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Long Beach Accelerator Set to Welcome Fourth Group of New Companies
Long Beach has a long history of innovation. It’s one of the densest aerospace hubs on the West Coast. There’s a vital port there, and the city is home to several tech industries—including health care, space tech and cybersecurity. That, along with its colleges and universities, have made Long Beach an enticing destination for entrepreneurs.
It’s within this environment that the Long Beach Accelerator sprouted in 2019 and has grown since. To date, the accelerator has cycled 20 companies through its four-month program, helping them raise a total of over $12 million.
On July 5, the program will welcome its fourth cohort of startups from around the world, participating in a hybrid combo of virtual and in-person sessions. Each cohort includes between five to 10 companies.
Long Beach, along with Cal State University, Long Beach’s Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship and capital provider Sunstone Management, are all partners in this public-private model of startup investment. The accelerator itself operates as a nonprofit.
Long Beach Accelerator Managing Director Andrea White-Kjoss
The city provides help with some funding, covering the costs for some low- to moderate income Long Beach-based founders whose companies are accepted into the accelerator.
The organization's partnership with CSULB enables it to help founders move from idea stage to execution at the institute, and then advance to business growth via the accelerator.
Sunstone Management, a private capital management and investment firm, provides funding for the incoming cohorts. The firm's venture capital fund typically invests $100,000 in the startups as soon as they join the accelerator and takes a 6% equity stake in return.
Sunstone had also been providing some follow-on funding on a case-by-case basis. It upped the ante earlier this year by promising an additional $500,000 to current cohort and alumni.
“It's a model that brings enormous resources to the table for our portfolio companies, as well as for economic development, acting as a growth engine for the region,” managing director Andrea White-Kjoss told dot.LA.
A serial entrepreneur who has served as CFO at several companies, White-Kjoss came aboard as the founding managing director in July 2020. Before that, she co-founded seed-stage funding platform ExtraVallis, based in Rancho Santa Fe, and founded Mobis Transportation, which was the product of a public-private partnership with the city of Long Beach.
She also happens to be a 17-year resident of the city.
“So I know intimately how attractive this city is to tech entrepreneurs, from the high-tech industries, to the culture and lifestyle, to the world-class workforce and institutions,” she said. “When you bring all of that together...the opportunity to build a tech accelerator, and more than that really, a tech ecosystem here in Long Beach, was natural and irresistible.”
The accelerator was originally intended to be in-person, but quickly had to pivot to remote sessions during the pandemic. It remains virtual, for the most part, “which has turned out to be a huge source of strength,” White-Kjoss said.
That’s because the founders come from all over the world. There’s no geographic restrictions on who’s accepted and no need to burden founders with moving to Long Beach to participate.
White-Kjoss said the move has fostered diversity, and enabled the accelerator to draw on an international network of mentors, instructors, advisors and investors.
They—along with the accelerator’s staff of three facilitators — get to know the companies and their founders “deeply” and provide individualized assistance, including building strategic partnerships with potential customers and/or marketing partners.
There is still an in-person aspect to the accelerator. All cohort founders fly into Long Beach for about two weeks during the program. While there, they attend in-person workshops and networking events. They also participate in a Demo Day, with investors present. This helps the companies get additional seed funding for continued growth once they graduate.
So far, five graduating startups have received acquisition offers—but none have taken them.
White-Kjoss said that’s because those founders “felt they had much further to take their companies, at least in some degree, due to the empowerment of the tools, resources and networks provided by the accelerator.”
One success is Los Angeles-based Bump. Since graduating from the Long Beach Accelerator, Bump has raised more than $5 million, co-founder and CEO James Jones told dot.LA.
It’s currently participating in another accelerator, Snap’s in-house Yellow Accelerator, which is now a co-lead investor in Bump, along with Sunstone.
The company is working on an AI-fueled fintech platform for the creator economy, which hasn’t yet launched. It would help creators track revenue from multiple sources, monitor expenses, access credit and manage their crypto and non-fungible tokens (NFTs).
The company has started a waitlist, for access to its credit and financial management tools. Once the services are available users would pay about $400 per year.
The company also plans to integrate micro-advances into its platform, designed to enable creators to stay in full control of their finances and keep 100% of the rights to their work.
Jones said that participating in the Long Beach Accelerator’s very first cohort was a “great springboard” for the company.
Specifically, sessions on customer personas and discovering addressable markets, as well as mentor meetings were “invaluable,” he added.
Meet the Startups In the Long Beach Accelerator's Latest Cohort:
Apsy: Creating the first true fully AI platform to build affordable elegant custom apps.
Crumbraise, Inc.: Fundraising made easy for creators, clubs & causes.
Educational Vision Technologies, Inc.: Automated video editing and content curation using A.I. to make online learning accessible, efficient and engaging.
Gift Pass App Inc.: Streamlining experiences around digital gifting & payments.
The Girls Co LLC: We are a women's health company that is currently focused on a solution to alleviate period cramp pain.
Intellitech Spa Inc.: Intellitech is a realtime telematics, predictive maintenance and driver behavior monitoring platform.
Kwema: Kwema provides an easy to scale Smart Badge Reel Duress Service that reduces incident response time without escalating the situation.
Pathloom, Inc.: Outdoor trip planning made easy!
Rotender: The world's fastest and most reliable bar.
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In Los Angeles—like the startup environment at large—venture funding and valuations skyrocketed in 2021, even as the coronavirus pandemic continued to surge and supply chain issues rattled the economy. The result was a startup ecosystem that continued to build on its momentum, with no shortage of companies raising private capital at billion-dollar-plus unicorn valuations.
In order to gauge the local startup scene and who’s leading the proverbial pack, we asked more than 30 leading L.A.-based investors for their take on the hottest firms in the region. They responded with more than two dozen venture-backed companies; three startups, in particular, rose above the rest as repeat nominees, while we've organized the rest by their amount of capital raised as of January, according to data from PitchBook. (We also asked VCs not to pick any of their own portfolio companies, and vetted the list to ensure they stuck to that rule.)
Without further ado, here are the 26 L.A. startups that VCs have their eyes on in 2022.
Whatnot was the name most often on the minds of L.A. venture investors—understandably, given its prolific fundraising year. Whatnot raised some $220 million across three separate funding rounds in 2021, on the way to a $1.5 billion valuation.
The Marina del Rey-based livestream shopping platform was founded by former GOAT product manager Logan Head and ex-Googler Grant LaFontaine. The startup made its name by providing a live auction platform for buying and selling collectables like rare Pokémon cards, and has since expanded into sports memorabilia, sneakers and apparel.
Boulevard’s backers include Santa Monica-based early-stage VC firm Bonfire Ventures, which focuses on B2B software startups. The Downtown-based company fits nicely within that thesis; Boulevard builds booking and payment software for salons and spas. The firm has worked with prominent brands such as Toni & Guy and HeyDay.
GOAT launched in 2015 as a marketplace to help sneakerheads authenticate used Air Jordans and other collectible shoes. It has since grown at a prolific rate, expanding into apparel and accessories and exceeding $2 billion in merchandise sales in 2020. The startup sealed a $195 million funding round last summer that more than doubled its valuation, to $3.7 billion.
The Best of the Rest
Nielsen competitor VideoAmp gathers data on who's watching what across streaming services, traditional TV and social apps like YouTube. The company positions itself as an alternative to so-called "legacy" systems like Nielsen, which it says are "fragmented, riddled with complexity and inaccurate." In addition to venture funding, its total funding figure includes more than $165 million in debt financing.
Seizing on the NFT craze, Mythical Games is building a platform that powers the growing realm of “play-to-earn games.” Backed by NBA legend Michael Jordan and Andreessen Horowitz, the Sherman Oaks-based startup’s partners include game publishers Abstraction, Creative Mobile and CCG Lab.
FloQast founder Michael Whitmire says he got a “no” from more than 100 investors in the process of raising a seed round. Today, the accounting software company is considered a unicorn.
Nacelle produces docuseries, books, comedy albums and podcasts. The media company’s efforts include the Netflix travel series “Down To Earth with Zac Efron.”
A platform for virtual concerts, Wave has hosted performances by artists including Justin Bieber, Tinashe and The Weeknd. The company says it has raised $66 million to date from the likes of Warner Music and Tencent.
Sherman Oaks-based Papaya looks to make it easier to pay “any” bill—from hospital bills to parking tickets—via its mobile app.
Based in Marina del Rey, LeaseLock says it’s on a mission to eliminate security deposits for apartment renters.
Emotive sells text message-focused marketing tools to ecommerce firms like underwear brand Parade and men's grooming company Beardbrand.
Based in Long Beach, Dray says its mission is to “modernize the logistics and trucking industry.” Its partners include Danish shipping company Maersk and toy maker Mattel.
Coco makes small pink robots on wheels (you may have seen them around town) that deliver food via a remote pilot. Its investors include Y Combinator and Silicon Valley Bank.
HiveWatch develops physical security software. Its investors include former Twitter executive Dick Costollo and NBA star Steph Curry’s Penny Jar Capital.
Whatnot competitor Popshop is betting that live-shopping is the future of ecommerce. The West Hollywood-based firm focuses on collectables such as trading cards and anime merchandise.
Founded by former SpaceX engineer Karan Talati, First Resonance runs a software platform for makers of electric cars and aerospace technology. Its clients include Santa Cruz-based air taxi company Joby Aviation and Alameda-based rocket company Astra.
Founded by Crowdstrike and Microsoft alums, Open Raven aims to protect user data. The cybersecurity firm’s investors include Kleiner Perkins and Upfront Ventures.
When an actor faces the camera and speaks directly to the audience, it’s known as “breaking the fourth wall.” Named after the trope, Venice-based Fourthwall offers a website builder that’s designed for content creators.
The Non Fungible Token Company creates NFTs for musicians under the name Unblocked. Its investors include Jay Z’s Marcy Venture Partners and Shawn Mendez.
Backed by Mayo Clinic Ventures, Safe Health develops telehealth software and offers tools for enterprises to launch their own health care apps.
Intro’s app lets you book video calls with experts—from celebrity stylists, to astrologists, to investors.
With the tagline “Land the package, not the plane,” DASH Systems is a Hawthorne-based shipping company that builds hardware and software for automated airdrops.
With a focus on sustainability, Ettitude is a direct-to-consumer brand that sells bedding, bathroom textiles and sleepwear.
Along similar lines as Unblocked, Afterparty creates NFTs for artists and content creators such as Clay Perry and Tropix.
Heart to Heart is an audio-focused dating app that “lets you listen to the story behind the pictures in a profile.” Precursor Ventures led the pre-seed funding round.
Frigg makes hair and beauty products that contain cannabinoids such as CBD. The Valley Village-based company raised an undisclosed seed round in August.
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Historical documents, records and important artifacts are sometimes locked away in vaults (until a museum or library wants to showcase them), and under restricted access. Thomas McLeod believes that these artifacts hold great value and have the potential to impact communities, so he founded Arkive, the first decentralized, physical museum.
The inspiration for Arkive came from McLeod’s previous company, Omni, a physical storage company acquired by Coinbase in 2019.
“We thought it would always be like utility items and we started getting full sneaker collections, vintage posters, records, comic books that were valuable and we kind of had a panic attack,” McLeod told dot.LA. “The business [Omni] was built around storing bikes, and you can't put a vintage record next to a dirt bike. They just don't store in the same manner.”
McLeod was fascinated by the items and collections that came through the door. To him, it felt like browsing a museum of curated items that everyday people collect.
That’s when McLeod knew he was onto something.
McLeod has built startups before. Past projects included Pagelime, acquired in 2015 by SurrealCMS, and in 2012 LolConnect was acquired by Tencent.
The items in Arkive's collections are hand-selected by members who vote on what items they want to acquire. The organization currently has 300 active users, and there are hundreds on the waiting list. McLeod confirmed to dot.LA that they will increase the number of members admitted to 50 people each week with plans to cap admissions at 1,000 for the first phase. He added that while membership is free today, that will likely change in the future.
People interested in becoming members must apply on Arkive's website, where they will answer individual questions about their interests and occupations.
Arkive's physical, blockchain-inspired museum is coming to Santa Monica. Courtesy of Arkive
Just as museums have a lobby, Arkive has its “atrium.” In this space, every member enters and registers their cryptocurrency wallets. Once registration is complete, members can vote on the blockchain for the artifact or piece of art they want Arkive to acquire. Prior to voting, to ensure they are well informed, members will have the opportunity to learn about each artifact from the artist, the gallery or the collector who previously held the item.
Since there is a surplus of artifacts around the world, Arkive’s team of curators handpick options that are relevant to the current theme: ”When Technology Was a Game Changer.” While each round of voting is different, McLeod said the voting window for members usually lasts five days (M-F).
Arkive has acquired two items since coming out of stealth mode, the first one being the original patent for the ENIAC – known as the world’s first programmable, electronic general-purpose computer. In addition to ENIAC’s patent, members also voted to acquire Seduction (1985), a vintage print by Lynn Hershman Leeson, which will be part of Arkive’s first public exhibition at the Art Basel Miami Beach in December 2022. Once items are acquired, they will be loaned to museums or galleries to be placed on display for the public to enjoy—at locations Arkive members believe have the most significant cultural impact.
“For instance, the ENIAC patent, we would love it if it lived at the Computer History Museum in San Mateo. If we acquired a Frida Kahlo, we would love it if it was in Mexico City or somewhere that mattered to her art or the family that she was a part of,” McLeod said.
The Santa Monica-based startup announced last week that it raised $9.7 million in a seed funding round led by Offline and TCG Crypto. Other participants included NFX, Freestyle Capital, Coinbase Ventures, Not Boring Capital, Precursor, Chainforest, Coil, Julia Lipton, Joe McCann, Chris Cantino, Marty Bell and Paul Veradittakit.
“People who committed were all the way in and did not hesitate to support and be a part of the journey,” McLeod said. “It got us the right people that are in it for the long haul and really care about not just the business but the potential cultural impact that it could have. So having the right investors to me is more important than just money.”
Some of the funding will be allocated towards expanding the team, but a majority of the capital raised will go into acquiring more artifacts. McLeod said Arkive has three more acquisitions lined up in the next three months, but the eventual goal is to acquire two pieces a month.
Correction: An earlier version of this piece misspelled Thomas McLeod's last name.
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Decerry Donato is dot.LA's Editorial Fellow. Prior to that, she was an editorial intern 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.