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TwiistUp 5: More Than Just Sexy Tech Stuff

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Some TwiistUp 5 goodness. Photo courtesy the great Emily Lerman/LAist.

For a guy as lazy as I am, there’s only a certain number of phrases that will really get me off the couch. I mean, I can get a cheeseburger delivered to my apartment if I really want, and anything not in arm’s reach can either be gotten by stick, or isn’t worth your trouble in the first place. I’m not exactly what you’d call ‘motivated’. However, words like ‘tech’ and ‘Kogi BBQ’ will get my ears to perk up. By the time you add ‘free booze’ to that string, I’m almost done putting on a pair of pants for the first time in weeks. And if you can manage to wheeze out ‘secret airplane hangar in Santa Monica’ before I put a gun to your head and make you drive me there, you certainly are one fast talker.

And more than likely, Mr. Speedy Lips, you’re talking about TwiistUp, the tech start-up shindigs that have been taking over the LA landscape. As it is now, Los Angeles has been experiencing about one-point-twenty-one gigawatts of hype as the new start-up central for all things sweetly technological. In other words, Cupertino and the rest of the Silicon Valley can cram it with digital walnuts, because LA techsters not only know what they like, they know how to create what they don’t have yet. And that is sort of what TwiistUp is built on, and why it flourishes. Luckily this month’s TwiistUp 5 was no exception.

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TwiistUp founder Mike Macadaan saw a need for a compu-heavy convention here in our fair city, but minus the suits and LARPing, and plus a lot of venture capitalists, food, and booze. How Mike has been able to so successfully merge the nerd and the drunk in all of us is still a bit of a mystery, but like the Korean BBQ and tortillas that made TwiistUp 5’s Kogi BBQ such a hit...it just works.

Much can be said for the hand-selected start-ups that filled out the semi-secretive space on the Santa Monica airfield, but that’s mostly for another article. Suffice it to say the products ranged from innovative to quirky to helpful to mind-bending to downright creepy, all qualities you would expect to find in your local geek anyways. But the sheen, shine, and smile of this event was something altogether different. With graciously spacious digs designed by the Fresh WATA crew, there was a real sense of funky fun playing throughout the hangar. A large and well-stocked bar in the center didn’t hurt things much either. As the drinks flowed, the lights blurred in and out, and the constant click of cameras disoriented us all, the remaining glaze was still wonderful enough to be pleasurable.

Part of the charm of TwiistUp 5 was exactly this element: people quickly find that the welcoming space and well-heeled bar take off the rough edges and really put people on the same smooth page. Money men find themselves loosening their ties next to Warcraft fanboys in polos and ill-fitting Wranglers. You can ask simple questions without worrying about a snooty and smarter-than-thou attitude, like ‘where’s the toilet?’. The mingling really is the highlight of the evening, with the shwag (t-shirts, bottle openers, pens...oh lord, the pens....) to prove it. Luckily I’ve got enough promotional stickers to rebuild the Challenger (too soon?). Thanks TwiistUp.

You may not have enough money to help out any of these start-ups yourself, but TwiistUp is doing a great service to the Los Angeles tech landscape. By bringing innovative technologies directly to the people who would use them, and those who may be able to pay for them in the future, TwiistUp is quickly finding a place for itself among the better young tech-minded showcases nationwide. And as the TwiistUp 5 night blurred on into debauchery (I think that guy from Totspot just went home with that girl from Meebo!), a single moment of mental clarity might have made me realize what an opportunity we have as Angelenos to support the growth of one of the hottest new job sectors in our area. Instead, drunk off Kogi and more Patron-from-a-sippy-cup (I stole it from a baby with a mustache and tattoos...I think...) than I care to remember, I stumbled away into the night to find a place to take a leak next to John Travolta’s Learjet. As I withstood the askance looks of security and tried not to get any on my shoes, I did have the clearest thought in hours: TwiistUp is fun.