Techstars Gears Up for Its Los Angeles Startup Showcase

Samson Amore

Samson Amore is a reporter for dot.LA. He holds a degree in journalism from Emerson College and previously covered technology and entertainment for TheWrap and reported on the SoCal startup scene for the Los Angeles Business Journal. Send tips or pitches to and find him on Twitter @Samsonamore.

Techstars Gears Up for Its Los Angeles Startup Showcase

Techstars' 2021 class of Los Angeles startups graduates this week as the accelerator comes to a close with its Demo Day.

The 12 companies will show off their work, which ranges from a stroke-detecting wristband made by Alva Health to a social network for stock traders called Cheres and Renno, an app for home renovations. If you're about to go to small claims court and need help filing paperwork, there's an app for that, too – Techstars also backed PeopleClerk, which uses its system to help California residents file in any one of the state's 58 counties.

For the past three months, each company has been working under the guidance of Techstars mentors remotely and at their Culver City offices to develop its final product, which will be shown off to investors and interested potential customers Oct. 14 during an investor showcase at the Petersen Auto Museum.

In addition to each company receiving a $20,000 grant at the onset of the program in exchange for giving Techstars 6% equity in the company, the pitch day is potentially a very valuable opportunity to court new investors and keep the business' momentum going.

Of the dozen companies that have participated in the accelerator, Techstars L.A. Managing Director Matt Kozlov said about half have– or are in the process of closing – funding rounds outside the Techstars model.

"A couple of the companies will have actually already closed rounds by Demo Day, which is pretty exciting," Kozlov said. "Some of the companies are so hot that the deals kind of ran away with themselves before the rest of the world got a chance to meet them, which is great for our founders and we're proud of them."

One of those companies is Sanity Desk, which makes software for small businesses to help them manage marketing and customer service. Sanity Desk CEO Samuel Cook said the company raised $116,000 during the program from investors outside Techstars and $1.9 million since launching in 2019.

Cook said that working with Techstars helped Sanity Desk boost its revenue by focusing on offering its product at a free or discounted price to reel in new customers. He noted Sanity Desk's monthly revenue grew 15% in September and expects the startup to hit $1 million in annual revenue by January 2021.

"The biggest breakthrough we had from the program was learning through our mentors how we could grow our revenue to $1 million in annual recurring revenue before we raised our Seed round," Cook said. "The advice we received in raising and how to raise will greatly increase our valuation at the time we raise. Plus the network and skills we have to raise will make it much easier than it would have been."

The demo day is virtual because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, but Techstars LA embraced a virtual and in-person hybrid model this year. The investor showcase will be in-person, and throughout the three-month mentorship period startups met both in-person and online -- Kozlov said one mentor even moderated a class while docked on a yacht.

Kozlov said Techstars will likely continue a hybrid model of in-person and virtual experiences in its future classes regardless of the pandemic, because it allows more companies to participate.

"We came to TechStars because we were looking to raise money, but the real value we got was from the mentorship and the confidence we gained to grow our business with these mentors," Cook said. "Also, the other founders in the program are a huge source of strength and inspiration to me that I can rely on them for advice, connections, and support through our journey after the program."

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Two LA Startups Participate in Techstars' 2023 Health Care Accelerator

Decerry Donato

Decerry Donato is a reporter at dot.LA. Prior to that, she was an editorial fellow at the company. Decerry received her bachelor's degree in literary journalism from the University of California, Irvine. She continues to write stories to inform the community about issues or events that take place in the L.A. area. On the weekends, she can be found hiking in the Angeles National forest or sifting through racks at your local thrift store.

Two LA Startups Participate in Techstars' 2023 Health Care Accelerator
Courtesy of Techstars

Earlier this month, Techstars announced that their 2023 accelerator program will have two simultaneous cohorts–Techstars health care and L.A. As previously reported on dot.LA, Techstars has brought on board returning partners Cedars Sinai, United Healthcare, along with new partners that include UCI Health and Point32Health for its health care cohort.

“For our healthcare program, this is the first time we've had multiple partners as sponsors,” Managing Director Matt Kozlov said. “This allows us to support and mentor a wider diversity of companies than we've been able to help historically.”

The in-person program is taking place in Los Angeles and two out of the twelve companies accepted into the health care program are based in Southern California.

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Why Pierced Media Is Betting on Creators To Be The Next Generation of Podcast Stars

Nat Rubio-Licht
Nat Rubio-Licht is a freelance reporter with dot.LA. They previously worked at Protocol writing the Source Code newsletter and at the L.A. Business Journal covering tech and aerospace. They can be reached at
Why Pierced Media Is Betting on Creators To Be The Next Generation of Podcast Stars
Evan Xie

It’s no secret that men dominate the podcasting industry. Even as women continue to grow their foothold, men still make up many of the highest-earning podcasts, raking in massive paychecks from ad revenue and striking deals with streaming platforms worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

But a new demographic is changing that narrative: Gen-Z female influencers and content creators.

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NASA’s JPL Receives Billions to Begin Understanding Our Solar System

Samson Amore

Samson Amore is a reporter for dot.LA. He holds a degree in journalism from Emerson College and previously covered technology and entertainment for TheWrap and reported on the SoCal startup scene for the Los Angeles Business Journal. Send tips or pitches to and find him on Twitter @Samsonamore.

NASA’s JPL Receives Billions to Begin Understanding Our Solar System
Evan Xie

NASA’s footprint in California is growing as the agency prepares for Congress to approve its proposed 2024 budget.

The overall NASA budget swelled 6% from the prior year, JPL deputy director Larry James told dot.LA. He added he sees that as a continuation of the last two presidential administrations’ focus on modernizing and bolstering the nation’s space program.

The money goes largely to existing NASA centers in California, including the Pasadena-based Jet Propulsion Laboratory run with Caltech, Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley and Armstrong Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base.

California remains a hotspot for NASA space activity and investment. In 2021, the agency estimated its economic output impact on the region to be around $15.2 billion. That was far more than its closest competing states, including Texas ($9.3 billion) and Maryland (roughly $8 billion). That same year, NASA reported it employed over 66,000 people in California.

“In general, Congress has been very supportive” of the JPL and NASA’s missions, James said. “It’s generally bipartisan [and] supported by both sides of the aisle. In the last few years in general NASA has been able to have increased budgets.”

There are 41 current missions run by JPL and CalTech, and another 16 scheduled for the future. James added the new budget is “an incredible support for all the missions we want to do.”

The public-private partnership between NASA and local space companies continues to evolve, and the increased budget could be a boon for LA-based developers. Numerous contractors for NASA (including CalTech, which runs the JPL), Boeing, Lockheed Martin, SpaceX and Northrop Grumman all stand to gain new contracts once the budget is finalized, partly because NASA simply needs the private industry’s help to achieve all its goals.

James said that there was only one JPL mission that wasn’t funded – a mission to send an orbital satellite to survey the surface and interior of Venus, called VERITAS.

NASA Employment and Output ImpactEvan Xie

The Moon and Mars

Much of the money earmarked in the proposed 2024 budget is for crewed missions. Overall, NASA’s asking for $8 billion from Congress to fund lunar exploration missions. As part of this, the majority is earmarked for the upcoming Artemis mission, which aims to land a woman and person of color on the Moon’s south pole.

While there’s a number of high-profile missions the JPL is working on that are focused on Mars, including Mars Sample Return project (which received $949 million in this proposed budget) and Ingenuity helicopter and Perseverance rover, JPL also received significant funding to study the Earth’s climate and behavior.

JPL also got funding for several projects to map our universe. One is the SphereX Near Earth Objects surveyor mission, the goal of which is to use telescopes to “map the entire universe,” James said, adding that the mission was fully funded.

International Space Station

NASA’s also asking for more money to maintain the International Space Station (ISS), which houses a number of projects dedicated to better understanding the Earth’s climate and behavior.

The agency requested roughly $1.3 billion to maintain the ISS. It also is increasing its investment in space flight support, in-space transportation and commercial development of low-earth orbit (LEO). “The ISS is an incredible platform for us,” James said.

James added there are multiple missions outside or on board the ISS now taking data, including EMIT, which launched in July 2022. The EMIT mission studies arid dust sources on the planet using spectroscopy. It uses that data to remodel how mineral dust movement in North and South America might affect the Earth’s temperature changes.

Another ISS mission JPL launched is called ECOSTRESS. The mission sent a thermal radiometer onto the space station in June 2018 to monitor how plants lose water through their leaves, with the goal of figuring out how the terrestrial biosphere reacts to changes in water availability. James said the plan is to “tell you the kind of foliage health around the globe” from space.

One other ISS project is called Cold Atom Lab. It is “an incredible fundamental physics machine,” James said, that’s run by “three Nobel Prize winners as principal investigators on the Space Station.” Cold Atom Lab is a physics experiment geared toward figuring out how quantum phenomena behave in space by cooling atoms with lasers to just below absolute zero degrees.

In the long term, James was optimistic NASA’s imaging projects could lead to more dramatic discoveries. Surveying the makeup of planets’ atmospheres is a project “in the astrophysics domain we’re very excited about,” James said. He added that this imaging could lead to information about life on other planets, or, at the very least, an understanding of why they’re no longer habitable.