Today we announced Launchpad LA V2.
Full press release with more details is here. We will be selecting 10 startup companies to participate. There is no cost but you must physically be based in or move to Los Angeles for the 6 months of the program. Applications are due April 6th, 2010, the form is on the website and the Twitter address is @launchpadlad
When I kicked off Launchpad LA a year ago I had a few objectives:
- Create an ecosystem where all Southern California VC’s had the chance to work together more actively outside of the boards on which we mutually sit
- Find the best and brightest next generation of entrepreneurs and help them to be more successful
- Encourage the most successful LA tech entrepreneurs who had previously started companies to get involved as mentors, instructors or just informal advisors
- Help these companies get funded and let them know that if they stayed in LA there was an ecosystem to support them
It was inspired somewhat by a comment that Matt Coffin (founder of LowerMyBills) made at a technology event hosted by Jason Nazar. He spoke about his experiences in the dot com crash of the early part of the century where no VC’s would give him money. He had a pile of debt and covenants that made him vulnerable if the debt holders wanted to play rough. He was able to speak with a successful entrepreneur who told him how to restructure the debt (essentially by increasing their warrant coverage) and that was enough to seal the deal. The rest is history. He was able to raise money from a VC in Minneapolis called Split Rock, grow the business to over $200 million in sales and sell to Experian for nearly $380 million. I hope he’s OK with my telling this wonderful story as he told it publicly.
What if all the Matt Coffin’s in LA were spending time with the next generation of entrepreneurs and helping them through tricky times – ones that can determine the different between success and failure in a binary sense? John Morris from the Tech Coast Angels was encouraging me to do something similar. We connected. Launchpad V1 was born.
When we started I told everybody we would run the organization as a startup itself. I set out some simple objectives, picked 13 startup CEO’s, planned a series of events, spent time personally trying to coach people through their fund raising processes and waited to see where it went. We did a founder “eHarmony” where I matched the CEO’s with their chosen mentors and each one mapped to a one VC. We get participation from nearly every major VC firm in Southern California, which was magical.
How’d we do? On the funding, business creation, business development fronts I think we did quite well. 1 of the companies was sold (FlipGloss), 11 of the companies received funding, and one of the companies is profitable and has decided not to raise outside capital. The companies are listed on the website.
What did we need to improve?
- We decided that V2 would have a more formal education program taught by real practitioners rather than just hosting discussions on topics as we did in V1
- We decided to be less formal about the mentor / mentee relationships. This allows us to broaden the participants to include senior “captains of industry” that don’t have the time for formal mentorship
- We will host “founder dating” events to help the CEO’s gain access to technology talent and vice-versa
- We seek to get some office space to allow the companies to have a “crash pad” for part or all of their teams
- We want to get more people from outside of Los Angeles to spend time with our companies. We already have commitments from many prominent people who we will slowly start to announce
- We wanted to find some events where we could invite a broader set of LA’s tech entrepreneurs so we could widen the scope
I have decided to work closely with two very talented LA-based entrepreneurs to help me run the program – last year nearly killed me. Adam Lilling, founder of BiggerBoat (backed by First Round Capital and Tim Draper) and Pentagon Music (acquired by Virgin) and Joshua Roth (NTI acquired by Blackboard, Rent.com and Amuzu) are joining as directors to help with selection, education, mentorship, events and, frankly, general management. I still plan to be as actively involved but realized I needed the help of some talented LA based entrepreneurs. V2. I’m excited.