What’s up with all the LA Incubators and Accelerators?

Are they legit? Why so many? How much money are they putting up? What kind of deals are they looking to invest in? Do they do follow on capital? How are they going to scale with talent?

These were some of my questions going into last nights Lean LA event titled “Learn About LA Incubators/accelerators” – really glad they put this event on.

If your curious about what Lean LA is, it’s a non-profit organization that is all about helping entrepreneurs build successful companies. The organization is run by Pete Mauro, Patrick Vlaskovits, and Joe Zulli. I haven’t had the chance to officially meet Patrick or Joe, but my coffee meetup with Pete was very positive.

By the size of the crowd last night (350 people), I wasn’t the only one with questions. The event was packed with people waiting outside the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium hoping someone wouldn’t show and they could score a ticket to come in.

Another good call was the meal ticket that came with the admission price. How awesome is that? You could redeem at any one of the food trucks outside. Well done with this one!

So, let’s get to the meat of this thing. Why in the world would you want to move to Los Angeles for a startup? I wouldn’t, just being honest here. Not that I don’t think that everyone is doing a great job building the infrastructure and figuring it out, I just prefer to be in a place that already has it figured out.

Essentially all the incubators/accelerators said the same thing: they are working their tail off to create the infrastructure that will allow entrepreneurs and innovators to tap into and build great companies. I think this is important and overtime will happen. Do I think it will happen quickly? No. As with any startup infrastructure, you have to work your nuts off, take a ton of risks, put your ass on the line, be willing to lose some serious dough, f some stuff up, and then, after all that, make the decision to keep going. If LA can do this, they will, overtime, have something great!

And, the other thing is talent. I think there is talent as there is talent everywhere, you just have to find it, organize it, and put it to good use. If you can’t get talent involved in the community that is your own fault – this really means you suck at selling.

The panel was fantastic – mainly because it was moderated by Dave McClure who wasn’t afraid to ask tough questions and put people in their place – not in a negative way – I think he was just trying to challenge everyone to really think about what it is going to take to build this kind of community.

After Dave got everyone loosened up – it didn’t work for everybody, the event started with a representative giving a quick intro, history, and what their interest was in supporting the LA startup scene.

Some of the people who were on the panel were:

Start Engine (Howard Marks), Idealab (Allen Morgan), upStart.LA (Dan Dato), K5 Launch (Amir Banifatemi), Originate (Jeff Scheinrock), Amplify (Jeff Solomon), Muckerlab (Jeff Rannala), and Launchpad LA (Sam Teller).
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Here is a list of all the incubators/accelerators and how they are structured as it sits today.

LeanLA.com Los Angeles Area Incubator & Accelerator Cheatsheet.

(Courtesy of Patrick Vlaskovits, more details here.)

Start Engine: 120 Startups @ $20,000 per year
Idealab: 4-6 Startups @ $50k – $500K a year
upStart.LA: 5-10 Startups @ $18,000 each class (1-2 classes per year)
K5 Launch: 10-50 Startups @ 25K-$200k
Originate: 10-15 Startups @ $100K-$1.5 million per investment
Amplify: 20 Startups @ $50,000
MuckerLab: 20 Startups @ $21k a year
Launchpad LA: 20 Startups @ $50k a year
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Here’s the good news – at least from what I could see, people are fired up about entrepreneurship and they’re willing to step up to build the community, shape the culture, and pour cash into companies. And, for me, I don’t care where it is, if this is happening and people are trying, I am excited and fully supportive of it.

Now, go do your part…good things are happening.

 

Becoming a better entrepreneur

Entrepreneurs are insane, they take huge risks, put everything on the line – all for the sake of doing what they love – starting and building companies. To be an entrepreneur you have to be confident and know what it takes to make it happen – I love saying that! You can’t let anything stand in your way of getting things done…nothing.

And, these same traits that are necessary to be a great entrepreneur might also be holding you back from becoming even more than you thought you could be.

Let’s take a look at what might be holding you back and see what we can do to push you to be better.

You

You need to wake up each morning and look seriously in the mirror. The one who is going to hold you back is you. The first person you need to learn to lead is yourself. And, if you can’t lead yourself, how do you expect to cast vision and lead a team. You can’t. Look in the mirror every morning and get yourself in check.

A level entrepreneurs attract an A level team

If you think you are the shining star and you don’t need anyone else, then you suck. You deserve to have you ass beat and thrown out into the streets. Great entrepreneurs know that they need to surround themselves with the best and brightest team. The better the team the better the outcome.

Over the years I’ve built both A level teams and B and C level teams. Let’s just say the B and C level teams taught me a very valuable lesson: take the time to hire the best and don’t settle for anything less.

Communicate, communicate, communicate

A mentor use to tell me to always keep a high level of communication. He use to ream my ass everyday about communication to the point I finally learned. He beat it into me and I am so thankful he did.

If you want to piss people off, fail to communicate with them. This is no different at home with your wife or your kids. You need to communicate. Let your people know what’s going on, both good and bad – I’ve learned this lesson too.

Invest in creating a culture that communicates well and rewards for it too.

Built a family not just a team

Stop looking at your team as people who just make you money. Look at your team as if they were family. Care for them, love on them – not physically, and do what you can to always be there for them – that is what family does.

Always be understanding, put yourself in their shoes, and do what you can to help them pursue their goals and dreams. It’s not just a team that you should be building, you should be building a family.

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How about you? 

What can you do to be a better entrepreneur?

 

San Diego startup community is making it happen

Friday, I attended an event put on by Brant Cooper and the startup community in San Diego. Brant Cooper helps startups get started – they need it sometimes. He is also the author of the popular lean startup book “The Entrepreneurs Guide to Customer Development.” Give him a Google, he is writer, speaker, consultant, and all around cool guy.

David Cohen, the founder and CEO of TechStars was in the house talking about their accelerator program and what it takes to grow a localized startup/tech scene. The event was packed and very well received.

It was cool to see all the people sharing their ideas, their companies, and their efforts/hard work to continue building the startup community. I tell you what, this is a community you need to watch – something is taking shape and fast.

Heading into the event I had no expectation other than to hear David speak and to see what the startup scene was like in San Diego. I was blown away after just being there a few minutes. I wasn’t expecting it, honestly.

After the talk by David Cohen, Brant had organized FREE beer at a pub on campus at UCSD. Yes, free beer! That topped it off for me. Great event, great people, and free beer. I’m sold!

Talking with the different entrepreneurs, you got a sense that everyone is not out for themselves and what you can do for them, but what can they do to support the overall effort of building the community. You don’t see this very often, so it was enlightening. That is what it takes – people supporting people to grow and get things done.

Lets just say this, people are fired up and they’re putting in the work to make a killer startup community happen. Let’s support them.

Keep it up San Diego! And, thanks for the warm welcome and free beer! You rock!

 

Streamlining the investment process

Check out this great new company called CaplinkedIt’s a new tool that streamlines the investment process and gives companies a new way to raise capital and sell assets.

Also, it’s not just built for tech startups, but for all startups. Some of the investments on the site are:  financial services, energy, transportation and food and beverage industries.

Here’s the number that got me excited! The company launched in Oct 2010 and it already has $12 billion in deals.

If your entrepreneur or investor, I say, click on over to the site and check it out.

Note: (To view a deal, would-be investors have to certify that they are accredited investors, institutional investors or advisors to one of the investors.)

Oh, and last but not least, the service is FREE! Who doesn’t love FREE!

Epically failing on purpose

Are you afraid to epically fail? Not me, I epic fail on purpose. We need more people willing to take risks and epic fail on purpose. Well, epic fails that don’t totally wipe us out, but that make us bolder and more confident in our abilities. Epic fails that teach us lessons about what works and what doesn’t.

Epic failure is something I enjoy very much. Why? Because, each time I fall down and scrape up my knees I learn something very valuable that I wouldn’t have learned before. I learn how far I can go, how high I can jump, and how much money it’s going to cost!

When I fail, it moves me away from what doesn’t work and closer to what does. I like the sound of that – moving closer to what works. We all want to know and understand the things that work, right? But, how can you learn the things that work until we’ve tried and epically failed at the things that don’t work.

Think experiments. We may try hundreds, if not thousands of experiments until we find a solution. The same is true with projects, ideas, startups, dating, and the million other things we try to figure out in life. But, we have to be willing to epically fail at these things.

Parents don’t always teach us this, schools screw it up, and so do your bosses. Don’t listen to these safe boring people, they are going nowhere. You need to epically fail at things, it’s part of the learning experience. You can do it, epic fail. Just don’t wipe yourself out!