I’m nervous. Public speaking is listed as a top fear among the vast majority of the world, right next to spiders and heights. Good thing there are no spiders around, right?
Standing on stage at the El Rey theater I look out across the venue to see Anna Barber, Managing Director for the Techstars LA program, along with the rest of the founders eagerly awaiting a turn to pitch their startup. We’re at dress rehearsal working out the final kinks before demo day, an event where top venture capitalists will come to see what the inaugural LA class has to offer. In typical Ross fashion, I keep my nerves at bay by being silly.
Hi, I’m Matt Damon… and I’m here to talk about cats.
People laugh, though I get an unamused stare back from Anna indicating that I should stay focused and get through my pitch. I start again, this time for real.
Our industry builds technology for humans, but maybe we forget what that means sometimes.
I forget my next line…
I’ve had my fare share of ups and downs since leaving Google. But Techstars is the best decision we made to give Maslo a proper start. The model for the accelerator is simple: in exchange for six percent of your company, they give you the best resources in the world to help your business start and succeed. Over the entrance, a big neon sign shines “Give First” — and we’d soon come to understand just how much Techstars lives by this principal.
Give First is the belief that guides the Techstars community in an effort to give startups hands on mentorship from founders, partners, investors, and business leaders, with no specific expectations in return. And their numbers are compelling. In the 10 years Techstars has been around they’ve guided founders to raise more than four-billion-dollars in venture capital, helping entrepreneurs solve important problems.
I’m no stranger to Techstars. As a lead at Sphero, I had the opportunity to learn alongside cofounders Adam and Ian as they went through the Disney Accelerator. The partnership was a success. The Disney connection allowed Sphero to launch more than eight Disney robots, most notably the quirky BB-8 Droid from Star Wars. That opportunity let me see first hand how powerful the experience could be, so I was eager to repeat again, albeit in a much more central fashion as the cofounder of Maslo.
Now, in the LA program, we have an endless amount of work to do and things to learn. Weekends are seen as optional work days where Cristina Poindexter and I dedicate most of our time building a business. We work late into the night as regulars of the ‘late night crew’ — a group of the founders whose interests in their companies cross that line between work and life.
It was in these hours when Cristina discovered my various voice accents, which were often fueled by the 5 hour energy drinks I’d consume. For the record, she charted 7 distinct voices. And I learned that Cristina needed to be outside in nature on a daily basis, even if it was short walks around the Techstars office where she’d return with flowers and leaves I’d never noticed before in Los Angeles.
Starting a business is tough. You become painfully aware of everything you’re bad at. Which is why a cofounder is a must. We keep each other accountable and have a lot of fun in the process — growing and learning. Some of the most valuable lessons were the ones that come from time spent with patient mentors. Mentor feedback is always paradoxical, but memorable, like when Nicole Glaros said to get curious the first week of the program.
As the youngest company in the program, we had a lot of catching up to do. We came with a basic prototype and a big idea. Everything else was built from scratch. In the span of three months, the vision grew and so did our team. The team came from amazing professional backgrounds like Disney, Google, Apple, Sphero, and Vimeo, but more than the logos on our resume was the collective curiosity and love for the creative process. Great ideas are nothing unless you can bring a team together.
Even then, dreams don’t work unless you do.
I’m on stage searching for my next line and glance over to Cristina who looks at me with a hint of encouragement. I shift my gaze back to the room full of founders and notice them looking on with reassurance. I remember my line.
What if technology could function as we do — with an understanding of emotions, social skills, and psychology?
As I finish the pitch and walk off stage, I feel an intense gratitude come over me. Tomorrow we’ll face an endless amount of struggles that will test us in ways we can never imagine. However, it’s important that we keep pushing. It’s been difficult, but being surrounded by amazing people — mentors, founders, and staff — made the long days feel short and turned three months into an experience I’ll never forget.
Growth comes to those who are willing to put in the time and effort.
So get curious.
This was originally published on Medium.
As a co-founder of Heartbeat, I came into the office each day knowing exactly what to do. Or at least, that’s what I thought at the time. We were building the world’s biggest network of brand ambassadors – all millenial women – and I felt sure about what we needed to do in order to scale the company.
We started Heartbeat with the idea that real women, not bloggers or celebrities, were incredibly powerful. We believed that the type of word-of-mouth marketing normal women engaged in could be game-changing in the marketing world, as long as we were able to scale.
When one of my co-founders suggested we apply to Techstars, I was skeptical. I had completed my MBA at UCLA Anderson a few years earlier, and I didn’t feel like I needed more education. I also had a huge network – if I already knew everyone in LA tech, how would Techstars help? I just wanted to put my head down and build Heartbeat, and I certainly didn’t need an accelerator program that would slow us down with busy work and trust falls.
Even though I was stressed non-stop, I thought our business was in a good place. We had real revenue, dedicated employees, and from the outside, everything seemed like we were headed in the right direction. In my opinion, we were too “far along” to apply to Techstars – our traction was undeniable.
With hesitation, I completed the application for our team. I actually didn’t mind it because I’m one of those people who oddly enjoy filling out forms. Despite my apprehension, we made it to the next round.
That’s when we met Anna and Ethan.
Have you ever had that feeling where you just know you’re in the right place with the right people? I remember feeling that way when I walked on campus when looking at potential colleges when I was 18, and knowing immediately which school felt like home.
Although my brain told me that we didn’t need Techstars, meeting Anna, the LA Managing Director, changed my mind. She and Ethan, the Program Director, were highly intelligent, and asked probing questions right away. Even during our interviews, they were able to tap into the underlying framework of our business, and clearly saw the bigger picture.
From the get-go, they identified issues we didn’t even know we were dealing with. By the time we completed numerous rounds of interviews, intense questioning from mentors, and a lot of team heart-to-hearts, we knew we wanted to be a part of the program. When we got the offer to join the first Techstars LA class, we accepted on the spot.
As it turns out, joining Techstars was transformative in ways I could never have imagined, and the decision to participate was one of the biggest surprises of my life.
During Techstars, we went through rapid growth and massive change. We were headed full speed ahead with our product, but in the wrong direction. The mentors helped us get back on track, and evolve our technology in a much stronger direction.
We hadn’t focused enough on our culture, and certain people had become toxic. We lost a member of our key founding team during the program, an event that might never had transpired had we not had such strong coaching and mentoring throughout the process.
We left with a thriving, exciting company culture and a newfound energy for what we were building. Most importantly, our business has really broken through, and we’ve seen our highest revenue numbers to date. We also raised another $1M a few months after Demo Day.
We also left with new friendships, new mentors, and an incredible network of investors and advisors. It turns out that I didn’t really know everyone in LA. Today, our business is in a phenomenal place.
Techstars truly surprised me, and it might surprise you, too. And the biggest secret of all? I actually loved the trust falls.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
To Register, click here.
About This Event
Join a group of female investors and successful entrepreneurs for an open discussion on raising money for your new venture.
How much should you raise, when and from whom? What are the pros and cons of equity funding from angels, VC firms, crowdfunding and bank lending? Each panelist will share her own fundraising experience and the group will discuss the current funding climate and how to navigate it to get the capital you need. Hour discussion to be followed by refreshments and networking.
- Anna Barber, Managing Director Techstars LA
- Jenny Fielding, Managing Director Techstars IoT and Fintech
- Kara Weber, Partner Brilliant Ventures
- Susan Paley, entrepreneur and former COO Beats by Dre
- Rita Ravindra, founder/CEO Miamia Beauty
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:
- Los Ángeles es una gran ciudad para fundadores.
- 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.
- Esta región, también gradua más estudiantes de ingeniería que cualquier otra región metropoli.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Energía limpia. En contra del clima político actual, estamos buscando compañías que se enfoquen a transformar cómo creamos, distribuímos y usamos energía.
- Biotecnología. Como líder en tanto innovación agricultural como protección ambiental, California es la casa natural para soluciones creativas, seguridad alimentaria y protección ambiental.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
Who: Startups looking to apply to Techstars LA
What: Office hours
When: Feb 22
Where: Phoenix, Arizona
Details: Click here to register for office hours!
Today marks the first day of LA Startup Week, a five day celebration of the Los Angeles entrepreneurial community.
Quite a daunting event thinking of throwing a Startup Week in the second largest city in the US! LA Startup Week is in their first year and are hosting over 30 events to celebrate their community. They have speakers from Techstars, IBM, SendGrid, SoftLayer, GA and Keen.io (among a ton of others).
The biggest number? 876 Startups. That is amazing.
LA as a startup community is in such an interesting space. You can almost feel the chip on their shoulder being so talented and together (but so close to the Valley). In the last three years they seemed to really rally around new accelerators, coworking spaces and a few big startup wins. They have a ton of events and different parts of the entrepreneurship community coming together to celebrate who they are as a community. Interested in attending? Grab your free ticket to LA Startup Week here!