Leaning in to a Strong SoCal Startup Scene: Techstars LA Preps for Year Four

Now that we’ve swept up the tinsel from our Techstars LA holiday party and tacked our resolutions to the wall, we are excited to announce that applications for Techstars LA are OPEN for 2020!  We are entering year four of Techstars LA with a lot of momentum. Over the past three years, we’ve invested in 30 companies – 24 of which are based right here in Los Angeles and including local standouts such as Slingshot Aerospace, Blue Fever, Stackin, Fernish, PRZM, Liquid, Dash Systems and Finli.  

And what a few years it has been in LA!  Anchored by recent exits by companies such as Dollar Shave Club, Snap, Cylance, Beyond Meat and now Honey, the LA venture ecosystem is healthy and growing.  Capital is flowing into LA, including a record number of new LA venture funds.  Techstars itself has a big footprint here with over 80 local alumni companies (many with open jobs).  It’s an amazing place to live and significantly more affordable than the other big markets, at least for now.  

But the three things that are most distinctive about Los Angeles are: 

    • The inclusive community that we are working to build in LA.  We know that we need to build a diverse tech community that includes and benefits all Angelenos.  Through initiatives like PledgeLA, the tech community is working as one to make this happen.
    • The culture here is imbued with Givefirst – people genuinely want to help and support each other.  There’s no sense that in order for me to win, you have to lose. That goes for founders, investors, everyone.  Visitors from other places often comment that people here don’t seem as jaded – they’ll show up for events, as an example.  They’ll take a meeting with someone who emails them out of the blue. It’s an open culture.
    • The incredible range of companies being built.  From consumer-focused standouts to deep tech companies, from the world’s best szechuan chili sauce startup to a logistics company that drops your packages out of a plane, LA’s startups have something for everyone.

So what are we looking for in 2020?  I’ve written before about what makes a strong founding team, and this is the most important factor when we are interviewing for Techstars LA.  We look for rapid learning, coachability, focus, grit, humor and diversity of thought. Techstars LA has not only backed some great local companies, we’ve invested in a diverse set of founders and teams, and this is one of the pillars or our approach.  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 philosophy.  You tend to get a wider range of ideas from people of different experiences and backgrounds. A company with people from different backgrounds, ages, genders, and perspectives is going to be more successful over the long run than a homogeneous team. 

On the idea side, we are looking for transformational ideas, not incremental improvements. While your company doesn’t have to be big, your vision for the future does.  If you are working on a moonshot idea, we’d love to hear it. What excites us right now: 

    • the consumerization of education and healthcare
    • micromobility and smart cities
    • sustainability and climate change solutions

Some continuing themes we’ve invested in before and are still excited about: 

Read about our companies and mentors here.  Ready to apply?  Go for it.  We look forward to meeting you. 

Announcing the Class of Techstars LA 2019

I’m beyond excited to share the ten companies that will be part of the third Techstars Los Angeles Accelerator—the class of 2019—which kicks off today and concludes with a Demo Day on October 15, 2019.  

Continuing our LA ecosystem investment focus, eight of the ten companies selected for this year’s class are based in the greater LA area.  During our selection process, we met with hundreds of Southern California based startups and were incredibly impressed by the quality of the companies we spoke with. The momentum of our local SoCal ecosystem is really outstanding.  

Our 10 companies are solving for issues across a variety of categories with five companies touching the payments or financial transaction space, a trust-based social network for women, the leading P2P motorcycle sharing marketplace, a mental health platform for kids, and the creator of delicious Sichuan chili crisp. Oh, and a team that drops packages out of planes so you can get your chili crisp in remote Alaska.  

The Techstars LA 2019 selected class also represents our commitment to investing in diverse teams, with 80% of the companies being led by founders who come from underrepresented communities, including six female CEOs.

As in past years we have founders from both USC and UCLA,  and companies that have graduated from local programs Grid110 and Make in LA.  Particular thanks to mentors and investors who referred companies we’ve accepted this year: Elaine Russell, David Waxman, Ivan Nikkhoo, Miki Reynolds and Techstars Boston Managing Director Clement Cazalot.  

The ten new companies are joining the 20 Techstars LA alums who have gone on to cross meaningful growth milestones and attract significant follow on capital—with all 20 companies in the portfolio raising additional capital post-program, a total of $65mm raised.  

Thank you to our sponsors, partners, mentors, and Techstars alumni who help to make Techstars LA successful. Please join me in welcoming the Techstars LA Class of 2019!


AlgoPay is transforming financial access in the Middle East with the region’s first P2P transfer network designed for the unbanked.


DASH Systems

DASH Systems is an aerial logistics company directly connecting cargo airplanes to customers by landing the package not the airplane.



Fabrica is on a mission to make buying and selling real estate easy by combining cutting edge technology with established legal tools to create solutions that empower property owners. 


findSisterhood Inc.

findSisterhood is an anonymous social network for people identifying as women to share stories and ask questions, creating a safe and judgement-free space. 



Finli empowers friends and family to contribute directly to child-related expenses like tuition, after-school care, and camp with ease and transparency. 


Fly by Jing

Bringing diversity to the landscape of healthy eating in America by making deeply flavorful, all-natural Chinese food products convenient and accessible to all.  


Liquid, Inc.

Liquid reimagines traditional HR and finance software solutions for the liquid workforce.  Use Liquid to streamline the way you onboard, manage, and pay freelancers, contractors, and vendors. 



LunarCRUSH leverages artificial intelligence and machine learning to analyze cryptocurrency-focused social trends, search behaviors, and news to deliver real-time insights to investors. 



Manatee empowers families raising children with behavioral or developmental disorders to democratize mental health care and streamline communication. Manatee uses AI and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) methods to gamify treatment and track progress.   


Riders Share

The first U.S. peer-to-peer motorcycle rental and sharing marketplace.  


Our Techstars LA 2019 Vision

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.  

Find Out More

Think you might want to be part of what we are building in LA?  Request office hours, join us for a Meet and Greet. or learn more about the program. If you’re ready, apply to Techstars LA now.

¿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!