The One Thing Techstars' Anna Barber Looks for in Founders

Ben Bergman

Ben Bergman is the newsroom's senior finance reporter. Previously he was a senior business reporter and host at KPCC, a senior producer at Gimlet Media, a producer at NPR's Morning Edition, and produced two investigative documentaries for KCET. He has been a frequent on-air contributor to business coverage on NPR and Marketplace and has written for The New York Times and Columbia Journalism Review. Ben was a 2017-2018 Knight-Bagehot Fellow in Economic and Business Journalism at Columbia Business School. In his free time, he enjoys skiing, playing poker, and cheering on The Seattle Seahawks.

The One Thing Techstars' Anna Barber Looks for in Founders
Photo by Ben Rosett on Unsplash

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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From Pitch Meetings to Power Lunches: LA’s Exclusive Membership Clubs 🗝️

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Summer's here, so it's time to zhuzh up your work environment. Discovering the best membership and social clubs in Los Angeles for meetings can boost networking and collaboration, offering exclusive venues and premium amenities tailored for professionals and creatives to thrive amidst the city's vibrant backdrop. These clubs provide a sophisticated setting for productive gatherings and meaningful connections in LA. Here are some top private member clubs perfect for meetings and productive work sessions.

The Jonathan Club

Club Details: The Jonathan Club, one of Los Angeles' original membership clubs, has been a cornerstone of the city's elite social scene since its founding in the mid-1890s. Its legacy is intertwined with the growth and development of LA itself, most notably through a pivotal meeting held at the club that sparked the idea for a southern campus of the University of California—what would eventually become UCLA. Today, the Jonathan Club continues to offer its members an unparalleled experience of exclusivity and refinement. With locations in both DLTA and Santa Monica, members enjoy access to premium amenities and spaces and a calendar with hundreds of social events and workshops throughout the year, providing ample opportunities for networking, personal growth, and leisure activities.

Membership Details: Initiation fee is around $50,000, and admission typically requires that you be invited or know someone who is already a member.

Spring Place

Image Source: Spring Place

Neighborhood: Beverly Hills

Club Details: A mix between co-working space and social club, this Beverly Hills hotspot is a more exclusive version of similar clubs. Spring Place Beverly Hills spans three floors and offers a stunning art collection. The interior is filled with tons of natural light and has an intentional design that fuels members to harness some of their best work. Members also have access to luxurious dining and nightlife pop-ups that happen at Spring Place.

Membership Details: There is a non-refundable initiation fee of $500 and then local membership for people under 30 starts at $300 per month, while monthly membership for locals over 30 is $600.

Griffin Club

Image Source: Griffin Club

Neighborhood: Cheviot Hills

Club Details: Located in Cheviot Hills, Griffin Club LA is a sporty club with ample shared workspace. Following a $20M renovation in 2020, the club now boasts seven LED-lit tennis courts, four LED-lit pickleball courts, two recreational lap pools, a 25-meter family pool for kids, an adults-only resort pool, and childcare services. It's the ideal destination for a clientele looking to mix work with competitive sport.

Membership Details: Membership is by invitation only and is subject to approval. Membership prices at the club vary. A family membership entails a $12,000 initial fee plus a $450 monthly fee, while a junior membership only entails a $2,000 initiation fee and a $205 monthly fee.

Soho House West Hollywood

Image Source: Soho House West Hollywood

Neighborhood: West Hollywood

Club Details: Soho House West Hollywood provides a stylish and exclusive work and meeting destination, featuring chic meeting rooms and workspaces with panoramic views of Los Angeles. Combining luxury amenities with a creative atmosphere, it offers an ideal setting for networking, collaboration, productive sessions, and an amazing Sunday brunch!

Membership Details: Two current member referrals are needed, plus an online application, and a recent photo to confirm your identity. Quarterly memberships start at $675.25, but if you’re under 27, you can pay $337.75 quarterly. However, if you want access to every house, membership costs $5,250.00 annually, or $2,650.00 if you’re under 27.

Little Beach House Malibu

Image Source: Little Beach House Malibu

Neighborhood: Malibu

Club Details: The Little Beach House Malibu is a small, local club for the creative community of Malibu and the surrounding coastal areas. The club is known for its magnificent dining room, bar, sitting room and terrace. It is the perfect place for a truly memorable work meal.

Membership Details: Malibu Beach House is not included in the Soho House membership. If you are an existing member, you can apply for “Malibu Plus” for an additional $2,190 a year, or $1,095 if you’re under 27.

San Vicente Bungalows

Image Source: San Vicente Bungalows

Neighborhood: West Hollywood

Club Details: San Vicente Bungalows is an exclusive, members-only social club located in West Hollywood, California, offering a luxurious and private environment for its high-profile clientele. The club is renowned for its strict privacy policies, elegant decor, and high-end amenities, catering to celebrities (and royals) and industry elites seeking a discreet space to unwind and socialize.

Membership Details: You must be nominated by a current club member to apply. Applications are evaluated monthly and annual dues start at $4,200 plus a $1,800 initiation fee.

The Aster

Image Source: The Aster

Neighborhood: Hollywood

Club Details: The Aster, located at the iconic intersection of Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Street, redefines the modern members' club with its emphasis on warmth and hospitality, blending public hotel amenities with private club exclusivity. Featuring bright, airy spaces and top-notch facilities such as an outdoor pool, recording studio, and rooftop bar, it offers a fluid environment for work, relaxation, and socializing.

Membership Details: Memberships start at $3,600 per year and be acquired by filling out an application. In addition to uploading a photo, hopeful members also have to write a small bio while highlighting their interests, skills, profession, and hobbies.

NeueHouse

Image Source: NeueHouse

Neighborhood: Venice/Hollywood/DTLA

Club Details: NeueHouse in LA is a chic private workspace and cultural hub designed for creative professionals, offering sophisticated workspaces, a dynamic calendar of cultural programming, and luxurious amenities. Situated in three bustling neighborhoods across LA, it provides a collaborative environment where members can work, network, and unwind in style.

Membership Details: You have to apply for the Salon membership, which includes questions like “dream dinner guests (dead or alive?)." Annual dues for Salon memberships are $3,000 plus a $200 joining fee. You can also inquire about the Gallery membership for flexible workspaces and offices for individuals or teams, starting at $595 per month, with various options depending on your needs.

🧬🔬AI-Driven Drug Discovery

🔦 Spotlight

Terray Therapeutics is at the forefront of AI-assisted drug discovery and development, operating a cutting-edge laboratory in Monrovia, California. The facility, roughly two-thirds the size of a football field, functions as a data powerhouse, generating over 50 terabytes of raw data daily, which is an amount of information equivalent to 12,000 high definition movies, through its miniaturized automation processes.

Terray Therapeutics exemplifies a new wave of innovative companies harnessing artificial intelligence to revolutionize drug discovery and development. The key to their approach lies in generating vast amounts of high-quality experimental data to train their AI systems. This data-driven strategy enables rapid experimentation and pattern recognition, allowing the AI to make informed predictions about potential treatments. Terray's generative AI can digitally design drug molecules, which are then synthesized and tested in their high-speed automated laboratory. The platform measures the interaction between these molecules and target proteins, with both successful and unsuccessful results feeding back into the AI system.

This iterative process creates a powerful feedback loop, continuously refining the AI's predictive capabilities and accelerating the drug discovery process. Terray's tNova platform integrates chemical experimentation and computation at an unprecedented scale, producing massive amounts of precise, purpose-built data that becomes increasingly valuable with each cycle of design and experimentation. This unique blend of experimentation and computation allows Terray to efficiently explore a vast molecular space, potentially solving complex problems in drug discovery faster and more effectively than traditional methods.

🤝 Venture Deals

LA Companies

  • Fuze Technology, a provider of rentable portable phone chargers, has raised a $11.5M Series A led by Beverly Pacific and joined by Palm Tree Crew, Bain Capital Ventures Scout Fund, Dream Ventures, Live Nation, ASM Global, SCIENCE Ventures, Haslem Sports Group, and Simon Ventures. - learn more
  • Stanly, a platform that offers fan-to-fan and artist-to-fan communication and commerce, raised an $8M Funding Round led by C Capital and joined by AppWorks, Goodwater, and Palm Drive Capital. - learn more
  • GrayMatter, an industrial robotics company, raised a $45M Series B led by Wellington Management and joined by NGP Capital, Euclidean Capital, Advance Venture Partners, SQN Venture Partners, 3M Ventures, B Capital, Bow Capital, Calibrate Ventures, OCA Ventures, and Swift Ventures. - learn more

LA Venture Funds

LA Exits

  • Webtoon Entertainment, an online cartoon company based in LA carved out of South Korea's Naver, set IPO terms to 15m shares at $18-$21. It would have a $2.6b fully diluted market value, were it to price in the middle, and plans to list on the Nasdaq (WBTN). - learn more
  • EV maker Fisker has finally filed for bankruptcy. - learn more
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Sony Pictures Experiences Division Formed After Alamo Drafthouse Acquisition

Christian Hetrick

Christian Hetrick is dot.LA's Entertainment Tech Reporter. He was formerly a business reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and reported on New Jersey politics for the Observer and the Press of Atlantic City.

Sony Pictures Experiences Division Formed After Alamo Drafthouse Acquisition

🔦 Spotlight

Sony Pictures Entertainment has acquired Alamo Drafthouse Cinema in a groundbreaking deal that marks the first time in over 75 years a major Hollywood studio will own a movie theater chain. This acquisition signals a potential shift towards vertical integration in the film industry, with Sony gaining more control over the distribution and exhibition of its films.

The deal allows Sony to expand its presence in experiential entertainment, aligning with its vision of engaging audiences outside the home through unique offerings. Alamo Drafthouse's innovative dine-in movie experience, devoted fanbase, and curated programming like Fantastic Fest make it an appealing acquisition target. Sony stressed that Alamo will continue operating its 35 locations under CEO Michael Kustermann, who will head the new Sony Pictures Experiences division.

While the move provides financial backing for Alamo after its bankruptcy struggles, questions remain about whether the chain can maintain its independent spirit and personality under Sony's ownership. Alamo is renowned for creative programming like themed events, interactive screenings, and a strict no-talking policy that has cultivated a passionate community of moviegoers. Balancing this distinct identity with Sony's corporate interests will be a key challenge moving forward.

From a technological standpoint, this move opens up possibilities for Sony to enhance the moviegoing experience at Alamo Drafthouse locations through integration of advanced audiovisual systems, immersive technologies, and projection/sound solutions. In addition, Sony could create a more seamless and connected experience for moviegoers, such as through integrated ticketing platforms, mobile apps, and personalization driven by data analytics. While specific technological plans are not detailed, the combination of Sony's resources and Alamo Drafthouse's innovative approach could foster synergies and drive the development of new technologies to differentiate the theatrical experience further.

🤝 Venture Deals

LA Companies

  • Apex, a satellite bus maker, raised a $95M funding round co-led by XYZ VC and CRV joined by Upfront Ventures, 8VC, Toyota Ventures, Point72 Ventures and others. - learn more
  • Regard, a developer of AI tools to help medical providers synthesize patient data, raised a $30M Series B led by Oak HC/FT at a $350M valuation. - learn more
  • Daisy, a small business tech installation startup, raised an $11M Series A co-led by Goldcrest and Bungalow. - learn more
  • Pyte, a startup that allows companies in highly regulated industries like finance and healthcare to perform computations on encrypted data without ever decrypting it, raised a $5M Funding Round led by Myriad Venture Partners. - learn more

LA Venture Funds

LA Exits

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