The top 10 Los Angeles startups to watch

Steven Loeb · March 23, 2013 · Short URL:

Many of L.A.'s hottest startups are tied to celebrities like Justin Timberlake and Kim Kardashian

When it comes to technology, Silicon Valley still reigns supreme. But that does not mean that other cities around the world, and in the United States, don't have their own unique strengths that help them attract top talent. New York, for example, uses the lure of its location, as well as the fact that it is the home to a number of other industries, including advertising, fashion, financial services, media, and real estate. 

So, when it comes to Los Angeles, what is the thing that it has that no other place does? Why, celebrities, of course! 

With Vator Splash LA coming up at the end of May (get your tickets now people!), I decided to take a look at some of the hottest startups to watch in the Los Angeles area, picking those that have raised at least some money over the past few years. As you may notice, many of them are backed by some of your favorite actors, actresses and whatever Kim Kardashian is:


BeachMint is a social commerce company founded by MySpace co-founder Josh Berman and Diego Berdakin. It features six celebrity-curated, subcription-based sites.

Its first brand was JewelMint, a fashion e-commerce site that launched in October 2012, specfically focusing on jewelry. Subscribers to the site pay $29.99 per month, and in return receive personalized jewelry recommendations from actress Kate Bosworth and stylist Cher Coulter.

Its other sites include StyleMint, from Mary-Kate Olsen and Ashley Olsen; BeautyMint, from Jessica Simpson, and Beverly Hills skincare expert, Nerida Joy; ShoeMint, from Rachel Bilson and celebrity stylist Nicole Chavez; HomeMint, from Justin Timberlake and interior designer Estee Stanley; and intiMINT, from Brooke Burke-Charvet.

The company has raised a total of $73.5 million, including a $23.5 million round, led by Scale Venture Partners and Lightbank, the fund created by Groupon co-founders Eric Lefkofsky and Brad Keywell, with participation from existing investors New Enterprise Associates, Trinity Ventures and Anthen Ventures.

Lucky us that Berman will be keynoting our LA event held on May 30 at the famed and historic Hollywood Roosevelt hotel. Want to hear Berman's lessons learned scaling his company, mingle with top-notch entrepreneurs and investors and discover new promising startups? Register to the event now for the early-bird tickets!


EventUp is a service that lets home- and venue-owners rent out their homes and estates for events. Think of as the AirBnB for the event marketspace. 

Launched in 2012, Santa Monica-based EventUp is getting in on the flourishing new “collaborative consumption” space.  People with property to rent can list their venues for a fee, and people looking for a venue for their event can browse Eventup for houses, yachts, villas, vineyards, and even a castle. The site currently serves Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Chicago, Miami, Boston, Atlanta, Washington D.C. and Philadelphia.

Some of its venues include the home of Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio; the former home of Eric Clapton;  and the location used in the final scene of the television show "Entourage."

The company raised $1.8 million in a June 2012 seed round led by Lightbank, with help from NEA, New World Ventures, and additional angel investors.


DogVacay, or the AirBnB for dogs, is a community that allows users to book with experienced hosts who watch dogs in their own homes. It provides multiple layers of quality control, a comprehensive insurance policy, emergency support, photo updates, and other pet services like daycare and walking. 

The site provides a comprehensive overview of each host, including what type of home they have, how large their outdoor area is, whether they can provide 24/7 supervision, whether they have other pets, and so on.  Nightly rates range from $15 to $65, but the average is under $30 a night.

Hosts are more or less screened in a process that includes an initial application, a phone interview, reference checks, and more. offers hosts instructional videos to watch and encourages dog owners and hosts to set up a preliminary meeting in advance to make sure they’re a good match.

And while dog owners are away on vacation, they can get daily photo updates on their dogs via their cell phones or email.

The company, which was founded in 2011, has raised $7 million, including a $6 million Series A in November 2012 from Benchmark Capital. The company is also backed by First Round Capital, Science, and Andreessen Horowitz.

DogVacay was also the winner of last year's Splash L.A., held in June 2012.


Instacanvas, a graduate of the L.A.-based MuckerLab accelerator, is a marketplace allowing users to buy and sell photos from nstagram, Facebook, Flickr, Picasa, and Dropbox as physical art pieces. Artists are able to set up their own galleries on the site in order to sell prints, on which they earn 20% of all sales. The company handles printing, transaction, and customer support costs.

Or the service can be users by regular users who want to print out their own photos, which can be turned into canvases, framed prints, prisms, greeting cards, iPhone cases or digital gift cards.

The site currently power tens of thousands of galleries in over 30 countries.

Instacanvas has raised $1.7 million from FF Angel, First Round Capital, and Bullpen, as well as a number of angel investors, including Scott Banister.


Santa Monica-based ShoeDazzle is an online personalized styling and retail service that features reality TV star Kim Kardashian. Members pay a set monthly fee in exchange for a pair of shoes that are selected by Hollywood stylists.

ShoeDazzle, which was founded in 2009, offers its clients personalized shoe, handbag and accessory recommendations chosen for them by a team of A-list stylists. Its clients get new options at the beginning of each month, and also enjoy access to exclusive boutiques, celebrity designs, and award-winning Client Services.

The company has raised a total of $66 million, most recently $6 million in debt and equity financing in October 2012. Shoedazzle has previously raised $60 million from Polaris Venture Partners, Crosscut Ventures, Lightspeed Venture Partners, and Andreessen Horowitz.

The Honest Company

Jessica Alba’s The Honest Company is a subscription site for safe, non-toxic products for babies and families.

It offers monthly subscriptions of baby and family products, like diapers, wipes and bath / skin care, all of which delivered to members' front doors. The Honest Company also formulates and manufactures household cleaning products, such as laundry detergent, surface cleaners and dish soap. A percentage of company sales are donated to

The Honest Company raised $27 million in Series A financing, led by General Catalyst, Lightspeed Venture Partners and Institutional Venture Partners (IVP).  


Machinima is an online entertainment network that features clips and teasers from numerous video games. The site allows users to watch trailers, gameplay, montages, music videos and original machinima series and movies.

The company reaches more than 210 million unique gamers, who viewed over of 1.9 billion videos in February 2013 alone.

The company has raised a total of $49.6 million, including a $35 million venture round in May 2012, led by Google, and included existing investors Redpoint Ventures and MK Capital.

Maker Studios

Maker Studios is a talent first media company, which allows artists to create, distribute, and monetize their original content on YouTube. 

It is the home to many of online video’stars and content including KassemG, The Game Station, Nice Peter’s “Epic Rap Battles of History,” the Shaytards, Andrea’s Choice, The Yogscast, Snoop Lion, The Gregory Brothers, Mike Tompkins and celebrity actress/comedian LisaNova, among many others.

Founded in 2009, Maker is dedicated to help cultivate talent, take existing talent to the next level and build lasting brands with engaged audiences.

Maker Studios has raised $78.5 million from Time Warner Investments, Greycroft Partners, GRP Partners, Downey Ventures, Ynon Kreiz, Daher Capital, and Jon Landau.


Factual is an open and collaborative data platform. It aggregates data which powers Web and mobile apps, mobile advertising, and enterprise solutions. 

The company hosts hundreds of thousands of data sets across multiple verticals, including Education, Entertainment, Government and Health, in order to to make data more accessible, cheaper, higher quality, and less encumbered, for machines and developers. 

It offers the Global Places suite of data and APIs, which provides access to more than 64 million places in 50 countries along with entity mapping, resolution, and geo ad-targeting services. Factual also offers its  Global Products suite of data and APIs.

Factual was founded in 2007 by Gil Elbaz, co-founder of Applied Semantics and it has raised $27 million, including a $25 million Series A round in December 2010, co-led by Andreessen Horowitz and Index Ventures, with participation from Michael Ovitz and SV Angel.


uSamp is an online panel company, which provides survey panelists and technology for use in market research. It helps businesses with online surveys, collecting data, and deciphering the results.

Its platform is designed to eliminate fraudulent survey takers, while giving market researchers access to highly responsive, hard-to-reach panelists across any niche demographic.

Founded in 2008, uSamp's technologies include SampleMarket, PanelNet, PanelShield, Opinion Place River and real-time Panel Book Search, which are solutions for accessing, branding, sampling and managing panels.

The company also has offices in India, Connecticut and London, and has raised $14.5 million, including a $10 million Series C round led by led by OpenView Venture Partners in July 2010.

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