Former Amazon and Lyft Execs Launch Incubator and Tech Talent Hybrid Startup

Steve Huff
Steve Huff is an Editor and Reporter at dot.LA. Steve was previously managing editor for The Metaverse Post and before that deputy digital editor for Maxim magazine. He has written for Inside Hook, Observer and New York Mag. Steve is the author of two official tie-ins books for AMC’s hit “Breaking Bad” prequel, “Better Call Saul.” He’s also a classically-trained tenor and has performed with opera companies and orchestras all over the Eastern U.S. He lives in the greater Boston metro area with his wife, educator Dr. Dana Huff.
Former Amazon and Lyft Execs Launch Incubator and Tech Talent Hybrid Startup

RYZ Labs wants to be a one-stop shop for startups looking to scale up and add new talent.

California natives Jordan Metzner and Sam Nadler created RYZ Labs, and their résumés make it clear they’ve got the knowledge and experience necessary to help others hit the ground running. In 2006, the pair launched California Burrito Co., a chain restaurant with international reach; in 2013, they founded the “Uber for Laundry,” Washio. Add in Metzner’s five years at Amazon and Nadler’s time at Lyft, and you have a potent combination of industry savvy and entrepreneurial flair.

Metzner and Nadler bring that collective knowledge to bear in RYZ Labs, which calls itself a “hybrid startup studio.” That means RYZ is ready to help with two of the more daunting challenges any growing venture faces: Refining a startup’s vision and building the kind of staff needed to execute that vision—on a budget, if necessary. RYZ Labs’ official announcement is succinct: They want to “help existing startups scale fast and spend less.”

In an interview, Jordan Metzner tells dot.LA his time with Amazon played a significant role in returning to entrepreneurship. “I was able to work on entrepreneurial projects pretty much like the whole time,” he says, “And I basically was able to come up and generate new ideas and turn them from ideas into little startups at Amazon….”

Metzner also says that in his position, he got to "see both sides and how projects are able to set their value within the organization, how impactful they must be.”

Metzner’s final Amazon project helped turn him back toward the startup world. He invented Amazon’s Ring Drone, and after that, Metzner says, “I just knew that… creating things from scratch is still really where my passion was.”

“So yeah,” he says, “I had dreamed of building a startup studio for years.” According to Metzner, that takes “not just the desire to do it, but probably a collection of career experiences that have brought me to this place.”

Digital mock up for OffsiteIO, a startup helped by RYZ Labs Assets by Ryz Labs

Thanks partly to Metzner’s and Nadler’s connections in Latin America (California Burrito Co. started in Argentina before expanding to six other Central and South American countries), RYZ Labs has international ambitions. As Metzner says in the launch announcement, RYZ combines two of his passions: “Latin America and business creation. Having lived and worked in Latin America for many years, I love the people and truly believe in the region’s tech prowess and potential.”

As experts on the Latin American market, Metzner and Nadler have the advantage of being able to identify the region’s top engineers. However, there are many other reasons for RYZ Labs to encourage founders to look beyond North America, including pandemic-inspired normalization of remote work, economic instability in the U.S., an untapped reserve of talented engineers, and more practical, simple advantages such as time zones lining up.

Expanding on the COVID-19-inspired advantages of distributed teams, Metzner tells dot.LA "that probably leads to part of the human capital side of our business.”

He notes that it has “been easier and easier to add additional teammates that may not be sitting in the same room as you. And as long as you speak the same language and you're in the same time zones, you know, it can be a super easy way to communicate and to build.”

RYZ Labs was in “stealth mode” for a year and, in that time, launched startups like HipTrain, a wellness coaching marketplace, and Offsiteio, which handles planning corporate offsite meetings. Asked if the nature of the startups he and Nadler work with has changed, Metzner notes that HipTrain is a “business that probably only could have been built due to the pandemic” thanks to the videoconferencing boom.

Regarding Offsiteio, Metzner says, "of course, companies always used to get together,” but “the idea of getting together was maybe like a summer picnic or something.”

“And now that the teams are, you know, in different places,” he continues, “getting together as a team is more important, and it's a shift from spending it on properly planned equipment and office space and spending it on experiences to bring your team together and create bonds to create a culture within your organization.”

RYZ’s development and staffing process is relatively straightforward. After incubating ideas and creating a workable—and saleable—version of a product or service, they move on to hiring leaders, then setting the stage for outside investors. After that, the “Human Capital” part of the equation kicks in, focusing on finding Latin American talent.

Asked if he has general advice for anyone in the earliest stages of conceiving a startup, Metzner keeps it simple: “Best place to start is to buy a domain name and get started,” he says.

“I mean, there's been more and more online tools to help build everything from websites to web applications, to communication with your customers. There's a lot of no code tools that even we use sometimes that are great intermediaries as you're building product.”

One clear thing that comes across when speaking with Metzner is that he’s happy about launching RYZ Labs in his hometown. “I was born in Los Angeles,” he says, “My mother was born in Los Angeles. Her parents were born in Los Angeles. I've lived in LA my entire life. I've moved around but came back.”

“I love Los Angeles, and I think it's a great place to build,” Metzner concludes, “I think it has such an entrepreneurial spirit based off of Hollywood films and the fact that every Hollywood movie is almost like a new business. It's an awesome place to build a company.”

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