Los Angeles Business Journal

Start Engine Graduates Fourth Class of Startups

By Natalie Jarvey Thursday, January 31, 2013

Demo-day season in Los Angeles continued Wednesday with the unveiling of the latest companies from Westwood accelerator Start Engine.

This is the fourth group of startups that Start Engine has graduated since it began working with companies in 2011. With 41 startups on its roster, Start Engine is pumping out more startups than any other accelerator in town.

Start Engine also takes companies at a much earlier stage than accelerators such as MuckerLab or Launchpad LA. As such, its companies do not have the same track record for raising money.

Co-Founder Howard Marks said the goal is not to get funding for every company but to contribute to the building up of the L.A. tech community.

“We’re about helping entrepreneurs be successful,” said Marks, a longtime video game executive.

Whereas MuckerLab’s demo day featured a broad range of enterprise and consumer businesses, most of Start Engine’s companies had a consumer focus.

First to present was BedAbroad, an online marketplace for matching international students with housing near their American universities. The company, which lists options such as home stays and private rentals, will take a 13 percent commission from any transaction through its site.

Carbon38 plans to run a marketplace for exercise clothing and equipment for affluent women. Started by a celebrity trainer, the site combines editorial content with online shopping.

Another company geared toward active people is TriplePulse, an e-commerce site with a monthly subscription fee that helps endurance athletes select the best nutritional supplements for their workouts.

In the gaming space, Smilu Inc. has developed a mobile game geared toward the hard-core gaming fan base that plays titles from Riot Games and Blizzard Entertainment. The company said its first game failed to take off with its test group in November, but a retooled version has had better engagement.

Another gaming company, Fans.lu, has created a storefront for established video games to sell branded merchandising. Though most big video games have their own retail channels, the company hopes to find business from gaming companies that don’t have the resources to sell their own merchandise.

BetterPet, meanwhile, has created a social network for dog owners that lists local dog-friendly locations and helps dog owners connect to arrange play dates. The service competes with several other dog websites and is currently only available in West Hollywood.

Startups with business-to-business models include Ember, a platform for online video advertising. The company already has stiff competition from video marketing companies such as TubeMogul and Videology.

Osurv also has an enterprise business model. The startup has created technology for mobile surveys and market research. Chief Executive Jad Meouchy said during the presentation that the company would look to be acquired by Portland survey giant SurveyMonkey or Encino panel company uSamp.

While funding was not the end goal of the presentation, Marks said a number of investors expressed interest in the companies.

“I felt like we were able to connect with investors who are otherwise too busy to spend time with all these startups,” he said. “But the real work doesn’t happen here. Raising money is very difficult.”

Start Engine has already begun mentoring its fifth class of startups.