Techstars LA Names Matt Kozlov Its Next Director. Here’s What It Means for the Future of the Popular Accelerator

Ben Bergman

Ben Bergman is the newsroom's senior finance reporter. Previously he was a senior business reporter and host at KPCC, a senior producer at Gimlet Media, a producer at NPR's Morning Edition, and produced two investigative documentaries for KCET. He has been a frequent on-air contributor to business coverage on NPR and Marketplace and has written for The New York Times and Columbia Journalism Review. Ben was a 2017-2018 Knight-Bagehot Fellow in Economic and Business Journalism at Columbia Business School. In his free time, he enjoys skiing, playing poker, and cheering on The Seattle Seahawks.

Techstars LA Names Matt Kozlov Its Next Director. Here’s What It Means for the Future of the Popular Accelerator

One of Southern California's top accelerators has named Matt Kozlov its next managing director, marking a shift to jumpstarting more deep-tech startups.

Kozlov succeeds the popular Anna Barber, who departed Techstars Los Angeles Accelerator in November to become the first head of M13's venture studio and a partner at the firm.

"It's certainly big shoes that I'm filling," Kozlov said. "I'm quite humbled by it, to be perfectly honest."

Kozlov is not new to the Techstars franchise, having previously led Techstars' Starburst Space Accelerator and Healthcare Accelerator.

"I've spent the last five years working with startups that are a little bit more regulatory-based with longer sales cycles, which I think is actually a really great background to bring," Kozlov said.

Kozlov and Barber are friends and Barber said it was Kozlov who helped show her the ropes at Techstars when she joined in 2017.

"Because he's been a mentor for the L.A. program, he also knows the whole community and can seamlessly step in, although I fully expect him to define his own thesis and take the program to a whole new level," Barber said.

Both began their careers with two-year stints in management consulting, Kozlov at Bain and Barber at McKinsey. But while her background is more in consumer technology, Kozlov has roots in deep tech in addition to stints in executive roles at Sony Music Entertainment and TeleSign.

"I'm very excited about the deep-tech market here in Southern California – pharmaceutical, aerospace, defense, health care, and robotics," Kozlov said. "The industrial base in Los Angeles is so complex and so varied and my own career I think reflects that."

Kozlov says with no offense to those developing mobile video games or entertainment startups, he generally looks for founders who want to aim higher to solve big problems in areas like healthcare or aerospace.

"I'm looking for humble coachable founders who are deeply passionate about solving the problem they're going after, and ideally that problem is something that if they are successful in solving, it will actually make the world a better place," he said.

One thing he said will not change in Techstars' commitment to backing diverse founders.

"Los Angeles is a diverse community and our entrepreneurial investments should reflect that," he said.

Founders who have been mentored by Kozlov say he brings a high degree of both empathy and analytical rigor to his job.

"He is always willing to roll up his sleeves and do the work in the trenches, in the best of times and the worst," said Dante Tolbert, who graduated from the 2017 healthcare accelerator when he was CEO of Cerebro Solutions, a startup that helps hospitals manage clinicians and labor costs.

"Matt brings that rare combination of analytical rigor, a solid understanding of key KPIs (key performance indicators) and milestones for early-to mid-stage startups, and incredible people skills to build strong networks and partnerships," said Wout Brusselaers, founder and CEO at Deep 6 AI, a startup that helps hospital companies with analytics that was part of the 2016 healthcare accelerator.

A total of 40 companies have gone through the three-month Techstars Los Angeles Accelerator during the past five years. Collectively, they have gone on raise over $126 million and have a combined market cap of $328.6 million. Standouts include Slingshot Aerospace, Blue Fever, Stackin, Fernish, Liquid, Dash Systems and Finli.

However, some have questioned whether accelerators provide the necessary value to startups to justify the cut of equity, which in Techstars' case is 6%. That is especially true in the pandemic, when Zoom meetings have replaced most in-person interaction. Not surprisingly, Kozlov disagrees.

"Whether it's in person under one office building or distributed across Zoom rooms, I've learned that it doesn't really matter," Kozlov said. "It's certainly a lot more fun when you're able to grab a real meal with somebody or really just spend long nights talking about your challenges, but what I've learned is that by bringing this community together to support these ten startups at a time, magic happens. It's different than building your business out on your own."

On the plus side, Kozlov says deals have been closing faster during the pandemic and mentors have more time on their hands since they are not traveling or commuting.

"There's actually a little bit more time to pay it forward," he said.

Applications for the Techstars LA 2021 program are open now through April 11, a cohort that Kozlov expects to once again be remote with perhaps some in-person interaction by the end.

"I guess you and I are probably going to assume that it will be a virtual program unless we can hurry the pace of vaccinations," Kozlov said.
🚁 One Step Closer to Air Taxis in LA
Image Source: Joby Aviation

🔦 Spotlight

Joby Aviation, a pioneering electric air taxi company, has achieved a significant milestone by successfully flying a hydrogen-electric aircraft demonstrator for 523 miles with only water as a byproduct. This groundbreaking flight showcases the potential for emissions-free regional travel using vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft, eliminating the need for traditional runways. The company's innovative approach combines its existing battery-electric air taxi technology with hydrogen fuel cells, paving the way for longer-range, environmentally friendly air travel.

For LA residents, this development holds exciting implications for future transportation options. Joby's technology could potentially enable direct flights from LA to destinations like San Francisco or San Diego without the need to visit conventional airports, offering a cleaner and more convenient alternative to current travel methods. The company's progress in both battery-electric and hydrogen-electric aircraft positions it at the forefront of next-generation aviation, promising to revolutionize urban and regional mobility.

Notably, Joby Aviation has already made strides in Southern California by securing an agreement with John Wayne Airport earlier this year to install the region's first electric air taxi charger. This strategic move sets the stage for LA to be among the initial markets where Joby will launch its electric air taxi service. With plans to commence commercial operations as early as 2025 using its battery-electric air taxi, LA residents may soon have access to a fast, quiet, and environmentally friendly mode of transportation that could significantly reduce travel times and traffic congestion in the region. In the not too distant future, LA might find itself in an identity crisis without traffic and excess smog 🤞🤞.

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Fuel Innovation: 7 Unforgettable Team Building Experiences in LA
Image Source: Discover LA

In today's competitive business landscape, team building activities have emerged as a crucial tool for fostering a positive work environment, enhancing productivity, and crucially, improving employee retention. Studies have shown that such activities help employees feel valued, with one report indicating that 93% of those who felt appreciated were more motivated at work. Importantly, team building events may improve retention rates, as employees who feel connected to their colleagues and company culture are more likely to stay long-term. With these benefits in mind, let's explore some of the most engaging and effective team building activities available in Los Angeles.


Image Source: Modern Luxury Angelino

Pickleball is a fantastic team bonding activity because of the easy-to-grasp rules and gentle pace make it perfect for everyone, regardless of age or fitness level. The game thrives on communication and teamwork, as players must collaborate and strategize to outplay their opponents, boosting team cohesion. Plus, the lively, fast-paced action sparks friendly competition and laughter, creating a fun and spirited atmosphere that brings everyone closer together. Los Angeles boasts numerous pickleball courts that are easy to rent if you have your own equipment. If you need additional assistance organizing your pickleball outing, there are plenty of full-service companies ready to handle every detail for you.

Resources: Pickle Pop, Corporate Pickle

Escape Room

Image Source: The Escape Game

Escape rooms are a great way to build camaraderie. They require participants to work together, combining their problem-solving skills and creativity to overcome challenges and puzzles. The immersive and time-sensitive nature of escape rooms fosters collaboration and communication. Additionally, the shared experience of tackling complex tasks and reaching a common goal helps build trust and foster positive emotions among colleagues.

Resources: The Escape Game, 60Out

Day Trip to Catalina Island

Image Source: Love Catalina

Catalina Island is a perfect day trip for a team because it provides a break from the usual work environment, allowing team members to relax and connect in a new setting. Shared experiences during the trip, such as exploring new places and participating in fun activities, help build stronger relationships and foster a sense of camaraderie. There are numerous team-building activities such as an arboreal obstacle course, an island tour, scavenger hunts and more.

Resources: Catalina Island Group Activities

Top Golf

Image Source: Topgolf

Topgolf is an excellent team building event because it provides an inclusive, relaxed atmosphere that accommodates players of all skill levels, fostering personal connections and improving team morale. The unique blend of competition and entertainment creates an ideal setting for building trust, enhancing communication, and revealing hidden skills among team members. Additionally, Topgolf offers structured team building packages with guided activities, discussion prompts, and lessons on culture, change, collaboration, and strategy, making it a versatile and effective platform for strengthening relationships and boosting overall team performance.

Resources: Topgolf El Segundo

SoFi Stadium Tour

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A SoFi Stadium tour offers a unique, behind-the-scenes experience of one of the world's most advanced sports venues, allowing team members to explore exclusive areas like premium suites, team locker rooms, and the player tunnel together. The tour provides a shared, memorable experience that can foster camaraderie and spark conversations among team members, regardless of their interest in sports. Additionally, the stadium's state-of-the-art features and impressive architecture can inspire creativity and innovation, while the group setting encourages interaction and collaboration, making it an engaging and enjoyable activity for teams of various sizes and backgrounds

Resources: SoFi Stadium Group Tours

Corporate Volunteering

Image Source: L.A. Works

Volunteer work serves as an excellent team building activity by uniting employees around a shared, meaningful cause, fostering a sense of purpose and collective accomplishment. It provides opportunities for team members to collaborate in new ways, often revealing hidden strengths and leadership qualities that may not be apparent in the regular work environment. Additionally, engaging in community service can boost morale, enhance the company's reputation, and instill a sense of pride among employees, leading to improved workplace relationships and increased job satisfaction.

Resources: Habitat for Humanity, L.A. Works, VolunteerMatch

Corporate Improv Sessions

Image Source: Improv for the People

A corporate improv class encourages spontaneity, creativity, and quick thinking, skills that are valuable in the workplace. It promotes active listening and collaboration, as participants must work together to create scenes and respond to unexpected situations, fostering better communication and trust among team members. Additionally, the playful and often humorous nature of improv helps break down barriers, reduces stress, and creates a shared positive experience that can improve team morale and cohesion long after the event.

Resources: Improv-LA, Groundlings, Improv for the People

🎬 Paramount and Skydance Are Back On
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Happy Friday Los Angeles! Hope you all had a fantastic Fourth!!

🔦 Spotlight

Paramount and Skydance Media have rekindled talks to merge after negotiations abruptly halted in June. The proposed deal, contingent on approval from Paramount’s board, aims to combine Paramount’s extensive media holdings—including CBS, MTV, and Nickelodeon—with Skydance’s film expertise showcased in hits like "Top Gun: Maverick." This merger signals a potential transformation in the media landscape, positioning the new entity to compete more effectively amid challenges from streaming services and the decline of traditional cable TV.

Led by Shari Redstone, Paramount’s controlling shareholder via National Amusements, the deal represents a pivot towards revitalizing Paramount’s strategic direction amidst financial struggles and shareholder concerns. The involvement of major investors like RedBird Capital Partners and David Ellison underscores the financial backing aimed at stabilizing Paramount’s operations and addressing its $14 billion debt burden. Importantly, the agreement includes provisions to protect National Amusements from potential legal challenges, addressing previous hurdles that stalled earlier negotiations.

The deal also includes a 45-day period for Paramount to explore alternative offers, highlighting continued interest from other potential buyers like Barry Diller’s IAC and media executive Edgar Bronfman Jr. This flurry of activity underscores the significant stakeholders’ interest in Paramount’s future and its potential as a key player in a rapidly evolving media industry.

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  • Sidecar Health, a startup that offers personalized health insurance plans to businesses that allow members to see any doctor and pay directly at the time of service, raised a $165M Series D led by Koch Disruptive Technologies. - learn more

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