Spend a few minutes watching entrepreneurs networking at a tech event in Los Angeles and you start to pick up on something: the LA startup scene is a bit like a clique.
Look around Cross Campus, an 11,000-square-foot co-working and event space in downtown Santa Monica, and you see small groups of similarly-attired and perfectly coiffed people talking very intently with each other, in a language that’s all their own.
Ask anyone of these would-be CEO’s the secret to making it in this city and they’ll tell you: It’s all about relationships….who you know, who you’d like to know, who can introduce you to the person you’d like to know.
But unlike the nerds, jocks, drama kids, and other common cliques found in American high schools, the 18 LA startups that competed at last week’s Challenge Cup pitch competition have created their own clique of super-smart, yet totally cool, entrepreneurs.
Nevertheless, let’s have a little fun and explore some common high-school yearbook-type superlatives that best describe the competitors at the LA Challenge Cup.
Startup Most Likely to Get Marc Cuban to Bite on Shark Tank
SmartestK12, the winner in the Challenge Cup LA education category, is an online toolkit that helps teachers save time, track student learning in real-time, and take actions to ensure academic growth. The young company, founded by two former LA teachers (including Kevin McFarland, pictured left), has already had some funding success, receiving an undisclosed venture round from UCLA Venture Capital Fund. But if they’re ready to go another round, they should look to Cuban. The father of two young daughters, Cuban recently invested in an online education startup that took off.
Startup Most Likely to Give Delivery Drones a Run for the Money
It was hard for my feeble, non-tech mind to completely understand exactly what GreenwaveLength does, but I do know that it involves looking at nature to come up with new clean energy products, like a wind turbine inspired by the hovering dynamics of bumblebees. And it’s headed up by an actual MIT rocket scientist Sabri Sansoy, which is pretty cool.
Startup Most Likely to Attract the Attention of Sting
Cuipo is a startup with a social mission – to protect and preserve the world’s endangered rainforests in Panama. With revenue from Cuipo-licensed product lines and partnerships, co-founders Tom Murray (pictured right), Gus Hurst and John Oswald (former CEO of Paul Frank) purchase large parcels of rainforest land for transfer to their non-profit foundation, One Meter at a Time, for permanent preservation. Every Cuipo product sold, whether a t-shirt, bracelet or reusable water bottle, saves rainforests.
Startup Most Likely to Make Your Head Hurt
Challenge Cup LA health care category winner Neural Analytics has developed RapidICP, a noninvasive, handheld unit that measures intracranial pressure. This portable, ultrasound device enables doctors to treat traumatic brain injury, subarachnoid hemorrhage patients, and other conditions. The team, which includes Dr. Leo Petrossian and Dan Hanchey, recently won an award from the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space, and the opportunity to test their prototype on the International Space Station.
Startup You’d Most Like to Get a Beer With
Rachel Williams founded Wigot Inc. to answer one simple question – What Is Going On Tonight? Wigot is a website and mobile application focused on providing a simple platform to navigate and discover what is going on tonight. Wigot content is sourced and screened to provide users with daily food, drink, and music happenings specific to their desired date and location.
Startup CEO Most Likely to Be Played by Justin Timberlake in a Biopic
With his easy smile, smooth suit, and disarming accent (very slight and German), Causora CEO Kai Buehler (pictured left) could probably sell ice to an Eskimo. Causora, which launched in March, doesn’t sell ice, but it does provide crowdsourced philanthropy. Users donate an amount to their favorite charity and they receive the same amount back as a gift card from socially conscious merchants. For example, if you donate $20 to your favorite charity, you can redeem a $20 gift card with any merchant in Causora’s charity network.
The One Who Got Away
I was pretty excited checking out Sabio.la, a developer bootcamp for women and minorities. Alas, the Sabio.la team was a no-show at the December 4 pitch competition.
This week, the Challenge Cup is in New York, December 11, and in Boston, December 18. Get more information on the competing startups at ChallengeCup.1776dc.com