Meet TechStars LA's 2021 Accelerator Cohort

Bernard Mendez
Bernard Mendez is an editorial intern at dot.LA. He attends UCLA, where he is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in applied mathematics. Mendez was previously an editor at the Daily Bruin, the student newspaper at UCLA.
Meet TechStars LA's 2021 Accelerator Cohort

When Matt Kozlov, TechStars Los Angeles' Managing Director, evaluates startups, he looks for a few key qualities in a company's leadership: humility, passion, resilience and the ability to accept coaching well.


"We believe that an A-plus team can turn a C-minus product into a really successful venture," he said. But the inverse, he said, isn't always true.

The 12 companies chosen for TechStars LA's 2021 Accelerator includes a social network platform for traders, a startup making a wristband that detects strokes and an app to handle small claims court cases.

Kozlov, who took the helm in February, is also taking his inaugural TechStars Los Angeles class in-person after the accelerator went remote during the pandemic.

"Nothing is better than an in-person experience for the mentors and founders," he said. "We are planning this year to bring the best of both worlds."

Kolzov, who spent the last two years working from home with "little" human interaction, is looking forward to swapping ideas across a table. TechStars LA is also in for other changes. The class will be held at an office space in Culver City, where most of the mentorships and instruction will take place.

But with LA County's new mask rules and an unpredictable virus, he's braced for the prospect of returning restrictions if COVID-19 cases rise.

"We've done it before, and we have to, we'll do it again," Kozlov said.

Kozlov said making sure the startups are racial diversity was a major area of focus for the accelerator. Many of the companies are led by Latino, Black and Asian American founders, and a majority of the businesses have women in their leadership.

"In terms of diversity, we really set that as a requirement when constructing this cohort," Kozlov said. "We wanted to make sure that the community of TechStars that we're bringing into this portfolio represents the community of LA."

Chelsie Hall, the co-founder of ViralMoment, said she's looking forward to collaborating with other startups and has already benefited from TechStars' network.

"The program hasn't even started yet, and they've already connected us to people who are just absolute experts in the space," said Hall, whose company helps brands identify internet trends.

The TechStars LA Accelerator's 2021 class will receive three months of training mentoring. Each company will receive $20,000 in exchange for 6% equity in the company, as per TechStars' usual accelerator agreements.

Here's a preview of this year's class:

Born out of Yale University, Alva Health wants to help people identify strokes sooner with a wristband that helps detect "the silent killer." Strokes are among the top leading causes of death worldwide. Detecting a stroke early is often a key way to improve survival rates and reduce side-effects for stroke victims.

"It's kind of a problem that has not been solved," said Sandra Saldana, CEO and co-founder of the Houston and New Haven based startup.

Butterfly Labs wants to make at-home lab testing easier for telehealth companies.

Based out of Los Angeles, Butterfly's software provides telehealth companies access to labs, testing and results that can be shared with patients via their portal and mailing services. So far, they have partnered with 10 labs to offer blood and other tests.

Cheres is a social network for stock tracking.

The platform allows users to see what their friends and followers are investing in. The app has pre launched and already has thousands on its waitlist, according to the company.

Founder Cimeran Kapur created Communikind, an app that lets families track their behavioral health history and health data. She developed the app after finding out she had cancer while in medical school. Available on both the iOS and the Google Play Store, the app also lets users share data with physicians.

Kapur created the app to give patients more control over their medical histories.

Led by Shiloh Johnson, a former accountant, ComplYant sells software that helps businesses keep track of tax deadlines, bills and other paperwork.

Erdos Ventures buys small e-commerce businesses. Based out of Canada, Erdos generates an offer within 14 days and lets owners choose between fully selling the company or sharing profits.

Based out of India, Eunimart offers machine learning and AI-based tools to help companies manage their businesses across major ecommerce platforms, including Shopify and Amazon.

The company primarily operates in Asia and the Middle East and is aiming to expand into the U.S.

Lightbox wants to combine the online and in-person shopping experience. The company's main product is a smart, 43-inch touchscreen that connects in-store shoppers with their online accounts.

Co-founder Sumant Yerramilly is no stranger to the program; he went through Techstars Boston in 2009, where he worked on Amp Idea, a company that designed an interactive touchscreen for taxis. The company was later acquired by Verifone Transportation.

PeopleClerk is an app that lets customers prepare small claims lawsuits and file the correct paperwork online. It operates in all 58 California counties and is hoping to expand into other states.

PeopleClerk co-founder and attorney Camila Lopez said it takes 30 to 40 hours and multiple court visits just to navigate the court system, which is often exacerbated by filing the wrong paperwork or missing a step in the process.

"If you watch a small claims hearing, you will see that people are showing up with evidence everywhere," Lopez said. "It's kind of a mess, and you're leaving money on the table."

Renno is an online business that aims to streamline the home renovation process. Led by former real estate consultant and CEO Khalief Brown, the company's app lets customers design a renovation, get pricing quotes and find contractors.

SanityDesk is a software aimed at "solo-preneurs" and small businesses. The software helps businesses improve their web presence, marketing strategy and customer relations management.

ViralMoment wants to make it easier for companies to better understand what's trending on the internet so it can make its own "viral moment."

The company uses Artificial Intelligence to generate reports on what people are saying about a company online based on images, videos and memes posted online.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misspelled Complyant founder Shiloh Johnson's name. It also clarifies Cimeran Kapur is the sole founder.

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🏰 Disney's Epic Investment Stands Out Amidst Gaming Industry Layoffs

Christian Hetrick

Christian Hetrick is dot.LA's Entertainment Tech Reporter. He was formerly a business reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and reported on New Jersey politics for the Observer and the Press of Atlantic City.

🔦 Spotlight

In the midst of widespread gaming industry layoffs, a glimmer of positive news emerges as Disney announces a significant move: a $1.5 billion investment in Epic Games. 🏰💰🐭

Image Source: Disney

Disney's $1.5 billion investment in Epic Games, disclosed late Wednesday, signals a strategic alignment aimed at expanding the success of "Fortnite." The deal enhances Epic's growth prospects after financial setbacks, including layoffs, and strengthens the partnership between the two companies. With Disney gaining a larger equity stake in Epic, the collaboration will broaden the integration of beloved Disney franchises like Marvel, Star Wars, Pixar, and Avatar into the game, potentially boosting its appeal and longevity. This significant investment underscores Disney's commitment to interactive entertainment and signifies a shift towards games as a primary revenue stream, aligning with the growing trend of digital engagement among younger demographics. Moreover, the potential for crossover sales of physical Disney products within "Fortnite" and the exploration of new content distribution channels are just some of the opportunities arising from this partnership.

For LA tech, the Disney-Epic Games partnership represents a validation of the region's burgeoning tech and gaming ecosystem. The substantial investment in Epic, who maintains a large Los Angeles office with 1,000+ employees (according to LinkedIn), reflects confidence in the LA’s talent pool and innovation potential. Additionally, this partnership between two industry giants fosters an environment for further collaboration, investment, and growth within LA's tech sector. As Disney and Epic Games deepen their ties and explore new avenues for content integration and distribution, it not only elevates the prominence of LA as a tech hub but also stimulates economic growth and job creation in the region. This partnership highlights LA's unique position as a hub where technology and entertainment converge. With its ability to integrate diverse industries, LA is driving innovation and expansion in digital entertainment. 🚀💸🎮

🤝 Venture Deals

LA Companies

  • ProducePay, a financing and marketplace platform for the fresh produce market, raised a $38M Series D led by Syngenta Group Ventures joined by Commonfund, Highgate Private Equity, G2 Venture Partners, Anterra Capital, Astanor Ventures, Endeavor8, Avenue Venture Opportunities, Avenue Sustainable Solutions, and Red Bear Angels. - learn more
  • Blush, an invite-only dating app that drives users to local businesses on dates, raised a $7M Seed Round from individuals like Naval Ravikant. - learn more
  • Mogul, a startup founded last year that provides an overview of an artist's royalty earnings and identifies areas where money is owed but has not yet been collected, raised a $1.9 million seed round from Wonder Ventures, United Talent Agency, AmplifyLA, and Creator Partners. - learn more
  • Avnos, a hybrid direct air capture startup, raised a $36M Series A led by NextEra Energy and joined by Safran Corporate Ventures, Shell Ventures, Envisioning Partners, and Rusheen Capital Management. - learn more
  • AI.fashion, startup whose mission is to help retailers enhance the online shopping experience by providing consumers with virtual try-ons and personalized fashion recommendations, raised a $3.6M Seed Round led by Neo. - learn more
  • Suma Wealth, startup that aims to demystify financial topics and provide culturally relevant content, virtual experiences, and resources to help Latino users navigate financial challenges and opportunities, raised a $2.2M Seed Round . Radicle Impact led, and was joined by Vamos Ventures, OVO fund and the American Heart Association Impact Fund. - learn more
  • 222, a startup that helps users discover their city and meet new people through unique social experiences, raised a $2.5M Seed Round. Investors included 1517 Fund, General Catalyst, Best Nights VC, Scrum Ventures, and Upfront Ventures. - learn more
  • LimaCharlie, a security operations cloud platform, raised a $10.2M Series A led by Sands Capital. - learn more
  • Polycam, an app that uses a smartphone’s sensors to capture 3D scans of objects, raised an $18M Series A co-led by Left Lane Capital and Adjacent, and joined by Adobe Ventures and individuals like Chad Hurley and Shaun Maguire. -learn more.

LA Venture Funds

Actively Raising

  • ReelCall, Inc., an entertainment technology company focused on powerful apps and platforms that help build and maintain the professional network of connections vital to career growth, is raising a $850K Pre-Seed Round. - learn more
  • CZero, a startup building software to decarbonize logistics for logistics businesses and goods business through a vetted marketplace and optimization software. - learn more
  • Couri, a technology startup addressing last-mile delivery issues, is raising a $450K Pre-Seed Round at a $2.2M post money valuation. - learn more
  • Sweetie, a marketplace to help people plan date nights, is raising a $1.5M Pre Seed Round. - learn more
  • StartupStarter, an investment platform that provides real-time data and analytics on startups, is raising an $850K Angel Round. - learn more

If you’re a founder raising money in Los Angeles, give us a shout, and we’d love to include you in the newsletter!

Venture Waves, Climate Tech Wins, and Silicon Beach's Ongoing Evolution

Christian Hetrick

Christian Hetrick is dot.LA's Entertainment Tech Reporter. He was formerly a business reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and reported on New Jersey politics for the Observer and the Press of Atlantic City.

Anduril Seeks $1.5B in VC Funds

Defense company Anduril Industries Inc., based in Costa Mesa and founded by Palmer Luckey, is seeking to raise $1.5 billion in fresh funds to boost its valuation to $12.5 billion or more, according to sources quoted by The Information. This fundraising effort, if successful, would mark one of the largest venture capital rounds of the year.

Image Source: Anduril

Anduril recently secured a contract to develop and test small unmanned fighter jet prototypes under the Air Force’s Collaborative Combat Aircraft (CCA) program, beating out major defense companies like Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and Northrop Grumman. Alongside General Atomics, Anduril will design, manufacture, and test these aircraft, with a final multibillion-dollar production decision expected in fiscal year 2026. This program aims to deliver at least 1,000 combat aircraft to fly in concert with manned platforms and is part of the Air Force’s Next Generation Air Dominance initiative. Central to Anduril’s success in this contract is the Fury autonomous air vehicle, acquired through the purchase of Blue Force Technologies. This victory underscores Anduril's rapid advancement in the defense sector, aligning with Luckey's vision of building faster and more cost-effective defense assets. - learn more

Los Angeles Ranks Number 1 in Emerging Climate Tech Hub

The 2024 Emerging Climate Tech Hubs Report by Revolution highlights Los Angeles as a burgeoning center for climate tech innovation. LA's growth in this sector is driven by its diverse talent pool, strong research institutions, and a culture of environmental consciousness. The city's unique mix of legacy industries, such as entertainment and aerospace, alongside emerging tech companies, positions it as a pivotal player in the climate tech landscape. This shift reflects a broader trend of decentralized climate tech funding across the U.S., reducing the historical dominance of California's traditional hubs. - learn more

Silicon Beach: Looking Back, Moving Forward

Assessing the overall health of the startup market is challenging, especially as venture capital funding has decreased by an average of 61% from 2021 to 2023 across the top VC markets in the US. Markets with robust ecosystems in AI, SaaS, Biotech, Healthtech, and Fintech appear to be weathering the downturn better than those focused on Consumer and Gaming industries, areas where Los Angeles traditionally excels.

Percent Change In VC Funding By Region

CB Insights

LA Times paints a rather bleak outlook on the Los Angeles tech scene noting venture capital funding in Greater Los Angeles plummeted 73% from 2021 to 2022. Silicon Beach, once a vibrant tech corridor, currently faces high vacancy rates and lacks late-stage financiers, especially in the AI sector. However, there are positive signs, including growth in aerospace startups and increased venture capital investment in early 2024, suggesting a potential rebound for LA's tech ecosystem.

While LA may not be exceeding expectations during this period, its tech ecosystem warrants a nuanced evaluation, given the broader market dynamics and its strong performance in specific sectors. Reach out to us with your thoughts.

🚀 SpaceX gears up for another stellar year, active raises, and more

Christian Hetrick

Christian Hetrick is dot.LA's Entertainment Tech Reporter. He was formerly a business reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and reported on New Jersey politics for the Observer and the Press of Atlantic City.

Happy Friday Los Angeles! You made it through the first week of 2024!

🔦 Spotlight

Elon Musk may be a divisive (albeit entertaining) figure, but the continued success of SpaceX is pivotal for the aerospace industry in Los Angeles and more broadly around the world.

Image Source: SpaceX webcast

What happened with SpaceX in 2023?

  • Elon Musk challenged Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg to a cage fight.
  • SpaceX launched 96 successful missions with its Falcon series of rockets, a 57% increase over its previous annual record.
  • SpaceX conducted two test flights of the largest and most powerful rocket ever built, Starship.
  • Roughly two-thirds of SpaceX's launches in 2023 were devoted to building out Starlink, the company's satellite-internet megaconstellation.
  • Isaacson’s Elon Musk biography was published in September including everything from Musk’s tumultuous relationship with his father to his work ethic and “demon mode”.

Moving forward what can we expect from SpaceX and its controversial founder? Continued innovation pushing the aerospace industry to new limits? Yes. More drama? Without a doubt.

Here is some of what is to come in 2024:

🤝 Venture Deals

Just Announced

Check back next week!

LA Exits

  • CG Oncology, an Irvine, CA-based developer of immunotherapies for bladder cancer, filed for a $100M IPO. It plans to list on the Nasdaq (CGON) with Morgan Stanley as left lead underwriter, and has raised around $317m in VC funding. - learn more
  • McNally Capital agreed to sell Advanced Micro Instruments, a Costa Mesa, CA-based maker of gas analyzers and sensing technologies, to Enpro (NYSE: NPO). - learn more

Actively Raising

  • ReelCall, Inc., an entertainment technology company focused on powerful apps and platforms that help build and maintain the professional network of connections vital to career growth, is raising a $850K Pre-Seed Round. - learn more
  • CZero, a hard-tech startup that is developing a technology for decarbonizing natural gas, is raising a $1.5M Seed Round. - learn more
  • Couri, a technology startup addressing last-mile delivery issues, is raising a $450K Pre-Seed Round at a $2.2M post money valuation. - learn more
  • Sweetie, a marketplace to help people plan date nights, is raising a $250K Angel Round. - learn more
  • StartupStarter, an investment platform that provides real-time data and analytics on startups, is raising an $850K Angel Round. - learn more

If you’re a founder raising money in Los Angeles, give us a shout, and we’d love to include you in the newsletter!

📅 LA Tech Calendar

Sunday, January 7th

Wednesday, January 10th

  • Startup Cafe: Networking with a Kick - Entrepreneurs, Startups, and Tech Enthusiasts join together to meet and connect with like-minded people, industry professionals and investors, while enjoying a nice cup of coffee in Venice at The KINN. This week’s interactive discussion about AI’s evolution in entertainment will feature Dr. Sam Khoze and Rachel Joy Victor.
  • Venice Tech Happy Hour- Join Startup Coil and FoundrHaus Wednesday evening and enjoy the sunset from the rooftop, grab a bite overlooking Abbot Kinney, and mingle with other tech enthusiasts and entrepreneurs by the bar on the patio.

Have an awesome event coming up? Reach out to be featured on next week’s Newsletter!

📙 What We’re Reading

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