Tech All Stars and Investment-Hungry Startups Rub Elbows at OASIS Summit in Santa Monica

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Former West Coast Editor
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SXSW isn’t the only heavy-hitter tech conference attracting techies across the globe this week. A smaller, slightly more glamorous tech con is happening right now in the heart of L.A.’s Silicon Beach. It’s called the Oasis Summit. Maybe you’ve heard of it.  

The event is in full swing now in its second day at the historic oceanfront Fairmont Miramar Hotel in Santa Monica. There, above the scenic Pacific Ocean bluffs where silver screen bombshells Marilyn Monroe and Greta Garbo once rented lavish bungalows, senior-level investors, thought leaders and tech executives are power networking with corporate media, scrappy startups and, very appropriately, a handful of entrepreneurial Hollywood stars.

The event, which kicked off with cocktails last Tuesday night, might not have all of the cool factor entertainment extras of this year’s SXSW -- Imagine Dragons, Pitbull, Seth Myers, and the list goes on -- but it certainly has a decent amount of venture capital cash up for grabs.

Related: Great Ways to Network at SXSW
Oasis wraps tonight with what most attendees have been waiting for -- a Shark Tank-inspired contest called “Moneyball.” The competition pits three hot startups against each other for the grand prize of $500,000 to $1 million VC money, including $100,000 initial investment from the summit’s founder serial investor James Montgomery pledged to throw in himself.

The three finalists vying for Moneyball’s spoils are:

  • Bridg, a Los Angeles-based marketing automation upstart that serves small businesses

  • Vow to be Chic, a Santa Monica-based online designer wedding dress rental service

  • Deep Forest Media, a Palo Alto, Calif.-based mobile advertising firm

Conference organizers are billing the competition as “the largest-prized business competition ever held.” We’re not sure how valid that lofty claim is, but we do know that only one of the three competing early-stage companies will capture the interest -- and big bucks of -- Oasis’s top venture investor judges (Michael Abbot of Kleiner Perkins, Jim Armstrong of March Capital Partners and Matt McCall of Pritzker Group Venture Capital). Each judge will have the chance to invest in the victor in $5,000 increments.

Related: Mike Jones on Ditching La La Land For Silicon Beach

A-List Speakers
Google’s executive chairman Eric Schmidt took center stage alongside Jared Cohen, the tech giant’s director of ideas, at the summit yesterday. Together they took part in a lively keynote interview (and requisite selfie) with Bloomberg West TV anchor Emily Chang.

Spiritual guru Deepak Chopra and Mara Group founder Ashish Thakkar shared the stage at the two-day tech star-studded conference earlier today, immediately following tech legend Paul Maritz, formerly of Microsoft and Intel and current chief executive of San Francisco-based software company Pivotal.

John Chen, BlackBerry’s chief executive officer, also spoke at the summit today. Golden Globe-nominated actress Jessica Alba and her business partner Brian Lee, co-founder of LegalZoom and Shoedazzle, were also on hand this afternoon to talk about e-commerce and The Honest Company, their popular online retail business that specializes in non-toxic high-end baby products.

Related: 3 Hot Tech Startups Burning Up L.A.'s 'Silicon Beach'

Fertile ground for future success
The Oasis Summit, formerly known as the Montgomery Technology Conference, got its start in 2004. Past startups to take advantage of the conference’s apparently very effective high-level networking that rose to household name status include Pandora, Twitter and Facebook, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Some 1,200 participants from around the world are at Oasis, which brings together 145 startups vying to raise capital with some 400 tech executives and 400 investors from across the globe, according to the Montgomery.
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