Techstars LA 2017 Recap

Last week marked the end of the first Techstars LA program, which wrapped up with Demo Day at the El Rey Theatre in mid-Wilshire. The first class of Techstars LA was built on a #LongLA thesis, with 9 of the 10 companies headquartered in the area. We also looked for founders with a combination of courage and coachability, addressing large markets with a big vision.

Last week the teams presented to a capacity crowd of investors in invite-only morning sessions and to a mix of investors and community members at the Demo Day event at the El Rey. I’m thrilled to present the ten companies from Techstars LA 2017.

Please get in touch if you’d like to connect with any of the companies or feel free to reach out directly.


Avisare is a marketplace simplifying the multi-trillion dollar B2B contracting industry through process improvement and automated regulation compliance. Our mission is to foster an inclusive ecosystem to level the playing field for all small businesses to compete for contacts.

Founder and CEO: Sky Kelley & Head of Customer Success: Anthony Vu

Blue Fever

Hollywood is ignoring badass millennial women. Blue Fever is a video discovery service where young women watch movies and series made and curated by people just like them. Blue Fever talks to young women like a best friend and reaches them where they already are: messenger.

Founders: Lauren Tracy, CEO and Greta McAnany, COO

DirecTech Labs

DirecTech Labs uses AI to power its “behavior engine” for the $183B direct selling industry.  Our system is currently helping customers ($500M and $1B companies) engage and retain direct sellers around the world as we work to turn this unsung industry into an even more powerful complement to e-commerce and retail.

Founders: Michel Bayan, CEO and Jordan Zommick, CTO


Heartbeat is a marketing automation platform backed by 125,000+ female consumer brand ambassadors. We have created a turn-key affordable solution for small & medium sized businesses that allow them to engage consumers to create user-generated content on their personal social channels at scale that accomplishes key marketing objectives.


LIV is powering spectator experiences for VR that allow the audience to better relate with the action. Our proprietary technology puts real people inside digital worlds and broadcasts that experience to the world.

Founders: Cix Liv, CEO and AJ Shewki, President


Maslo builds digital companions to enhance your wellbeing. By building technology to function as we do – with an understanding of emotions, social skills, and psychology – we can all become better people, together with technology.

Founders: Ross Ingram, CEO and Cristina Poindexter, COO


PlayFull has a mobile game and CRM that helps the largest restaurant brands in the world engage customers and increase sales. Partners include Subway, Chick-fil-A, Denny’s, Coffee Bean and more.

Founders: Patrick Lu, CEO, Zhuping Hu, COO and Alex Hesselgrave, CTO

Slingshot Aerospace

Slingshot is building the next generation of signal processing AI.  Slingshot customers worldwide make high-value decisions utilizing insights based on earth observation data, the world’s largest untapped data source.  This allows customers to reduce cost, improve competitiveness, and operate more efficiently – leading to better business results.

Founders: David Godwin, CEO, Melanie Stricklan, CSO and Thomas Ashman, VP Product

Solutions Vending International (SVI)

Solutions Vending International (SVI) is an automated retailing technology company that makes vending machines intelligent through consumers data and analytics. We help retail brands, vending machine manufacturers, and operators learn more about their customers by offering them customers to create accounts and engage with their machines like never before.

For more information click here.

Founder & CEO: Dawn Dickson


Stackin’ is a millennial finance company that helps over 3 million monthly users improve their financial fitness through digital video programming and intuitive tools.

Founders: Scott Grimes, CEO & Kyle Arbaugh, President

Introducing the Inaugural Class of Techstars LA

We are excited to announce the ten companies that will be joining the Techstars Los Angeles Accelerator for the 2017 program, which kicks off today and concludes with Demo Day on October 10.  

We had a simple thesis for Techstars LA this year: going long on LA and southern California. Our hunt for great companies was focused on the rapidly expanding local startup ecosystem. Outreach activities took our team from Pasadena to El Segundo, from Santa Barbara to San Diego and everywhere in between.

One-third of the eventual applicants were based in SoCal.  Throughout the selection process, we have been impressed with both the breadth and depth of talent in the LA area. Of the companies we ultimately selected, nine are local to southern California.

Our class also reflects the diversity of Los Angeles. Half of the class includes a female co-founder, including three female CEOs, as well as diversity across a number of other dimensions. These teams are building great companies in e-commerce, media, retail, enterprise data, aerospace, AI, marketing and esports.  

Techstars is the Worldwide Network that helps entrepreneurs succeed. It’s worldwide, but also local, and we called on our local network for great referrals. We would like to thank LA investors Taylor Adams, Jesse Draper, Arlan Hamilton, Mark Mullen and Robyn Ward for referring companies that will be joining Techstars. Many others supported our search and we are very grateful; we can’t be successful without your support.  

Techstars LA joins two other programs here in Los Angeles: the Techstars Music Accelerator and the Cedars-Sinai Accelerator, Powered by Techstars. We are excited about Los Angeles’ vibrant tech scene and, most of all, thrilled to announce the ten companies joining Techstars LA:


Avisare is the centralized network for all businesses to discover new contract opportunities, post their own, and bid on all opportunities using one universal profile.

Blue Fever

BLUE FEVER is a futuristic Netflix for millennial women focused on mood curation and community. The platform connects millions of fans with the best entertainment they haven’t seen yet – and the creators who make it.

DirecTech Labs

DirectTech labs uses machine learning and chatbots to help engage and retain millions of (75% female) direct selling micro-entrepreneurs around the world.


Heartbeat is a marketing automation platform backed by 100,000+ female brand ambassadors.


Liv is a full-stack hardware + software solution that powers 6 degrees of freedom Mixed Reality (MR).



Maslo builds technology companions to make better humans.  


PlayFull is a marketing platform that helps the largest restaurant brands in the world engage their next generation of customers with games.

Slingshot Aerospace

Slingshot provides extensible access to geo-enriched insights through our sensor-to-decision software platform. Fueled by advanced machine learning and computer vision algorithms, our technology optimizes and automates the complexities of object classification, event discovery, change detection, and risk scoring for Insurance and Defense.

Solutions Vending International

SVI is an automated retail technology company providing software solutions for intelligent vending. We make vending machines smart.


Stackin’ champions financial fitness for all millennials by educating, informing and entertaining across relevant social platforms.


¿Por qué es Los Ángeles el futuro de los Startups?

Estoy emocionada de haberme unido a Techstars en un trabajo de ensueño, como Directora De Programa del nuevo programa de aceleración en Los Ángeles. Como recordatorio, hicimos la introducción del nuevo programa en Octubre. Techstars LA llevará un enfoque horizontal y aceptará startup tecnológicas de todos los lugares del mundo que estén innovando en un variado rango de industrias, buscando construir una red más profunda a través del ecosistema tecnológico de Los Ángeles.

Aquí hay tres razones por las que estoy tan emocionada de tener esta oportunidad:

  1. Los Ángeles es una gran ciudad para fundadores.
    1. El área de LA tiene el tercer ecosistema más amplio, después de San Francisco y Nueva York, en Estados Unidos, con la tasa de crecimiento más grande en comparación de cualquier otra región metropoli.
    2. Esta región, también gradua más estudiantes de ingeniería que cualquier otra región metropoli.
    3. El capital que están recibiendo startups en Los Ángeles creció un 200% de 2012 a 215, alcanzando más de $3 Billones de dólares en inversión de capital que se dieron a 202 compañías.
  2. Hay muchos retos interesantes en los que el área de Los Ángeles tiene historias enriquecidas, una selección fuerte de talento y negocios de industrias principales existentes.
    1. Compañías de transporte y aeroespaciales de próxima generación. En el patio trasero de SpaceX y Hyperloop, hay un número de startups naciendo. Por necesidad, la región de Los Ángeles necesitará adoptar tempranamente nuevas maneras de moverse. Siendo la primera mayor ciudad en sincronizar todos sus semáforos, Los Ángeles ya está en el otro lado de la curva.
    2. Energía limpia. En contra del clima político actual, estamos buscando compañías que se enfoquen a transformar cómo creamos, distribuímos y usamos energía.
    3. Biotecnología. Como líder en tanto innovación agricultural como protección ambiental, California es la casa natural para soluciones creativas, seguridad alimentaria y protección ambiental.
    4. E-commerce y cadenas de suministro. Establecidas por compañías como el Dollar Shave Club o Honest Company, el área de LA es pionera y tiene hambre de más innovación, apoyada por una población local de líderes en tendencias.
    5. Realidad aumentada y realidad virtual. Como la casa de la industria del entretenimiento, Los Ángeles se ha convertido en el centro de la próxima ola de experiencias de contenido. Estamos interesados en el rol de la realidad aumentada y la realidad virtual para crear valor en la educación y otras industrias.
    6. Medios. Finalmente, esto es Los Ángeles. La ciudad que dio vida a Hulu, Maker Studios y Snapchat es un ambiente rico para contenido nuevo y conexiones de negocios.
    7. Equipos diversos: Los fundadores de compañías seleccionadas para Techstars LA reflejarán la diversidad de Los Ángeles. No es solamente algo bonito que tener, nosotros creemos que es buen negocio.


Esto puede parecer una franja ancha a través del paisaje de tecnología y está diseñado para ser así. El Programa de Techstars Los Ángeles está interesado en compañías que resuelven problemas difíciles con soluciones tecnológicas profundas. Y un poco de magia en el proceso.

  1. Techstars se está triplicando en Los Ángeles.
  • Hemos seleccionado un gran equipo para Techstars LA. Uniéndose a mi como Director del programa de aceleración de Techstars LA, tenemos a un alumni, Ethan Austin, co-fundador de GiveForward. Ethan es un escritor fantástico, amante de los burritos, y profesado adicto a las startups, quien se acaba de mudar desde Chicago. Y Lara Jeremko se unirá a nuestro programa del 2017 como emprendedora-en-residencia. Lara is inversionista, co-fundadora de una startups y consejera que viene de Austin, Texas. Previamente, Lara manejaba un fondo de inversión de capital de $1.5 billones de dólares en la Universidad de Texas y también es co-fundadora de re:3D, una compañía de impresión 3D. Lara está emocionada de sumergirse en la comunidad tecnológica de LA y mejorar la escena de comedia.
  • Techstars LA está uniendo dos programas verticales – Techstars Music y el programa de Cedars-Sinai Accelerator Powered by Techstars. LA también tiene una comunidad de casi 100 alumni, y una comunidad externa fuerte que se alimenta de este grupo, así como otros programas existentes de Los Ángeles.
  • Y, Techstars entrega resultados, Desde el primer día de la clase de startups en Boulder en el año 2007, Techstars ha graduado más de 1000 compañías. Estas compañías han conseguido más de $3 Billones de dólares y tienen una valuación colectiva de $6.7 Billones. De acuerdo a Mattermark, Techstars es líder en la producción de compañías que cierran inversión de Serie A.
  • Techstars LA se basará en esa experience para construir una clase de nivel global y un portafolio igual de importante.

El lanzamiento de Techstars LA es una gran oportunidad para construir una red de conexiones a través de los diferentes escenarios de innovación que están sucediendo en Los Ángeles. Techstars y su filosofía de Dar Primero (#GiveFirst) apoya la meta de construcción de comunidad. Este programa se trata de encontrar y agregar valor a grandes compañías, pero también de ayudar a que el ecosistema de emprendimiento local crezca. Estoy muy emocionada de ser parte de #LongLA con Techstars.  

Las aplicaciones para el programa de Techstars Los Angeles están abiertas. ¡Esperamos hablar contigo pronto!

Why LA is the Future of Startups

I am thrilled to have just joined Techstars in my dream gig, as Managing Director of the new Techstars LA program.  As a refresher, we introduced this new program last October.  Techstars LA will take a horizontal focus and will accept tech startups from around the world that are innovating across a wide range of industries and challenges and seeking to build a deep network across the Los Angeles tech ecosystem.

Here are three reasons I’m so excited about this opportunity:

1. Los Angeles is a great city for founders.  

  • The LA area has the third largest startup ecosystem, behind San Francisco and New York, with the highest growth rate of any metro region.  
  • Capital flowing into LA startups grew 200% from 2012 to 2015, reaching over $3B in invested capital going to 202 companies.  

2. There are a wealth of interesting challenges where the LA area has a rich history, strong talent pool and existing anchor businesses.  

  • Next-gen transportation and aerospace.  In the backyard of SpaceX and Hyperloop, there are a number of new startups emerging. Out of necessity, the LA region will need to be an early adopter of new ways to move around. As the first major city to sync all its traffic lights, LA is already ahead of the curve.
  • Clean energy.  Against the backdrop of the current uncertain political climate (pun intended) we’re looking for companies aiming to transform how we create, distribute and use energy.  
  • Biotech.  As a leader in both agricultural innovation and environmental protection, California is a natural home for creative solutions to food security and environmental protection.
  • E-commerce and supply chain.  Anchored by companies like Dollar Shave Club and Honest Company, the LA area is primed for more innovation in e-commerce, supported by a local population of trendsetters.  
  • AR/VR.  As the home of the entertainment industry, Los Angeles has become the center for the next wave of content experiences.  We’re interested in the role of AR/VR to create value in education and industry.  
  • Media.  This is Los Angeles, after all.  The metro that birthed Hulu, Maker Studios and Snapchat is a rich environment for new content and connection businesses.
  • Diverse founder teams.  The founders of companies selected for Techstars LA will reflect the diversity of Los Angeles.  This is not just a nice-to-have, we believe it’s good business.

This may seem like a wide swath across the tech landscape and it’s meant to be.  The Techstars LA program is interested in companies solving tough problems with deeply technological solutions.  And a little sizzle in the mix.

3. Techstars is tripling down in LA.

  • We have put together a great team for Techstars LA. Joining me as Director of the LA program is Techstars alum Ethan Austin, co-founder of GiveForward. Ethan is a terrific writer, burrito lover, self-professed startup junkie and recently relocated from Chicago. And Lara Jeremko will be joining our 2017 program as Entrepreneur-in-Residence. Lara is an investor, startup co-founder and advisor relocating from Austin, Texas. Previously Lara managed a $1.5 billion portfolio of venture capital investments at the University of Texas endowments and also co-founded re:3D, an industrial 3D printing company. Lara is eager to immerse herself in the LA tech community and improv comedy scene.
  • And, Techstars gets results.  Since its first class of startups in Boulder in 2007, Techstars has graduated 914 companies.  These companies have raised over $2.8b and have a collective valuation of $6.7b.  According to Mattermark, Techstars is a leader in producing companies that close Series A deals.
  • Techstars LA will draw on all of that experience to build a world class program and portfolio.

The launch of Techstars LA is a great opportunity to build a web of connection across the many disparate pockets of innovation already happening in Los Angeles.  Techstars and its #givefirst philosophy support that larger goal of community building.  This program is about finding and adding value to great companies, but also about helping to build the local startup ecosystem.  I’m thrilled to be going #LongLA with Techstars.  

Applications for Techstars Los Angeles are now open. We look forward to talking with you!