Back in 2011, there were only a handful of startup accelerators and incubators in the burgeoning LA tech scene. Of course, as “Silicon Beach” has grown over the past few years, this has changed. Amplify was one of the initial accelerators that debuted a few years ago, with backing from big names like Eric Schmidt, reality TV king Mark Burnett and Accel Partners. Today, Amplify is announcing its second fund, which is just over $8 million from yet another list of marquee investors.
The list includes a mix of traditional tech investors and CEOs as well as a few well-known names in the media and entertainment worlds. They include Accel, Greycroft, Siemer Ventures, Deep Fork Capital, Karlin Ventures, Jarl Mohn (ex CEO of Liberty Digital), Ron Burkle (Yucaipa Companies), Jim Wiatt (ex CEO William Morris Agency), Ed Wilson (ex President Fox Television, Tribune and CBS), Ben Silverman (ex co-Chairman NBC Entertainment), Rick Barry (founder & CTO Sycamore Networks), Rob Glaser (Founder/Chairman Real Networks), Joe Lewis (head of Amazon Studios), and David Baron (VP of content Hulu), among others.
The accelerator, which is the brainchild of Greycroft venture partner and former William Morris exec Paul Bricault, Oded Noy, Richard Wolpert and Jeff Solomon, has backed 26 companies with its first fund, resulting in 3 exits and more than $30 million in additional seed and Series A funds raised. Bricault tells me that Amplify has aimed to differentiate itself from the growing sea of accelerators in a number of ways.
First, Amplify doesn’t have set classes/semesters. The accelerator accepts applications from founders and startups on a rolling basis. This is beneficial to startups for a number of reasons, he explains. First, because development process for startups differs (i.e. enterprise vs. gaming), having a set three-month-long program doesn’t necessarily work for all companies. Another benefit to not having classes is that not every startup is fundraising at the same time, and this creates a more collegial atmosphere among founders because most of them are not competing for investors. In fact, Bricault has observed that founders tend to share information and contacts more freely when it comes to investors.
The second differentiating aspect of Amplify is not having set terms/financing for all startups joining the program. Not each startup gets the same amount of cash for the same amount of equity (i.e. $50,000 for 6 percent of the company). “Not all companies are created equally,” Bricault says. Bricault and Solomon will take into account how far along the startup is, the quality of the team, customers and more when accepting and financing a startup. And he adds that, increasingly, companies come to the program having already developed and/or launched a product, so the traditional accelerator terms don’t necessarily fit. Amplify has also brought on a CTO, a director of investments and a business development exec to help startups with raising money, marketing and more.
Bricault says this approach has paid off for the founders themselves. Out of the first 26 companies, 24 raised seed rounds over the past two years, including Stack Social, Bitium, and Battlefy. Many are raising their Series A rounds at the moment, he adds. The three exits mentioned above include Look.io to LivePerson, Shipmate to Cruiseline.com, and Kingmaker to Joyus.
As for the new investments, Solomon and Bricault decided to raise more money so they could put more money to work in each company, and do more follow-ons within the portfolio. The Amplify team will also begin to experiment with a few in-house incubations of ideas into companies.
Is it a coincidence that some of tech’s hottest companies like Snapchat, Tinder, and Whisper, are all based in LA? As for the strength of the LA tech scene, Bricault says he’s never seen this level of startup activity in LA, combined with the strength of the companies that are being started in the region. And as many say, more money in the region is a very good thing for the ecosystem.