65,000 Community Members and Five Years Later, ‘Innovate Pasadena’ Celebrates its Successes

Collaborative tech group responsible for bringing tech heavy hitters to Pasadena

Published : Tuesday, June 26, 2018 | 5:51 AM

Although Pasadena’s thriving tech community doesn’t yet have a catchy name like “Silicon Valley,” or even Santa Monica’s ‘Silicon Beach,” its collaborative group, Innovate Pasadena, has reached over 65,000 community members in the San Gabriel Valley in the last five years, according to its president, Beth Kuchar.

“We’ve produced hundreds of technology and entrepreneur-driven events,” Kuchar told Pasadena Now Monday.

Innovate Pasadena also helped bring in such global tech heavy hitters as Alibaba Pictures, and EDP Innovation Center, as well as the unique workspace company, Cross Campus, to Pasadena, said Kuchar.

Added Kuchar, “We’ve started an innovation week called ‘Connect Week,’ an innovation week that we started back in 2014, and just last year, we had almost 90 events over the course of 10 days, and it’s ‘Innovation Week’ that’s recognized and anticipated throughout the country. And in addition to that, members of our organization have brought in new businesses to Pasadena, capital investments, and helped them bring thousands of square footage of collaborative space to the city.

The group will celebrate those five years with a party Wednesday, June 27, 2018 at CTRL Collective – Pasadena, along with a few hundred of Pasadena’s leaders in technology, science, design, and entrepreneurial industries.

Michael Giardello, Innovate Pasadena’s co-founder and current chairman, said Wednesday’s event is a great opportunity to merge some tech networking with looking back and celebrating the organization’s accomplishments in five years.

Kuchar said the organization’s activities has produced increasing engagement.

“We definitely are growing,” Kuchar affirmed. “This is always been a very strong innovation-centric community, but not very talked about, and not very recognized outside of the city.”

Councilmember Andy Wilson agrees.

“Innovate Pasadena has really solidified Pasadena’s spot in the map as kind of a hub of innovation in Southern California,” Wilson said, continuing thr group’s strongest accomplishments have been to bring the tech community together in Pasadena and to cement Pasadena’s leadership position “within the broader Southern California ecosystem.”

As Kuchar describes the local tech community, “We’re very heads down, getting our work done. I think right now, we’re really seeing a lot of recognition for some of the great innovations that come out of Pasadena, and I just feel like there’s more and more momentum building behind that.”

The group was formed in 2012 by a group of community and business leaders from Caltech, Art Center, PCC, the City of Pasadena, along with a group of established and newer tech companies.

With a shared vision to strengthen their home city by supporting activities that foster innovation, the newly-formed group celebrated their launch under the name “Innovate Pasadena,” in 2013, attracting over 600 entrepreneurs, engineers, venture capitalists, educators, designers, students, CEOs, and, of course, actual rocket scientists. Pasadena is the home of Caltech and JPL, after all.

Along the way, Innovate Pasadena has reached out to tech leaders across the state and the country. In some cases, Pasadena Economic Development Manager Eric Duyshart said, “IP” has met with outside business managers and showed them Pasadena’s tech ecosystem in a way that has encouraged them to move operations here.

“One that stands out the most is when Innovate Pasadena brought Cross Campus to tour the city,” Duyshart said. That connection led to collaborations with the City which resulted in Cross Campus’s successful Old Pasadena location.

And there is really is no effort by the City to be the next “Silicon Valley,” or the next anything, says City Manager Steve Mermell.

“We’re not trying to be anyone in particular,” said Mermell Monday. “When we look at Pasadena’s strengths, though,” he explained, “it’s technology, which extends all the way from tech to medical to professional services to finance, and those are four areas where we’re particularly strong in our local job spaces.”

Mermell described tech’s importance.

“Over 110,000 people come into Pasadena every day to work. A number of them are working in a business in one of those four fields or something related. And so it’s part of the overall strength of our local economy. “

Continued Mermell, “We think Pasadena is a city that has the sorts of amenities that those types of knowledge workers want where they live. We’ve heard this from employers; there’s a lot of places they can relocate their business or put their business in the first instance, but they don’t have the type of things that Pasadena has. We have great shopping districts, great dining, fabulous other amenities, and the feel of the place is conducive to what tech workers and other knowledge workers want.”

“So,” continued Mermell, “when those people with talents get together for a social event with Innovate Pasadena, and they need people that have similar skills or who are also perhaps coming from another state or another part of the county into Pasadena, they feel like they’re part of a local community, and that’s an important thing for Innovate Pasadena to continue.”

That may be the easiest part to predict.

As Kuchar noted Monday, “I think we’ll keep growing, and I think that’s really our strong area, and it will continue to be our strength in moving forward, connecting businesses and resources, and the talented people that live in this city. And that, to me, is where innovation really comes from. It’s connecting all of those pieces together.”

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