L.A. Company Joins New Techstars 'Anywhere' Startup Accelerator Class

When Jennifer Beall Saxton learned she had been accepted into two different startup accelerators, including the highly competitive Techstars "Anywhere" Class, it was a no brainer.

She wanted to be able to work, mostly, anywhere so that she could also balance her family's needs -- a toddler and a husband in Los Angeles -- with her burgeoning business. That business, Tot Squad, aims to connect new parents to services.

"There are many of us in this class with kids and the typical accelerator that makes you uproot your life to go to a city for 13 weeks feels like it was designed for 'tech bros' in their 20s," Saxton, the company's founder and CEO. "Folks like us who have kids and husbands with jobs can't just pick up like that, so I think this new Anywhere program is brilliant!"


In addition to Saxton, seven other companies with at least one female founder make up the 4th cohort of Techstars Anywhere Class. There were 10 total companies announced as part of the new 2020 cohort on Monday.

Since its inception in 2017, Techstars Anywhere has had a historical acceptance rate of less than 1%. Tot Squad was the sole Los Angeles company that made the cut.

Much has been written about the lack of venture capital investment in women. In 2019, venture capital investment in all-female founding teams represented 2.7% of the U.S. startup ecosystem, according to data collected by PitchBook. When a female co-founder was included, that number rose to 11.4%.

"It's really embarrassing," Saxton said. "I think most of the capital is controlled by men, and for products and services that target female consumers, a lot of times those guys don't get it...It puts us at a disadvantage from a fundraising and growth perspective."

Ryan Kuder, the managing director for Techstars Anywhere, said that the aim was to build a program that's accessible for anyone to participate in. But as a result, "our applicant pool probably looks a bit different than the applicant pools for programs that require founders to relocate."

He said the program's flexibility also provides it with an edge to invest in great founders they might not have otherwise seen.

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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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