Think Tank Takes Shape in Silicon Beach

Think the COVID-19 pandemic has curtailed Loyola Marymount University? Think again.

Out of the chaos the world continues to experience in responding to the contagion, a new entity is taking shape – the Silicon Beach Think Tank – an LMU initiative in the Playa Vista/Silicon Beach business community that aims to pool experience and exchange ideas on timely and relevant issues facing our society. Marianna Villa, LMU’s executive director for strategic partnerships and initiatives, hopes the think tank will serve as a catalyst for ideas and action, setting the stage for future collaborations and creative solutions.

Seeking to understand how the global pandemic has affected business on all levels, LMU’s External Relations and Partnerships team asked CEOs and senior executives to share their COVID-19 experiences in online Q&As. These interviews will be transformed into a series that shares the issues, changes, losses, and gains for these businesses during this unprecedented time.

“We will learn how this has changed their way of doing business,” said Villa. “We’ll see what silver linings are coming out of this forced change and what various day-to-day operations look like for these businesses moving forward.”

YouTube’s Alvaro Paes de Barros, head of YouTube Spaces, Americas, describes how the video-sharing company pivoted and added features because the crisis “accelerated the changes in how people consume news and entertainment.” Susan Warfel, managing editor for Investor’s Business Daily, says “the biggest win is not related to how we’re doing our business: It’s the increase in demand for our content.” Shiraz Akmal, CEO of Spaces, whose theme park business has been seriously affected by the constrictions brought on by the pandemic response, says, “We’ve taken everything we know about social interaction and emerging technology and launched our Spaces app that lets non-VR users connect and communicate with VR users in a seamless and magical way.”

(The full interviews will be available at LMU’s Playa Vista Campus website.)

When LMU Playa Vista Campus opened in fall 2018, one primary focus was to bring the university’s expertise and creative energy into partnerships with the entrepreneurship that distinguishes Silicon Beach. Alliances with companies and the numerous events and symposiums held on the campus have made that vision become a reality. The Silicon Beach Think Tank will extend those connections, strengthen community, foster understanding, and promote action for the greater good.

“It’s inspiring to see how open and honest our partners have been with their responses,” Villa said. “It highlights our need for connection, virtual or otherwise, during this time and celebrates the collaborative spirit among our neighbors.”