PLAYA VISTA ( — Silicon Beach was throwing a big party for itself Wednesday night.

The area, which includes parts of Santa Monica, Venice and Playa Vista, is now home to some 500 tech start-ups, as well as established firms including Google, Yahoo! and YouTube.

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And the four-day Silicon Beach Festival in Marina del Rey was expected to draw some 2,000 techies, organizers said during Wednesday’s opening night.

“We have start-ups, Hollywood tech, folks from San Fran. and New York that flew in,” said Kevin Winston, CEO and Founder of Digital L.A.

Among guests Wednesday was U.S. Army veteran Joel Hoffman, who was able to step back into the battle field with the help of a simulation device meant to help veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Hoffman remembers when the disorder didn’t exist during the Korean War.

“At that time it was a very infantile approach to treating what they called shell shock … ” he said.

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USC’s Institute for Creative Technologies created the device at its center in Playa Vista.

“I think in the last three years, if you look at this area and Santa Monica, it’s exploded,” said Clarke Lethin, of USC’s Institute for Creative Technologies.

Now, Hoffman is seeing how technology has changed everything — right here in Los Angeles.

“The technology is just incredible,” he said.

According to, L.A. has more people employed in high-tech jobs than any other region in the U.S. and is just behind San Francisco in entrepreneurs per capita.

“We have about 800 start-ups in the L.A.-area, and that alone in sheer numbers is reflective of what’s happening in the scene,” Winston said.

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Organizers say the Silicon Beach Festival is the largest tech event in L.A.