Art + Science Labs demonstrates its AR app at Silicon Beach Fest Photo by Brittany Lauren Smith

Art + Science Labs demonstrates its AR app at Silicon Beach Fest Photo by Brittany Lauren Smith

Some 2,000 tech industry workers and entrepreneurs gathered last week in Santa Monica to take part in the third annual Silicon Beach Fest, organizers said.

Spread over several downtown venues, the Thursday through Saturday event boasted 375 speakers in 65 panels on topics as varied as raising venture capital, bootstrapping a business, tracking digital content trends and involving more women in the startup world.

Speakers included L.A. billionaire entrepreneur and investor Patrick Soon Shiong; Chet Pipkin, CEO of Playa Vista consumer electronics developers Belkin International; and Peter Marx, Mayor Eric Garcetti’s chief innovation technology officer.

Hardware and software developers also displayed their wares at the festival’s first Gadget Sandbox, among them representatives for Culver City-based Art + Science Labs demonstrating the company’s latest augmented reality tool. When asked how the technology worked, an ASL rep silently held an iPad above a square piece of paper and within seconds a 3D image of a dragon appeared on the screen, blowing fire while perched squarely on an image of the paper that sat lifeless on the demo table.

Potential applications include bringing printed books or newspapers to 3D life, though in the words of co-founder Debra Downing this was “just a fun thing that we did.” The company has worked on augmented reality projects with clients such as Mattel, Disney and USC.

Back at the panels, tech industry leaders dished out plenty of advice for up-and-coming entrepreneurs.

“Challenge yourself to be uncomfortable. Other people don’t necessarily see what you see,” said Frank Addante, CEO of the Rubicon Project, an online advertising technology firm based in Playa Vista.

While venture capitalists and those seeking angel investors were part of the dynamic, participants said the event seemed to focus more on building community within the Westside tech sector and increasing ties with other innovation hubs. Between 10% and 20% of Silicon Beach Fest participants arrived from outside the L.A.-area, event founder Kevin Winston said.

“As an L.A. native, it’s good to witness this dynamic startup ecosystem maturing,” said Scott Messer, director of business development at Santa Monica-based Demand Media, a leading digital content company. “There’s always been spirit and follow-through, but now it’s getting the recognition it deserves.”

— Remy Merritt