The One Thing Techstars' Anna Barber Looks for in Founders

Every year, Anna Barber, managing director of Techstars LA, has to sift through around 1,000 applications and meet with hundreds of founding teams in order to select ten to go through the prestigious three month accelerator program that can serve as a crucial launching pad for very young startups.

So what does she look for above all else? Curiosity and a desire to ask hard questions.

"What I really mean by that is the willingness to look at things that you assume to be true and question them," Barber said. "Because the key to building a great business is constantly making tiny adjustments based on new information and sometimes big adjustments. If you lack the courage to question your own assumptions, you're never going to get there."

In addition to running Techstars LA since 2017, Anna Barber is a partner at The Fund, an early stage venture capital fund made up of local founders and operators that expanded to L.A this year. She has also served as a coach and strategic consultant to founders since 2013.

Barber says she wants founders to have a strong point of view, but they have to be willing to quickly shift and adapt as they learn new information.

To find out whether founders are willing to question their own assumptions, Barber asks how they know certain things they have asserted about their pitch are true.

"I get a lot of information from the answer," she said.

Another question Barber likes to ask is if a founder is wildly successful, what will the world look like in the future?

"What's so interesting is whether the founder answers that from the perspective of what they individually will be doing or what will happen with their customers," Barber explained. "The ones that focus on how the world will be different for their customers tell me that they're really deeply thinking about what their customer wants."

In addition to running Techstars LA since 2017, Barber is a partner at The Fund, an early stage fund made up of local founders and operators that expanded to L.A this year. She has also served as a coach and strategic consultant to founders since 2013.

Barber started her career as a corporate lawyer and was a strategy consultant at McKinsey & Company. She shifted to tech during the end of the dot-com bubble in 1999 as an executive at two e-commerce startups that were ahead of their time, Petstore.com and then Rentanything.com.

The fourth TechStars LA class started this week and will present at a Demo Day in October. Standouts from the previous three classes include Slingshot Aerospace, Blue Fever, Stackin, Fernish, Liquid, Dash Systems and Finli.

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It's almost 90 degrees outside in Los Angeles as lines of cars pull up to Dodger Stadium, home to a mass vaccination site that opened Friday.

"Please make sure that they're not under the sun in the cart," Edith Mirzaian is telling a volunteer as she directs the person to put ice packs on coolers that hold up to 20 COVID vaccines. Mirzaian is a USC associate professor of clinical pharmacy and an operational lead at one of California's largest vaccination sites.

Dodger Stadium alone — once the nation's largest COVID-19 testing site — is slated to vaccine up to 12,000 people each day, county and city health officials said this week. Officials plan to finish vaccinating some 500,000 health care and assisted care employees by the end of this month before opening appointments up to people 65 and older.

Mirzaian is desperately trying to make sure that the vaccines don't spoil.

"We have to be the guardians of the vaccine," she said.

Earlier this month, hundreds of vaccinations were lost after a refrigerator went out in Northern California, forcing the hospital to rush to give out hundreds of doses. Mirzaian's task tells a larger story of the difficult and often daunting logistical process required to roll out a vaccine that requires cold temperatures.

"You know they can't be warm so just keep an eye out," she gently reminds the volunteer.

The volunteers and staff from USC, the Los Angeles Fire Department and Core Laboratories prepared enough doses to vaccinate around 2,000 residents on Friday and they plan to increase capacity each day after.

Local health officials are holding the vaccination syringes in coolers after they leave the air-conditioned trailers. The coolers are then covered in ice packs and wheeled on carts to clinicians administering shots to health care workers and nursing home staff eligible under the state's vaccination plan.

"Vaccines are the surest route to defeating this virus and charting a course to recovery, so the City, County, and our entire team are putting our best resources on the field to get Angelenos vaccinated as quickly, safely, and efficiently as possible," said mayor Eric Garcetti in a statement announcing the plan.

Health officials around the world are racing against time as the virus mutates and poses greater dangers.

"We have a little bit of borrowed time here right now because these variants are not here in great numbers from what we can tell," said Susan Butler-Wu, an associate professor in clinical pathology at USC's Keck School of Medicine of USC.

Curbing the spread of the virus is a vital way to prevent mutant strains from developing, she said.

Mirzaian, who arrived at the site before it opened at 8 a.m., said that there were logistical challenges as volunteers scrambled to assemble what will likely be the hub of the region's vaccination efforts.

"It's challenging to make sure that everyone knows what the process is and what we're doing and what to tell the patients who receive the vaccines."

After a few hours, the procedure moved quicker.

Residents have to show identification and proof of employment before they're taken through a list of pre-screening questions and given the vaccine through their car window. They're required to then wait for 15 minutes while clinicians monitor them for side effects.

Mirzaian said the process took each car about an hour. While eligible residents can walk-in for vaccinations, she recommends they make appointments so that enough doses are made available each day.

"As long as people have their appointments, they will get in," she said. "We are ready. We are like an army ready to give vaccines."

Snap promoted executive Ben Schwerin to be its new senior vice president of content and partnerships, as the company seeks to grow its content business to challenge rival TikTok.

As part of the reorganization, Chief Strategy Officer Jared Grusd, who previously oversaw content, will become a strategic advisor to Snap CEO Evan Spiegel.

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As a casting director, Lacey Kaelani has a leading view on Hollywood's content pipeline. Based on what she's been seeing on her venture-backed casting platform, Casting Depot, prepare for a deluge of unscripted shows.

"It's all gonna be handheld videos where everything looks like a Zoom call," she said. "Dating shows, talk shows, food competition shows – that's what was cast and is going into production."

The Casting Depot launched its latest beta version on Friday, with a "six-figure" investment from global venture capital firm Antler. Its board includes leaders from companies including CAA, Airtime, iHeartMedia, WorkMarket and IAC.

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