Startup Competition Guide


A list of top LA accelerators and incubators

Amplify, Launchpad, MuckerLab, Idealab and Science among those churning out new startups

Innovation series by Steven Loeb
May 17, 2013
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(Updated to reflect more up to date information for Start Engine and Curious Minds)

s I have noted before, the tech scene in Los Angeles is on the rise.

Part of that has to do with the categories that L.A. specializes in gaining traction, including digital media, gaming and e-commerceThere is also L.A.'s university scene, including UCLA, USC, UC Irvine, Caltech, UC Santa Barbara, Pepperdine and Loyola Marymount, which are also contributing, helping to produce more engineering graduates than any other county in California, including the Valley. 

But as Neal Hansch of Rustic Canyon Partners told me in an interview, perhaps the biggest factor is the number of accelerators and incubators have been popping up in the last few years to nurture talent in the area.

So, with Vator Splash LA only a couple of weeks away, I thought I would take a look at some of the most noteworthy accelerators and incubators in the Los Angeles area and see what they offer.

If you're interested in meeting some of these folks, come to our Vator event - Vator Splash LA on the evening of May 30. You can register here.

(Before we continue, it should be noted that there is a big difference between an accelerator and an incubator. While an accelerator funds ideas that were developed externally, an incubator brings in an external management team to manage an idea that was developed internally.)


Amplify was founded in December 2011 Paul Bricault, a venture partner at Greycroft Partners. It is located in the neighborhood of Venice.

Investment amount: The accelerator invests between $50,000 and $150,000 in seed funding, for a 5% to 15% stake in the company.

Program benefits: Those selected for the four month long program receive perks that include:

  • 3 “classes” per year, with rolling curriculum
  •  Free workspace and services, including legal, hr, recruiting, hosting and banking
  • Extremely pragmatic curriculum, with focus on topics relevant to each startup
  • Highly organized mentor program, with weekly mentor workshops and regular meetings
  • Free access to all events, classes, workshop and education
  • Interactions with investment community throughout the program

Mentor makeup: Applicants will have access to high-profile CEOs, such as Josh Berman, co-founder and CEO of BeachMint.

Backers: Amplify is backed by investors that include Mark Burnett, producer of Apprentice and Survivor, as well as Paige Craig, Tim Draper, and some heavy-hitting VC firms, such as Accel Partners, BC Capital, Greycroft Partners, Rustic Canyon, and Tomorrow Ventures

Portfolio companies: GetBonkersLook IOTidePoolInvested.inStackSocial, and The Kive Company are some of the notable companies that have come out of Amplify.


Launchpadwhich is located in Santa Monica, was founded in 2008 by Mark Suster.

Investment amount: Selecting "companies that have more than a PowerPoint and less than a Series A," LaunchPad invests up to $100,000 in each accepted company. For the first $50,000, Launchpad receives 6% common stock. For the second $50,000, which is the company can opt to take or decline, is offered as a convertible note with a maximum valuation cap. 

Program benefits: During the four month long program, entrepreneurs receive free office space," a massive network of mentors, investors, & advisors," and "tons of free perks."

Mentor makeup: Some of those mentors include Ara Katz, Head of Creative at Beachmint; Bill Gross, founder and CEO of IdeaLab; Geraldine Martin-Coppola, COO of Shoedazzle; Gil Elbaz, founder and CEO of Factual; Tony Adam, founder and CEO of Eventup.

Portfolio companies: Launchpad has invested in 18 companies, 17 of which raised outside capital, over $30 million combined. Some of its alumni include AtlasDivshotTuition.ioTradesy and Lettuce.


Santa Monica-based MuckerLab,  which was founded in October 2011, accepts a wide range of companies to its accelerator program.

"We accept applications from companies at various stages — some will have just a new idea while others will have a company that is already generating revenue and looking to accelerate its growth," it says on its website.

Investment amount: Each company receives up to $21,000 and, in exchange, MuckerLab receives, on average, a 6% to 8% stake in each company in the program.

Program benefits: The program is three months long and includes the following perks:

  • Office space
  • Legal support
  • Access to the advisor network
  • The opportunity to present to top-tier investors at the end of the program. 

Mentor makeup: MuckerLab also gives its applicants access to mentors, which include: Aileen Lee, partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers;  Ali Rosenthal, former Head of Business Development at Facebook;  Amit Kapur, CEO and Co-Founder of Gravity; Brian Lee, Founder of ShoeDazzle and co-founder of LegalZoom; Greg Isaacs, Vice President of; and Satya Patel, VP of Product Management at Twitter.

Portfolio companies: Its alumni include Younity,  The Black Tux, Blayze, Ecinity, Get Me Rated and Instacanvas.

Start Engine, located in the neighborhood of Westwood, was co-founded by Gamzee CEO Howard Marks and Los Angeles investor Paul Kessler in 2011.

Investor amount: The accelerator invests $20,000, with a 6% to 8% equity stake, in each of the companies that it accepts.

Program benefits: During the 90 day program, Start Engine offers:

  • Legal services
  • Financial advice
  • Human Resource services
  • Administrative support
  • Office space, 
  • Gym
  • Health bar access
  • Weekly meals with industry icons and leaders

Mentor makeup: Some of the mentors that applicants have access to include Brian Wong, CEO and co-founder of Kiip; Chris DeWolfe, former CEO of MySpace; Frank Monestere, President and COO of LegalZoom; Sizhao "Zao" Yang, COO of BetterWorks; Stacy Haitsuka, co-founder of NetZero; and Walter Driver, CEO of Scopely.

Portfolio companies: GonnaBe,, PageWoo, Enplug and are among Start Engine's notable graduates.

Teams in the Program - Current teams in Start Engine include,, and


Viterbi Startup Garage is one of the newest L.A. incubators, having only been launched in March of this year. 

The accelerator came from a partnership between Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers (KPCB), talent and literary agency United Talent Agency (UTA) and USC’s Viterbi School of Engineering.

Investment amount: the University does not take equity in any of the accelerator companies.

Program benefits: Viterbi Startup Garage will provide:

  • Financial grants, 
  • Strategic guidance 
  • Mentorship

Ten companies, who will work out of the Viterbi Startup Garage facility, will be chosen. They will be housed in USC’s Information Sciences Institute in Marina Del Rey for twelve weeks beginning May 28, 2013. 10 startups will be selected for the first class.

Applications are open to any USC undergraduate or graduate students or USC alumni who has graduated in the past 5 years, though at least one member of the founding team must be an enrolled student in the USC Viterbi School of Engineering or a USC Viterbi alumnus.

Right now only digital media, internet, software and hardware companies are being accepted.


Curious Minds, which calls itself a "new kind of seed fund and startup accelerator,"  has offices in Beverly Hills and West Hollywood.

Founded by David and Jon Gonen in 2012, it is an external investment arm of Curious Minds, an incubator that has been operating in Los Angeles since 2004. 

Investor amount: It invests $30,000 to $250,000 in its companies

Porfolio companies: Some alumni include TeleSign, FixUp, Ringadoc, Authorly and RingSanta


Startup UCLA is a accelerator located on the UCLA campus that seeks to "connect students with alumni who are successful in the startup world and with the rapidly growing Southern California startup community."

Investment amount: Each team must have more than 50% of founders’ equity owned by UCLA students and/or recent alumnus (graduated within 2 years). UCLA will NOT take any ownership stake in the participating companies. Team members will be paid a fellowship. 

Program benefits: the 10 week long program provides: 

  • Workspace
  • Guidance, and 
  • Mentors to early-stage companies

Mentor makeup: applicants will have access to Aaron Hirschorn, the founder and CEO of DogVacay, Alex Quilici, the CEO of YouMail; Brian Lee, CEO and Co-Founder at The Honest Company; Hans Yang, General Manager at Zynga;  and Mike Jones, the CEO of Science, and the former CEO of MySpace; 

OctaneOC was formed in September 2002, by cofounders Tom Moebus, former vice chancellor of the University of California, Irvine, and Dwight Decker, former CEO and chairman of Conexant Systems.

Program benefits: Octane offers two programs:

  • Launchpad, which is its "hand’s-on, pro bono accelerator for start-up companies in the technology, life science, and clean tech industries. LaunchPad helps entrepreneurs turn ideas into successful businesses."
  • Capital connections, which connects early to mid-stage companies with venture capital, grants and other investment contacts.

Backers:  Octane is sponsored by companies including YouMail, FUGU, GluMetrics, HomeUnion, Ipplex  and My Open Road.

Portfolio companies: Octane has helped 110 companies receive more than $346 million in investment and equity exits. With LaunchPad’s help, over 82 companies have raised in excess of $172,000,000 in Seed, Series A, and Series B investments.



 K5Launch, based in Irvine and founded in 2011, is an early stage funding platform.

Investment amount: Selected teams receive equity funding of up to $25k along with approximately $50k worth of legal, web, and PR services. K5Launch typically takes on average 6-8% position in a company.

Program benefits: During the three and a half month accelerator program, the teams receive:

  • Hands-on advice from real entrepreneurs and real-life successful CEOs and CMOs of startups
  • Specific training in Business model design, Customer Development, Go-to-market strategy and sales. 

K5 typically focuses on technology-oriented companies, especially those focusing on the mobile, social, local, and Internet marketplaces.

Mentor makeup: Farsheed Atef, a co-founder & CTO at Drumbi; Shervin Talieh, the founder and CEO of Drumbi; and Patrick Vlaskovits, author of The Lean Entrepreneur.

Portfolio companies: Some of startups to come out of K5 include Social Rewards,Verbling, Connectifier, Nanoogo and LightFish.



Pasadena-based Idealab has created more than 75 companies, 30 of which have exited.

Program benefits: Founded in 1996, the incubator seeks "to infuse start-ups with the support they need to rapidly introduce innovative products and services," by offering them such perks as:

  • Office space and the accompanying office services
  • Development and technology
  • Product and graphic design
  • Marketing
  • Financial advice
  • Human resources
  • Competitive research
  • Legal
  • Accounting and business development support and services
  • Advice on strategy, branding and corporate structure.

Porfolio companies: Some of Idealab's notable aumni include, Picasa, Internet Brands,,, and


Science, located in Santa Monica, was founded by Mike Jones shortly after he left MySpace November 2011.

Backers: The company has received funding from Rustic Canyon, White Star Capital, The Social+Capital Partnership, Tomorrow Ventures, Siemer Ventures, Philippe Camus, Jean-Marie Messier, Jonathan Miller and Dennis Phelps, who put  $10 million into it collectively.

Program benefits: Science is kind of a mix of incubator and accelerator, as it both creates and develops its own business ideas in-house, as well as acquires other Internet startups with the aim of scaling them. But it has no set timeline regarding exits or releases.

Portfolio companies: Some of its alumni include EverySignalHelloSociety and Marigold Media.

LACleantechIncubatorlocated in in the city’s Cleantech Corridor in downtown Los Angeles, was founded by the city to "drive innovation in clean technologies."

Investor amount: While LACI doesn't invest money is companies but does "significant time and expertise. And we go to bat for them, putting our network to work. That’s why we think of the teams we incubate as 'Portfolio Companies.'"

Program benefits: It accepts companies that are early-stage, meaning "somewhere between the garage and serious investment," though it does also accept smaller companies that are changing focus, “turn-arounds,” companies that are launching new projects, and international companies looking to enter the US market.

Mentor makeup: Companies have access to mentors that include Josh BigelowCEO of Syncromatics; Doug McPherson, General Counsel and V.P. of Corporate Development at Idealab; Jonathan Fram, CEO of Nularis; and Steve Glenn, the founder and CEO of LivingHomes.\

Originate Labs partners with statups to help them develop their software products.

Investor amount: For early-stage startups, Originate invests capital for a share of equity. The process takes two to four weeks.

For early and mid-stage startups, Originate will invest some funding for a combination of cash and equity. The deal will take less than a week. 

For later-stage startups, Originate can structure deals that are cash-based, but can also include incentives such as options, bonuses or shared IP.

Portfolio companies: Originate alumni include Ploom, Snapspot, Yowza, Rootz and jQuery.



EvoNexus is the business incubator of CommNexus, a non-profit high-tech trade organization based in San Diego.

Its mission is to "stimulate the growth of new high technology companies in our region."

 Investor amount: "We provide these services entirely free of charge. Our incubator companies are under no financial or IP-related obligation to EvoNexus when they graduate."

Program benefits:

  • Furnished office space
  • Domain experts and mentors, 
  • The opportunity to leverage a network of business and VC contacts

Portfolio companies: EvoNexus has 22 companies currently incubating, and 10 successful graduations to date. Its companies have raised $144 million in total venture funding raised and created over 600 jobs.

Alumni include: FatSnunk, Dealstruck, Breadcrumbs and GoFastCab.


Be Great Partners is a technology incubator, whose mission is "building successful products by investing in talented entrepreneurs."

Investment amount: Be Great Partners invests, on average, $25,000 to $50,000

Program benefits:

  • Medical
  • Paid time off
  • Meals
  • Parking
  • Retirement plan
  • Entertainment

Mentor makeup: mentors include Gautam Guptam, the co-founder and CEO of NatureBox; Michael Orza, the founder and CEO of Webair; Jeff Avallon, a co-Founder of IdeaPaint; Darcy Webb, the founder and CEO of PayVia.

Portfolio companies: NatureboxKively, Taste Of Blue, Skinny Bikini and Friendbuy.

(Image source:

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