Alexandra Levitt and Mike Su
Snap Yellow accelerator program heads\u00a0Alexandra Levitt (left) and\u00a0Mike Su.

Los Angeles’ Top Startup Incubators and Accelerators

Whether you are making medical devices or movies, if you have a promising startup chances are there’s someone out there to help.

Southern California is home to an armada of accelerators, incubators, startup studios and other programs designed to help new business owners develop their vision and launch the next billion-dollar business.


Some of these programs are run by investors, who often go on to back the companies they incubate in later rounds. Others were created as a way for existing companies like the Walt Disney Co. or the Los Angeles Dodgers baseball team to mine talent in their backyard for future revenue opportunities. Programs like the LA Cleantech Incubator target companies from across the globe that are developing tech to mitigate the climate crisis.

While some accelerators opt to provide funding outright in exchange for an equity stake, some prefer to not financially invest, and instead offer founders a place to work, access to mentors, and a full calendar of networking opportunities to help them connect to investors who might look to cut a check.

Local companies that grew from accelerators include Dollar Shave Club, which began at Mike Jones’ Science Inc. in Santa Monica and was sold to Unilever for $1 billion in 2016. Bill Gross’ Pasadena-based IdeaLab has also led several startups to big exits, including crypto exchange Coinbase which was valued at $80 billion when it completed an IPO this April.

Most of these accelerators accept applicants from both in and outside LA County, and some offer virtual workshops. Here’s a list of the top programs in LA that are helping new startups get off the ground.

GENERAL TECH ACCELERATORS

AmplifyLA

AmplifyLA’s accelerator backs early-stage companies that are local to L.A. County. Besides funding them through its accelerator, it works with startups in all industries to connect them to a network of L.A.-based startup founders and investors to raise additional funding once they leave the program. Notable past companies that used AmplifyLA include wine subscription firm Winc and on-demand moving and storage company Clutter.

Location: Venice Beach

Type of Funding: Pre-seed, early stage

Focus: Software, emerging technology companies, D2C brands

IdeaLab

Serial entrepreneur Bill Gross founded IdeaLab in 1996, and it’s since backed over 150 companies and seen 45 of those either go public or be sold. IdeaLab backs companies regardless of their growth stage or industry but has a history of backing tech companies focused on environmental or social change. Success stories include robotics firm Elementary, crypto exchange Coinbase and GIF database Tenor.

Location: Pasadena

Type of Funding: All stages, focus on seed and early stage

Focus: Agnostic, focused on any tech company

TechStars LA

Techstars is a global outfit with a chapter in Los Angeles that opened in 2017. It prioritizes local companies but will fund some firms based outside of L.A. Director Matt Kozlov said Techstars L.A. looks to fund a wide range of companies but does try to target ones working in industries that are strong in L.A., like healthcare, artificial intelligence, e-commerce, retail, property tech, software as a service, and consumer tech.

Location: Downtown Los Angeles

Type of Funding: Pre-seed, seed rounds

Focus: Aerospace, energy, robotics, wellness, entertainment, mobility/logistics, education
Notable Companies: Sanity Desk, Lightbox

Grid110

Grid110 offers founders two programs: a 12-week residency program for early-stage startups in L.A. that haven’t launched yet, and another 12-week ‘friends and family’ program run in partnership with L.A.-based venture firm Slauson & Co. that offers a $20,000 grant and course aimed at “demystifying funding” and guiding founders. Unlike some accelerators on this list, Grid110 doesn’t require an equity stake in a company in exchange for participating.

Location: Downtown Los Angeles
Type of Funding: Early stage, seed

Focus: Agnostic, focused on any tech company

Notable Companies: Rent a Romper, Struct Club

Science Inc. Studio

Michael Jones’ Science is a venture capital firm focused on funding early stage startups, and it also runs a venture accelerator that’s incubated some big direct-to-consumer brands, including Dollar Shave Club and PlayVS. Founders work out of Science’s campus in downtown Santa Monica where they collaborate with Jones and other entrepreneurial mentors as well as a staff of marketing, tech, and business development professionals to get their idea off the ground. Usually, Science contributes these services in exchange for a board seat and/or equity in a startup.

Location: Santa Monica

Type of Funding: Early stage VC, seed rounds

Focus: Mobile companies, direct-to-consumer, marketplace and e-commerce

Notable Companies: Dollar Shave Club, Liquid Death, PlayVS, Arrive

MuckerLab

Santa Monica-based VC Mucker Capital also runs Mucker Lab, its accelerator for startups that are either in their earliest stages of development or looking to grow by spinning off a business unit or revamping their strategy. It invests in an array of tech companies but prefers direct-to-consumer businesses. There’s no set duration for its program, but most founders work with Mucker for at least a year. Mucker invests between $100,000 and $175,000 in companies in exchange for an 8% to 15% equity stake.

Location: Santa Monica

Type of Funding: Pre-seed, or spin-off

Focus: Agnostic, focused on any tech or direct-to-consumer company

Notable Companies: ServiceTitan, Trunk Club, Honey

SAM Preccelerator

Law firm Stubbs Alderton & Markiles founded its six month preccelerator program to provide startups with access to other valuable resources besides funding -- including workshops, mentorship and a package of legal services and perks it estimates is worth $500,000. Notable alumni include location-based marketing startup Rally.

Location: Santa Monica

Type of Funding: Doesn’t contribute funding, provides networking, mentorship and legal services

Focus: Agnostic, focused on any tech company

MEDIA & ENTERTAINMENT

Disney Accelerator

One of the world’s largest entertainment companies, Disney is always on the hunt for new investments that can enhance its growing streaming, parks and entertainment businesses. It accepts growth-stage startups that are looking to use tech to change the entertainment industry and runs a three-month summer program that culminates in a demo day in October. Disney will invest in these startups in addition to co-working space in L.A. and mentorship from Disney executives. Though Disney often plans to strike deals to use some startups’ tech in its business, companies that develop IP during the accelerator retain full ownership of it.

Location: Burbank

Type of Funding: Growth stage, venture-backed startups encouraged

Focus: Media/entertainment, streaming, social media, kids’ entertainment

Notable Companies: Epic Games, Holler, Caffeine

Yellow

Snap Inc.’s Yellow accelerator is a 13-week program for startups developing anything that could enhance digital entertainment, including direct-to-consumer brands, new social apps, creative tools or augmented reality experiences. Snap invests up to $150,000 in each startup and provides a network of creative industry executives as mentors. It invests with the aim of using startup tech in future Snapchat or Snap Inc. projects.

Location: Santa Monica

Type of Funding: Stage agnostic

Focus: Companies at the “intersection of creativity and technology”

AEROSPACE

Starbust Aerospace Accelerator

The Starburst Aerospace Accelerator connects aerospace and defense startups with a network of mentors that help them fundraise and hire. It’s also a way for startups to gain inroads to potentially valuable contracts with the U.S. Department of Defense, which is always looking for the next SpaceX. The company also partners with UCLA's school of engineering to offer a 13 week Scale accelerator program, aimed at seed and pre-seed startups.

Location: Los Angeles

Type of Funding: Doesn’t contribute funding, provides networking, mentorship, fundraising help

Focus: Aerospace, defense

Notable Companies: SeaSatellites, Pierce Aerospace

SPORTS

Los Angeles Dodgers Accelerator

Founded in 2015 as a partnership between R/GA Ventures’ Global Sports Venture Studio and the L.A. Dodgers, this program provides up to $120,000 to local sports-focused startups in exchange for up to 6% equity. Originally for a limited time, the outfit expanded to be a year-round program in 2018.

Location: Los Angeles

Type of Funding: pre-seed, seed

Focus: Sports tech, food and beverage, sports entertainment

Notable Companies: Appetize, ShotTracker

FOCUSED ON STARTUPS BY PEOPLE OF COLOR

Movember Rooted & Rising

Movember is a men’s health charity that encourages people to grow mustaches in November to raise awareness of suicide prevention, testicular and prostate cancer, but it recently launched the Rooted & Rising division to invest in creators. Rooted & Rising backs young Black creators who are creating culture-shifting art and provides them with a network of like-minded mentors and in exchange for creating up to three pieces of content during the three-month program.

Location: Los Angeles

Type of Funding: Individual funds, up to $5,000 each

Focus: Creatives of color

Starfish

The Starfish Accelerator was created this year to give creative people of color funds and mentorship to create projects. Backed by the Doris Duke Foundation, participants are given a $50,000 grant and access to several mentors for six months to produce their work.

Location: Los Angeles

Type of Funding: Individual funds, up to $50,000 each

Focus: Creative IP, creatives of color

Expert Dojo

Expert Dojo is an international group with a cohort in Santa Monica. It prioritizes backing women-led startups and companies run by people of color. It invests an initial sum of $25,000 to $100,000 in participating pre-seed and seeded startups, and often invests in follow-on rounds up to $1 million. Local success stories include travel app Elude and influencer booking site Mavens List.

Location: Santa Monica

Type of Funding: Pre-seed, seed

Focus: Tech companies led by women and/or people of color

CLIMATE & CLEAN TECH

LA Cleantech Incubator (LACI)

LACI’s goal is to fund startups that are both local and global that will create technologies to mitigate the effects of climate change and create greener, smarter cities. It runs several programs including a two year-long incubator where companies work out of its Downtown LA office, and invests in up to 50 startups each year.

Location: Arts District

Type of Funding: Pre-seed, seed, Series A and B

Focus: Clean energy, renewables/sustainability, solar, smart cities

COLLEGE/UNIVERSITY-RUN PROGRAMS

UCLA Anderson Venture Accelerator

UCLA’s venture accelerator is a four-month program that has incubated over 70 companies, which have raised $144 million in funding. Led in part by entrepreneur in residence Rod Kurtz, it helps student and faculty entrepreneurs bring their ideas and research to market.

Location: Westwood

Type of Funding: Doesn’t contribute funding, provides networking and mentorship opportunities

Focus: Agnostic, focused on any tech company. Student, faculty and alumni startups preferred.

Notable Companies: UNest, KPOP Foods

USC Viterbi Startup Garage

USC’s startup accelerator’s next cohort begins in Spring 2022. It doesn’t take equity, but also doesn’t offer funding -- instead connecting founders with potential investors snad giving them hands-on guidance and access to coworking space.

Location: Marina del Rey

Type of Funding: Doesn’t contribute funding, provides networking and mentorship opportunities

Focus: Deep Technology, Machine Learning and AI. Student, faculty and alumni startups preferred.

HEALTH, WELLNESS & BIOTECH

Cedars-Sinai Accelerator

Founded in 2015, Cedars-Sinai Hospital’s three-month program gives companies up to $100,000 in funding and access to mentors both on the executive and medical sides of the business. It prioritizes startups looking to innovate in patient care, cybersecurity, genetics, machine learning and medical devices.

Location: West Hollywood

Type of Funding: Early/growth stage, seed, Series A.

Focus: Healthcare, Information management, Medical technology

Notable Companies: AppliedVR, CancerAid

CITY & COUNTY-RUN PROGRAMS

Make it in LA

Created by Mayor Eric Garcetti in 2016, this program is a nonprofit that supports local businesses with mentorship and networking for funding. Applicants must be based in L.A. County, and all areas of tech are accepted.

Location: Greater Los Angeles

Type of Funding: Doesn’t contribute funding, provides networking and mentorship opportunities

Focus: Hardware, food and agriculture, healthcare/biotech, mobility, aerospace, manufacturing

Long Beach Accelerator

Founded and fully supported by the City of Long Beach, this accelerator provides seed funding and mentorship and also helps companies plan exit and acquisition strategies. Run by managing director Andrea White-Kjoss, the four-month program gives founders access to $75,000 to $100,000 in exchange for 6-7% equity. The accelerator launched as digital only, but is planning an in-person component soon, pending COVID regulations.

Location: Long Beach

Type of Funding: seed

Focus: Tech startups located in Long Beach

An earlier version of this post also listed the Techstars Aerospace Accelerator, which is no longer in operation.

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