When my great grandfather started Canter’s Deli in Los Angeles in 1931 he didn’t know it would become a world-famous hangout for celebrities, musicians and politicians. He just wanted to create a place where Los Angelenos could get a delicious meal at a fair price.
But over the years Canter’s Deli has become pretty popular…
However, back in the 1930's it was a very different place. The movie industry was just starting to grow, the Academy Awards were a new thing, and a little mouse named Mickey was becoming a star.
The year after Canter’s Deli opened, the Summer Olympics came to town. The LA Memorial Coliseum was enlarged to accommodate over 100,000 spectators for the games (it’s still used today by the USC Trojans football team). And a major street in Los Angeles was named after the Olympics called Olympic Boulevard!
Growth continued during WWII. More cars and tires were made in Los Angeles than anywhere except Detroit and Akron. The defense industry expanded. And immigration and a baby boom helped the population skyrocket.
Today LA is a melting pot of amazing ethnic communities, entertainment, and my favorite, restaurants that celebrate cultures from around the world.
The aerospace and entertainment industries are no longer as strong as they once were, but they’ve been replaced with professional and financial services firms, manufacturing, and tech companies.
And just last month, right around the corner from Canter’s Deli on Fairfax, an exciting new organization named Techstars launched its Los Angeles office.
Techstars is what’s known as an accelerator — an organization that helps young companies, through mentorship and investment, build innovative ideas into companies that create local jobs and new opportunities.
Some consider Techstars the Cadillac of tech accelerators and while there are lots of great accelerators in LA, Techstars, based in Boulder, Colorado, is one of the largest and most successful, with offices around the world.
Accelerators are catalysts of change. They support new ways of thinking. They help communities to evolve and build new industries. And as the makeup of LA industries changes, it’s organizations like Techstars that will help ease the transitions.
I’d like to personally welcome Techstars to our neighborhood and on behalf of four generations of Canter’s Deli owners, salute the new startup founders participating in the Techstars accelerator.
Although I was born into a restaurant family, I’m a huge fan of tech and I see enormous potential to use it to solve big challenges for the restaurant industry.
That’s why this year I founded my own startup called Ordermark to solve issues related to online ordering and marketing for restaurants.
Just a few years ago Canter’s Deli did zero business online. Today it accounts for more than 30% of our revenue.
The potential of online ordering is huge but doing it right is hard for restaurants. I created Ordermark to make it easier.
But to succeed I know that we’ll need support from a vibrant startup community. And I know that wherever Techstars launches it helps to support a vibrant startup community.
Brad is one of the founders of Techstars and an important tech investor, thinker, and leader in the startup world. And Brad, if you’re in LA and need a hot meal we’ve got a corned beef on rye with your name on it!
So it’s partly out of self-interest that I’m excited about Techstars coming to Los Angeles, but it’s also out of deep respect for how they do business.
Techstars has its own Code of Conduct and promotes the idea of “giving first” — which is basically helping others succeed because it’s the right thing to do and because it creates a virtuous cycle of support.
In our own small way we intend to do just that.
Next week we’ve invited the entire Techstars LA team to Canter’s Deli for milkshakes and cookies to welcome them to our community. It’s a first small step in #givingfirst and supporting a vibrant startup community in our LA neighborhood.
I encourage other restaurants to do the same. Working together we can make a bigger impact.
And Techstars has already inspired us with the concept of #givefirst.
Since Ordermark reaches restaurants around the country we’re exploring ways to give back to communities through hunger relief.
Virtuous cycle indeed.