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Silicon Dragon Conference Will Propel Pasadena’s Rise as Gateway to Chinese Technology, Investment

The conference comes to Pasadena at a time Chinese investment dollars are hitting the streets of Pasadena with rapid fire

Published on Thursday, July 30, 2015 | 5:38 am
 
Andy Wilson of Innovate Pasadena and tech company Rexter, event planner Rebecca Fannin and Ky Cheng of the East West Bank at a pre-conference event on July 29, 2015.

Just months ahead of Pasadena becoming a hub for massive Chinese ecommerce heavyweight Alibaba, investors and innovators from around the world will gather here at the Silicon Dragon Conference today setting the stage for wider-spread recognition of Pasadena as a gateway to China.

Having made its way around the world to the top innovative technology hubs, the Silicon Dragon Conference will make its first stop in the Los Angeles area by visiting the Pasadena Convention Center and focus on facilitating cross-border, East-and-West connections.

The conference comes to Pasadena at a time Chinese investment dollars are hitting the streets of Pasadena with rapid fire —Alibaba will soon move into a 22,000 square foot office space in Pasadena’s Playhouse Plaza and later this year a company called Blank Spaces will open a Pasadena location backed by Chinese investors.

The East West Bank is already a central player in Pasadena as well as the Singpoli Group investors who now reside on Colorado Boulevard and Lake Avenue, among others.

“Pasadena is rising. I think we are seeing much more of an innovative technology edge to Pasadena,” event organizer Rebecca Fannin said, an entrepreneurial Forbes columnist and author. “I think you will see the culture change for the city, this is what the economic base needs. It needs start-ups and entrepreneurs to bring energy and make the city come alive.”

Harrison Tang, CEO of the online people finder called Spokeo, was recently named No. 22 on the Los Angeles Business Journal’s 2014 of fastest growing private companies. Of the many reasons why he originally moved the 2006 start-up company of seven to Pasadena in 2009, the main reason he attributed is the diversity Pasadena offers.

“As a Chinese American, I’m very excited for the cross pollination between the two cultures. China is the second biggest economy in the world right now, so the more the two cultures can learn from each other the better,” Tang said.

Fannin chose Pasadena as the location for the event based on Pasadena’s “strong international flavor” as well as the large number incubators in the City, in addition to being the hometown of California Technical Institution and the Art Center of Design. She believes the cluster effect will launch into more opportunities for Chinese companies.

“With Alibaba being in Pasadena, it’s the cluster effect. Companies want to be near people they can do business with,” Fannin said, “I think Pasadena is developing that cluster effect where there’s enough ingredients—good schools, incubators, investment community—that create an innovation cluster.”

Innovate Pasadena founder and newly elected Councilmember Andy Wilson has long been working toward creating that innovation cluster in the City, calling the event a “homerun” for Pasadena.

“We’re representing the city who is very enthusiastic about building kind of the entrepreneurial presence in Pasadena and engaging our partners locally and Asia,” Wilson said. “This cross border opportunity I think is a win-win for everybody.”

Wilson said he embraces the increasing opportunities of Chinese dollars helping build innovation infrastructure in the area.

“Innovation jobs are great jobs. They have very, very powerful job multipliers in terms of great jobs for everyone from the PhD at Cal Tech to the Associates Degree person at the PCC so that one reason why I’m very enthusiastic about this,”
Wilson said. “We’re a global economy and obviously Asia is a very, very important part of that. And I think thoughtful collaboration is a nice way for us to work together.”

Bringing diversity to Pasadena helps create sustainable economic development, Spokeo’s Harrison Tang said.

“We want to diversify our economy in Pasadena, and so Pacific Rim investment is a big important part of that. As we look at opportunities for new money to flow into Pasadena we have to always pay attention to that,” Pasadena’s Economic Development Manager Eric Duyshart said.

Duyshart said Pasadena, as the heart of the San Gabriel Valley is a lure for people coming for overseas. Being central to LA, close to the studios and part of the West San Gabriel Valleys with great schools it is a popular place to live and do business.

“The San Gabriel Valley has always been a draw for Asian communities. I think Pasadena is at a crossroads. I think it’s very beneficial and conducive here to building a business and also to the culture here,” Harrison Tang said.

All 190 of Spokeo’s employees live and work in Pasadena, a core requirement that was important to the culture of the company.

In an LA Times article Dominic Ng, chairman of Pasadena’s East West Bank, the largest Chinese-American bank, talked about how many Chinese, including his neighbors want to buy up Pasadena real estate, regardless of if they plan to live there. His neighbors bought a Pasadena estate, then lived there for just two days out of the two years that followed.

“He was not renting it out,” Ng said in the LA Times. “People have so much money, they just say, ‘What the heck. It’s a nice neighborhood. I might as well just buy one.'”

Angel investors, entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, emerging tech companies and incubators will attend the event from China, Silicon Valley, New York, Vancouver and Los Angeles.

The program explores LA’s increasing links to China with talks by leading venture capitalists, tech and entertainment entrepreneurs and executives.

Silicon Dragon’s LA program features two keynote speakers from powerful Chinese companies that have recently launched in California: Stella Li, president and CEO of BYD Motors, and J.D. Howard, general manager of LETV. Shenzhen-based BYD is the Warren Buffet-invested electric vehicle maker and Beijing-based LETV is an online streaming service and smartphone maker.

“BYD is very innovative electric vehicle maker from China. Attendees will hear Stella’s carefully calculated strategy for expansion of their electric buses, taxis and trucks,” Fannin said.

Fannin leads news, events and research group Silicon Dragon Ventures and writes a weekly column about innovation and venture investment trends at Forbes.com in addition to publishing two books.

Silicon Dragon wants to hold an annual event in LA, likely to be held in Pasadena each year at the end of July, helping to sustain the Chinese connections to LA and Pasadena.

“There will probably be some people who may not be as thrilled, but we are in a diverse community and I think the melting pot is important to who we are as a country,” Wilson said.

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