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  • 21 Oct 2015
      Techstars announced this morning the launch of their second LA accelerator, The TechStars Healthcare Accelerator in Partnership with Cedars Sinai. This new program will pair innovative health focused startups with the top physicians and researchers in the country.   "The Techstars Healthcare Accelerator, in partnership with Cedars-Sinai, will support the leading academic medical center’s focus on developing innovative approaches to medicine and science that not only further enhance the quality of the care but ensure it is provided in a patient-centered, cost-effective manner," David Brown from Techstars said in a prepared statement. "Cedars-Sinai, the largest nonprofit academic medical center in the western United States, is known internationally for providing the highest-quality, most advanced patient care."   The 10 companies selected for the program will receive an investment of up to $120,000. They will also have the opportunity to work at the dedicated Techstars Healthcare Accelerator space adjacent to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in West Hollywood. This location will put the teams in a prime location to tap into "Cedars-Sinai’s clinical expertise and information infrastructure including hardware, software and digital health technical resources."   Applications for the program which open today will be accepted through January 8th. The three month program begins for the companies selected on March 28th and culminates with a demo day on June 23rd.     ------------------------------------------------------------ ------------------------------------------------------------   Take Action!   Apply to Techstars Healthcare Accelerator Join the Techstars Healthcare Accelerator Group     ------------------------------------------------------------  ------------------------------------------------------------  
    31546 Posted by Robert Lambert
  • 18 Nov 2015
      Last night at NeueHouse in Hollywood the inaugural class of Troy Carter's SmashdLabs took the stage to present to an impressive audience of investors, journalists, media, and some of LA's top influencers.  The 5 companies included an impressive range of technologies and industries and included; Enrou (LA), Sidestep (LA), THRONE (LA + NY), Trakfire (LA), and WeTransfer (Amsterdam)   ____________________________________________________   Enrou - @Enrou_   Tagline: Shop To Empower   What They Do: Derived from the idea of being en route toward building a better world, Enrou is an online marketplace for the socially conscious consumer to discover one-of-a-kind products created in developing communities all around the world.   Current Funding: $150,000   Headquarters: Playa Vista, CA   Founders: Ann Wang (@AnnWang013) & Jessica Willison (@Jessica__Lynn)   Interesting Notes: They received great advice about story-telling as an ecommerce company from The Honest Company's, Brian Lee. Their repeat customer rate of 24% is way above industry average. They will be launching a 'Charity Water-esque' impact dashboard for customers to track their spending and impact on the site over time. They won a $400,000 prize package from the FORBES pitch contest Their time at Smashd Labs was focusing on their largest holiday line yet specifically around corporate gifting. [EXCLUSIVE] They are releasing a capsule collection with Rachel Roy. Their brands employ nearly 3,000 individuals from all over the globe.   What They Need Now: Funding They're currently hiring, search opening: Enrou Jobs Media Coverage Shop their holiday gift options   ____________________________________________________      Sidestep - @SidestepApp   Tagline: Skip The Line   What They Do: Sidestep is an app that lets fans browse and buy concert merchandise before, during, and after the show for pickup at show or delivery home.   Current Funding: Raised $900,000 previously, and recently opened their $1 Million round.   Headquarters: New York, NY (relocating to LA as early as January '16)   Founders: Eric Jones (@IAmEricJones) & Petie Pizarro (@PetiePizarro)   Interesting Notes:  Team of 2 They recently signed a deal with TicketMaster to offer pre-sales. Generated over $200,000 in sales while in the program. The co-founders started out as touring musicians who are familiar witht he pain point. "Let's shape the future of live events together" was advice they received from Jason Hirschhorn. They've successfullly worked with over 500 events since launching.   What They Need Now: Funding $1 Million Seed roung Looking for anyone in the music industry to start using the platform      ____________________________________________________     Trakfire - @TrakfireMusic   Tagline: The Best Emerging Music   What They Do: Trakfire surfaces the best new emerging music through daily crowdsourced curation.   Current Funding: $50,000   Headquarters: Los Angeles, CA   Founders: Arjun Mehta (@ArjunKMehta) & Grant Collins (@LilCPU)   Interesting Notes:  [Announcement] Officially soft-launching today! Launching with three genres to start; Hip Hop, R&B, and Electronic. They're launching first through college campuses, starting at USC.   What They Need Now: Employees Media Coverage      ____________________________________________________     WeTransfer - @WeTransfer   Tagline: WeTransfer Makes File-Sharing Easy And Enjoyable.   What They Do: WeTransfer is a digital platform to share and discover fresh digital content.    Current Funding: $25 Million   Headquarters: Amsterdam   Founders: Bas Beerens (@BastiaanBeerens) & Nalden (@Nalden)   Interesting Notes:    WeTransfer, a 6 year old company joined SMASHD Labs to learn about the American culture. Last week, they hit the 1 Billion transfers per year mark. Usage of the service doubled in the US over the last 12 months. Troy Carter recently joined the board of WeTransfer.  They re-built WeTransfer from the ground up, the re-design will be launched in 2016. They launched a music player to also offer streamable music.   What They Need Now: Funding Employees Media Coverage      ____________________________________________________     THRONE - @THRONE   Tagline: THRONE Is Yours   What They Do: THRONE is a mobile-first marketplace and rapidly growing ecosystem created to facilitate buying, selling and discovery within the streetwear and sneaker community.   Current Funding: Opening their round today!   Headquarters: Los Angeles, CA + New York, NY   Founders: Emeka C. Anen (@EmekaCAnen) & Chis Anen (@Chis_Anen)   Interesting Notes:  Currently hitting 3 million sneaker fans a month The fix a super fragmented market with their seamless mobile app Their content side is on pace to hit over 100,000 hits a month They've grown to over 700 ambassadors while at Smashd Labs The streetwear/footwear community is extremely passionate which is helping drive viral growth They founders are brothers They're going to be working on orginal content with Russell Simmons' company, All Def Digital.   What They Need Now: Excited to discuss partnerships and funding.   ______________________________ ______________________________   Congratulations Suzy and Troy on a successful first class!    
    13509 Posted by Robert Lambert
  • 14 Dec 2015
      [An Interview With Shootly Founder, Garrett Henricksen]    Robert Lambert: Thanks for taking some time to chat with us Garrett. First things first, are you a solo Founder or do you have a Co-Founder?   Garrett Henricksen: There are two of us, me and Damien Greco.   RL: And what does Shootly do?   GH: Our app provides photography and drone photography “Dronography” on demand.   RL: Where is the company based?   GH: Venice Beach, CA   RL: If not full-time on Shootly, what's your current day job?   GH: “My day job at the moment is working as the LA rep for Business Wire which helps startups get their news in front of journalists, investors, bloggers.   RL: When did you and Damien officially launch Shootly?   GH: November 2015 we launched in the iOS app store, Incorporated in May, and started quickly partnering with the local startup events.   RL: How did you get the idea for the startup?   GH: Surfing actually. I had one of the best sessions of my life surfing a hurricane swell on the East Coast but went home without any photos to relive that experience and share it with my friends. I realized, this is something I’ve wanted my whole life- the ability to capture life’s best moments on-demand. A bunch of friends are professional photographers and knowing they are always looking for extra gigs, I thought, this was something we both need.     RL: Have you raised funding or are you bootstrapped   GH: We're bootstrapped.   RL: Any competitors in the on-demand photography space?   GH: There are a ton of competitors that have photography platforms on web but not on mobile. There is a competitor called Thumbtack on mobile but they offer countless service based gigs so it’s less focused.   RL: How do you beat someone like Thumbtack in your specific niche?   GH: The way is really just focusing on one industry, photography. And we also don’t offer they way they do where the service providers bid on jobs which bids down the cost of the job which becomes a race to the bottom in pricing. Our model is more favorable to the service providers.   RL: How'd you come up with the name Shootly?   GH: After three months of deliberation, we tried every name in the book. Literally anything photography related is taken on every platform. It came to a point where our developer said, “alright guys the app is done, what are going to call this thing? We need a name.” We noticed that a common nomenclature trend in startups is to add the “LY” which generally helps in locating available domains while also clearly portraying that this is a tech startup.   RL: Who developed the app and how long did it take?   GH: We worked with the team at CTRL.LA. They were great and got it done in 6 months from May through October.     RL: What is something uniquely memorable about your company?   GH: I'd have to say, the innovation in the drone technology sector overall and our excitement to showcase what we can do with it next with Shootly.     RL: What is your main focus over the next 3-6 months?   GH: Owning the LA market. Once we’re comfortable with the marketing expansion for a city like LA we’re going to flip the switch in the other major metropolitan cities we’ve been targeting. We’ve already begun talks with investors who are available once we’re at that point.”     RL: What can people in the Silicon Beach community do to help?   GH: We’re stoked to have people jump in and try out the app. We want to capture their favortie moments or fulfill a business need. We’re also interested in partnering with different companies and events who can benefit by leveraging our app and photographer/dronography network.     RL: Thanks for taking some time to chat today Garrett. For potential partners, media, and clients looking to get in touch, what's your preferred contact method?   GH: My pleasure! And I'd love to chat with anyone with questions and/or partnership requests. They can email me directly at: [email protected]   *Download the Shootly App from the iPhone App Store* _________________________________________________________________________________________    Got a tip about an LA startup we should cover? Shoot us an email at [email protected]   _________________________________________________________________________________________   
    13397 Posted by Robert Lambert
  • 24 Dec 2015
      [An Interview With The SugarCube Founder, Johnnie J. Refvik]     Robert Lambert: Thanks for taking some time to chat with us Johnnie. First things first, how many on the founding team?   Johnnie Refvik: The Sugarcube was created by me and my Co-Founder (and wife) Mandy Refvik.       RL: And what does The SugarCube do?   JR: The SugarCube is a Diabetes Lifestyle Management System which consists of a state of the art glucometer that supports insulin delivery and bluetooth’s your blood glucose readings/results directly to The SugarCube Mobile App. The system will change the way diabetics manage their day to day glucose levels.     RL: Where is the company based?   JR: Manhattan Beach, CA     RL: If not full-time on TheSugarCube, what's your current day job?   JR: I am fully plugged into The SugarCube these days, however, I previously started and still own Unlimited Lynx, Inc., a Telecommunications company that provides services to wireless carriers (like AT&T) nationwide.     RL: When did you officially launch The SugarCube?    JR: The business was founded in 2013 and we went live on Indiegogo on November 12, 2015. We will be officially live in the iOS app store in March of  2016. It's a really exciting time for us!     RL: How did you get the idea for the startup?   JR: I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes back in March of 2009, about two weeks after my mother passed. It was a rough time for me. I was lost, trying to figure out how to properly manage my new diagnosis. I tried nearly all the glucometers on the market but was completely dissatisfied. I didn’t understand how there were so many gaps between testing ones' blood sugar and tracking/reporting to doctors. It was then that I had the "Ah Ha!" moment… and came up with The SugarCube, an all in one glucometer that supports insulin delivery and communicates to our state of the art mobile app which your doctor will have access too. For the full origin story CLICK HERE.     RL: Have you raised funding or are you currently bootstrapped?   JR: We've raised some funds and are currently meeting with investors to close out our official Seed Round.         RL: Are there any competitors in the Diabetes Management space?   JR: There are a handful of big competitors out there including; OneTouch, Freestyle, Lifescan, TrueMetrix and others. We're looking forward to giving them all a run for their money!     RL: How do you beat someone like OneTouch in your specific niche?   JR: That’s the million dollar question! We're confident that our product's comprehensive/hybrid design will significantly change the way Type 1 & 2 Diabetics mange there day to day lives. Of course we are the small fish in a rather large pond, but being a diabetic myself, I personally know where the gaps are in the current technologies on the market. I have used them all and pinpointed the issues with each. I spent the past 4 years designing and re-designing this product so it would simplify a diabetics life and promote an overall healthier lifestyle. Our plan is also to provide the user with cheaper and higher quality test strips to ease the re-occurring cost that hits their pockets.     RL: How'd you come up with the name The SugarCube?    JR: Well, it started out as a joke after I initially told my friends that I had diabetes, back in 2009. They started calling me "Sugar" and several other variations of the name as ones' colleges buddies do. One day one of them called me "The SugarCube" and later when we started to fine tune the product we thought It would be the perfect name...and luckily enough it was available!     RL: Who developed the app and how long did it take?   JR: We worked with the team at BizTek Innovations out of San Jose. They've been great to work with beacuse they really took the time to build a great understanding our of product and goals. We'll be kicking off Phase-2 of our mobile app development starting in January 2016 which will include the Android App development.      RL: What is something uniquely memorable about your company?   JR: When telling people about The Sugarcube the first question is, "how did you come up with this idea"? And when we tell the story from the very beginning (Day 1) it all goes back to the support of PEOPLE. There have been strangers, friends, and family all helping to make this idea a reality. It didn't take one person, it took a community of support, encouragement, strength, and love to bring The SugarCube to where we are today. We feel nothing but blessed to be here today building and watching our dreams come to life.     RL: What is your main focus over the next 3-6 months?   JR: First things first, we're finishing up our Indiegogo campaign and continuing to Beta test the SugarCube App to be ready to go live in March.        RL: What can people in the Silicon Beach community do to help?   JR: We would love as much support as possible from the community. We are looking for investors and partnerships. Finally, we need to get the word out to as many people as possible to support us on Indiegogo. We know diabetes doesn’t affect everyone but we added some cool perks for those who don’t have diabetes.  Please check us out our campaign: Indiegogo - The SugarCube: A Diabetes Management System     RL: Thanks for taking some time to chat today Johnnie. For potential partners, media, and clients looking to get in touch, what's your preferred contact method?   JR: It was great chatting with you today Robert. Anyone looking to connect can email me directly at: [email protected]      *A few members of The SugarCube App team at the American Diabetes Association's Step Out Walk to Stop Diabetes at LA's Griffith Observatory. (Image Courtesty: The SugarCube App)     _________________________________________________________________________________________    Got a tip about an LA startup we should cover? Shoot us an email at [email protected]   _________________________________________________________________________________________ 
    6221 Posted by Robert Lambert
Founder Interviews 20,430 views Nov 03, 2015
Meet The Founders: Richard "RB" Botto (Stage32)

 Yesterday we had a chance to chat with Richard "RB" Botto, the Founder of LA's Stage32, "The online platform dedicated to connecting and educating film, television and theater creatives worldwide." As one of LA's fastest growing entertainment startups we were excited to catch him between his whirlwind film festival and conference schedule.


Stage32 Quick Facts:

Founded: 2011

Employee Count: 13

Current Members: 500,000+


"Stage32 is Lynda meets LinkedIn for Film, Television, and Theater Creatives." - FORBES


Robert Lambert: Last time we connected was at your 3rd year anniversary party in Hollywood. What have you (Stage32) been up to since then?


Richard Botto: That was just over a year ago. Things have exploded quite a bit since then. Our membership is up over a half million now. We’ve established our position and are now recognized as the leader in online education for people working in film, television, and theater. The roster of industry executives worldwide who provide education to the community is now over 450. And we just surpassed 1000 hours of viewable education. So that's just a little of what's been going on.


RL: I've been vicariously living through many of your social feeds posts and it looks like you've been keeping busy at most of the main film festivals and tv/production related conferences.


RB: Definitely been racking up the frequent flyer miles. I've been all over the world teaching, educating, speaking and simply attending Stage 32 related events. We were at the Cannes Film Festival where we invited to present at their NEXT Pavilion which highlighted companies blazing the trail in the convergence of entertainment and tech and where we had the 2nd most attended panel after Netflix. Additionally, we just took a curated program of 6 films shot by Stage 32 filmmakers and premiered them at the Raindance Film Festival in London. Variety covered the event and spotlighted our winning filmmaker. The initiative and program proved so successful that we’ve been contacted by multiple prestigious film festivals looking for us to provide programming with our members' films. We’re thrilled by that. It’s an exciting time for not only my staff, but for members of the community.


RL: And what does it mean to be a member on the site?


RB: It means that you are a film, television or theater creative looking to make important connections, hone your craft, further your education and be part of a like-minded community. One of the best media descriptions as to what we’re all about, one that we were really pleased with, especially because it came before the acquisition of Lynda, was when FORBES called us LinkedIn meets Lynda for people working in film, television, and theater. We believe that we have a much more social environment than LinkedIn, but and there is also that component of connecting on a professional level which LinkedIn provides. And then of course the Lynda aspect which speaks to the high level of online education and instruction which we provide. 


RL: When did you launch?


RB: We went into beta in early summer of 2011 and launched in September. 


RL: Did you raise outside funding and do you have a co-founder?


RB: I bootstrapped the business and am the sole founder. We were profitable by year 2.


RL: How big is the team and where are you based?


RB: We have 10 full time and 3 part time employees that are based in our offices on the Manhattan Beach Studios Lot. In 2013, we acquired a company called The Happy Writers, now The Stage 32 Happy Writers, which provides opportunities for screenwriters to pitch their screenplays to high-level industry executives via Skype from anywhere in the world. Since the acquisition we’ve added a number of other screenwriting services and expanded the team. There are now 2 full time and 3 part time employees working on the Stage 32 Happy Writers division. They’re located in an office in Sherman Oaks.


RL: Over the next 12 months what's on the company and product roadmap?


RB: Well certainly the main focus is to expand the online education component of the platform. The demand for webinars, classes and labs for all film, television and theater disciplines is off the charts. We will continue to recruit and vet the most accomplished instructors possible and expand our roster. Our approval rating on our education, based on attendee feedback, is 97%, about 35% higher than industry standards, and that’s something of which we’re enormously proud. So that's the main focus right now. We have a few other expansion plans designed to fall into our ongoing mission of providing access and exposure for our members, but we're not revealing them just yet.


RL: Stage32 seems like such a great startup choice for a city like Los Angeles as the home of the entertainment community. How did you come up with the original concept for the company?


RB: I had the idea in 2009. The cool thing about it is that I'm not only a founder of the company but also a user of the platform as an actor, producer and screenwriter. In trying to make quality connections that could further my creative career, the broad based social media sites just weren’t doing it for me. And when I spoke with friends of mine in the industry, I discovered they had similar feelings of discontentment. Further, I come from a tech background having started and consulted on many companies. One thing you always try to do is look around the curve or look out and try to see the distant landscape. To me, I believed that the number of broad based social networks would plateau and that eventually people would want to drill down by interest and/or profession. My belief was that niche networks offering concentrated networking would be the next logical wave, or evolution, if you will, of social media. I built the first phase of Stage 32 in Q2 of 2011. I then sent invites to 100 of my industry friends and asked them to use the platform. If they liked what the experience and saw the potential in the platform, I asked them to help me build the community by inviting at least 5 industry peers. If they didn’t see the value, I asked them to provide a minimum of 3 reasons why. I chased everyone down over the course of 6 weeks. 97 joined the site and sent their invites. The other 3 offered their thoughts. I’m happy to say those 3 are now members as well. The response was so overwhelmingly positive, I decided that I would crowdsource the community. Ever yperson who signed up received a message from me inviting them to the community and explaining why I started the platform. The message also included the request, or ask, to invite at least 5 fellow creative peers. Within 3 months, we had 5,000 people on the platform, many checking in multiple times a day. At that point, I felt the idea was validated and we pushed forward from there.


RL: What is the current pain point for you in the build out?


RB: I wouldn’t call it so much a pain point as an educational process, or, perhaps, a rewiring process. So many are hardwired to maintaining a presence on certain broad based social media sites. Yet, when you ask them what they are getting out of those platforms on a professional level, the answer is almost always, “Nothing”. So, the idea of concentrated networking is one that we preach and teach wherever and whenever possible in an effort to make film, television and theater creatives realize that there is a professional network filled with like-minded people focused on helping them achieve their goals. 4 years into this venture, we’ve made significant progress on this front. Even the media has come around and given us our due, in many cases recognizing us as one of pioneers in niche social networking. They’re also recognizing our educational initiatives, which further separates us from almost all broad based networking platforms. The media coverage coupled with the sheer amount of success our users have had worldwide through networking on and utilizing Stage 32 has provided the social currency which has made this particular pain point a lot less painful.


RL: You're also a member of Founders' Club. What was your interest in joining the group?


RB: Well I like what you're doing and, as you might imagine, I love the notion of concentrated communities. We're living in a world now where finding a niche and a community is so important to find like-minded people you can network, communicate with, bounce ideas off of, and simply just brainstorm. And I think in LA in general, that mentality, especially in the tech world, has been so spread out. The mindset over the last 10, 20, 30 years has been Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley. Obviously, that’s changed tremendously over the last half decade, not only here in LA, but worldwide. But speaking to this community, the tech community in LA, and more focused, the community interested in bridging the gap between tech and entertainment, those embracing these new paradigms – to be in the middle of that, it’s beyond exciting. And to have one organization, this terrific initiative you started, focused on connecting those at the forefront of this movement, that was something that was incredibly appealing to me.


RL: Are you currently considering any fundraising?


RB: We're definitely keeping our options open. We’ve had numerous articles written speaking to our various successes and to the fact that we’re profitable. As a result, we’ve been fortunate to have had a number of interested parties inquire about the business. We’ve been approached by numerous venture capital firms and have initiated exploratory discussions with a few. We have numerous ideas on paths to scaling the business, so we’re keeping our ears open. The interest alone has been a reward unto itself. It's been great being approached.


RL: Thanks for taking some time to share what you've been up to and all the best on your future continued success with Stage32!


RB: Thanks, Rob! Thrilled to be a part of the community.


*Richard Botto and the Stage32 Filmmakers selected to attend the Raindance Film Festival in London. (Image Courtesy of Richard Botto)