Exclusive interview with conference speakers At the Pool CEO Alex Capecelatro, K5 Ventures co-founder Ray Chan, StartEngine founder Howard Marks, Hollywood producers rep Page Ostrow and Scopely biz dev VP Sujay Tyle
By Robin Rowe
HOLLYWOOD, CA (Hollywood Today) 2012/11/24 – “The Los Angeles tech scene is growing fast and finding its own niche and areas of expertise,” says StartEngine startup accelerator co-chair Howard Marks. “We are helping the L.A. tech community by accelerating over 40 startups in 2012, and we are targeting 50 in 2013. We are building a strong community of entrepreneurs, mentors and investors.” Marks was co-founder and chairman of Activision Studios and the CEO of Acclaim Games (now owned by Disney). He’s one of the speakers at the Startup Venture Summit happening in Los Angeles on November 27th and 28th.
“Startups need a strong team, a mission and be surrounded by a community of investors, mentors and peers,” says Marks. “Startups only need capital if they have first proven at a small scale their idea or model. As they grow, they will need access to capital depending on the market they are targeting. We usually see startups raising $300K to $1M as their first round. They should focus on engineering and marketing.”
“We are always looking for great teams to join our program,” says Marks. “The team applies on our website www.startengine.com. We have a 30-minute interview. A team can have just an idea or a full functioning prototype with their first customers. They just need to apply and explain to us their mission, interview and if accepted they can start immediately. At StartEngine we look for a team of two founders at a minimum, and a least one needs to be an engineer. They should be talented and mission-oriented.”
Once accepted, the startup receives investment and is required to move into the accelerator’s office space. StartEngine will have a demo day and open house on January 30th at Cross Campus in Santa Monica.
“For the software-based startups, you should start with raising human capitals, those will invest their knowledge and skills for equity and not salary,” says K5Launch co-founder and managing partner Ray Chan. “Once you have the critical and necessary human capital in your startup, all the other questions are easy to answer. A startup in L.A. must need to compete more furiously, to enjoy working on the weekends, holidays and should not have vacation in their dictionary. They need to live and breathe key metrics.”
K5Launch is a startup accelerator based in Orange County. At the Startup Venture Summit, Chan is a judge as well as a moderator for the accelerator forum.
“I personally, as does Scopely, owe a lot to the L.A. tech scene,” says Scopely business development VP Sujay Tyle. “This opportunity to be in the same place as some of the most influential people in the current landscape as well as the up and coming members of it is exciting. Talent is becoming increasingly more difficult to find with the number of startups across the U.S. and internationally. Startups are spending more and more time finding these appropriate rare people. Make sure you have enough cash to bring on and sustain the best and brightest team members.”
“Online startups need to focus on a providing a product or service that a plethora of people actively desire,” says Tyle. “For us it’s alternative forms of social communication and discovery besides actually talking. Scopely is a venture-back ed game startup building viral social content on mobile. Tyle, who’s 19 years old, recently delivered a TEDxTeen talk in NYC.
“Mobile is the fastest growing segment in games,” says Scopely co-founder Eytan Elbaz. “In the mobile gaming world, a team can put together an amazing game for a very small amount of money. Freemium [a free game that sells upgrades or virtual goods] is the best method of onboarding users. Focus closely on your retention statistics. If early users are not sticking around to keep using an application, the next users won’t either unless you make some fundamental feature changes. The biggest challenge is user acquisition. It’s very hard and also expensive to go and get your first set of users.”
“Scopely’s platform will allow game developers of any size the same opportunity to reach the mass market as any of the largest game developers on Earth,” says Elbaz. “Currently, it’s way too cost prohibitive for 98% of game developers to have any reasonable chance of releasing a popular game.”
“It’s cheaper and easier than ever to start a company,” says At The Pool founder and CEO Alex Capecelatro. “That said, to do it right, it’s no less easy to build a web startup when compared to a car company or computer company. In my opinion the bar is constantly being raised and it’s much more difficult than in the past to get someone to join the next new social network. Today you need a little more focus, something very unique, and a strong product-market fit.”
“A startup should raise enough money to get to the next meaningful milestone,” says Capecelatro. “If they can do that with $500k and six months, then that’s fine. If they need $10M and 18 months, that’s ok too. Just be clear about how much you need to hit the next milestone, how you’re de-risking the investment, and why the market is big enough to justify the investment. The biggest challenge is always doing more with less and managing for investors, employees, customers, and product.”
Capecelatro’s startup At The Pool intends to be the best place to meet new people. It’s like Facebook in the user data it gathers, but with some automated matchmaking thrown in. Users get one introduction a day to someone with common interests who lives in the same community. “We have a unique user experience and once-a-day introductions to facilitate strong, relevant matches,” says Capecelatro.
“The Internet is changing the way entertainment is transmitted so it’s diminishing some of the traditional distribution revenues,” says Hollywood producers representative Page Ostrow, president of Ostrow and Company. “We also have three films currently playing on Starz Network which we negotiated this past year. We are working to be innovative and believe nothing takes away the experience of seeing a film on the big screen in theaters with others.”
One of Ostrow’s films airing on Starz is Another Harvest Moon. Starring the late Ernest Borgnine, the movie airs on November 27th on Movieplex. Ostrow and Company has been in the film business for over a decade and has arranged finance or negotiated distribution for more than 250 feature films and documentaries as a producers representative focusing on socially conscience documentary and feature films that have a strong and entertaining story to tell.
“We just placed a terrific feature from Australia entitled A Second Chance with Marvista for worldwide distribution,” says Ostrow. “We are getting a theatrical release for the film Hait Ashbury thanks to working with David Suarez.” Suarez is the CEO at distribution company Ytinifni. Ostrow also has The Experiment on Starz, American Drug Wars on Showtime, No Regrets on Lifetime and on HBO Juvies with Mark Wahlberg executive producer.
A producers rep acts like an agent for a film, finding a distributor for a finished film that lacks distribution. Each year 10,000 films are made, but less than 500 get a U.S. theatrical release. Being a producers rep is generally considered a challenging Hollywood business, but Ostrow says there’s hope. “Anyone who is talented in any other business can learn what it takes to be successful in my business,” says Ostrow. “For more information, film library, submission protocol, finance, distribution, calendar of events, and press go to www.ostrowandcompany.com.”
Other speakers include Hollywood Today correspondent Gayl Murphy, who’s presenting, “Beyond Buzz: Using Public Relations to Grow Your Business and Giving Media Interviews.”
The Startup Venture Summit is happening on November 27th and 28th, 2012, at the Courtyard Marriott Los Angeles.