Five Red-Hot Startups In LA
The Los Angeles tech scene, often referred to as Silicon Beach, has grown to rival Silicon Valley as a launching pad for well-funded, high-profile startups. According to data from CB Insights, investment in LA-based companies reached $3 billion in 2016, which is six times more than it was in 2012. With a vibrant entrepreneurial environment and Hollywood in its backyard, the city of Los Angeles provides entrepreneurs with many natural advantages in building a successful business. Here are five made-in-LA startups worth knowing about.
Founded in 2014 by Shervin Pishevar and Brogan BamBrogan, Hyperloop One is creating technology for the future of transportation, anticipating a time when people and goods can move “at airline speeds for the price of a bus ticket.” Hyperloop One’s basic concept — which is transportation via a pod-like vehicle through a near-vacuum tube — sounds like something straight out of science fiction, but the company is fast making it into a reality. With $140 million capital raised and more than 200 employees, Hyperloop One is already developing routes in five countries and aims to start transporting cargo by 2020 and passengers by 2021. At a time air pollution and energy waste are increasingly central environmental and political issues, Hyperloop One foresees a future where transportation is not only safe and fast but also sustainable and environmentally safe.
When Rosie O’Neill and Josh Resnick started Sugarfina in 2012 with the whimsical idea that grown-ups deserved their own candy store, they had no idea their boutique confection line would resonate as much as it did with other adults. In only four years, Sugarfina has opened 18 free-standing U.S. retail locations,established 13 shop-in-shop stands in Nordstroms across the U.S. and Canada, and developed a cult following on social media. Sugarfina’s candies, known for their pastel colors, cute shapes, and beautiful packaging, are a feast for both the eyes and palate. In an interview with Newscenter, O’Neill attributed some of the company’s success to the fact that the majority of Sugarfina’s sweets cannot be found elsewhere in the U.S., given that they work directly with artisan candy makers around the world who develop bespoke candies for them. Sugarfina currently has 250 employees and brought in an eight-figure revenue in 2016.
Founded in 2012 by Jilliene Helman and Justin Hughes, RealtyMogul has become one of the most prominent platforms for real estate crowdfunding in the country. By bringing borrowers, sponsors, and investors together for capital and investment opportunities, RealtyMogul.com has cultivated a community of more than 10,000 registered members and has coordinated real estate deals worth more than $250 million. Realty Mogul has raised in excess of $45 million to date, with a whopping $35 million Series B from Sorenson Capital. In its bid to “simplify real estate investing by connecting investors through cutting-edge technology,” Realty Mogul dedicates a significant proportion of its capital into enhancing its data and technology system — more than $1 million annually, according to the company.
Omaze, founded in 2012 by Ryan Cummins and Matt Pohlson, has revolutionized a new way for celebrities and companies to give back. By donating a certain amount to charities and organizations, participants of Omaze campaigns can enter sweepstakes to win such one-in-a-lifetime experiences as hanging out with Chris Pratt on the set of Guardians of the Galaxy. The generation of donors served by Omaze, primarily millennials and Gen Zers, place more value on unforgettable experiences than luxurious products. Omaze has created with an avenue to fill their wildest dreams, while getting the additional satisfaction of helping them make the world a better place. Omaze caught on quickly, becoming the defacto philanthropic platform of choice for some of Hollywood’s biggest names. From Robert Downey Jr. and George Clooney to Jennifer Lawrence and Ben Affleck, celebrities have used Omaze to build meaningful connections with fans by working together for common causes. According to the company, Omaze has helped more than 100 charities raise money coming from more than 160 countries.
Surkus is another LA-based startup that capitalizes on people’s increasing prevalent desires for unforgettable experiences. Robert Menendez founded Surkus in 2014 to offer something that sounds too good to be true: getting paid to attend parties and fun events. Built on the concept of “crowdcasting,” Surkus is an app that helps brands, event planners, and venue managers to find the right crowds for their events. Menendez believes that, instead of spending tens of thousands of dollars on billboard or TV ads, brands should directly interact with their target consumers by paying them to attend their live events. The Surkus platform uses unique algorithms that connect businesses with users who match their criteria in terms of interests, demographics, or social media reach. In this way, not only can brands tap into the right customer groups, but Surkus users can also be introduced to local events that they will enjoy. Surkus’ “win-win” formula has attracted more than 125,000 registered users to the platform and almost $9 million venture capital funding to date.
Los Angeles is already the city that some of the world’s most successful apps call home, including Tinder and the imminently-public Snapchat. These newer startups, some affiliated with celebrities, have helped cultivate an entrepreneurial culture unique to Silicon Beach — one that is hipper and hungrier than Silicon Valley. The sun-kissed beaches of L.A. are sure to spawn additional million-dollar startups in the coming years.