As we kick off the third year of Techstars LA, I’ve been excited to see the continued growth and maturation of LA’s tech ecosystem. According to Crunchbase, venture dollars invested in LA in 2018 topped $6B. The overall tech industry is booming, with tech employment in the area growing 15% in 2017, and many large foundational tech companies signing big new leases. Some are even talking about LA’s “second mover advantage” as it poises to become the new Silicon Valley.
The Techstars community here is growing along with the overall community, with over 75 companies and hundreds of active alumni and mentors. Since the launch of the LA program two years ago, local program alumni have seen success in securing additional capital, with 20 companies raising a total of more than $60 million. We’re planning to build on the program’s great track record in 2019 across a wide swath of verticals.
What Interests Us In 2019
E-commerce and retail: The way we buy everything from staples to furniture to clothes is rapidly transforming. We’re ordering replenishables online instead of picking them up at the store, powered by companies like PRZM (Techstars LA 2018). We’re expanding the applications of last-mile delivery networks well beyond food, with the help of companies like Shipsi (Techstars LA 2018). We’re seeing a vending machine revolution with companies like PopCom (Techstars LA 2017) We’re buying from digitally native fashion brands like Blackstock & Weber (Techstars LA 2018) rather than incumbents. And in some cases, we don’t even want to own things anymore—as the rapid growth of Techstars LA 2018 alum Fernish has demonstrated. LA is at the center of this commerce revolution: in Q4 2018 in LA, e-commerce was the top category in announced seed investments. We’re looking for other companies disrupting how and what we buy to join Techstars LA in 2019.
AI: LA is home to a host of interesting AI startups working on everything from mobility and healthcare to enterprise decision making and happiness. Blue Fever (Techstars LA 2017) is creating an AI BFF that communicates via text and video message. DirecTech Labs (Techstars LA 2017) uses AI to increase revenue for gig economy workers and the companies who employ them. Slingshot Aerospace (Techstars LA 2017) applies AI and computer vision to satellite data for defense and security clients. Trellis (Techstars LA 2018) uses AI to give trial lawyers an advantage in court and Netcloak (Techstars LA 2018) is helping enterprises with sensitive data prevent spear phishing attacks. Maslo (Techstars LA 2017) is working on a moonshot idea—building the first universal emotionally intelligent AI.
Media: Los Angeles is the center for innovation in how we create and consume content—from film and television to gaming and social media. Venice company Heartbeat (Techstars LA 2017) has created the leading platform connecting brands with a community of over 250,000 brand ambassadors in social media. Catalog (Techstars LA 2018) is helping DTC brands and small businesses produce studio quality online content at a fraction of the cost. In 2017, we backed mixed reality startup Liv.tv (Techstars LA 2017), a platform for VR content creators to connect with and monetize their audiences. Stackin (Techstars LA 2017) has employed its media company DNA to help hundreds of thousands of millenials invest their money more wisely—or just start investing. And it may not be a media company, but as the market-leading booking platform for barber shops, the Cut (Techstars LA 2018) has serious Instagram game.
Impact: As Mayor Garcetti commented last year, in Los Angeles “everyone is playing a role in making us the capital of creativity, culture, and a more equal and just future.” That’s true of Techstars LA alumni Avisare (Techstars LA 2017), an end to end managed marketplace for government procurement, with the mission of leveling the playing field for small businesses. Avisare is already having an impact in Los Angeles and has some exciting announcements for this year. And Techstars LA 2018 alum Relovv is leading a reuse revolution on college campuses, with its clothing resale marketplace. We’re looking for founders with a vision to make the world better; there is no better place than Los Angeles for big dreamers.
Food: The last mile delivery revolution has changed the restaurant business more than any other category, and there’s a ton of innovation in Los Angeles in this area. In the Techstars world, Best Food Trucks (Techstars LA 2018) is connecting hungry office workers with fresh lunches, Ordermark (Techstars Boulder 2018) is streamlining mobile ordering for restaurants, and Playfull (Techstars LA 2017) is gamifying growth for fast casual restaurants. We know there is more great food tech out there—and we’re feeling hungry.
Other focus areas we are looking to support this year are digital health (including femtech), future of work, edtec,h and fintech. As a city accelerator program, we are sector agnostic and open minded.
What Else We’re Looking For
Team: I’ve written before about what makes a strong founding team, and this is the most important criterion when we are interviewing for Techstars LA.
Diversity: Companies with diverse teams not only have a wider variety of perspectives but they also statistically outperform other teams. Diversity is a good business practice and we look for teams that embrace that idea. As a founding member of PledgeLA, Techstars is committed to having real impact in the companies we back and the larger community. Of the 20 companies Techstars LA has backed so far, 10 have female founders and 10 have CEOs from historically underrepresented group. We’re excited to continue to add strong diverse teams to this alumni pool.
Innovation: We are looking for transformational ideas, not incremental improvements. If you are working on a moonshot idea, we’d love to hear it.
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