Watch: Anna Barber Discusses Techstars and the Future of L.A. Tech
Ten companies. Three months. One Demo Day. But what makes the Techstars L.A. experience so transformative? And how will that translate to the current remote world? In this installment of dot.LA Dives In, we talk with Anna Barber, managing director of Techstars L.A., for a behind the scenes look at what the Class of 2020 can expect from the accelerator experience.
Meet the Techstars L.A. Class of 2020
"We have had a (Techstars) that is all virtual for a few years now, so we had some precedent. Essentially what we are trying to do is bring that community, that connection, and all the learning and the value of mentorship, but just do it in a virtual environment with the same level of effectiveness," says Barber
Since the inception of Techstars L.A., Barber has been cultivating supportive environments for startups to grow.
Some of her favorite stories are the "before and after" transformations where, by the end of its journey, the company is almost unrecognizable. Many of the accelerator participants go on to raise seed rounds after an intense three months of iteration.
"The reason people are successful fundraising coming out of the program is because they do the work of understanding the drivers of their business and moving them so that investors can see they are building on a strong foundation, and therefore their business becomes investable," says Barber. "It's not because they build a fancy powerpoint or rehearse their pitch a lot. It's because they did the work."
Barber looks for a certain type of founder that can undergo such a transformation. Each member of the Techstars L.A. 2020 class is there because Barber could envision herself working for their company. But what is it specifically that makes her say yes to a founder? Passion and an open mind.
"I'm looking for that founder who literally can't be doing anything else because they can't rest until this thing that they've envisioned exists in the world," says Barber. "Then you couple that determination with a really open-minded viewpoint of how you get there. And a willingness to learn, and a willingness to be wrong."
In addition to her role at Techstars, Barber serves as a coach and strategic consultant to founders, as well as a partner at The Fund, an early stage venture capital fund made up of local founders and operators that expanded to L.A. this year. With so much engagement in the local tech and startup community, it is no surprise that Barber has a specific vision for L.A. tech's future. Five to ten years down the line, she hopes for a Los Angeles that is contributing to the sustainability of our planet and for a community where diversity, equity and inclusion have become core components - and she plans to help make that vision a reality.
"I think, 'what is the change I want to see in the world and have L.A. be a leader?' I would love to see advances in sustainability, which I think is the pressing issue of our time," says Barber. "And I would love to see a Los Angeles where we have made meaningful progress on diversity, equity and inclusion — both on the funding side and the founding side."
Watch the full interview to learn more - in this conversation, we dive deep into how Techstars empowers startups to create impact, what it is about a founder that makes Barber say yes! and what she envisions for the future of L.A. tech. Get ready for an intriguing look at the L.A. startup scene from the woman uniquely positioned to help bring about that future.
Anna Barber: Techstars and the Future of L.A. Tech www.youtube.com
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Loom started off in a Los Angeles storefront along Pico Boulevard offering education and events around women's health issues like fertility, periods, menopause, sex and postpartum depression.
Created by Erica Chidi and Quin Lundberg in 2016, the wellbeing startup moved online a few months ago as the pandemic shut down business and this week announced a $3 million raise led by Slow Ventures to roll out its digital health education platform.
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HBCUvc and PledgeLA offer $5,000 grants to founders from HBCUs<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzQ1OTg0Mi9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0Nzk2NDIxM30.USZ0uaglvnNlRachpixeUdJ2El5XbF51jkqBoAEyUpo/img.png?width=980" id="2e0e1" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="669fea31b69e26838e22a13d9e6a2288" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" /><p>HBCUvu, a non-profit increasing racial diversity in venture capital, has partnered with PledgeLA to provide $5,000 grants to startup founders from historically Black colleges and universities. The program, dubbed the The Summer Lab Fund, is now accepting applications through August 6.</p><p>Supported by Crosscut Ventures, the <a href="https://blog.hbcu.vc/pledgela-announces-fund-for-hbcu-entrepreneurs-d688eeda3681" target="_blank">fund</a> will award equity-free grants to technology and tech-enabled startups founded by HBCU students and alumni. Selected startups will also receive mentorship and support from participating sponsors as well as access to HBCUvc and PlegeLA networks. </p><p>The funding opportunity, launched last week, is managed and operated by the current cohort of PledgeLA VC interns who were matched at firms across Los Angeles in a 10-week program.</p><p>PledgeLA is a cohort of tech companies and VC firms created by the Annenberg Foundation and the mayor of Los Angeles. Last week, the organization <a href="https://dot.la/pledgelas-2nd-annual-survey-finds-women-non-whites-still-lack-equity-representation-2646415502.html" target="_self">released</a> results from its annual survey on diversity in tech companies across the city. </p><p>Current intern Evan Hamilton told dot.LA the plan is to establish the Lab Fund as an annual project. Although it only has three spots now, he said, if demand is high enough they will look to raise more funds. </p><p>"What I really hope for, as a result of this, is to encourage that pipeline of investors to go to HBCUs to find interesting entrepreneurial talents because as we've seen many times, most folks are in hoodies coming from Stanford," Hamilton said. </p><p>"Five thousand dollars is a nominal amount of money, but what it does is give someone that ability to say, 'I am an entrepreneur, I have been funded,'" Hamilton said. "It really doesn't take a lot to validate a lot of the thoughts, feelings and opinions that people have. If we're doing this correctly, we're going to help these companies grow, even the ones that aren't able to receive funding."</p><p>He said it hopes to dispel preconceived notions and encourage investors to look toward HBCUs for talent.</p><p>After applications close on August 6, interns will form an investment committee to present and review the interested companies, which come from industries including entertainment tech, retail, education services and sports. Winners of the fund will be announced August 14.</p><p>PledgeLA intern Liza Katsman hopes the thinking behind this initiative will one day extend beyond the HBCU ecosystem. She pointed out that entrepreneurs of different backgrounds - that had largely been excluded from tech companies - bring new perspectives and ideas that can turn into successful products or services.</p><p>"Diversity and inclusion is not just the right thing to do," Katsman said. "It's the smart thing to do." </p><p><em>dot.LA is a member of PledgeLA.</em></p>
Trump and Microsoft Are Looking at TikTok<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzQ0ODQ3Mi9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYwMzI2Nzc5OH0.nqOLhJhVWxeEzL1-Bs6w7LNxiiNnnx0-o7rlFhF1f1w/img.jpg?width=980" id="b7b3a" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="7ac4ba0a2e1685d81d3a3c2cedb4b6b8" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />Amazon Tells Employees to Delete TikTok, Then Claims Directive Was Sent in Error<p>Microsoft is in talks to buy TikTok as President Donald Trump plans to ban it, <a href="https://www.wsj.com/articles/trump-to-sign-order-demanding-chinas-bytedance-to-divest-tiktok-11596219920?mod=hp_lead_pos1" target="_blank">various</a> <a href="https://www.wsj.com/articles/trump-to-sign-order-demanding-chinas-bytedance-to-divest-tiktok-11596219920?mod=hp_lead_pos1" target="_blank">media</a> reported Friday. </p><p>TikTok has come under increasing pressure from the administration that Chinese Internet company ByteDance is sharing data with Beijing and has threatened to ban it. <br></p><p><a href="https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-07-31/trump-to-order-china-s-bytedance-to-sell-tiktok-u-s-operations-kdaib6eb" target="_blank">Bloomberg</a><em> </em>reported the Trump administration had planned to order ByteDance to divest of the Culver City-based company as early as Friday. </p><p> Microsoft could alter the question of ownership. It's unclear how advanced the talks are.<br></p><p>The White House could immediately be reached for comment. </p><p>But in an emailed statement a spokeswoman for TikTok said, "While we do not comment on rumors or speculation, we are confident in the long-term success of TikTok." </p><p>Trump's move would not come as a surprise. He told reporters on Friday: "We're looking at TikTok, we may be banning TikTok. We may be doing some other things. There's a couple of options."</p><p>Earlier this month, Trump suggested he would ban the app as punishment over China's handling of the coronavirus. Those comments came after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo <a href="https://dot.la/could-u-s-ban-chinese-owned-tiktok-2646359784/could-the-u-s-ban-chinese-owned-tiktok" target="_blank">told Fox News </a>that the United States is considering whether to restrict TikTok and other social media apps amid concerns that information was being shared with China's communist government. </p><p>"We are taking this very seriously and we are certainly looking at it," Pompeo <a href="https://www.foxnews.com/media/mike-pompeo-tik-tok-china-communist-social-media-spying-fox-ingraham" target="_blank">said</a>. </p><p>In March, another Chinese company, Beijing Kunlun Tech sold the West Hollywood-based gay dating app Grindr for more than $600 million after the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States forced it to divest. </p><p>Two months later, Beijing-based parent company ByteDance appointed Kevin Mayer, once widely considered Bob Iger's heir apparent at The Walt Disney company, to head TikTok in a move that would help distance itself from its Beijing parent company. </p><p><span></span>TikTok, has around 30 million active users and has increasingly become a favorite of advertisers to sell their products among the youth-oriented social media app. <br></p>
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The L.A. tech and startup community was active as ever this week. dot.LA chief host and correspondent Kelly O'Grady takes you through the key stories:
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