Next Gen West LA: A Young Entrepreneur’s Guide to Starting Up

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Next Gen West LA: A Young Entrepreneur’s Guide to Starting Up

Written and Curated by Zach Silverman

Incubators and Accelerators

“They're trying to say that Pied Piper was created at Hooli, whereas I'm living proof that it was created here in my incubator. I nurtured Richard like a little baby. I was his patron, like the Borgias with Da Vinci.”– Erlich Bachman, Silicon Valley

Overview

Incubators and Accelerators are an excellent resource for networking, mentoring, and investment. Companies who go through the right programs, treat it seriously, and utilize the resources available to them are much more likely to succeed than those who go at it alone. That doesn’t mean you can’t be successful without going through an accelerator, but don’t believe they can’t be helpful or a waste of time. There are a few programs that are local to the Los Angeles area and there are a few programs that are a sub-location of a larger program (e.g. Techstars, Quake, etc.). All of them are going to be competitive, but most of them are worth it.

Start your search by looking here: https://www.builtinla.com/2017/02/10/los-angeles-accelerators-incubators-startup-studios-you-should-know

How to Judge Programs

There are three kinds of programs you can apply for: 1) Classic accelerator program (investment for equity plus classes, mentoring, and resources), 2) Resources based program (no cash investment, but access to legal and web resources in exchange for equity), and 3) The “entrepreneur class” (You pay for a weekly course over ~6-10 weeks). Obviously the first one is more competitive and more prestigious while the last one is merely based on your willingness to pay. I would recommend that you don’t participate in any program that requires you to pay or takes investment without offering substantial resources. The tech/startup community is bursting with people willing to take advantage of aspiring entrepreneurs promising them it is their program, and only their programwho can help get their startup to the next level (and for the measly price of $5,000+). Your resources can always be put to better use other than entrepreneur class. If you need guidance or help, turn to your network. Turn to your own network, or better yet the Next Gen Community!

Investments

“The key to this business is personal relationships.”– Dickie Fox, Jerry Maguire

Overview

The upside of a big city is there are a lot more people with a lot more money looking to invest in companies. The downside of a big city is there is A LOT more competition. At the end of the day, venture capital firms and angel groups have a finite amount of money to work with and a very specific time frame they are required to work within (I HIGHLY RECOMMEND reading Venture Deals: Be Smarter than Your Lawyer and Venture Capitalistby Brad Feld and Jason Mendelson. It’s the bible and you’ll look 10x smarter to anyone if you mention you’ve read this book). For the most part, you’re not going to find investors of any kind at networking events (I go into that further later).

Investment Institutions

This is a list of mostly venture capital firms located here in Los Angeles along with their leading team, the stage they invest in, and the areas they focus their investments. Do not… I repeat DO NOT try to email these people. The best thing you can do is ensure that you’re a company they WOULD invest in, and then find a referral from someone who has worked with the venture firm.

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1UFIX9iE1GNIZ6xcsiGg7TGHqikmWarsfFPqCupDPgt0/edit?usp=sharing

How to Acquire Venture Funding

Venture Capitalists and Angel Investors receive dozens if not hundreds of emails and LinkedIn messages from would be entrepreneurs for five minutes of their time to pitch them their business that will disrupt an industry, change the world, and be worth $50 billion in the next five years. Don’t waste your time being one of those people; the best thing you can do is focus on building up your business with the money available to you. When your business is successful, they will find you. Beyond that, if you’re looking to be proactive, you can go to high profile pitch events, and you can check out organizations like LAVA (Los Angeles Venture Association) and FMF (Founder Meet Funder). These two organizations, and their events, will put you in direct contact with investors… for a price.

Finding Good Talent

“My talents are so hidden, even I can’t find them.”– Jack Sparrow, Pirates of the Caribbean, On Stranger Tides

If you’re looking for freelancing, you most likely know the typical marketplaces like Upwork, Fiverr, and Thumbtack. If you’re looking to hire part-time or full-time employees, there are a few options outside of the regular job boards.

Local Talent: There are amazing coding bootcamp programs and schools that produce high caliber people who are itching to enter the tech and startup space. Each of these programs is highly motivated to place their graduates into high paying jobs and so they have job boards for you to browse, job fairs for you to attend, and they’ll even act as a contracted recruiter for you. Here is a list for you to start:

Thinkful: https://www.thinkful.com/outcomes/

Codesmith: https://www.codesmith.io/recruitment

Hack Reactor: https://www.hackreactor.com/employer-partnerships

Beachcoders: https://beachcoders.com/beach-coders-career-resources/

Code District: http://codedistrict.io/employer-network/

General Assembly: https://generalassemb.ly/talent

University Talent: If you’re looking to hire aspiring college students, Los Angeles is an incredible place to be. Not only do you have UCLA and USC here, but the Claremont colleges, Pomona, CSUN, and many more offer a usually untapped resource for quality talent at a fraction of the price. To hire out of USC, you have to apply as an employer to be placed on their job board. For most other universities, they are a part of the Handshake network. You’re required to apply to be a part of the network, and as you’re approved by the specific universities you wish to recruit from, you’ll be able to post on their job boards.

University of Southern California: https://careers.usc.edu/employers/post-a-job/

Handshake: https://www.joinhandshake.com

Coworking Spaces

“And when everyone says it can’t be done, ducks fly together.”– Gordon Bombay, Mighty Ducks II

Overview

You know that movie where the small-town girl moves to the big city to try to make it big as an actress and then gets falls into the wrong crowd, gets all drugged up, changes everything about herself to fit in, and then is visited by her best friend who’s still living in that small town who makes her remember who she really is? Well guess what… you’re now the main character in the First Act; only you’re trying to make it big as the next entrepreneur and not the next Jennifer Aniston (btw I saw her in a coffee shop one time because name drop). You’re most likely moving to Los Angeles from a small place or a smaller place (doesn’t matter how big your old city was, LA is bigger). Now you have the option of going at this alone, working in your apartment or a coffee shop, or you have the option of joining a coworking space. When joining a coworking space, you’re not just renting a desk; you’re joining a community. Some communities are larger, some offer more benefits, and some are more expensive. With Los Angeles being so incredibly large, there are a plethora of options. You just have to find the right one for you based on your budget and location.

Coworking Spaces

This list doesn’t include every coworking space in the city, nor does it offer every package each one offers; however, it does provide a comprehensive summary of the top coworking spaces in the greater Los Angeles area. You can find where each coworking space operates, amenities, and basic costs for various membership levels.

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1iF9GSma6elGtG7t-7J89FXqSoDryMMap224iJyCX0tg/edit?usp=sharing

Where Should You Go?

WeWork – You know all about WeWork. It’s the OG in coworking, has a global presence, and the highest brand recognition.

Blank Spaces – This coworking space has multiple locations and is well known in Los Angeles; they hold networking events on a consistent basis that also include pitch events and informational sessions on various topics in the tech space.

CrossCampus – This is another coworking space that has several locations around the greater Los Angeles area (if you’re planning on being located in South Bay – Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach, etc., this is a good one to look at). They have amenities that most others don’t including on-site showers, meditation rooms, and kombucha on tap.

The Riveter – The Riveter is a personal favorite of mine and an up and coming coworking space in the city. They have two locations in West LA and Marina Del Rey. The reason I really love this one is because they are a coworking space run by women for women. They have specific rooms for nursing mothers and hold networking events that focus on women in tech and entrepreneurship.

Conferences and Events

“It’s like someone hit a piñata filled with white people who suck at golf.”– Vinny Daniel, The Big Short

Overview

Of course, networking is a significant aspect of entrepreneurship and business in general, but not all companies and founders needto be networking, and certainly some businesses, depending on their stage, need to focus on networking more than others. If you’re trying to raise money, hire talent, or even be hired, networking is really important. If you and your cofounder are burning the midnight candle to get your MVP up and running, maybe spend more time programming and less time networking. If you are going to be networking on a consistent basis, I highly recommend to find a living situation in or around West Los Angeles. I’m just going to tell you now: TRAFFIC IS TERRIBLE AND YOU’LL ALWAYS BE IN IT AND YOU’RE NEVER GOING TO GET AWAY FROM IT AND YOU’RE GOING TO CONSTANTLY COMPLAIN ABOUT IT. As such, if you want to attend networking events, most of them occur in Santa Monica, Venice, Culver City, and Marina Del Rey, and they mostly begin somewhere between 5:30-7:00pm. If you live on the opposite side of the city, you could spend up to, if not more, 90 minutes one way. Make it easy on yourself and live on the West side of the city. It’s going to be more expensive, but if you have the budget to do so, do it. Your sanity will thank you.

Where to Go

I personally wouldn’t recommend going to meetup.com. The events are very hit or miss. Instead, I’d utilize two other resources:

Built In Los Angeles: https://www.builtinla.com/events

We Are LA Tech: http://wearelatech.com/calendar/

How to Approach Networking Events

Why You Should Go to Networking Events:

You should seek out as many networking events as you can when you first move here. It’s good to get out and meet other entrepreneurs and people in the space. You never know who you’ll meet, and it’s just good to start making connections. Get your name and your business out there and it’s very possible you might meet your future cofounder or Lead Angel Investor. The best networking events I’ve found are the ones that have a pitch event attached to it. The judges are good people to know if you can get a moment with them and the people you meet are usually more serious about their startups.

Why You Shouldn’t Go to Networking Events:

If you’re expectingto meet your next cofounder and/or Lead Angel Investor, you’re going to be disappointed. You’ll find that most networking events are filled with other people like you: Founders looking for someone to hand them a $100K check for 5% of their company. Sorry to break it to you, but that’s not going to happen. I’ve seen events where someone is pointed out as a principal at a local VC firm and by the time she gets out of her chair, she’ll have a stack of business cards in her hands, and they won’t go any further than the nearest trashcan once she leaves. I don’t recommend NOT going to networking events. I’m simply cautioning you to go into them with the right expectations and goals in order to set you up for success. If you’re going to go to a networking event, your main goal should simply be to meet people you can learn from and collaborate with. Focus on building your tribe first, and the rest will come with time and hard work.


Alex Gordon