When people think of entrepreneurship, cities like San Francisco, San Jose, and Palo Alto often jump to mind. However, if you travel about 350 miles south of Silicon Valley and the Bay, you’ll find a growing Mecca of industry and entrepreneurship in Los Angeles. Certain L.A. residents, like David Geffen and Elon Musk, require no introduction, but there are some other influential Angelenos you may not have heard of. Here are just three of the local entrepreneurs who are changing the landscape with groundbreaking products and ideas.
- Dr. Andy Khawaja
Born in Beirut but now based in Los Angeles, Dr. Andy Khawaja is one of L.A.’s most notable and inspiring business figures. He came to this country at age 18 with less than $30 in his pocket, and now he’s the founder and CEO of a multi-billion-dollar payment processing empire. His company, payment processor Allied Wallet, serves more than 150 million customers worldwide and has changed the way payments are processed online. He has received numerous CEO of the Year awards and is even a member of the Forbes Finance Council. His contributions to the state and city have been recognized by the City of Los Angeles, the State of California, and even the U.S. Senate. He lives by a simple but meaningful motto: “Have hope. Work smart. Make your dreams a reality. The sky is the limit.”
- Joe Liebke
Joe Liebke is as L.A. as it gets. Born and raised in this community, he now transacts business from an office overlooking the legendary Sunset Strip. Liebke is CEO and Broker of The Lux Group, Inc., one of the city’s largest and most successful luxury real estate firms. Over the past five years, he has funded more than $2 billion in real estate transactions. He’s also the founder of Villaway, a revolutionary marketplace for connecting travelers and vacationers with affordable luxury rentals all over the world. Think Airbnb for the jet-setting lifestyle.
- Alec Gores
Like Dr. Andy Khawaja, Alec Gores comes from humble beginnings. He was born in Israel during a time of tremendous unrest but now boasts a fortune in the neighborhood of $2.2 billion. He is recognized by Los Angeles Business Journal as one of the wealthiest Angelenos, but he started his career selling computers out of his home. After 10 years, his once-humble computer enterprise grew to over 200 employees and sold for $2 million. Since then, Gores has multiplied his fortune through leveraged buyouts of tech firms. His L.A. equity firm, Gores Group, has purchased 80 companies since 1987. For those with a sweet tooth, his most notable contribution to the economy may have been his purchase of the Hostess company. It was Gores who saved Twinkies, Cupcakes, and Sno Balls from certain demise.