this is in a space about the size of 20′ trailer. It works really well for one person and can work for two if they don’t mind sharing a twin bed. The best part about it is that it is free! It was a blessing to have a place right in Laguna that I could call home that is somewhat familiar.
The purpose for being in OC was two-fold. One was to start networking for a job. The second was to explore OC by myself, without having Kymberlee drive the agenda and priorities. Less important, but still important, was to put in consulting hours and to catch up on friends.
The consulting hours and emails for networking required a very important thing that the maid’s quarters lacked – wifi. So that led to two places that rank incredibly high on my list of remote work areas, the Laguna Beach Library and Glenda’s deck.
Both offered speedy wifi with views of the ocean. I am now officially spoiled.
Regarding networking, I found OC to be a strange blend of ideas, industries, and people. There is no predominant industry here, but instead is influenced by apparel, medical devices, real estate (mortgages), construction, and a long tail of other industries. This is unlike the Bay Area or Nashville, both places where the main industry dominates (technology and healthcare, respectively). This makes it hard to find a toehold, but I started with the entrepreneurial side hoping to find the investors that power the start ups. Again, I found no dominant VCs. Instead, I found that the Tech Coast Angels are, seemingly, the main source of early stage funding in the area.
Third hand informants suggested that the VC industry here never recovered from the 2008 bloodbath, especially since so many of them were funded by real estate money which essentially disappeared with the subprime mortgage crisis.
A fairly interesting place was The Cove, University of California Irvine’s innovation center. I attended a couple of events there, and it was an impressive facility, designed to incubate companies and ideas in the area and serve as a conduit for commercialization of ideas coming from the academic side of UCI. I am generally not a fan of academic incubators or technology-transfer programs, as the culture gap between academia and startups is usually too large to fill, though there have been a enough success stories to keep universities trying.
Overall, I found the OC to be between Nashville and Silicon Valley in terms of entrepreneurial infrastructure, size, and velocity. If Nashville is third tier, the OC would be a weak 2nd tier and likely only considered a 2nd tier because it is part of the greater Los Angeles ecosystem. There is, however, a sharp division between OC and LA. It is a gap that reminds me of San Jose vs. San Francisco. About the same travel time (1 hour) apart and about the same level of difference in culture and personality.
But enough rambling – what did I learn? That the OC is like the rest of the West Coast – expansive in their thinking, ideas, and actions. I used to chalk it up to materialism, but what I see now is just an expansive mindset, where “no” means try another way until you get to yes. I see it as a continuation of Manifest Destiny, where the earliest settlers headed west to escape the confines of the east and were essentially self-selecting. If you had an expansive mindset, you headed west. If you did not, you stayed in the east.
There is obviously many generations over the years, but I think the influence is still strong, strong enough to feel more at home here than in Nashville.
Links to the rest of the journey:
Why I Don’t Camp in the East
Aunt Panda and Homebrew
Bucket List Maintenance
Gee, That’s Swell
AdversityHumanity and Home?
Hot and Cold
What I Learned From The OC, Part One
The OC, Part 2 – We Are Family
A Big Hole (In Our Memory?)
Leaving the Mountains Behind