Thursday night was the unveiling of the newest batch of Launchpad LA companies. We held a 90-minute demo session where 150 of LA’s VC’s and senior technology executives watched the LPLA V2 group present in small groups of 12-15 each. The VC’s & executives were then asked to make “commitments” (in writing) to 3-5 of the companies that they felt they could make some sort of contribution to. The goal of Launchpad LA is to be significantly more than a series of cocktail parties. We want to give our brightest new startups the connections and interactions they need to help streamline success. Oh, and the cocktail party afterward also rocked! (I went to bed at 2am at the hotel and several people were texted me to try and summon me back to the bar).
We had executives from the studios like Fox, Warner Bros and Disney. We had software executives from Google, Yahoo!, Commission Junction, MySpace, TicketMaster and many more. There were prominent founders of business like PriceGrabber, LowerMyBills and MyLife. It was a great chance for the class to interact with the community in LA. And of course we had, TheMan.
Now begins the 6-month journey. We’ll be conducting a series of educational programes covering: fund raising, team building, product development, sales, marketing, business development and how to prioritize your time as a CEO. It’s going to be a lot of fun and I intend to wrangle several non-LA folks to come down and join us for an evening. Have a look at the companies below. Each in their own right has potential and stood out in some way from the 120+ submissions that we received.
The ten companies selected for the programe are:
• AccessDNA: – Think WebMD for genetic information. As our knowledge of the human genome expands and our appetite for genetic information grows exponentially I think the team here is going to rock it. Lee Essner is formerly a senior exec from WeddingChannel and has much experience in running a successful web property. He teamed up with Jordanna Joaquina, a genetic counselor, to create an online version of what she was already doing in the physical world. The company combines high-quality information about genetics, with tools that use family health history to help identify personal disease risk. By providing insight into the genetics of disease, as well as access to relevant testing, services, and support, AccessDNA helps people better understand how genetics can impact their healthcare and lifestyle decisions.
• AwesomeBox: AwesomeBox is currently in stealth mode so I’ll respect that. But at the highest level they’ve created a marketplace for “flash” sales. The team has experience in building startups (Doug Ludlow was formerly a founder in a TechStars company) and have all worked at local Los Angeles based startups. They’re applying the knowledge of what they’ve learned there to create compelling game-like experiences for driving consumers to retail sales.
• Circle Street – Circle Street was founded by Alex Nocifera who’s first company was Ripple TV. Walk into any Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf in Southern California and you can’t miss their digital screens. I first met him there and knew he was a talented entrepreneur that I wanted to work with some day. Alex created his next company that leverages the senior relationships he’s already built in the retail space. They have developed a cloud-based platform for merchants to publish to multiple distribution networks, including social, mobile and email. The company’s analytics comprehensively monitors customer behavior over multiple networks, including location-based mobile networks. In a world of growing marketing solutions like FourSquare, GoWalla and Yelp – it will become important for merchants to have tools to manage all of this information.
• DataPop: DataPop was founded by performance marketing veterans from Yahoo!, DoubleClick and Amazon and is led by co-founders Jason Lehmbeck and John Zimmerman. The DataPop team is building a platform that enables real time creation and delivery of highly engaging ads to consumers on a massive scale. Its technology automatically generates the best combination of landing pages, targeting and ad copy for every individual product and offer available on a marketer’s website and in their local stores. DataPop launched its initial Search Marketing application across Google, Microsoft and Yahoo late last year and leading marketers and agencies are seeing breakthrough results. On average the platform is generating 30+% increase in conversions and 15% decrease in cost per lead. Almost every VC I’ve spoken with in LA is tracking DataPop. We’re excited to work with them.
• Gendai Games – Gendai Games is making it easy for anyone to create and publish sophisticated casual games without programming. Built around the iPhone and iPad mobile experiences, their Game Salad platform enables creative professionals and prosumers to quickly make games to engage, to teach or to just have fun. We’re excited to welcome the CEO Michael Agustin to Los Angeles. In joining Launchpad he’s agreed to move here, which is a natural fit given their emerging set of media partners.
• Gyroscope Technologies – Gyroscope Technologies, founded by Dustin Rosen is rethinking the way consumers interact with their mobile phones. The company’s first offering will be a mobile retail commerce platform. The product focuses on the in-store behavior of consumers. Gyroscope is in double-dog secret stealth mode right now so I’ll focus more on the entrepreneur. (actually, Dustin was influenced by Chris Dixon’s “under-hyped” positioning). Dustin is a Wharton undergrad (which my wife tells me is for people even smarter than the Wharton MBA’s of which she is one) and then moved to LA to work for the talent agency William Morris. He then joined their venture fund, TheMailRoom Fund, which is where I met him. Dustin is respected and liked by many in the LA tech scene so it was nice to see him go “white hat.” Angel investors were clambering to put money in. So I had all my G2 even before Dustin wanted to tell me what he was up to He’s going to do very interesting stuff. Watch this space.
• Laughstub: Laughstub is a full service ticketing solution for comedy clubs. The provide them with a custom website with online ticketing, box office software, customer data management, reporting, and marketing tools. They build web solutions for venues and give them to the venues for free in exchange for keeping their ticket service fees. They also provide a set of tools for artists to sell tickets directly to their fan bases through tools like Facebook ticketing and social media management tools. It was founded by Scot Richardson who has deep domain experience in this space. He previously founded ComedyJuice, which manages a large number of bookings for comedic talent including Sarah Silverman, Dane Cook and a bunch of other people I’m too old to know. I spoke with a chap from TicketMaster who looked at Scot’s product and told me that he was really impressed what the team has built. They’ve already signed up headliners like The Improv.
• MOVIECLIPS: Launched December 2009 in Santa Monica, MOVIECLIPS is a premium online video destination offering audiences the largest and most diverse collection of movie scenes. MOVIECLIPS allows fans to find, watch and share more than 12,000 movie clips from the libraries of the major Hollywood studios. The company has opened its API to approved sites for distribution and approved developers who want to build games, etc. with the clips. They have secured rights from 6 of the 7 movie studios in town, which I understand makes them the only player to have access to these libraries. It is no wonder web content players with large audiences are all inking deals with them now. MOVIECLIPS was founded by Zach James and Richard Raddon (who ran the LA Film Festival for nearly 10 years). They also have my favorite company intro video ever. You must watch this short video.
• Para Ti Novia: Para Ti Novia is a LA based wedding website for the Hispanic market. Founded in 2009 by Candice Lapin, Para Ti Novia is part of a rapidly growing trend of bilingual media aimed at catering to both English and Spanish speaking Hispanics through both the web and mobile applications. Having seen the success of The Knot the team realized that they don’t currently cater well to the massive Latino population and feel they can build a large business specifically addressing this demographic.
• ShopNation: ShopNation, currently in stealth mode, is a next generation shopping platform launching in 2010. They are quite secretive so I’ll respect that. I will say that the two founders have already built and sold a company and have deep domain knowledge in what their building in ShopNation. It caters well to several previously successful LA businesses.