Amplify’s LA Showcase is exactly what this town needs

By Michael Carney , written on January 25, 2013

From The News Desk

We all go to events put on by well meaning accelerators pimping their best startups. But earlier this week at something called the LA Showcase, Amplify did something different.

The private event was an afternoon of speed-dating between startups and investors – many of which flew in from the Bay Area specifically for the day – hosted by the accelerator, LA-based Crosscut Ventures, Silicon Valley law firm Fenwick & West, and Silicon Valley Bank.

The interesting part was that, despite the obvious temptation, the participating startups weren’t solely Amplify companies. Rather it included a “curated selection of the best of LA seed stage startups.”

I didn’t see that coming.

Amplify actually took the time and energy to invite graduates of other competing accelerators including Launchpad and StartEngine, and also a dozen startups unaffiliated with any particular group. The decision was aimed at showing out of town guests the best of what the LA startup scene has to offer – whether Amplify had a stake in it or not.

As last year came to a close, I published a wishlist of what was hoping to see from LA in 2013. The very first item on that list was a “continued underdog mentality.” Despite the enormous success in 2012, LA Tech has not arrived, nor will it any time soon. The very next thing on that list was more local capital. Well guess what? Capital often has to be compelled to relocate.

This is precisely why the Amplify event was so refreshing.

It would have been easy to say to a dozen or so investors, “Come down for the day and see what we’ve been up to at Amplify.” Many would have attended, and the accelerator’s current and alumni portfolio companies would be thrilled for the opportunity. But it would have been the easy way out. To instead say, “The LA startup scene is vibrant and diverse and we want to make sure that is widely known,” was both smart and admirable.

It’s hard to imagine Y-Combinator hosting a similar “all Bay Area showcase.” The granddaddy accelerator’s motivations are rightfully different – no one needs to be sold on Silicon Valley’s deep startup bench – but I don’t get the sense that they invite many AngelPad companies to tap into their rolodex.

Out of town investment firms represented at the event included First Round Capital, Trinity Ventures, Rembrandt Ventures, Quest Venture Partners, Macquarie Capital, and Social Leverage Partners, in addition to several local VCs and angels. There were 15 different investors in total, visiting with 20 companies, only a handful of which had any affiliation with Amplify.

On the day of the event, the hosts were still getting inbound interest from other local startups which had gotten wind of the event and wanted to participate. There were more companies that merited inclusion than could be accommodated, host Paul Bricault tells me, but the initial event was an enormous success for both constituencies. My hope is that it won’t be the last and that other LA leaders will join in for the next one.

Below is the full list of participating companies (the investor list is understandably confidential): 20Jeans, Battlefy, Bia, Bitium, Estify, Giant Media, Gradient X, KingMaker, The Kive Co. (ArtKive), Lettuce, Loyaldash, Mulu, Open Bucks, PageWoo, ParkMe, Playdek, RadPad, Ship Mate, Small Demons, Squabbler, Vadio