Jodie Hopperton is a Los Angeles based author who is set to release her new book, Los Angeles Reinvented, in late February. Hopperton is a British media executive with a career spanning more than 15 years, she has worked with technology startups in addition to corporate roles with Trinity Mirror and the New York Times.
She lived in Paris, Madrid and London before moving to Los Angeles in 2015, where she founded FORE:media in the belief that Los Angeles has become every bit as inspiring as Silicon Valley – probably more so.
Realizing that Los Angeles isn’t an easy city to understand, she wrote Los Angeles Reinvented to demystify that belief and convey to the wider world the scale and depth of the innovation taking place there. She interviewed over 100 executives that have made the City of Angels their home and focuses on industries that LA excels in, including media, entertainment, music, gaming, food, health & wellness, retail, transport and aerospace. The book highlights many local inventors and businesses of popular products that we all know and love.
We had the pleasure of speaking to Jodie about her new book, inspirations behind it and her love for Los Angeles overall.
Tell me a little about your background and what inspired you to write this book.
When the opportunity came up to move to LA I had only just moved back to London after eight years of being away - living in Paris, Madrid and New York. At the time I really didn’t know much about LA, the only two things that sprung to mind were Hollywood and traffic. I called a good friend who travelled to LA frequently on business and she told me she thought it was an incredible city and that I would love it. So I started investigating and discovered that LA is at the forefront of innovation for media, which fit my background of 20 years working with news media companies large and small. As I dug deeper I found that LA had a number of other thriving industries including music, entertainment, gaming, retail, health, wellness, biotech and aerospace.
In 2017 I founded FORE: media, a business that brings European Executives to California to learn about innovation. I quickly realized that Los Angeles has become every bit as inspiring as Silicon Valley, probably more so. Yet many people don’t see this side of Los Angeles. I think it’s not as obvious as other cities: there is no central business district - some people say it’s a number of suburbs in search of a city - and LA does not brand itself like Silicon Valley or NYC. That’s why I set about writing this book: to demystify LA and to convey to the wider world the scale and depth of the innovation taking place here.
Share with me a few things you find most fascinating about Los Angeles.
Los Angeles is the second biggest city in the US, accounting for over $1 trillion of the US GDP - second only to New York and double that of San Francisco. Yet somehow LA feels like the underdog. Other cities seemed more renowned for business, especially when it came to innovation.
As I started looking into the innovation here I realized that much of it is focused around consumer products and services. With 48% of Angelenos identifying as Latino, and 35% of Angelenos coming from outside the country, it’s a very diverse population. And this makes it an excellent testing ground for consumer products and services
The other thing that I have found fascinating is that Hollywood permeates so many industries in subtle ways. For example, there are a number of prominent gaming companies based in Los Angeles. At first glance, gaming is an entirely separate industry yet when you think of the skillsets needed to create a game they are very similar to those needed to create a movie: enticing storylines, character development, world-building, visual effects, sound and music.
What are some of the themes that readers can find throughout your book?
Los Angeles Reinvented takes readers through some of the fascinating detail of why LA is different to other cities. From surprising individual stories such as how a 15-year-old boy turned a family recipe into a multimillion-dollar business, to why the music industry migrated from New York to Los Angeles. It takes readers on a journey through some of the most inspiring stories on innovation in media, entertainment, music, gaming, retail, health, wellness and transportation.
I’m hoping that it appeals to the culturally curious and people that have previously looked to Silicon Valley for all things innovation, plus that it can serve as an introduction to doing business in Los Angeles for those who are new to the city.
How many people did you interview for your book - what are some of your favorite stories that others have shared with you?
I loved speaking to so many different people in Los Angeles to get different perspectives. All in all, I interviewed over 100 executives, founders and policymakers that have made LA their home, each of whom gave me a different perspective and taught me something new.
My favorite, at least the most impactful, has to be Homeboy Industries. I think we can all get stuck in our own worlds and only see the parts of the city that we want to, so it was a real eye-opener to learn about gang culture in LA through those working at Homeboy. It’s humbling how one individual has successfully pioneered a way forward for those who want a different life, and my conversations made me question the accepted measurement of business success: dollar value. That’s why I’m giving a portion of book sales from the website www.LAreinvented.com to support the amazing group of people at Homeboy.
There are so many other stories that I’ve enjoyed learning about including the for-profit company that is making millions for charities, how the drive through was invented in LA, how virtual reality is being used for pain relief and how the notorious traffic is giving rise to a new set of start-ups looking to provide alternative transport solutions.
You’re originally from the UK and not an LA native. What would you say to those who question your true understanding of LA culture?
I think my background is precisely why I am qualified to write this. I’ve lived in different cities and have had the opportunity to travel around the world, which gives me a perspective of how Los Angeles is different to other cities. Now I have been here for five years I understand the city well enough to have really got under the skin yet not long enough to have lost that perspective. This enables me to ‘translate’ Los Angeles to outsiders.
The funny thing is that from the conversations I’ve had and presentations I’ve given, I often get Angelenos approaching me afterwards telling me how much they’ve enjoyed discovering new things about the city through my work.
You've fallen in love with the city since moving here, how would you describe the culture and lifestyle having lived in many different places?
As a Brit who has grown up talking about the weather, the sunshine here makes a huge difference! This is especially so as the city is surrounded by stunning nature: miles of sandy beaches to the west and mountain ranges to the north. You can surf and ski on the same day if you wanted to.
Angelenos tend to have a good work-life balance. In Venice where I live you’ll often see people cycling to the beach at sunrise to surf, or coming into work with a yoga mat over their shoulder. But this doesn’t make the city less productive, people are absolutely focused at work and I believe far more open to new ideas and collaboration than many other places.
I’ve heard New Yorkers in particular say that LA is vacuous and lacks culture, but LA has more museums per capita than any other city in the world! There is so much to see and do here that it’s possible to have an incredibly varied lifestyle dependent on your interests.
What are you currently working on?
2019 was a big year for me, not only did I write ‘Los Angeles Reinvented’ but I bought a house and had a baby! This year I am focusing on working with my, mostly European, clients to help them take advantage of the innovation here in LA and to sharing the research I’ve done for Los Angeles Reinvented through presentations and events.
For more information on Jodie and Los Angeles: Reinvented, visit: www.lareinvented.com.
This 248-page book is a showcase of exceptional examples of innovation in Los Angeles by executives who have made the city their home. Sourced from over 100 interviews with leading executives from Disney, BAFTA LA, Westfield, Soylent, Riot International and Homeboy Industries, as well as the founders of cutting-edge new companies. Through a selection of articles, stories and graphics we see examples of innovation at the intersection of technology and various industries unique to Los Angeles.