Valuations for LA's Early-Stage Startups Soared in Early 2021, Outpacing Other Hubs

Harri Weber

Harri is dot.LA's senior finance reporter. She previously worked for Gizmodo, Fast Company, VentureBeat and Flipboard. Find her on Twitter and send tips on L.A. startups and venture capital to

Valuations for LA's Early-Stage Startups Soared in Early 2021, Outpacing Other Hubs
Photo by Luca Micheli on Unsplash

Startup valuations are up just about everywhere, but no major city in the U.S has seen the estimated value of early-stage startups spike this year quite like they have in Los Angeles, where competition for deals is reaching a fever pitch.

For budding L.A. startups, pre-money valuations have been eye-popping in the first half of 2021, rising 116% from last year to a median of $65 million, according to a recent Pitchbook report. Nearly every startup hub in the U.S. saw increases in the same period, but the jump was most pronounced in L.A.

In the San Francisco Bay Area, for example, the median rose nearly 43% over the same period to $50 million.

"Especially within hubs, such as L.A., competition for deals has grown considerably in recent years, with the flood of new investors and more capital looking to invest in startups," said Pitchbook Senior VC Analyst Kyle Stanford, who authored the report. "Los Angeles has, on its own, seen strong fundraising numbers, bringing more local capital to the ecosystem, expanding opportunities for the area's companies."

Median early-stage pre-money valuation ($M) by ecosystemMedian early-stage pre-money valuation ($M) by ecosystemPitchbook

Calculating valuations is more of an art than a science, since young companies aren't likely to have noteworthy revenues or profits. Instead, venture firms make funding deals based on an agreed valuation often determined by the credentials of a founding team, early progress (a.k.a. traction) and larger trends in the industry, including how much competition there is among investors to snap up shares. The approach has led to frequent criticism that venture dollars tend to be directed mostly to a small circle of individuals who have access to firms.

For entrepreneurs who are able to secure funds, a hot market can send deal sizes soaring.

Median early-stage deal size ($M) by ecosystemMedian early-stage deal size ($M) by ecosystemPitchbook

Over the summer, booming competition translated to fatter rounds for startups operating in L.A. Tango, a workforce training startup, raised a $5.7 million seed round in August. A month earlier, employee benefits company JOON announced a $2.3 million seed. While Tango raised more than twice as much as JOON, both deals reflect how early-stage fundraises have swelled in the past decade. In 2010, the median seed deal in the U.S. clocked in at $500,000, according to Pitchbook. By the second quarter of 2021, the median reached $2.6 million.

Valuations are rising across the board as VCs and hedge funds compete for the hottest deals amid access to cheap cash. But such founder-friendly market conditions — which are observable in L.A. and other startup hubs — come with potential drawbacks for executives and employees alike, should a correction deflate lofty startup valuations before they're able to cash in their shares.

'Excesses' in the Market Today

The phenomenon described by Stanford is not limited to emerging businesses: Late-stage startup valuations rocketed in the first half of 2021, too. In L.A., the median pre-money valuation for these companies increased 138% to $175 million, according to the report. Pitchbook recorded the highest median late-stage valuation in the Bay Area at $275 million.

"Combined with its relative proximity to the Bay Area and its huge amount of venture capital, Los Angeles startups have capitalized on the excesses being seen within the market today," Stanford said. That trend is likely to continue, at least in the short term, the author of the Pitchbook report added. "Every indication is that valuations will remain high for the second half of this year and likely into or through 2022."

While now is a good time to raise funds, that could change. The "global startup funding frenzy" has spurred some fears of another tech bubble. "This feels a lot like 1999 to me," London-based Hoxton Ventures partner Hussein Kanji told CNBC earlier this year.

Generally, startups "should be aware that any correction may lead to down rounds in the future, and down rounds are very painful especially for common shareholders (founders, employees)," Stanford finance professor Ilya Strebulaev told dot.LA in an email. "For employees, an important question is the fair value of their stock options, which is not always easy to determine."

🤠Musk Picks Texas and 🔥Tinder AI Picks Your Profile Pictures
Image Source: Tinder

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Tinder is altering dating profile creation with its new AI-powered Photo Selector feature, designed to help users choose their most appealing dating profile pictures. This innovative tool employs facial recognition technology to curate a set of up to 10 photos from the user's device, streamlining the often time-consuming process of profile setup. To use the feature, users simply take a selfie within the Tinder app and grant access to their camera roll. The AI then analyzes the photos based on factors like lighting and composition, drawing from Tinder's research on what makes an effective profile picture.

The selection process occurs entirely on the user's device, ensuring privacy and data security. Tinder doesn't collect or store any biometric data or photos beyond those chosen for the profile, and the facial recognition data is deleted once the user exits the feature. This new tool addresses a common pain point for users, as Tinder's research shows that young singles typically spend about 25 to 33 minutes selecting a profile picture. By automating this process, Tinder aims to reduce profile creation time and allow users to focus more on making meaningful connections.

In wholly unrelated news, Elon Musk has announced plans to relocate the headquarters of X (formerly Twitter) and SpaceX from California to Texas. SpaceX will move from Hawthorne to Starbase, while X will shift from San Francisco to Austin. Musk cited concerns about aggressive drug users near X's current headquarters and a new California law regarding gender identity notification in schools as reasons for the move. This decision follows Musk's previous relocation of Tesla's headquarters to Texas in 2021.

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  • Penguin Random House agreed to acquire comic book publisher Boom! Studios from backers like Walt Disney Co. - learn more

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Top LA Accelerators that Entrepreneurs Should Know About

Los Angeles, has a thriving startup ecosystem with numerous accelerators, incubators, and programs designed to support and nurture new businesses. These programs provide a range of services, including funding, mentorship, workspace, networking opportunities, and strategic guidance to help entrepreneurs develop their ideas and scale their companies.

Techstars Los Angeles

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 LA.

Location: Culver City

Type of Funding: Pre-seed, early stage

Focus: Industry Agnostic

Notable Past Companies: StokedPlastic, Zeno Power


Grid110 offers no-cost, no-equity programs for entrepreneurs in Los Angeles, including a 12-week Residency accelerator for early-stage startups, an Idea to Launch Bootcamp for pre-launch entrepreneurs, and specialized programs like the PledgeLA Founders Fund and Friends & Family program, all aimed at providing essential skills, resources, and support to help founders develop and grow their businesses.

Location: DTLA

Type of Funding: Seed, early stage

Focus: Industry Agnostic

Notable Past Companies: Casetify, Flavors From Afar


Idealab is a renowned startup studio and incubator based in Pasadena, California. Founded in 1996 by entrepreneur Bill Gross, Idealab has a long history of nurturing innovative technology companies, with over 150 startups launched and 45 successful IPOs and acquisitions, including notable successes like Coinbase and Tenor.

Location: Pasadena

Type of Funding: Stage agnostic

Focus: Industry Agnostic, AI/Robotics, Consumer, Clean Energy

Notable Past Companies: Lumin, Coinbase, Tenor

Plug In South LA

Plug In South LA is a tech accelerator program focused on supporting and empowering Black and Latinx entrepreneurs in the Los Angeles area. The 12-week intensive program provides early-stage founders with mentorship, workshops, strategic guidance, potential pilot partnerships, grant funding, and networking opportunities to help them scale their businesses and secure investment.

Location: Los Angeles

Type of Funding: Pre-seed, seed

Focus: Industry Agnostic, Connection to South LA and related communities

Notable Past Companies: ChargerHelp, Peadbo

Cedars-Sinai Accelerator

The Cedars-Sinai Accelerator is a three-month program based in Los Angeles that provides healthcare startups with $100,000 in funding, mentorship from over 300 leading clinicians and executives, and access to Cedars-Sinai's clinical expertise and resources. The program aims to transform healthcare quality, efficiency, and care delivery by helping entrepreneurs bring their innovative technology products to market, offering participants dedicated office space, exposure to a broad network of healthcare entrepreneurs and investors, and the opportunity to pitch their companies at a Demo Day.

Location: West Hollywood

Type of Funding: Seed, early stage, convertible note

Focus: Healthcare, Device, Life Sciences

Notable Past Companies: Regard, Hawthorne Effect

MedTech Innovator

MedTech Innovator is the world's largest accelerator for medical technology companies, based in Los Angeles, offering a four-month program that provides selected startups with unparalleled access to industry leaders, investors, and resources without taking equity. The accelerator culminates in showcase events and competitions where participating companies can win substantial non-dilutive funding, with the program having a strong track record of helping startups secure FDA approvals and significant follow-on funding.

Location: Westwood

Type of Funding: Seed, early stage

Focus: Health Care, Health Diagnostics, Medical Device

Notable Past Companies: Zeto, Genetesis


The KidsX Accelerator in Los Angeles is a 10-week program that supports early-stage digital health companies focused on pediatric care, providing mentorship, resources, and access to a network of children's hospitals to help startups validate product-market fit and scale their solutions. The accelerator uses a reverse pitch model, where participating hospitals identify focus areas and work closely with selected startups to develop and pilot digital health solutions that address specific pediatric needs.

Location: East Hollywood

Type of Funding: Pre-seed, seed, early stage

Focus: Pediatric Health Care Innovation

Notable Past Companies: Smileyscope, Zocalo Health

Disney Accelerator

Disney Accelerator is a startup accelerator that provides early-stage companies in the consumer media, entertainment and technology sectors with mentorship, guidance, and investment from Disney executives. The program, now in its 10th year, aims to foster collaborations and partnerships between innovative technology companies and The Walt Disney Company to help them accelerate their growth and bring new experiences to Disney audiences.

Location: Burbank

Type of Funding: Growth stage

Focus: Technology and entertainment

Notable Past Companies: Epic Games, BRIT + CO, CAMP

Techstars Space Accelerator

Techstars Space Accelerator is a startup accelerator program focused on advancing the next generation of space technology companies. The three-month mentorship-driven program brings together founders from across the globe to work on big ideas in aerospace, including rapid launch services, precision-based imaging, operating systems for complex robotics, in-space servicing, and thermal protection.

Location: Los Angeles

Type of Funding: Growth stage

Focus: Aerospace

Notable Past Companies: Pixxel, Morpheus Space

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🚁 One Step Closer to Air Taxis in LA
Image Source: Joby Aviation

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Joby Aviation, a pioneering electric air taxi company, has achieved a significant milestone by successfully flying a hydrogen-electric aircraft demonstrator for 523 miles with only water as a byproduct. This groundbreaking flight showcases the potential for emissions-free regional travel using vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft, eliminating the need for traditional runways. The company's innovative approach combines its existing battery-electric air taxi technology with hydrogen fuel cells, paving the way for longer-range, environmentally friendly air travel.

For LA residents, this development holds exciting implications for future transportation options. Joby's technology could potentially enable direct flights from LA to destinations like San Francisco or San Diego without the need to visit conventional airports, offering a cleaner and more convenient alternative to current travel methods. The company's progress in both battery-electric and hydrogen-electric aircraft positions it at the forefront of next-generation aviation, promising to revolutionize urban and regional mobility.

Notably, Joby Aviation has already made strides in Southern California by securing an agreement with John Wayne Airport earlier this year to install the region's first electric air taxi charger. This strategic move sets the stage for LA to be among the initial markets where Joby will launch its electric air taxi service. With plans to commence commercial operations as early as 2025 using its battery-electric air taxi, LA residents may soon have access to a fast, quiet, and environmentally friendly mode of transportation that could significantly reduce travel times and traffic congestion in the region. In the not too distant future, LA might find itself in an identity crisis without traffic and excess smog 🤞🤞.

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