Participating Firms & Speakers
We are fortunate to have so many incredible people excited to see what you are working on and willing to teach you some of the secrets of the startup world!
10:00-10:15 Welcome from Amplite Capital
10:15-11:15 VC Panel: The Funding Jump from Pre-seed, to Seed, to A
11:15-11:45 Larissa Rocha, Brex: Scaling your venture to a unicorn
11:45-12:45 VC Panel: Preparing your startup for a recession
12:45- 1:15 Shawn Sheikh, Pivot CMO: Growth Hacking
1:15- 1:45 Anna Barber, Managing Director Techstars LA: Fundraise Faster
1:45- 3:15 Pitch Competition, & Winner Announced
(Click through their logo to see their Sparkxyz profile)
Lucas J. Pols, M.S.
Lucas is Managing Partner of Amplite Capital, Founder & CEO of Spark xyz, and a member of Tech Coast Angels.
In his previous career at ADP he successfully helped roll out two technology driven national pilots, while additionally winning District Manager of the Year and Sales Executive of the year. More recently he helped launch the Quake Capital Accelerator here in Los Angeles successfully building out their program and advising the startups on business development, leadership, and fundraising.
He received his Master’s in Entrepreneurship from the University of Southern California. While at USC, Lucas was the case protagonist of professor Noam Wasserman’s case study, which focused on his venture, Spark xyz, and hybrid entrepreneurship.
Lucas also currently writes for Forbes and does speaking engagements around Los Angeles.
Alex is the Managing Director at Plug and Play, the most active venture capital firm in the United States to develop a significant presence in Southern California. Alex is working to not only oversee and run the operations, but build the core team, expand the corporate network, and form new strategic partnerships in the region. He is also leading the startup technical due diligence process to evaluate pre-seed, seed and series A investment decisions at Plug and Play Los Angeles.
Brandon Maier is the founder of WestWave Ventures and has extensive experience building financial and marketing strategies for startup companies. Prior to launching WestWave, Brandon was a Founder and Managing Partner of Quake Capital, an industry-leading accelerator and investment firm with offices in New York, Los Angeles, and Austin. Under Brandon’s tenure and leadership at Quake, their portfolio companies raised over $100 million, including $25 million raised directly from Quake’s fund. Quake was named one of Forbes’ Top-Ten VCs and highlighted by CrunchBase for making the second-most investments in female-led startups (2018).
Drew Leahy is the Managing Partner and Cofounder of Hawke Ventures, an early stage venture capital fund that focuses on consumer and technology that powers consumer.
Three-time entrepreneur and inventor, Drew was previously the Chief Marketing Officer and Co-founder of SnapSuits.com, a tech-forward men’s fashion e-retailer. He leveraged his seasoned product team, based in Colombia, South America, to achieve an 8x ROI with powerful technology and marketing.
Drew was also previously Entrepreneur in Residence at memBrain in Los Angeles, working with tech and entertainment angel investors Ken Hertz and Liz Heller. He hails from Brighton, MI, graduated from the University of Michigan, and was awarded 2010 Ross School of Business Entrepreneur of the Year.
Brian is an active angel investor and board advisor to several seed stage companies in LA. He is Vice President of Tech Coast Angels LA Chapter and is currently in charge of both their VC outreach program and their new sidecar investment fund. During his time with TCA he has screened over 300 companies and met with several hundreds more. Last year, TCA invested $15 million across 57 companies, matching similar amounts in 2017 and years prior, making it the largest angel investment group in the US. In addition to angel investing, Brian also trades energy futures for a commodities hedge fund. Prior to joining TCA, Brian spent 10 years in the investment banking industry in New York. Brian received an MBA from UCLA Anderson.
Sam Lee is Managing Partner of Rough Diamond Capital Management, an angel investor syndicate that advises and invests in early stage companies across sectors, typically at the $1-2 million seed round. Sam is an experienced investor, analyst, and business operator who has been a founder, co-founder, or key member of three different startups, two of which had successful exits. Prior to founding Rough Diamond Capital in 2017, Sam led the Data Analytics team at L2 Inc., a digital intelligence and benchmarking firm acquired by Gartner for ~$140 million in 2017. Sam holds an MBA in Finance from the Kellogg School of Management and a BA in Economics from Stanford University.
Chris is an entrepreneur, executive, consultant, investor, and educator. He is President of Veraison LLC which provides strategic and operating advice to small and medium sized companies along with assistance with debt, equity, and non-bank financing. He also owns and operates several consumer brands in the food, beverage, and health and beauty categories. Mr. Wadden has had a 30 year career in consumer products with 20 years as General Manager and President working domestically and internationally. He is the chairman of the Pasadena Angels that invests and mentors early stage companies. He also is a board member and treasurer of Los Angeles Venture Association
Mr. Wadden has earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering, Culinary Arts degree, and an MBA in finance. Chris holds a professional engineer license from the State of Texas and has been the recipient of numerous corporate, academic, and industry awards.
Adam Lurie works as an Investor at Next 10 Ventures, a global fund focused on Seed-stage investing within the Creator Economy. In addition to investing in the evolving ways people create, consume, and monetize digital content, Adam works closely with founders in helping develop and execute go-to-market and fundraising strategies.
Taj Ahmad Eldridge
Taj Ahmad Eldridge currently serves as Senior Director of Investments at the Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator (LACI). Previously Taj served as Accelerator Director at the University of California (with the fund Highlander Venture Fund) and Economist at TRW Investments. Taj began his career as a banker (Wells Fargo, UBS) and startup investor in the areas of wine, fashion apparel, and mobile. As a patron of the arts, Taj graduated with a BA degree in International Literature & Poetry and studied graduate economics and business at Pepperdine University and Claremont Graduate University.
Greg joined Touchdown in 2016 and focuses on investments in the retail and CPG sectors. Prior to Touchdown, Greg spent time in a variety of positions at fintech startups including FlashFunders, an LA-based equity funding platform. There, he focused on early stage deal execution & sourcing, in addition to partnerships with VCs, incubators and accelerators.
Prior to his startup work, Greg spent almost 3 years at Macquarie Group in New York as an Investment Banking Analyst. At Macquarie, Greg was a member of the Diversified Industrials Group, advising clients in M&A and Leveraged Finance related activities.
Laurent is an Entrepreneur turned Venture Capitalist who works with start-up founders to successfully build scalable teams, strong company cultures and disruptive products. Laurent believes that there is a fundamental need for additional support in the early stage ecosystem in Los Angeles and other budding technology hubs around the US and globally. This desire to support these growing tech communities led him to his current role as the Lead Investor at Luma Launch, a pre-seed to seed corporate venture and accelerator. Luma Launch is focused on early-stage startups at the convergence of evolving technology and content markets, capitalizing on internal and external resources to create successful products.
Maureen has spent her career at the cross section of early stage startups and large enterprise customers. Before Crosscut, Maureen was the Director of the Cedars-Sinai Accelerator Powered by Techstars, where she worked with B2B healthtech companies selling to providers, payers and pharma. Previously, Maureen spent time at a venture backed smart home startup handling business and legal operations. Maureen began her career as an attorney in the IP Transactions group at Nixon Peabody LLP, a Global 100 law firm. While at the law firm, Maureen did pro bono work with preseed fashion and ecommerce companies, and a legaltech research group. Maureen attended law school at the University of Southern California Gould School of Law, and did her undergraduate studies at the University of Utah.
Founder and CEO of Black Dog Venture Partners, is a 25 year fundraising, marketing, sales, training and publicity veteran. Scott has raised millions of dollars in capital for disruptive companies, garnered national media coverage for hundreds of regional and national brands and generated millions of dollars in revenues for the companies he has represented.
When not making his clients famous, Scott spends his time in countless sporting events with his wife and two boys. He loves a good craft beer and playing with his “Black Dog” Melvin.
Bryan is COO at Backstage, translating vision into execution. He works to grow our impact globally through Backstage Accelerator, invest in the best underestimated founders through Backstage Capital, and support our team and founders through Backstage Studio. He also produces + co-hosts Backstage Capital’s podcast (The Bootstrapped VC, leads overall brand design, and creates content for Green Room. Bryan’s past work with startups ranges from helping the early Pinterest team with HTML email campaigns to leading visual design and co-leading product at Zapier (YC S12). He holds a BFA from CalArts and has been a touring + recording banjoist in Nashville, a film/TV composer, and a music editor for the Reba McEntire sitcom, of which Arlan is a fan.
Abha started her career at the Disney Accelerator, where she helped identify and source new investment opportunities for the Walt Disney Company’s core businesses. She joined the team as the Disney Accelerator was starting to scale up operations and invest in later-stage companies, including Epic Games, Kahoot!, Brit+Co, and Hoodline.
In late 2017, Abha joined the team at Ring. She worked closely with the marketing team to help develop the company’s digital marketing strategy, while also working with the Product team to define GTM strategy for Neighbors, Ring’s consumer-facing social app. Abha was at the company during its acquisition by Amazon in early 2018.
Abha received her B.S. in Industrial Systems Engineering from the Viterbi School of Engineering at the University of Southern California.
Alexandra Levitt is the Manager of Snap Inc.’s Accelerator, Yellow, where she supports creative entrepreneurs and makes investments at the intersection of entertainment, media and technology.
Levitt was previously a Digital Media Agent at William Morris Endeavor, where she represented clients ranging from traditional talent to digital creators and media companies. Levitt also acted as Manager of Platform for WME Ventures where she supported investments in companies such as Glossier, Ollie, Masterclass, and more. Today, she leverages her previous experience at WME in dealmaking, business development & strategy to help support founders seeking to create the next generation of media companies.
Alexandra is a graduate of Washington University in St. Louis and currently resides in Los Angeles, CA.
Austin Clements is a venture capitalist at TenOneTen Ventures where he invests in early stage technology companies. He began his career in investment management with AllianceBernstein and has since held roles as a tech investor at Creative Artists Agency, Digital Entertainment Ventures, and NY Angels. He also founded and managed Pi Digital Media, a Los Angeles based firm focused on the design and development of web and mobile applications.
Austin is committed to encouraging underrepresented minorities to pursue careers in tech and entrepreneurship. He is an active volunteer in various local youth entrepreneurship programs and is on the board of HBCU.vc and the Library Foundation of Los Angeles. He received his MBA from NYU Stern and his BA from Morehouse College in Atlanta, GA.
Jiake is an angel investor who is the Co-Founder and CEO of Outer, a venture-backed D2C furniture brand and crowdsourced offline retail platform. He is an experienced operator with a technical background who has built two VC funded startups, and he is very involved with the early-stage startup ecosystem in LA with great relationships with local accelerators and early stage funds. He is also a Scout for a top tier VC.
Eric joined the Amplify team in 2014. Eric’s previous startup experience and strong technical background make him a key resource at Amplify. He is a graduate of the University of Southern California, where he served as Student Body President of the Marshall School of Business and founded LavaLab, a hands-on engineering and product design organization.
As Principal at Sway Ventures, Brett Munster focuses most of his investment activities on the seed and earlier stages for the fund. In addition to evaluating new investments, Brett’s responsibilities include coordinating the due diligence process across all investment opportunities for the fund, monitoring performance of the fund and modeling portfolio allocation, and working directly with many of Sway’s existing portfolio companies. Prior to joining Sway Ventures, Brett ran day-to-day operations for a financial services company, where he oversaw a portfolio of distressed assets that grew to over $2 billion. Brett began his career at zAthlete.com, a sports social networking startup that he launched during his final semester at UC Berkeley and sold in 2009. Soon after, Brett launched his second start-up Visual Icon, a platform designed to help bring Hollywood content online. He also holds an MBA from the University of Southern California where his focus was on entrepreneurship and technology commercialization.
Before joining Mucker Capital, Kiyan was member of the founding team at The Beard Club (Formerly, The Dollar Beard Club) where he helped build the company to over 70,000 monthly subscribers and $18 million in revenue in just its first 18 months.
Prior to his time at The Beard Club, Kiyan worked in private equity, where he assessed standalone investment opportunities as well as strategic add-on acquisitions in the SaaS and Enterprise software industries.
Kiyan holds a BS in Business Administration with a Concentration in Finance from USC's Marshall School of Business.
Jonathan Wallace joined Expert Dojo upon its inception as an investment analyst. Over the course of the next 3 years he established relationships with some of the largest venture capital funds in the world and helped dozens of startups raise investment. Jonathan is now the investment director for Expert Dojo and oversees all investments.
Expert DOJO improves the success rate of early-stage entrepreneurs with investment, foundation, influence, community, branding, marketing, communication, mindset.
Expert DOJO is the fastest growing start-up community in Southern California based in Santa Monica. Entrepreneurs love Expert DOJO and the power of our startup community.
Ryan has led the creation and development of the Nazarian College’s co-curricular programming in innovation and entrepreneurship since 2015. Previously, he studied entrepreneurship at Babson and UCLA Anderson and has 10+ years experience in project management, process improvement, and sales. Ryan is dedicated to educating, connecting, and supporting founders at every step of their journey and fueling new business growth both at CSUN and within the greater Los Angeles area.
Christine Harada is President of i(x) investments. Ms. Harada has over 20 years of success in leading government and management consulting organizations. She previously served as the Federal Chief Sustainability Officer for the United States during the Obama administration. In this role, she provided oversight for all sustainability-related initiatives across the federal government in energy, fleet, and acquisitions-game-changing improvements that added to our nation’s clean energy future.
Ms. Harada holds an MA, International Studies and an MBA, Finance, respectively, from the Lauder Institute and the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. She also holds an MS Aeronautics/Astronautics and a BS Aeronautics/Astronautics, respectively, from Stanford University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Prior to Social Starts, Jon spent 7 years with the Advisory Board Company in internal strategy, operating, and consulting capacities. At the Advisory Board, Jon guided teams on new product launches, proforma analysis, staffing optimization, market research and segmentation, and platform strategies in the healthcare provider and edtech realms while also working in operating capacities for the full suite of products offered. Jon holds a BSE in Operations Research and Financial Engineering from Princeton University and an MBA from the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas at Austin. He is also Principal for Joyance Partners.
Rob started his career at Lloyd’s Bank, in the UK, whereby he harnessed customer insight data to develop and launch entirely new distribution channels for the institution. In 2010, he moved to Los Angeles and took the role of North America Director for Lloyds International, running all aspects of the offshore banking division in the USA and Canada.
Rob has also served on the boards and committees of BAFTA Games, British American Business Council, International Trade Education Programs, South Central Scholars and the Chairman of the School of Business & Entrepreneurship at Dorsey High School.
Rob is a 2003 graduate of the University of Gloucestershire.
Matt is an experienced executive and advisor to companies across multiple industries. He coaches startups (early-to-growth stage) as a partner of Evolution Services Corp., a boutique executive coaching, leadership training and culture development firm.
Matt also works specifically and extensively in the Los Angeles startup community as co-director of Startup Boost/Los Angeles, a startup pre-accelerator that educates, mentors and propels early stage companies.
Scott Fox is a serial Internet entrepreneur, angel investor (Tech Coast Angels), and CEO of the Orange County Startup Council, a community service organization dedicated to accelerating Orange County’s technology startup ecosystem. He has founded, worked for, invested in, or advised hundreds of startups since raising his first VC round during the first dot-com boom. An advocate for early stage entrepreneurs, Scott has also written 3 best-selling books to help first-time entrepreneurs get started.
Wan has been investing in companies for over 20 years, covering numerous industries and verticals that are relevant to the present and future trends. An entrepreneur by heart, he grew his last firm into recurring revenue exceeding $30MM. Since retiring in late 2013, Wan spends his time meeting and mentoring startup founders, venture partners, and institutions to help grow Los Angeles as a true venture and entrepreneurial destination. He is an active member of LAVA, Singularity University, and Abundance360. He received his MBA from Pepperdine's Graziadio Business School in 2012.
Kevin Yamazaki is the Founder & CEO of Sidebench, an award-winning digital innovation lab and product design studio. Sidebench incubates select early stage startups and partners with enterprises & brands including Red Bull, Facebook, Oakley, Andreessen Horowitz, Accel, Sony Pictures, United Talent Agency, NBC Universal, Cedars-Sinai, Instagram, American Heart Association, among others.
Kevin has extensive experience in management and technology consulting, as well as user experience & product design. Kevin is an angel investor and advisor to start-ups, a Mentor for Founder Institute, and volunteers on the board and committees for non-profits, including American Red Cross and the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.
Kevin and his work with Sidebench has been recognized on the Forbes 30 Under 30 list, Inc Magazine’s fastest growing companies in America, and Entrepreneur Magazine’s most entrepreneurial companies in America.
Hershel Mehta is a Venture Capitalist in charge of U.S. investments through his Family Office's proprietary fund called Mehta Ventures. He has gone through the entrepreneurship journey himself, having published a mobile application in the Apple App Store in 2015, and Hershel uses that experience to help guide entrepreneurs through their own journeys. He finished his Venture Investing Education through the Executive Education Program at the Wharton School of Business. Likewise, he is a CPA certified by the CA State Board of Accountancy. Since joining his Family Office in 2018, Hershel has executed 21 startup investments.
An atypical investor, Matt brings seventeen years of hands-on operational experience within early and growth stage companies and has two successful exits under his belt (JetBlue IPO in 2002 and Envestnet | Yodlee IPO/acquisition in 2015). Functionally, Matt brings business development, marketing, sales, pricing and revenue management experience, along with a strong, active network of c-suite relationships across the Fortune 1000. Matt began his career as part of the founding team at JetBlue and after stints at Apple and Redpoint Ventures, Matt joined financial software and data giant Yodlee where he focused on business development and sales across the emerging fintech industry. Most recently Matt was the Head of Business Development at Factual focusing on strategy and partnerships across enterprise software, financial services and retail verticals.
Matt lives in Los Angeles and maintains deep roots in his native Colorado. He's an avid skier, fly fisherman, and an outdoor enthusiast.
Matt holds an MBA from UCLA and a BA in Economics from Boston College.
Jason Breen is a partner in Goodwin’s Technology Companies & Life Sciences group. He represents start-up and later-stage companies in the software, technology and life sciences industries throughout their corporate life cycle, with a particular focus on mergers, acquisitions, divestitures, financings and other strategic transactions. He also represents venture capital, growth equity and private equity funds focusing on technology and life sciences companies.
More to be added
Shawn Sheikh & Growth Hacking
Shawn is an experienced founder and entrepreneur focused on early stage growth. Shawn previously founded Solve (Y Combinator S17), notably growing the business from $0 to $70K MRR in 3 months, before selling it last December. He is currently an Entrepreneur in Residence at Guthy Renker and an advisor at several early stage startups. He loves discussing all things strategy and growth, particularly with regards to helping companies achieve and maintain profitability.
Larissa Rocha & Scaling a Unicorn
Larissa Rocha was the first employee at Brex — the first of its kind credit card for startups. She was deeply involved in the early iterations of the company, working on everything from recruiting an international workforce to developing sales strategies, structuring and scaling the customer support team to expanding Brex to other early stage tech hubs outside of the Bay Area . She attended Harvard as an undergraduate, where she studied economics under the leadership of her thesis advisor and mentor to Sheryl Sandberg, Larry Summers. The daughter of a sugar mill supervisor, Larissa is the first person in her state to attend the university. At Harvard, she served as President of Eliot House and President of The Brazil Conference - where she interviewed and engaged with countless world leaders - including Warren Buffett.
Anna Barber & Fundraising Faster
Anna Barber is the Managing Director of Techstars LA and a coach and advisor to founders. She has experience as a corporate lawyer, McKinsey consultant, product executive and entrepreneur in ed tech, retail and e-commerce. She’s also a certified executive coach. Anna graduated from Yale and Yale Law School and is a proud native New Yorker.
KPMG Spark is the online all-in-one accounting solution that provides startups with bookkeeping and tax preparation, as well as payroll facilitation, all online for a simple, low monthly fee.
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At Goodwin, we partner with our clients to practice law with integrity, ingenuity, agility and ambition. Our 1,000-plus lawyers across the United States, Europe and Asia excel at complex transactions, high-stakes litigation and world-class advisory services in the technology, life sciences, real estate, private equity, and financial industries. Our unique combination of deep experience serving both the innovators and investors in a rapidly-changing, technology-driven economy sets us apart.
Spark xyz has partnered with Zoom Video Communications to provide members with a discounted rate on Zoom’s collaboration solutions. We offer an entire collaboration suite including meetings, webinars, room solutions, and more.
All Spark xyz members can receive a 25% discount on these services*.
To take advantage of this offer please reach out or purchase online:
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Enter the coupon code sparkxyz-zoom and press apply
We've seen first-hand experience the difficulties accessing basic corporate credit without providing a security deposit or personal guarantee early-on. As companies grow, managing expenses has become more difficult and time-consuming.
Which is why we've partnered with Brex to offer a corporate card that is not personally guaranteed, offers higher credit limits, provides auto-reconciliation, and integrates with ERPs using receipt capture via SMS / email (additional details attached).
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