Rob Vickery Cult/Tech Podcast Transcript

Listen to the podcast on SoundCloud:


Lee Schneider: It’s the Cult Tech Podcast, I’m Lee Schneider. Joining us today is Rob Vickery, co-founder of Stage Venture Partners. Stage is a seed fund based in Los Angeles that invests in software startups with creative technology. Hey, Rob, welcome to the podcast.

Rob Vickery: Hi, how are you?

Lee: I’m doing very well, excited to do this. You guys are risk takers among risk takers, you invest in new platforms. Define that a little bit [00:00:30] for me, what would you call a new platform?

Rob: Yeah, so being in the seed stage, that means we’re investing in companies that have typically got like a minimum, some sort of a minimum viable product and maybe just the very early stages of traction. Now what that typically means are that some of these companies, they fall into two buckets. The first bucket is that they might be in what we call the frontier technology space, which are things that probably will live in [00:01:00] two or three years in …

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Mapping the Startup Ecosystem

Skander Garroum has a mission.  It is broad and it is wide. Worldwide, in fact. His mission is nothing less than understanding the worldwide startup ecosystem.  He needs your help to do it,  but more on that in a moment.

He is the man behind Compass, a benchmarking tool for startups and tech companies.  With 30,000 users worldwide, Compass uses Google Analytics and other metrics to help companies understand how well they are doing, and also grasp their position in the startup ecosystem.

Garroum’s current project is mind-bendingly ambitious, nothing less than mapping the worldwide startup ecosystem. But he has done it before. In 2013 Compass completed a global ecosystem report.

He learned that in Los Angeles, for example, there were a higher amount of non-technical founding teams than there were in Silicon Valley. He learned that, ‘In Silicon Valley, you have a lot of PhDs and Masters coming straight out of university with some kind of fancy concepts who want to apply it to the real world. And in LA, you have more of your mom-and-pop entrepreneurs who saw …

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Coloft: A Piece of LA Startup History

Avesta Rasouli got me laughing as he described the mind of the startup founder. ‘Optimism is almost like a condition that you have,’ he said. ‘It just hasn’t been diagnosed as a problem.’

Avesta has seen a lot of startups come through Coloft, the coworking space he founded with Cameron Kashani in 2010. It’s generally acknowledged to be one of the first, if not the first coworking space in Los Angeles dedicated to tech. ‘We knew there was a critical mass here somewhere, that mentality of the tech-based co-working space,’ he told me when we sat down together recently for an interview. ‘If we had done this in West Hollywood, probably would have failed, at least with a tech focus.’Optimism, believing that you can change or have an impact on something, whether through innovation, coding technique, or business savvy, is a core value of the startup life. It also creates the kind of dedication that drives coders, developers and marketing people to populate Coloft nearly 24/7. 

Avesta has seen a lot of startups come through Coloft, the coworking space …

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Los Angeles: Dawn of a Startup Town

You could argue that Los Angeles has been a startup town from way back, but then you would be wrong. Sure, there was a hardcore tech base here in aerospace, and an engineering base at places like Caltech and USC. Though vital to LA’s development, those places did not function like startups, did not address consumer-centric problems, and of course, when they got started, there wasn’t an Internet.

MySpace, the online community, was the first major consumer Internet company in LA. Amit Kapur joined MySpace in 2005, when it was, pretty much, a startup. He eventually became its COO. Now he is president of AOL publisher platforms, and is CEO and a co-founder of Gravity. Gravity looks at the content you interact with online, such as the stories you read, the videos you watch, and then creates an interest graph to filter the content on the site to something personal, tailored to your interests.

‘We apply machine learning and some very advanced technology that we’ve developed so that we can dynamically adapt the page to every user.’ Kapur told me …

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The LA Startup Ecosystem is Different

When I speak to startup founders and VCs in LA, I always ask what makes LA’s startup scene different from San Francisco’s.

I started getting an answer that surprised me at first, perhaps because it was so obvious. LA’s diversity – in the region’s talent pool, in the cultures it supports, in the types of startups being formed and funded – is its great strength and differentiator.

In the past two years, LA’s diversity has grown an infrastructure for LA startups. As Adriana Herrera, founder of the startup GrandIntent, told me when we spoke recently, ‘There is truly an ecosystem and the components that you need to help startups to grow. So not only do you have entrepreneurs, but the entrepreneurs have access to the things they need to actually support their companies.’

Adriana’s first tech startup was called Fashioning Change, an online marketplace for people to buy stylish clothes that save them money. She started it in San Diego but she discovered the infrastructure to support the company just wasn’t there. Angel investors in San Diego, in her view …

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Startup Innovation Centered in LA

When people think of Los Angeles, they think the creativity and innovation here is centered in Hollywood. Movies, celebs, red carpets, the entertainment-industrial complex – that’s where it’s happening. But the center of creativity is really somewhere else.

The movie industry, stuck in a loop of grinding out sequels, is probably the last place where you’d look in Southern California for innovation. For years Hollywood may have provided the most visible source of creativity, but there’s a long tradition here of innovation, and that tradition is in tech. From Howard Hughes, to Bill Gross’s IdeaLab, to startup superstars like OculusVR, tech is what drives change. Important startups like Dollar Shave Club and DogVacay – are shining a light on innovation. Incubators and accelerators like LaunchpadLA, Science and Mucker Lab support the innovation culture.

Read the rest of the post on Techli, where it was originally published.

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The Startup Scene in LA

The startup scene here in Los Angeles is changing, exploding, and seems to morph into something different every day. Keeping up with it is a challenge, but a happy one.  With this new series on Techli, I’ll be taking a look at a different accelerator, incubator, or coworking space in LA, starting with Curious Minds.

Founded in 2004, Curious Minds in West Hollywood is a Swiss Army knife of a startup hub, offering capital, office space, back office resources including HR, legal, accounting, and finance, tech resources, and access to a network of mentors and investors. Most coworking spaces offer just a few of these things, while incubators offer some, too.

Brad Seraphin,  Chief Marketing Officer at Curious Minds, told me in an email interview, “What makes Curious Minds different is our implementation of (and interpretation of) the Lean Methodology to validate critical assumptions in the core business model of early stage projects and the corresponding Lean Customer Development that ensues.”

Read the rest of the post here, where it was orignally published, in …

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