Turning Pain Into Gain: How CoFoundersLab Is Helping Recently Laid Off Workers Become Entrepreneurs

Samson Amore

Samson Amore is a reporter for dot.LA. He holds a degree in journalism from Emerson College and previously covered technology and entertainment for TheWrap and reported on the SoCal startup scene for the Los Angeles Business Journal. Send tips or pitches to samsonamore@dot.la and find him on Twitter @Samsonamore.

Turning Pain Into Gain: How CoFoundersLab Is Helping Recently Laid Off Workers Become Entrepreneurs

The legions of layoffs across the technology industry are prompting workers to consider new career paths, and while some are opting to leave tech altogether, others are considering founding their own startups. Beverly Hills-based CoFoundersLab, a program that aims to connect would-be entrepreneurs with investors eager for new deals, is looking to capitalize on this.


“We’re a platform that connects founders, educates, and helps startups get to the point where they have a viable company,” co-chair and owner Steve Lehman added.

CoFoundersLab launched in 2008, but was bought out in 2018 by Lehman and Thom Beers, two entrepreneurs who now co-chair the company’s board of directors and also act as investors to startups in the program.

Though the company typically charges $348 per year to access its premium memberships, and around 650,000 founders pay to access the service, it has a plan to take advantage of the layoffs that continue to batter the tech sector. Instead of charging the typical $29 monthly fee, beginning in January CoFoundersLab opted to waive the fee and offer memberships for free to people recently let go by big tech.

Anyone with an idea and willing to pay the membership fee can join the online platform for networking. For people looking to find co-founders specifically, the company offers a search algorithm tool not unlike LinkedIn’s based on location, skills, or specialization. Though Lehman claimed CoFoundersLab is “more targeted” than LinkedIn, which he said is “for everyone.”

Paying for a membership gives founders access to an online server where they can network and share ideas, plus regular courses in business development and funding workshops. There’s also weekly Zoom pitch meetings that connect founders with real investors who can give them feedback on their business ideas and tips on how to secure investments.

Some of these investors, many of whom are colleagues of Lehman, end up backing founders they meet, according to Lehman. Exactly how many he wouldn’t say, adding however that he doesn’t work with a lot of institutional investors.

Vymedic, a biotechnology company based in Englewood, Colo. that sells a supplement called Vymune raised funding in 2021 from investors through CoFoundersLab (and Lehman). Vymedic was formed in 2008 and began delivering its supplements on Amazon in 2021.

Vymedic CEO Cynthia Winning told dot.LA she discovered CoFoundersLab in 2017 through Pepperdine University, where she was applying for a grant. When she told the University she was unsure about how to raise money for Vymedic, Pepperdine reps told her to explore CoFoundersLab.

After graduating from the accelerator program, Vymedic raised a Series A in January 2021, following a presentation to CoFoundersLab investors in the previous fall. Winning wouldn’t disclose details but said they’ve raised “seven figures” to date. Lehman eventually became an investor also and is a member of Vymedic’s board.

“We would never have been able to commercialize Vymune without CoFoundersLab,” Winning said, adding that she found the meetings helpful. “We really ended up knowing what [investors] wanted… It was very hands-on, interactive, and we really felt like they were truly invested in you and your product and getting you out there.”

According to Winning, she participated in weekly Zoom meetings with investors who coached her and other startup founders on how to pitch their businesses. “Then we reached a point where we were allowed to present to three real investors online, and it was made public to anyone that wanted to watch the call,” Winning explained. “I was chosen as one of the three from the group, and within an hour [of my presentation], I had a call from an [investing] group,” she said.

Lehman said he’s “agnostic” about backing startups and noted that those who “rise to the top” during the weekly pitch workshops are chosen to solicit investors. Among the qualities that make the cut for Lehman: companies with a “unique idea, solid team, and passion.”

CoFoundersLab also runs accelerators for startups in addition to networking. It will launch a virtual “self-directed” international accelerator program the first week of March, Lehman said. The program size doubled from 10 to 20 companies from last year, and will run for sixteen weeks.

Certainly, going from being laid off to entrepreneur isn't the easiest path, but Lehman noted some laid-off techies might have severance to leverage. And at least for the first year, the membership is free for those who’ve been let go, so it’s a possible low-risk experience to try out the founder journey.

“A lot of these people have been developing some really amazing tech within other companies but they’ve been building for billionaires,” Lehman told dot.LA. “To get in as an employee at Alphabet, Amazon, Facebook, Zoom… you’ve got to be a pretty qualified individual to even get through those doors, so you may be able to apply your skill set in with another founder that needs to have your expertise.”

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Behind Her Empire: ComplYant Founder and CEO Shiloh Johnson on Helping Small Businesses

Yasmin Nouri

Yasmin is the host of the "Behind Her Empire" podcast, focused on highlighting self-made women leaders and entrepreneurs and how they tackle their career, money, family and life.

Each episode covers their unique hero's journey and what it really takes to build an empire with key lessons learned along the way. The goal of the series is to empower you to see what's possible & inspire you to create financial freedom in your own life.

Behind Her Empire: ComplYant Founder and CEO Shiloh Johnson on Helping Small Businesses

On this episode of Behind Her Empire, ComplYant founder and CEO Shiloh Johnson discusses her journey to building a multimillion dollar business and making knowledge of taxes more accessible.


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Taylor Swift Concert in the Metaverse? Ticketing Platform Token Is Using NFTs To Optimize Experiences

Andria Moore

Andria is the Social and Engagement Editor for dot.LA. She previously covered internet trends and pop culture for BuzzFeed, and has written for Insider, The Washington Post and the Motion Picture Association. She obtained her bachelor's in journalism from Auburn University and an M.S. in digital audience strategy from Arizona State University. In her free time, Andria can be found roaming LA's incredible food scene or lounging at the beach.

Taylor Swift Concert in the Metaverse? Ticketing Platform Token Is Using NFTs To Optimize Experiences
Evan Xie

When Taylor Swift announced her ‘Eras’ tour back in November, all hell broke loose.

Hundreds of thousands of dedicated Swifties — many of whom were verified for the presale — were disappointed when Ticketmaster failed to secure them tickets, or even allow them to peruse ticketing options.

But the Taylor Swift fiasco is just one of the latest in a long line of complaints against the ticketing behemoth. Ticketmaster has dominated the event and concert space since its merger with Live Nation in 2010 with very few challengers — until now.

Adam Jones, founder and CEO of Token, a fan-first commerce platform for events, said he has the platform and the tech ready to take it on. First and foremost, with Token, Jones is creating a system where there are no queues. In other words, fans know immediately which events are sold out and where.

“We come in very fortunate to have a modern, scalable tech stack that's not going to have all these outages or things being down,” Jones said. “That's step one. The other thing is we’re being aggressively transparent about what we’re doing and how we’re doing it. So with the Taylor Swift thing…you would know in real time if you actually have a chance of getting the tickets.”

Here’s how it works: Users register for Token’s app and then purchase tickets to either an in-person event, or an event in the metaverse through Animal Concerts. The purchased ticket automatically shows up in the form of a mintable NFT, which can then be used toward merchandise purchases, other ticketed events or, Adams’s hope for the future — external rewards like airline travel. The more active a user is on the site, the more valuable their NFT becomes.

Ticketmaster has dominated the music industry for so long because of its association with big name artists. To compete, Token is working on gaining access to their own slew of popular artists. They recently entered into a partnership with Animal Concerts, a live and non-live event experiences platform that houses artists like Alicia Keys, Snoop Dogg and Robin Thicke.

“You'll see they do all the metaverse side of the house,” Jones said. “And we're going to be the [real-life] web3 sides of the house.”

In addition, Token prides itself on working with the artists selling on their platform to set up the best system for their fanbase, devoid of hefty prices and additional fees — something Ticketmaster users have often complained about. Jones believes where Ticketmaster fails, Token thrives. The app incentivizes users to share more data about their interests, venues and artists by operating on a kind of points system in the form of mintable NFTs.

“We can actually take the dataset and say there’s 100 million people in the globe that love Taylor Swift, so imagine she’s going on tour and we ask [the user], ‘Would you go to see her in Detroit?’ And imagine this place has 30,000 seats, but 100,000 people clicked ‘yes,’” he explained. “So you can actually inform the user before anything even happens, right? About what their options are and where to get it.”

Tixr, a Santa-Monica based ticketing app, was founded on the idea that modern ticketing platforms were “living in the legacy of the past.” They plan to attract users by offering them exclusive access to ticketed events that aren’t in Ticketmaster’s registry.

“It melts commerce that's beyond ticketing…to allow fans to experience and purchase things that don't necessarily have to do with tickets,” said Tixr CEO and Founder Robert Davari. “So merchandise, and experiences, and hospitality and stuff like that are all elegantly melded into this one, content driven interface.”

Tixr sells tickets to exclusive concerts like a Tyga performance at a night club in Arizona, general in-person festivals like ComplexCon, and partners with local vendors like The Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach to sell tickets to the races. Plus, Davari said it’s equipped to handle high-demand, so customers aren’t spending hours waiting in digital queues.

Like Token, Tixr has also found success with a rewards program — in the form of fan marketing.

“There's nothing more powerful in the core of any event, brand, any live entertainment, [than] the community behind it,” Davari said. “So we build technology to empower those fans and to reward them for bringing their friends and spreading the word.”

Basically, if a user gets a friend to purchase tickets to an event, then the original user gets rewarded in the form of discounts or upgrades.

Coupled with their platforms’ ability to handle high-demand events, both Jones and Davari believe their platforms have what it takes to take on Ticketmaster. Expansion into the metaverse, they think, will also help even the playing field.

“So imagine you can't go to Taylor Swift,” Jones said. “What if you could purchase an exclusive to actually go to that exact same show over the metaverse? An artist’s whole world can expand past the stage itself.”

With the way ticketing for events works now, obviously not everyone always gets the exact price, venue or date they want. There are “winners and losers.” Jones’s hope is that by expanding beyond in-person events, there can be more winners.

“If there’s 100,000 people who want to go to one show and there's 37,000 seats, 70,000 are out,” he said. “You can't fight that. But what we can do is start to give them other opportunities to do things in a different way and actually still participate.”

Jones and Davari both teased that their platforms have some exciting developments in the works, but for now both Token and Tixr are set on making their own space within the industry.

“We simply want to advance this industry and make it more efficient and more pleasurable for fans to buy,” Davari said. “That's it.”

Here’s Why Streaming Looks More and More Like Cable

Lon Harris
Lon Harris is a contributor to dot.LA. His work has also appeared on ScreenJunkies, RottenTomatoes and Inside Streaming.
Here’s Why Streaming Looks More and More Like Cable
Evan Xie

The original dream of streaming was all of the content you love, easily accessible on your TV or computer at any time, at a reasonable price. Sadly, Hollywood and Silicon Valley have come together over the last decade or so to recognize that this isn’t really economically viable. Instead, the streaming marketplace is slowly transforming into something approximating Cable Television But Online.

It’s very expensive to make the kinds of shows that generate the kind of enthusiasm and excitement from global audiences that drives the growth of streaming platforms. For every international hit like “Squid Game” or “Money Heist,” Netflix produced dozens of other shows whose titles you have definitely forgotten about.

The marketplace for new TV has become so massively competitive, and the streaming landscape so oversaturated, even relatively popular shows with passionate fanbases that generate real enthusiasm and acclaim from critics often struggle to survive. Disney+ canceled Luscasfilm’s “Willow” after just one season this week, despite being based on a hit Ron Howard film and receiving an 83% critics score on Rotten Tomatoes. Amazon dropped the mystery drama “Three Pines” after one season as well this week, which starred Alfred Molina, also received positive reviews, and is based on a popular series of detective novels.

Even the new season of “The Mandalorian” is off to a sluggish start compared to its previous two Disney+ seasons, and Pedro Pascal is basically the most popular person in America right now.

Now that major players like Netflix, Disney+, and WB Discovery’s HBO Max have entered most of the big international markets, and bombarded consumers there with marketing and promotional efforts, onboarding of new subscribers inevitably has slowed. Combine that with inflation and other economic concerns, and you have a recipe for austerity and belt-tightening among the big streamers that’s virtually guaranteed to turn the smorgasbord of Peak TV into a more conservative a la carte offering. Lots of stuff you like, sure, but in smaller portions.

While Netflix once made its famed billion-dollar mega-deals with top-name creators, now it balks when writer/director Nancy Meyers (“It’s Complicated,” “The Holiday”) asks for $150 million to pay her cast of A-list actors. Her latest romantic comedy will likely move over to Warner Bros., which can open the film in theaters and hopefully recoup Scarlett Johansson and Michael Fassbender’s salaries rather than just spending the money and hoping it lingers longer in the public consciousness than “The Gray Man.”

CNET did the math last month and determined that it’s still cheaper to choose a few subscription streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime over a conventional cable TV package by an average of about $30 per month (provided you don’t include the cost of internet service itself). But that means picking and choosing your favorite platforms, as once you start adding all the major offerings out there, the prices add up quickly. (And those are just the biggest services from major Hollywood studios and media companies, let alone smaller, more specialized offerings.) Any kind of cable replacement or live TV streaming platform makes the cost essentially comparable to an old-school cable TV package, around $100 a month or more.

So called FAST, or Free Ad-supported Streaming TV services, have become a popular alternative to paid streaming platforms, with Fox’s Tubi making its first-ever appearance on Nielsen’s monthly platform rankings just last month. (It’s now more popular than the first FAST service to appear on the chart, Paramount Global’s Pluto TV.) According to Nielsen, Tubi now accounts for around 1% of all TV viewing in the US, and its model of 24/7 themed channels supported by semi-frequent ad breaks couldn’t resemble cable television anymore if it tried.

Services like Tubi and Pluto stand to benefit significantly from the new streaming paradigm, and not just from fatigued consumers tired of paying for more content. Cast-off shows and films from bigger streamers like HBO Max often find their way to ad-supported platforms, where they can start bringing in revenue for their original studios and producers. The infamous HBO Max shows like “The Nevers” and “Westworld” that WBD controversially pulled from the HBO Max service can now be found on Tubi or The Roku Channel.

HBO Max’s recently-canceled reality dating series “FBoy Island” has also found a new home, but it’s not on any streaming platform. Season 3 will air on TV’s The CW, along with a new spinoff series called (wait for it) “FGirl Island.” So in at least some ways, “30 Rock” was right: technology really IS cyclical.

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