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

01/06/2020 | By Anna Barber

This post originally appeared on blog.up.co


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. 


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