Top 10 LA Startups to Watch in 2021
Los Angeles is a great place to start a company. A full 9% of entrepreneurs in the United States are based in Los Angeles (just behind New York and San Francisco with 15%), with that share growing year-over-year. Los Angeles has a depth of talent across a variety of industries, from tech to consumer packaged goods to healthcare to, of course, entertainment, which leads to exciting interdisciplinary solutions to complex problems. Investment has followed, with top firms nation-wide looking to LA for their next startups to add to their portfolio as well as new LA-firms seeking to incubate local talent and grow the SoCal ecosystem. All of this adds up to an incredibly dynamic startup landscape, and plenty of reasons to be #LongLA.
To celebrate the diversity and ingenuity of LA’s startups, as well as the end of 2020, check out the top 10 LA-based student- and alumni-founded startups to watch in 2021:
Perch: Perch, a free app designed to help the under-banked build credit by using subscriptions and other recurring payments to establish creditworthiness, officially launched on December 15, 2020. Perch graduated from Y Combinator’s Summer 2020 cohort in August and raised a $2.6 million seed round from Softbank, Kleiner Perkins, Citi, PayPal, Kapor Capital, and Marcy Ventures. The results are incredible: on average, users with existing credit scores see a 60 to 160 point increase in as little as two weeks; users without a credit score see their scores rise on average to a 670. As we head into 2021 and more and more users sign up (there were already 25,000 people on the waitlist prior to launch), it will be exciting to see the effects of this democratization of access to credit.
Sike Insights: Sike Insights is the emotional intelligence platform for remote teams. Founded in 2019, they help remote managers master EQ so they can build culture on their team. They just completed Techstars and raised a $1M pre-seed from Spencer Rascoff, Kleiner Perkins, The Fund, and other top investors. Sike Insights released their first product this December - an AI dog named Kona, who integrates into Slack and suggests responses during conversations with teammates based on their personality type and working style. Even after the pandemic is behind us, remote work is here to stay. Sike Insights is here to make the experience as warm and friendly as possible.
Ayana Therapy: Ayana, mirror in Bengali, connects people with therapists based on their personal identities across race, gender, class, sexuality, ethnicity, and ability to enable everyone, especially those from marginalized backgrounds, to access the mental healthcare that they need to thrive. The company provides telehealth options as well, including anonymous texting, calling, and video calling, to help therapy fit into everyone’s lives, whether they have mobility issues, are very busy, or are otherwise unable to make the trip into a therapist’s office. Ayana participated in TechStars LA’s fully-online cohort this past summer and launched this fall across the country to select companies and organizations. From the pandemic to racial justice protests and beyond, 2020 has been a challenging year for everyone’s mental health. Ayana is a lifeline for those who do not see themselves reflected in the mental health profession to find therapists who understand where they are coming from so that they can get the help that they need.
Toucan: Toucan enables users to learn a new language by simply browsing their favorite websites. The Chrome extension replaces English words within the text of a webpage using natural language processing with words in Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese, or German; users can use context clues to learn the word, or hover over the word to see the original English word revealed if they are stumped. Toucan hopes that by making language learning fit into people’s everyday lives, it will be more habit forming than needing to remember to go to a separate app to study. The company raised a $3M seed round in September from GSV Ventures, Amplifyher Ventures, Wonder Ventures, Golden Ventures, Halogen Ventures, Vitalize Ventures, and others. Next year, Toucan is looking to expand the languages that it offers and is planning to launch browser extensions for Firefox and Safari.
Knowable: Knowable provides audio-only courses from some of the top minds in the world, from astronaut Scott Kelly to Reddit founder Alexis Ohanian to the Upright Citizens Brigade and more. Audio entertainment has been a growing segment for years now, but with the pandemic shifting the way that people consume content, as well as the amount, Knowable is poised to become the Masterclass of audio. The Andreessen Horowitz-backed startup launched at the end of 2019, but has recently switched from a per-class to a subscription-based model, enabling users to listen to the entire library of content at their leisure. There are over 100 hours of courses in the Knowable library right now and they are only continuing to grow their bench of top-tier talent. They even have a student discount - use the code student at checkout for 50% off!
Bodewell: Bodewell (backed by Proctor & Gamble Ventures and LA-based venture engine, M13), provides plant-based, technology and clinical-backed skincare as well as a holistic treatment program for people with the chronic skin conditions of eczema and psoriasis. Currently a DTC-only brand, its patented plant-technology fills the void between strong Rx treatments with side effects and OTC products with low efficacy. Bodewell also nurtures a direct digital relationship with its customers to provide non-topical solutions for comorbidities prevalent with chronic skin conditions, such as anxiety and stress. With the call-to-arms motto and portrait series of “Skincare for the rest of us,” Bodewell is also playing its part in the de-stigmatization of skin conditions and a more inclusive definition of beauty.
Steezy: Described as the “Netflix of dancing,” Steezy is an at-home dance class subscription platform which enables users to learn to dance from top professional dancers in the comfort, and privacy, of their own living rooms. With stay-at-home orders shuttering gyms around the world, the at-home workout space has seen enormous growth this past year. However, as with any workout, it can be hard to get users to stick with it and make exercising a habit. Steezy believes that people of all skill levels will be able to learn from their platform and can burn calories while having fun.
Chippin: Chippin founders Haley Russell and Laura Colagrande both made Forbes’ 30 under 30 list this year as social entrepreneurs for their sustainable dog treat startup. Chippin uses human-grade crickets and spirulina, sourced from family-farms, as sources of protein, rather than the traditional, carbon- and water-intensive beef or chicken. The treats are hypoallergenic, easy to digest, and specially-formulated to support your dog’s gut microbiome. Chippin is looking to expand further into the world of pet food, including a line for cats, in the coming year.
AvantStay: AvantStay is a hospitality tech startup focused on providing short-term rentals tailored to group getaways. The company leases properties, boutique hotels, and commercial spaces throughout the United States and converts them into rental spaces for groups to rent out either directly through AvantStay or via platforms like VRBO or Airbnb. While group travel has largely not been possible this year, there is a lot of pent-up demand for travel and group experiences, so when travel is (fingers-crossed) possible in 2021, AvantStay will be ready to host your next gathering.
Elenita: Elenita is innovating the ready-to-drink mezcal cocktail, bringing a taste of Mexico to California’s sunny beaches with a splash of seltzer. Founders Mikel Noriega and Jordan Dil won UCLA Anderson’s Knapp Venture Competition in 2019, receiving a $50,000 grand prize, and closed a $1.2M friends and family round that July before officially launching in December. Initially launching in the LA area, Elenita exceeded their sales expectations for 2020, landing over 250 accounts in Southern California, including The Bungalow, Pink Dot, BevMo, and Total Wine & More. In 2021, they are bringing their Cucumber Lime Basil and Pineapple Jalapeno cocktails to six more states.
See you in 2021!