Santa Monica is at the center of a tech revolution. Hundreds of startups are based in the city, part of the Westside of L.A. County that has been dubbed “Silicon Beach.”
Our Tech Tuesday feature will introduce you to some of the cutting-edge tech startups cropping up in our back yard.
This week, we chatted with Kurt Daradics, startup program manager for Esri, an international leader in Geographic Information Systems (GIS). Daradics manages Esri’s global startup program from the company’s Santa Monica office.
What does your company do?
Founded in 1969, Esri pioneered digital mapping and defined the product category of GIS (Geographic Information Systems). Our tools are used in a wide array of use cases including map making (cartography), logistics, asset management, commercial retail site selection, marketing, and more. GIS is applied geography and Esri answers the ‘where?’ question for the world.
How did you come up with the idea?
Our founder and president, Jack Dangermond, studied with Roger Tomlinson at Harvard in the sixties. Roger is credited with the academic framework of GIS, and Jack with commercialization and bringing GIS to life.
Why did your company locate to Santa Monica?
We have offices in 90-plus countries worldwide and 10,000-plus employees throughout our global organization. We have a small office at The ROC on 6th and Arizona (a co-working space that used to be Google’s office). Our corporate headquarters is in Southern California in Redlands. I’ve been LA based my whole life and we’re here in getting the word out about our web and mobile development tools to the LA Tech community. I manage our global startup program from our Santa Monica office. You can check out esri.com/startups to learn more. We have a free three year program for startups where we gift our software and other benefits to qualified startups. LA is so hot right now, so it makes lots of sense for us to be here.
What’s the biggest challenge your company is facing?
There is so much that can be done with GIS, and where do you get started can be a challenge, especially since location can have such a profound impact on so many parts of an organization. Translating the generic GIS story to specific sectors can be a challenge. We’re getting better at this, but there is still lots of room for improvement. The other challenge is staying nimble (at our scale), but having teams like ours helps.
What could the city of Santa Monica do to help your company thrive?
We’d like to welcome Rick Cole to town as the new City Manager. We’ve done lots of work with Rick throughout his career (City of LA, City of Ventura, City of Pasadena). The more that Rick can inspire Santa Monica to continue to expand its digital footprint (this includes more open data projects), and digital infrastructure (e.g. beacons and wifi) the better for all of us. The City of Santa Monica already does great work with this, and has a very robust GIS Department and is tech forward, so I don’t think Rick will have much of a challenge here. The greater challenge is how to develop more cross jurisdictional collaboration. The new metro train is a great example of this, and more projects like this that help stitch the larger LA / SoCal region together with shared resources (where it makes sense, naturally) would be fantastic, and something that would help lots of people locally, including Esri.
Where do you see your company in a year?
We’ll continue to grow, and hopefully no longer be the biggest company no one has ever heard of. We’re going to be making lots of noise in the markets over the next few years, so keep your ears peeled. Esri is on the move.