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LA Startup Incubators / Accelerators / Mentorship Programs as Compared to NCAA Football Conferences

by Ryan on November 8, 2011

NCAA logo

So the writer’s block consensus was to write about LA startup incubators and mentorship organizations (2x as many votes as the other proposed topics). In the spirit of a college football season, I’ll break down the LA startup incubator scene by drawing comparison to the top conferences in NCAA Division I Football  (*Please note that I left the Big East off of this list because the conference is in such turmoil these days I didn’t want to get any heat by making a comparison there).

Launchpad LA (the SEC)

Having won the past 5 National Championships, the SEC attracts the top recruiting talent and is the most dominant division in college football today. So if one of these incubators is the SEC, my vote goes to LaunchpadLA. Run by a Mark Suster, the world’s #3 VC Power Blogger ($10 says he’ll be #1 when the new rankings come out in January), LaunchpadLA has not exactly been structured as an accelerator (at least not in the past), but more of a mentorship organization.  Launchpad has previously not made direct cash investments in companies, but that’s all changing…Today Launchpad announced that each member of class 3 will receive a $50,000 investment from a pool of capital contributed by folks like Rincon Ventures, IdeaLab, and AudioMicro corporate counsel, Stubbs Alderton, among others.  In addition to seed capital, LaunchpadLA will also be offering free office space to it’s members in addition to dedicated in office time with it’s mentors.  Launchpad’s mentorship program was previously structured whereby the entrepreneurs are assigned 2 mentors – one of which is a more senior, previously successful entrepreneur, and the other a local VC.  As an alumni of LAunchpadLA, class 1, clearly the rankings here are a bit biased.  That being said, I can honestly attest that our participation in LaunchpadLA class 1 has opened more doors and made more real life, valuable connections, than any other affiliation, conference, or networking event in our company’s 4 year history.

Mucker Lab (the Big 12)

A newcomer with a good PR and a seemingly solid team, Mucker lab comes in at #2 on this list due to their long and impressive mentor roster as well as their official TechStars affiliation. Now it may seem that anyone can start a TechStars affiliate (TechStars has an open source affiliate model), but I imagine that to actually be given the blessing of  Brad Feld Co., Mucker had to prove its the real deal, as a location like LA has been ripe for an official TechStars accelerator for so long.

UPDATE:  It’s important to note that Launchpad LA is also a TechStars affiliate and that David Cohen and Dave Tisch of TechStars are investors in the new Launchpad LA fund.

IdeaLab (the Big 10)

There’s not much I can say about IdeaLab because truth be told I don’t have any personal experience with the folks there.   Headed by GoTo (which became Overture, Yahoo’s equivalent of Google AdWords) founder and serial entrepreneur Bill Gross, IdeaLab’s an incubator that’s been around for a while now.   Bill’s the kind of guy that speaks at the TED Conference and if you’ve ever seen an interview with him, he’s clearly on a higher level of intelligence than most folks (me included) could ever hope to be.  That alone should be enough to make you want to check out IdeaLab.  It’s also important to note that IdeaLab is one of the investors in LAunchpadLA’s new class 3 fund so the two conferences are closely related.

Originate Labs (the Pac 12)

Originate’s an incubator that brings something a little different to the table:  They invest technology resources (in addition to cash). In short, what this means is that they trade software development services for equity. In a world where most of your early capital goes into product, I feel that Originates model is a welcomed addition to startup investment scene. After all, if youre willing to give XX% of your company to a CTO or other co-founder, why not give up less, get your product to market, and get some momentum going without having to be married to a technical co-founder from the get go, especially when solid technical resources are seemingly hard to come by in Los Angeles (at least that’s what some folks say)?  In addition to the technology resources they invest, Originate recently announced an affiliation with the Tech Coast Angels, whereby TCA will work with Originate to invest cash in promising Originate projects. Sort of the best of both worlds.

Amplify (the ACC)

Now I am not entirely sure what the deal is with Amplify as its a newcomer to the LA accelerator scene. What I do know is that its headed by Paul Bricault of Greycroft Partners and though I don’t know Paul well, he sure seems friendly and based on his This week in VC episode he’s highly experienced in the Hollywood / New Media scene. I’d write more if I knew more, but for now there is just a parking page up on the Amplify website and some light chatter among LA entrepreneurs.   I’m not sure if / how much cash they have got to put to work, the structure of the program, or any other details.  I’m now hearing that highly successful entrepreneur, LA angel, and Betterworks CEO Paige Craig may be involved, and that alone should be enough to make you want to be a part of Amplify. Pay close attention to this one and expect more details to be revealed in the near future.

UPDATE: Amplify LA just announced they have raised a 4.5M fund from TV Producer Mark Burnett, Greycroft Partners, Rustic Canyon (shout out to Ed Fu and David Travers!), Tim Draper (the “D” in AudioMicro investors DFJ Frontier), LA angels Paige Craig and Tom McInerney, as well as other notable names. They’ll be investing $50k per startup and providing office space and mentorship.  More details here and here.  Given the news and amazing team, they ‘re surely due for a conference upgrade (perhaps to the PAC 12 or BIG 10). In the interest of not having to re-arrange this entire post, they’ll have to stay here in the ACC for now. Cheers!

Founder Institute (Mountain West)

Now just remember, before you rip on the Mountain West, keep in mind that Boise State plays there (at least for now as rumor has it that they may be defecting to the Pac 12).  Now I don’t know of any huge exits out of the Founder Institute (holler at me in the comments if I’ve missed one) but that doesn’t mean theres not a few in the making. That being said, if you’re startup is funded already, the Founder Institute mentorship program could be a mess to deal with.  The reason being is that they ask for equity in exchange for participation in the program, which makes sense within any incubator / accelerator if they are putting in cash but FI doesn’t make cash investments to my knowledge. They also give you some funky matrices style IQ-like test before accepting you, which is cool and will make you feel smart when you pass.  The downside of them asking for equity in exchange for participation is that if you’re already funded, you’re existing investors are going to question why they had to give up cold hard cash in exchange for shares while you gave up share just to participate in a mentorship org and papering the transaction could be a mess of unnecessary legal fees. The good news is the way in which the Founders Institute handles the equity contributed by each company – the shares actually go into a pool with all of the other companies in your class and you each get ownership on one another’s startups. A pretty cool approach which certainly helps to hedge the risk.

UpStart LA (Conference USA)

My friends Ben Padnos and Eric Jackson are UpStart mentors.  That’s all I really know other than what’s on posted on the UpStart LA website, which sports a seemingly promising mentor list, though the roster does includes a few service providers (i.e. attorneys, recruiters, etc.), just something to note.  No knock to service providers here, the right ones can certainly make great mentors. Since we’re comparing football conferences here, UpStart would have to be Conference USA, which definitely has some solid teams, including the Cougars of the The University of Houston, who are undefeated thus far in 2011 and ranked #11 in the nation.

Now I’m trying to come up with a creative way to close the post, but having just read the TechCrunch / BothSidesOfTheTable annoucement on the LAunchpadLA fund, I think it’s best to close by quoting Mark’s article (which itself includes a quote from Bill Gross)…

“There are at least 6 incubators now being set up in LA. Can the community support them? I use the words of one of the wisest men in this space who started much of this revolution, Bill Gross of Idealab who said:

I think that the more initiatives, the better … I think it’s the many initiatives and variety that make Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley and that we need to do more of that here.”

So we’ll be supportive every initiative in town and doing all that we can in LA to encourage more tech entrepreneurship across any startup incubation or acceleration programs.  And we agree with that. If our community supports more potential entrepreneurs to try, if it funds more people with dreams, if it surrounds talented people with mentors, if it coaches them through their first deals and their team formation … that’s got to be a great win for society overall and for LA in specific.”


Science-Inc (the Big East) : Just one week after this post was initial published, Mike Jones, the founder of UserPlane and the former CEO of MySpace, announced another incubator / accelerator hybrid called Science Inc.  Conference turmoil aside, this is a serious endeavor with $10M to put to work and would have to at least be comparable to a big time conference like the Big East (in the context of this article).  Science-Inc. not only has a solid team of mentors that work hands on with the companies, they also have real money to put to work.  Mentors / advisors at Science include AudioMicro advisor Sean Percival, LA’s top SEO master Tony Adam, Mike Macadaan, Tom Dare, and Ryan Sit.  While the other incubators may boast VC participants with dry powder, many other incubators themselves don’t have a lot of capital to put to work.  The combo of being able to put in actual hard cash, as well as hands on advisory resources and deep entrepreneurial experience, makes Science a very serious player.

Start Engine (Independent): This one came in way late and I don’t have much time to update today so I’ll just link to them and say that they appear to have some public company CEO’s (JDate / Spark Networks) and execs (e.g. CityGrid Media) on their mentor roster, which definitely sets them appear from some of the crowd above.  It’s also a 90 day (fast churning, good luck keeping the entrepreneur roster quality) accelerator model program.  For now, because they are late on my radar, Start Engine will have to be placed in the Independent Conference, where storied teams like Notre Dame and BYU play.

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I’ve Joined the LAVA BOD! Wanna Meet VC’s? Come to LAVA’s Annual VC Breakfast Tomorrow (Tues)

by Ryan on August 8, 2011


I’m pleased to announce that I’ve joined the board of directors of LAVA, the Los Angeles Venture Association.  Given my past opinions (err…rants) on Los Angeles Venture Capital, I decided that instead of sitting on the sidelines playing Monday morning quarterback, I ought to get more involved and so something to help the startup community around LA.  If you’re a startup in the LA area, I encourage you to get more involved in LAVA.  Here’s just a few reasons:

1.  We first met and connected with VC firm DFJ Frontier, the first investors in AudioMicro, Inc. at a LAVA event (the  LAVA 2008 Investment Capital Conference 2008 to be exact).  You can actually get funded through your involvement with LAVA  – I’m living proof!

2.  There are a myriad of opportunities to connect with VC’s and mentors at LAVA events.  Yes – there are a lot of service providers in attendance but if you stay focussed and hunt for the right connections – you’ll come away with great additions to your personal network.

3.  Many of the events are breakfasts from 7am to 9am which don’t eat into your work day or evenings (if you like to work late or have a spouse / family events in the evenings)

4.  Did I mention I’m on the board of directors?  Along with myself, LAVA has a brand new president, Randy Churchill, along with another “young gun” on the BOD – Sam Jones of Formation Media.  And despite my lack of event planning experience, I do have experience starting, funding, operating, and investing in startups so I’m hopeful I can help make the LAVA events more focussed on early stage startups.  If you’ve got any suggestions for future events and topics, please shoot me an note or leave them in the comments below.

If you’ve never been to a LAVA event, tomorrow’s VC breakfast would be a great one to start out with.  You’ll get exposure to the following local VC’s:

Dana Settle of Greycroft Partners

Leo Spiegel of Mission Ventures

Jim Andelman of Rincon Venture Partners (one of my personal faves!)

Neal Hansch of Rustic Canyon Partners, and

Monica Dodi of the Women’s Venture Capital Fund

If you’re not yet registered to attend tomorrow’s breakfast, you can do so by clicking here.  Or simply show up at 7am to 9am at the Skirball center tomorrow, Tues Aug 9th.

*Please note there is a small fee to attend the breakfast which helps to pay for the venue and the food.


7 DO’s and 5 DONT’s for Entrepreneurs (LA VC Revisited)

by Ryan on June 14, 2011

to do list photo

Ever since my post on Los Angeles venture capital, I’ve been getting a lot of email and phone inquiries from local entrepreneurs seeking advice.  It’s not surprising because the post presently shows up #3 on Google when you search “los angeles venture capital” and the 100+ re-tweets and 20+ FB likes certainly helped solidify this position.

Typically the entrepreneurs that reach out want to meet in person and ask for advice.  I try to disclaim everything in that I OFFER OPINIONS, NOT ADVICE.  I’ve been compiling these opinions and figured I’d jot down the cliff note version here.  Without further adieu, here are some strong opinions on various topics that have come up in my recent correspondences with local entrepreneurs.

7 DO’s:

1. Choose a freaking huge market.  Don’t play around in a small market.  If you can’t quantify the size of your market, that means it’s too small, especially for VC.  Go big.

2. Quit your day job – sooner rather than later.  If you want to build a business, it takes 110% commitment.   You’re never going to get anywhere if you relegate your dream to a side project for nights and weekends.  Quit now, not later or you’re only proving that you’re not as committed as you should be.

3. Learn to use an RSS reader.  If you’re in tech but don’t use RSS, I fear for you.

4. Have founder vesting.  There’s nothing worse than founders not having 4 year founder vesting in place, with or without outside investors.

5. Tell anyone and everyone about your idea.  Ideas are a dime a dozen, execution is everything and you’ll learn far more than you could ever possibly lose by sharing your ideas with all.

6. Fire people as fast as possible. The second you think things are not working out.  Fire away.  You’ll never regret firing, you’ll only regret having not done it sooner.  Everyone is replaceable.

7. Read Mark Suster’s blog.  Pretty much every single question I get asked has an answer on BSOTT – “Both Sides of The Table”.  The answer is already out there.  Do your friggin homework.

5 DONT’s

1. Don’t raise money from non-millionaries.  Raise from deep pocketed institutions and corporations.

2. Regardless of what the lawyers tell you, do not form an LLC.  Lawyers love LLC’s.  You know why?  Because lawyers are not entrepreneurs.

3. Don’t have a 50 / 50 co-founder (or 33 / 33 / 33 for that matter).  One of you needs to be in charge and be in control and if you’re the leader…the real entrepreneurial one bringing this thing to life, then it should be you.  Founder shares must have vesting (i.e. be restricted) and be subject to a buy-sell agreement (aka pre-nup).

4. Don’t get caught up in all the press and attention your competition gets.  It’s truly meaningless and in no way indicative of financial success.

5. Don’t raise a round of convertible debt (exception:  if the terms are so Y-combinator style crazy in your favor that you’d be a dumb-ass not to take the cash).  If someone wants to invest, they should set a price and take an equity stake.  If you want a loan, you’d be asking for one or you’d go to a bank / credit card company.

Now each of these points could be a blog post of their own backed up with experiences and circumstances to help you understand why I’ve formed these opinions.  Maybe I’ll get around to doing a deep dive on each item but for now, the cliff notes will have to do.

Now it’s time to get back to what matters most – executing.

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p.s. I use stock photos from Photoxpress.

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Four New Brands at AudioMicro, Inc.

by Ryan on February 24, 2011

ChooseTattoos Logo

Cartoonsy Logo

ImageCollect Logo

InfoGraphicStock Logo

Today is a good day.  We’ve just released 4 brand new marketplaces live on stage at the Launch Conference in San Francisco.  The new sites venture outside the audio space and into cartoons, celebrity pictures, infographics, and tattoos yet operating the same micro stock business model as we do at AudioMicro (i.e. crowd sourced content for as little as $1).

I’ll be posting video of the Launch presentation shortly.  In the meantime, full details on the new sites can be found in the press release below and on our new corporate site.  Check it out here.

Important to note is that our newly developed Content Management System (CMS) is available under white label.  What this means is that not only we can quickly and easily clone and deploy new content marketplaces at will, but our technology is available for you to do so as well think WordPress for Content Licensing.  If you’ve got content of your own that you wish to distribute simply drop us a line to get the process started.

Back in May of last year, we wondered what would come next after the launch of Audioo, well now we know.  It’s amazing to look back on the past 10 months at what we’ve been able to do.  We’re very much looking forward to the future.


AudioMicro Unveils Four New Content Licensing Marketplaces

New Sites Include Cartoons, Celebrity Pictures, InfoGraphics, and Tattoos

SAN FRANCISCO, LAUNCH CONFERENCE, February 24, 2011 – AudioMicro, which offers the world’s largest collection of micro stock music and sound effects, announced today it has developed a white label CMS for content licensing, allowing the startup to quickly clone and deploy content marketplaces.  In conjunction with the announcement, the Company unveiled four new licensing marketplaces, each targeting a specific content vertical: – a marketplace for licensing cartoons and cartoon animations – tattoo designs and tattoo flash from tattoo artists worldwide – micro stock celebrity pictures with over 750,000 images – an experimental market for infographics and data visualization

The four new products were revealed onstage as part of the “2.0 Competition” at the Launch conference, being held February 23-24 in San Francisco.

“We’re already getting some great material from cartoonists, tattoo artists, red carpet photographers, and infographic designers.” said Ryan Born, founder and chief executive officer, AudioMicro.  “If you’re an artist with wholly owned content, upload your work and grab a piece of our growing monthly royalty stream.”

AudioMicro recently closed a round of financing led by Fotolia, Europe’s leading stock photo distributor, which spans the globe with websites in 12 languages, offices in 14 countries, and over 12 million images.

The new Content Management System (CMS) is available on a white label basis.   Content owners, publishers, and entrepreneurs that wish to operate their own marketplaces can contact the Company for details.

About AudioMicro, Inc.

An industry pioneer in licensing music and sound effects through credit-based and subscription packages, AudioMicro acts as a discovery and distribution platform for stock audio content.  Its collection of royalty free music, stock music, sound effects, and free sound effects includes over 225,000 tracks of both crowd-sourced and premium, record label-owned content.  In addition to, the company operates content licensing marketplaces for cartoons, tattoos, celebrity pictures, and infographics, as well as the voicemail sharing service Audioo.  The company is venture-backed by DFJ Frontier and Fotolia LLC.  For more information, visit

About the Launch Conference

The Launch Conference (, February 23-24 2010, at San Francisco Design Center’s Concourse Exhibition Center, is serial entrepreneur Jason Calacanis’ latest venture, attracting over 1,000 leading technology innovators and investors and over 140 startups.  40 new companies and products will launch for the first time on stage, selected to present from more than 500 applications received from around the world. Another 100 early-stage startups will exhibit in the Demo Pit.  Conference profits will be awarded equally to the 40 selected participants along with other award recognitions at the conclusion of the conference.



Fotolia Invests in AudioMicro

by Ryan on February 1, 2011

Logo fotolia Pictures, Images and Photos

Today marks a major milestone in our company’s history.
AudioMicro has taken on an investment from Fotolia, the leading micro stock photo library in Europe and the # 2 / # 3 player in the world.   Fotolia, which is backed by private equity firm TA Associates, also owns, a movie maker site that turns photos into videos, and, a subscription stock photo service.  Full details on the investment can be found in the press release below.
In collaboration with Fotolia, we plan to incubate and launch new web projects, as well as cross promote our products and services. At the end of this month, we plan to launch 4 new websites, each targeting a specific new content licensing vertical. We’ve been working hard behind the scenes on these new sites for many months now.  Stay tuned for a launch announcement on the 4 new sites!
I’m also doing a little business development for Fotolia.  If you or your company ever have a need for stock photos, we can supply you access to over 12 million images at unbeatable prices and with un-paralleled service.  If you presently license photos from another supplier, contact me ASAP to start saving.  We have a number of packages from free, to low priced subscriptions, to full on custom API access, depending on your size and needs.
I hope that 2011 is your best year ever!
AudioMicro Receives Fotolia Investment

AudioMicro and Fotolia To Partner in Content Licensing Ventures

LOS ANGELES, Feb. 1, 2011 – AudioMicro, which offers the world’s largest collection of user-generated royalty free music and sound effects, announced today that it has received an equity investment from Fotolia, Europe’s leading micro stock photo site.  Existing investor DFJ Frontier, a West Coast seed and early-stage investor, also participated in the financing.  In connection with the financing, Oleg Tscheltzoff, co-founder and chief executive officer of Fotolia, has joined AudioMicro’s board of directors.

Fotolia and AudioMicro will collaborate on new projects, each targeting a different content vertical.  They intend to launch four of these projects by the end of next month.  Fotolia, which is backed by TA Associates, also owns, a site that turns photos into videos, and, a subscription photo service.

“AudioMicro is a leader in crowd-sourced stock music and sound effects,” said Tscheltzoff.  “We’re pleased to partner with them to accelerate their business.”

“Fotolia’s investment and partnership is a great endorsement of our vision, and recognition of the traction we’ve gained,” said Ryan Born, founder and chief executive officer, AudioMicro.  “We’re delighted to work with the Fotolia team.”

About AudioMicro

An industry pioneer in licensing music and sound effects through credit-based and subscription packages, AudioMicro acts as a discovery and distribution platform for stock audio content.  Its collection of royalty free music, stock music, sound effects, and free sound effects includes over 225,000 tracks of both crowd-sourced and premium, record label-owned content.  AudioMicro also operates the Audioo voicemail sharing service.  The company is venture-backed by DFJ Frontier.  For more information, visit

About Fotolia

Over 2 million people prefer Fotolia for affordable, royalty-free images, graphics and HD videos. With the introduction of the Infinite Collection, Fotolia became the first worldwide microstock organization to offer both crowd-sourced and professional images on one site. Founded in New York City in 2004, Fotolia spans the globe with websites in 12 languages and offices in 14 countries. With over 12,000,000 files to choose from, find it on Fotolia.


Media Contact:

Brian Danella

Prequent, Inc. (for AudioMicro, Inc.)

+1 (408) 275-6455 office

+1 (650) 743-6606 mobile


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