Those were some of the takeaways from dot.LA's Town Hall panel on "rising from the COVID-19 ashes as a thriving startup ecosystem," which also explored how the virus is reshaping work. The talk was moderated by dot.LA CEO Sam Adams and featured Barber, RippleFX Events CEO Rachel Horning, Grid110 CEO Miki Reynolds, M13 partner Anna Barber and Leila Lee, of the mayor's Office of Economic Development.
"Moving all of this activity to digital actually helps open up access. It's a lot easier to jump on a video call than it is to travel around to all these offices," Lee said.
The flexibility of not going into an office and spending hours of the week on the freeway has also led some workers to reevaluate their careers.
"We really all have to think about whether the 40-hours-a-week, 5-days-a-week [model] makes sense in today's work world," Barber said.
Earlier this month, the U.S. Labor Department reported a record number of workers quitting their jobs as many people returned to a world where long commutes and low pay were less desirable than ever.
The shifting patterns have built excitement for venture, which has poured record amounts of cash into building new digital ways of life."What's happening in tech is really exciting. You could say, 'oh no, we're in a bubble,' but I think the other way of thinking of that is we're in a period of rapid innovation because we've dealt with terrible challenges," Barber said.
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This week on L.A. Venture, hear from Anna Barber, who left her position as managing director at Techstars in December to become a one of five investing partners at M13. Barber is the first repeat guest on the L.A. Venture podcast.
M13 is a venture engine that helps emerging founders launch and scale their brand. The company provides capital, mentors, assets and resources new businesses need to succeed. It focuses on Series A Investments.
Barber says her work for M13 has been both interesting and different than her time with Techstars. She shared how she enjoys the opportunity to work with companies both big and small, and how she is able to help large companies narrow their focus, while helping small companies broaden their reach.
Barber works with the Launchpad accelerator to help startups in their earliest stages, as part of a corporate partnership with Pepsi Co. and Proctor & Gamble. She also said M13 is partnering with Pepsi Co. to launch five new companies.
Core to M13 Ventures is a collaborative spirit, she said.
"We're trying to do the hard work here of being able to really, truly unlock the value of what everyone — every single partner and every member of the team — came in the door knowing."
She also shared why she found M13 appealing:
"It's a venture engine focused on the future of consumer that has a big voice in the market, and a big impact on the future of consumer behavior."
For Barber, it is critical to recognize her strengths. She describes herself as "people- and relationship-oriented" and tries her best to use her skills to advance "the thesis of the fund" which "is founders are the best position to help founders."
Barber also highlighted her work as a partner with The Fund LA, which writes $50k checks to L.A.-based startups and entrepreneurs — small and large — that are focused on community building.
Barber shared her personal investing philosophy, her latest work with M13 and her excitement for the future of L.A. tech.
Anna Barber is an investing partner at M13.
"There has to be an emotional connection. And so the process of finding an emotional connection for those founders, to some of the ideas that we developed, it's a messy, human process... I don't believe you can dedicate five-plus years of your life to building a company If you don't have a deep, personal passion." —Anna Barber
dot.LA Engagement Intern Colleen Tufts contributed to this post.
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There is a common credo in tech that one should work 20 years as an operator before switching over to the VC side. The young investors you are about to meet flip that assumption on its head as they bet big on everything from livestream shopping to online therapy services.
We asked the region's top VCs in our dot.LA sentiment survey to identify the top investors under 30. Their picks include former investment bankers, consultants and entrepreneurs. Some of the investors are native to Los Angeles while others hail from the Midwest and abroad. All have a vision of Los Angeles as a center of tech.
Among the top talent was Abha Nath, a 25 year-old investor at Wonder Ventures, who invested early in WhatNot, a social ecommerce company that aims to change the way users shop through live video. She's a big believer in the L.A. tech scene.
"This market is well-positioned for success because of its diversity in industry and diversity in thought – something that is demonstrated by the composition of L.A.'s population," said Nath.
Eric Pakravan, a 29 year-old investor at TenOneTen, first got acquainted with L.A.'s tech scene working at the mobile game unicorn Scopely. He has his eye on industries traditionally "underserved by tech, namely hospitality, wholesale and logistics."
Almost all the investors said they're not just looking for the right idea, but for the right founder.
"I hope to increase early stage funding access to startups founded by BIPOC in Los Angeles," said Jawhara Tariq, 28, an investor at M13. (Black, Latino and Latina founders have received just 2.6% of all venture capital funding in 2020, according to a Crunchbase report.)
Below are the top ranked investors, ordered by the number of mentions they received from the VCs we spoke to:
Abha Nath, Wonder Ventures
Abha Nath is a 25-year-old investor at Wonder Ventures, rounding out seed firm's nimble two person team. She started her career in the Disney Accelerator Program, investing in later-stage companies, including Epic Games, Kahoot!, Brit+Co, and Hoodline. "I largely attribute my break to great timing and luck," she said. She met Dustin Rosen, managing partner of Wonder Ventures, several years ago and the two kept in touch before she joined in 2018. Nath says she is most excited about Whatnot, a social commerce company that is changing the way users shop through live video.
Eric Pakravan, TenOneTen
Eric Pakravan is a 29-year-old investor at the software focused TenOneTen. His experience working at Scopely during its early days piqued his curiosity about what made successful seed companies."That experience opened my eyes to the emerging tech scene that was beginning to take shape in LA.," he said. "I very quickly knew that I wanted to be a part of it. And the greatest perk was that it meant I could build a career in tech, and do it in L.A." The experience also inspired him to start LavaLab, a student-led incubator at USC. The LA-native, joined TenOneTen Ventures last year. He invests in sectors he considers have mostly been underserved by tech – namely hospitality, wholesale, and logistics. His investments include Selfbook, a booking experience for hotels, as well as Candid Wholesale and Optimal Dynamics.
Adriana Saman, Clocktower Technology
Adriana Saman is a 28-year-old investor at Clocktower Technology Ventures, which focuses on early Fintech startups. Saman started her career as an Investment Banker at JP Morgan. Originally from Ecuador, she is focused on increasing global access to financial services through fintech and other instruments. "I aspire to make a meaningful difference in the democratization of financial services in Latin America – we've started strong with a dedicated vehicle, but there's still lots to get done," she said. She said her values have led her down this path. "I think the prior steps I took in my career, pursuing a genuine interest to make a difference in global access to financial services, made it easier to bond with the Clocktower team, as they shared a similar vision", says Saman.
Brittany Walker, CRV
Brittany Walker is a 28-year-old investor at CRV, which invests in enterprise, consumer and biotech. A former Deloitte consultant, Walker holds an MBA from the Wharton School, where she sourced investments for the Dorm Room Fund. Tackling gender parity has been a priority for Walker. She co-created Interchange, the first free job board focused solely on L.A. startups. Its aim is to make the industry more accessible to diverse candidates. "I'm trying to get more female founders funded in enterprise and help more women start enterprise companies," said Walker. Among her investments is Storyboard, a platform for privately sharing podcasts and audio.
Alaina Hartley, Greycroft
Alaina Hartley is a 25-year-old investor at Greycroft. She says she landed the job without connections. "I didn't have existing networks in venture capital – I actually first connected with Greycroft by sending a cold LinkedIn message requesting an informational interview," she said. She came from Bain & Company, where she consulted across private equity, technology and media and retail practices. Previously, she worked on brand strategy initiatives for Snap Inc.'s first hardware product, Spectacles."My objective is to identify emerging leaders in the consumer and consumerized enterprise spaces and to provide them with actionable insights and support to accelerate the realization of their visions," she said. Hartley is excited about one of her recent investments, Haystack, an intranet platform that centralizes company communications.
Connor Sundberg, Amplify
Connor Sundberg is a 26-year-old investor at Amplify. He says his move from Chicago to L.A. was motivated by seeing the success of Ring, Snap, Scopely, and Dollar Shave Club. Previously, he worked in banking, but decided he was more interested in VC. "I've always believed in paying attention to where the people you respect are spending their time, and all roads kept leading to the LA startup ecosystem- from friends bootstrapping projects of their own, to others joining companies," he said. His investments include startups that could change how care is coordinated, delivered, and paid for such as: Advkekit, Honeybee, and SafeRide. Sundberg hopes to make Amplify a first-check platform that works for L.A. companies, specifically by creating a support system beyond capital and building founders up.
Jawhara Tariq, M13
Jawhara Tariq, a 28-year-old investor at consumer-focused venture firm M13. She began her career working in nonprofits and philanthropy before she decided she wanted to try making an impact through capitalism. Previously, she was a venture capital associate at Moonshots Capital, where her investment profile included: Nok, Steereo, and Copper Labs.
"I am looking for founders who are unstoppable forces; the entrepreneurs who have the audacity to dream up a world that looks, feels, and operates differently than the one we live in today."
The L.A. native hopes to facilitate access to funding for BIPOC-led startups and continue to back LA's rising entrepreneurs.
Editor's Note: This post has been updated to reflect that one of the investors recently moved out of L.A.
Lead image by Ian Hurley
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