pile of cashLaunchpad LA is already the top accelerator in Southern California, and No. 5 overall in America, as ranked by Forbes and Seed-DB. But not content to rest on its laurels, the group is taking major steps to improve its standing in the ecosystem. Beginning today, with the opening of applications for its fifth class, participating companies will get up to $100,000 in financing – double its previous offering and two to three times that offered by other accelerators in Los Angeles.

The funding will be structured as $50,000 cash for 6 percent common stock – which is the same its current deal – plus an optional $50,000 capped convertible note, with the cap to be negotiated on a per-company basis. The additional capital should allow companies to increase their runway for achieving product market fit before needing to seek out Seed financing.

“At the end of the day, the $100,000 is great, but it’s not about the money,” says Rincon Venture Partners general partner and Launchpad LA investor Jim Andelman, “Rather, it’s about the solid foundation that increases the odds of a startup’s success.”

Launchpad Managing Director Sam Teller echoed this thinking, saying, “The money reduces the urgency for companies to raise their next round, which enables them to get more out of the company-building benefits of the accelerator program.”

Launchpad’s offering was already considered by many to be the most entrepreneur-friendly deal in LA, but this change makes it much more so. With the addition of the convertible note, the SoCal accelerator is now on par with industry leader Y-Combinator (YC) in terms of guaranteed financing. The Silicon Valley trailblazer offers companies $11,000, plus $3,000 per founder, in exchange for 2 to 10 percent common equity. YC participants also receive an $80,000 convertible note from its YC VC – which replaced Yuri Milner and Ron Conway’s The Startup Fund’s previous offer of $150,000 per company.

In addition to increasing its financial offer, Launchpad has begun accepting applications via AngelList, a first among LA accelerators. AngelList, which began the application program earlier this fall, highlights a select group of top accelerators on its platform, including currently 500 Startups, AngelPad, TechStars, and Launchpad LA.

Launchpad has had as much or more success than anyone in LA, long known as a creative rather than technical town, in attracting teams comprised entirely of engineers. Its Class 4, which is currently in progress and is comprised of eight companies, contains four teams with two technical co-founders. Its companies have excelled in fundraising as well, with eight out of ten Class 3 companies raising more than $1.5 million in Seed financing, highlighted by Chromatik, Lettuce, and Big Frame, while the class as a whole raised nearly $20 million.

Accelerators have been a big part of the story in the current LA tech resurgence. One question on the minds of many observers has been, how will the four most prominent fare once most of the low hanging fruit, aka mature companies that have never been “accelerated” or raised Seed capital, are depleted? All the capital in the world will only help Launchpad if it can continue to attract quality companies into which to invest it.

This is where the AngelList integration and the organization’s presence atop nationwide rankings will kick in. Based on its reputation, Launchpad is likely to get a shot at any company applying to an accelerator in Los Angeles, and likely many applying in the Bay Area. Launchpad is increasingly recruiting beyond Southern California, with Class 4 for example including Kansas City-founded Div shot. Anything that raises its public profile and credibility should only support this goal.

Launchpad was founded by GRP Partners’ partner and two-time entrepreneur Mark Suster and angel investor and entrepreneur Adam Lilling in 2009, initially as a non-investing mentorship organization focused on bolstering the LA tech ecosystem. Suster brought aboard managing director Sam Teller and director of operations Kyle Taylor in advance of launching its acceleration in Q4 2011. The company’s investment committee includes Suster, Lilling, Teller, and several of Launchpad’s investors and alumni entrepreneurs.

“We want to make the most entrepreneur-friendly offer possible so that we continue to attract the best entrepreneurs, including second-time founders who may not typically consider an accelerator,” says Teller. “We also expect to continue to attract companies that are a beat farther along and have a product, but need help with business development, product development, hiring, or fundraising.”

Companies in Launchpad’s current Class 4 – in other words, those who just barely missed out on that sweet $50,000 convertible note – include:

[Image courtesy cali.org]