dot.LA Summit: Lessons Learned From a 4-Time Startup Founder

Decerry Donato

Decerry Donato is a reporter at dot.LA. Prior to that, she was an editorial fellow at the company. Decerry received her bachelor's degree in literary journalism from the University of California, Irvine. She continues to write stories to inform the community about issues or events that take place in the L.A. area. On the weekends, she can be found hiking in the Angeles National forest or sifting through racks at your local thrift store.

dot.LA Summit: Lessons Learned From a 4-Time Startup Founder
Photo by Decerry Donato

While funding from venture capital firms can ensure the longevity of your company, believing in its potential and the service your company provides is just as impactful.

Co-founder and managing director of BAM Ventures Brian Lee thinks so.

Lee is a four-time founder of prominent companies, including online provider of legal services LegalZoom.com, Inc.; online women’s footwear shopping platform ShoeDazzle.com Inc.; eco-friendly consumer line The Honest Co and sports collecting platform Arena Club.


He shared the stage with dot.LA’s 2021 “Entrepreneur of the Year” Alex Israel, the co-founder and CEO of Metropolis Technologies, a mobility commerce platform that connects transportation, payments, and local businesses for the first time.

As Los Angeles’ ecosystem has grown, Israel asked Lee—given his experience in the startup world—if he saw the wealth of opportunities back then as there are now.

Lee said there were only three funds based in Los Angeles at that time.

“Our very first meeting with a venture capitalist here in Los Angeles was the day that the NASDAQ crashed,” said Lee, “and I remember [the VC] sat us down, and he says, 'The internet is over.’”

During this time, he and his partner agreed they wanted to continue despite receiving nos from the 50 venture capital firms they pitched to. But Lee realized they needed a face to the brand to build some credibility.

“Robert Shapiro was number one on our list, partly because he was from Los Angeles, but also because he was, at that time, one of the most famous attorneys in the world after the OJ [Simpson] case.”

He learned that every time Shapiro appeared on television, LegalZoom orders rose. So he brought this same approach into his next startup–ShoeDazzle. There, he brought Kim Kardashian on board.

“This is very early influencer marketing,” Lee said.

Lee and Israel agree that it's very difficult to start a company, but as long as you have the work experience and the connections, those things alone can get you very far.

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