A growing number of technology-based entrepreneurs are finding many reasons to invest in Downtown Long Beach. They have found a community of like-minded peers who feed off each other’s energy and inspire each other to invent and innovate.

“I am a firm believer that there are so many smart students here in Long Beach, and so many tech companies that have the potential to grow, that Long Beach could become the Silicon Valley of Southern California,” said Chacha McGinnis, CEO of California Beacons, a digital marketing agency located Downtown. “I want to be one of the companies which fuels that growth.”

Chacha McGinnis of California Beacons

McGinnis, originally from Chicago, has lived in Long Beach for the last four years. She had been working with Fortune 400 companies for over 20 years when she had an epiphany while driving home one night. “I saw ‘for lease’ signs in windows of business I had enjoyed,” she said. “I wondered why they were leaving the community. I did the research and realized that people didn’t know these small businesses existed. That night, I told myself, ‘With my 20 years of experience working with large companies, it’s the small businesses that need my expertise.’”

California Beacons offers a host of digital marketing services. Currently, McGinnis is focused on developing the What’s-Out app, which she describes as a “location-based proximity marketing platform.” A joint venture with the tech firm IBSPoint Solutions, the app employs geo-fencing – virtual boundaries that enable a business to target consumers located nearby. For instance, a What’s-Out-equipped consumer driving along Fourth Street could receive a text from a cafe mentioning a special promotion or new product. Since their shopping habits are recorded by the app, repeat customers might even get a “We miss you” text when they drive by a business they haven’t visited in a while.

A few blocks away from California Beacons, Ossie Cohen and Vijay Mohan are busy developing PICKL, a real-time merchandising app, in which consumers provide merchandising photos to participating brands. Anyone can enroll with the app, become a “PICKLER,” snap photos of products in stores, and get paid by PICKL within 30 minutes. Brands receive the photos almost immediately, giving them an up-to-the-minute look at how their products are merchandised and displayed by various retailers.

Vijay Mohan and Ossie Cohen of PICKL

“People go on PICKL dates now,” said Cohen. “You can earn money for your bottle of wine where you’re out together doing PICKL tasks. With 40 million people out of work, it’s a great way for people to make cash. As we grow, we’ll create more and more opportunities.”

Cohen was a self-taught computer coder growing up in Los Angeles. Later, he earned his Bachelor’s Degree in Business from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and built a PICKL prototype in 2017. After it tested successfully with three companies, he was able to raise enough money to build the full-blown PICKL system. The company is growing quickly: In addition to its Long Beach office, PICKL has locations in Dallas, Chicago, Columbus, and Phoenix, and is also getting established in India.

Another Downtown tech firm, Randy Rijkschroeff’s Perkadel, is intent on providing digital innovations to keep pace with new restaurant protocols. “We are providing the New Normal for hospitality in a post-COVID world,” said Rijkschroeff.

With Perkadel, a customer can digitally join a restaurant’s waiting list, then see in advance where their table is located and how many parties are in front of them. They can also review the menu in advance. Once seated, the server already knows the customer’s name. In addition, there is a “ring for service” function that minimizes table visits by the server.

Perkadel is a Dutch-Indonesian meat and potatoes dish; Rijkschroeff chose the name because he wants his company to be known as a staple for the food service and hospitality industries. “Perkadel covers the whole dining experience,” he said.

“Long Beach is ideal for bringing in talent,” Rijkschroeff said, noting that his company has interns from California State University, Long Beach. “We’re so easily accessible by train, freeway, or bus. I can’t think of another place that has accessibility like this.”