Meet the LA Startup Houses Building Companies Through Co-Living and Creative Energy
Taking their lead from social media entrepreneurs who are creating content from mansions, a new breed of startup incubators and collectives are cropping up across Los Angeles. Their programs were built largely by young entrepreneurs trying to bridge the creator and startup worlds, speak to a generation that has grown up alongside social media.
Some are inspired by other co-living incubators or from founders who wanted to capture the creative energy those houses spawned.
In the Hollywood Hills, a collective started by two twenty-seven year-old entrepreneurs is helping seed-stage companies land funds and build up their products. Across town, a roving launch house focuses on building biotech entrepreneurs. Another is trying to foster breakthrough products in augmented reality.
Here's a run down of some of the most promising co-living concepts, along with their founders and the projects they're incubating.
Launch House formed last year after one of its founders tweeted about an experimental gathering of entrepreneurs in Tulum, Mexico. Located in a sprawling Beverly Hills mansion, the hub puts a heavy emphasis on social media and influencer-driven business ideas and runs monthly cohorts of about 20 founders each, connecting them with creators to build up their social media game. Potential participants must apply and then pay an annual membership fee, which includes the four-week live-in residency program and access and introduction to investors and advisors. Participants have to be 18 years of age or older.
"Many creators want access to startup investing opportunities but either don't have a way into top deals, or get pitched so often they can't easily decipher what's a good investment," said co-founder Brett Goldstein, "On the reverse side of things, many founders see collaborating with creators as a great way to reach new target audiences because distribution is a hugely scarce resource."
Several Launch House residents have gone on to raise successful rounds from staid investors including Sequoia and Y Combinator, though a Business Insider report about a COVID outbreak after a recent party raised questions about the culture at the home.
Inspired by other launch houses, the two PhDs wanted to create the first biotech hub in Los Angeles that combines the region's creator economy with its budding scientists and entrepreneurs.
"Part of our goal is to make it one of the top biotech hubs through us being here. As BioscienceLA Chief Executive Officer Dave Whelan would say, 'we're long L.A.'," said Carbonell, "Most companies need to also become media companies to stay relevant, and where better than Los Angeles for that?"
Four startups were accepted in the first round of what Brazen Bio is calling its 'BRZN1 cohort. The program started last month and runs through December. It's replete with a full line up of founder dinners and mixers, access to Bio Labs' equipment and weekly office hours. The founders aren't yet making seed investments but will be establishing a fund for 2022.
Carbonell said they are trying to find ways to promote Brazen through Discord and social media to Gen-Z entrepreneurs and encourage a new generation to enter the STEM field.
The 27-year-old co-founders Robbie Figueroa and Luciano Arango moved from the Bay Area to Los Angeles, where they saw a maturing tech scene they thought could be a good place to build startups. The two convinced their tech friends to make the trip down to the Hollywood Hills, where they created a collective and early-stage fund called House.ai.
House.ai doesn't offer a full-time residency like Launch House. Instead, it sees itself as a place where founders can gather to co-work. Figueroa, a general manager for DoorDash in Puerto Rico, and Arango, a co-founder of San Francisco-based ScopeAI, both live in the house. There's no formal application for House.ai — instead, Arango and Figuero select premiere founders and operators to join them.
In the past year, House.ai has provided co-working space for 37 founders. The program connects them with early-stage venture capital and helps them recruit talent and connect to engineers. Figuero and Arango have so far invested in six of the companies — including cannabis wholesaler Nabis, a Y-Combinator-backed company.
Figuero considers House.Ai an industry-agnostic incubator, though its startups tend to gravitate towards fintech, fulfillment and delivery services, along with some consumer and business-to-business companies.
The AR House was born out of a tweet from augmented reality developer Aidan Wolf: "anyone organizing a house for snapchat lens creators? Would love to do something like that here in LA."
The response was overwhelming. Among those who reached out was AR creator Lucas Rizzotto.
The team quickly coalesced around the idea of a house dedicated specifically to AR creators and developers. L.A., home to AR juggernaut Snapchat, had more than enough talent. Within a week, the two had met their funding goal, much of it coming from the AR community.
Creators must be 18 years old or older to apply. AR House's founders don't take equity in the companies they help launch, but they do help provide participants with AR hardware to support their projects.
The cohorts will have access to a four-week session complete with dinners for founders, meet-and-greets with investors and other programming. The house doubles as an exhibition space for augmented reality projects, too. AR's first cohort started on October 5 and they signed a six-month lease to their Hollywood Hills house.
Bay Area native and consumer tech founder Katia Ameri and YouTuber Elijah Daniel bootstrapped Rocketship House in November 2020. The house, based in the Hollywood Hills, boasts a stunning view of Los Angeles and an acre-long vineyard where participants are encouraged to collaboratively contribute to projects focused on the creator economy.
Ameri brings a hard-tech background. She raised $2.2 million for her telehealth platform, Mirra, an at-home allergy diagnosis service, before the pandemic started. Daniel brings social media savvy and a knack for making viral videos. The two say they are focused on projects that help creators develop content distribution and revenue streams.
Daniel and Ameri aren't interested in taking equity. Instead, the pair said the want to focus on building a community of creators and tech entrepreneurs. There's no formal application, though interested founders and creators can reach out to Ameri via Twitter to join. The two say they are flexible about how long creators or founders can stay in the house. After experimenting with co-living, Rocketship House's founders said they're pivoting toward a model that will instead seek to foster a digital community and provide a physical workspace.
Advntr House was created by the co-founders of a college party app Dive.Chat, Michelle Fang and Kyle Brastrom. Its Gen-Z cohorts have served as founders of a wide variety of consumer, healthcare, fintech and media startups.
"A majority of the people that have entered ADVNTR House have either quit their full-time job, ended a relationship of over a year or dropped out of college," Brastrom said, "People kind of come into the house and then realize 'wow, there's so much opportunity out there'."
Participants live in ADVNTR's Melrose home, but the group also travels to destinations like Big Bear, California and Arizona. Every cohort shares the expenses and collectively develops the group's activities. There's a formal application and interview process to join ADVNTR. The cohort program lasts about eight weeks.
Fang and Brastrom organized L.A. Tech Week, a collaboration with other tech houses including House.ai, Launch House and Together Casa, a real estate startup organizes co-living houses for tech entrepreneurs, creators and other interest-focused communities.
Know of other startup houses around Southern California? Let us know!
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In this episode of LA Venture, Julie Wroblewski talks about starting Magnify Ventures and helping modern families.
Wroblewski worked with Melinda French Gates to start Pivotal Ventures. For Wroblewski, it was her dream job as she got to lead venture capital investment strategy for five years. One of the focus areas at Pivotal was around caregiving innovation and American family homes.
Wroblewski cites a report from one of Magnify's partners that estimates the care economy at $648 billion in the United States, already larger than the pharmaceutical market. Wroblewski's fund is writing up to $2.5 million checks into companies that will transform life, work and care for modern families.
"I started to see what I thought was a very exciting and still overlooked category of investment in venture capital around the care economy, and family-focused technology and was also seeing a lot of flow and founders," said Wroblewski.
As an investor, she is particularly interested in tools like household optimization that help families be both more efficient and joyful. She also wants to let parents know they don't have to be experts. Technology can help give them access to what they need, when they need it.
"Technology is moving closer into our lives all the time and solving increasingly human, complex, difficult problems, including, how we care for and manage care for children and our loved ones--the things that are most personal to us," said Wroblewski.
"We've seen such a wave of technology innovation in the workplace. You know, we now use so many different tools to help increase our productivity at work, to improve our health and well being in some cases in the workplace," she added. "And I think we haven't yet seen the same sort of investment in innovation move into some areas of family life and household management. And so I think that that's going to change."
dot.LA Audience Engagement Intern Joshua Letona contributed to this post.
Pejman Nozad, a founding managing partner at Pear VC, joins this episode of LA Venture to discuss Pear VC's current initiatives, including its accelerator and fellowships. He's seen as one of the most successful angel investors in the area, and for good reason: he has made more than 300 investments in his lifetime.
"I'm a child of revolution and war and difficult times," said Nozad of his upbringing in Iran during the revolution.
Nozad went to college before dropping out. That's when his brother told him about his dream to go to America. After his brother was denied a visa multiple times, Nozad went himself to the embassy and got lucky; the woman in charge of the process liked him enough to approve him.
"When you're in [your] early twenties, you don't analyze much of the future. And then your risk-takers. I came to America in 1992 with $700 and I didn't speak any word of English," said Nozad.
Nozad went from working at a carwash, then a yogurt shop, to a (now famous) Persian rug store in Palo Alto. Many of his clients happened to be CEOs and venture capitalists; Nozad wanted to be part of that community.
"I was very lucky because I had access to people who normally nobody can see them, but I was hanging out with them at Sunday barbecues while selling carpets," said Nozad.
In his early days as an investor, Nozad bet on companies that included Dropbox and DoorDash. He said he took inspiration as a venture capitalist in lessons he learned from his time playing professional soccer in Iran.
"In soccer, you can score minute one, or you can score at minute 90. Both of them [are] one goal and you can win the game. So, when you go to fundraise, don't get disappointed if you hear a lot of nos, because the yes could be the last meeting after the whole two months," he said.
dot.LA Engagement Intern Joshua Letona contributed to this post.
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