Santa Monica tech accelerator Launchpad LA has officially ditched its office space at 1520 Second St. as part of its shift to a model emulating the country’s top accelerator, Mountain View’s Y Combinator.

“I have not been using the office for months,” said Sam Teller, co-founder and managing director of the accelerator and seed fund, in an email.

Former neighbors General Assembly have taken over the second-floor space formerly occupied by Launchpad.

In previous conversations, Teller declined to say what Launchpad had been paying in rent. But based on rental rates in the area and the amount of space it takes, Launchpad’s annual bill was likely in the $250,000-$300,000 range. By moving out of its space, the accelerator could free up cash for expanded programming and investments.

That would make it more in the mold of Y Combinator, which places a heavy emphasis on weekly events featuring guest speakers from across the tech spectrum. Y Combinator does expect startups to relocate to Silicon Valley during its three-month program, though it does not offer office space itself.

In the new scheme, Launchpad will no longer offer co-working space to startups, focusing instead on new investments, mentorship and events.

“We may call it an accelerator or mentorship program or investment fund as times change,” Teller wrote. “The point is that it exists to support L.A. startups and, when applicable, return money to investors.”

He did not say where Launchpad is now based.

The shift, now official, was first reported by the Business Journal in May.

In its previous form, Launchpad would invest from $25,000 to $100,000 in companies, offering them office space and access to mentors, investors and advisors. It counts Jukin Media, DanceOn and YouTube talent management company Big Frame among its graduates.

Fast Food

San Francisco’s Uber continues to expand its service offerings in the local market, announcing last week that it had started offering additional menu options for customers using its uberFRESH food delivery service serving the Westside, Beverly Hills and Hollywood.

Diners can now choose from a rotating menu of meals from restaurants such as Canter’s Deli, Pink’s Hot Dogs, Fundamental LA and several others.

Lunch options typically cost between $10 and $12, while some dinner choices can cost a few bucks more. There’s also a flat $3 delivery fee, and Uber advertises that its meals are delivered in less than 10 minutes.

Uber, now fending off a consumer-protection lawsuit filed against the app-based ridesharing service by district attorneys in Los Angeles and San Francisco alleging violations concerning safety and pricing, wasn’t alone in making food news last week.

Venice’s ChowNow, which provides restaurants with custom Web and mobile ordering tools, said it would integrate Apple Pay functionality into the apps it develops for restaurants.

That means customers with an iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus and the forthcoming Apple Watch will be able to complete orders simply by using a fingerprint rather than manually inputting credit card numbers and billing addresses.

Kevin McCarney, owner and founder of Studio City restaurant chain Poquito Mas, said sales have increased by 50 percent at his Mexican eateries since he hired ChowNow to handle his online ordering system a year ago.

He expects that number to increase with Apple Pay as an option.

“The easier we can make it on the consumer to get what they want, when they want, that’s the business we’re in,” said McCarney, who also serves as chairman of the California Restaurant Association.

Winter Wi-Fi

Santa Monica startup Powered by Aura, co-founded by entrepreneurs Christopher Higgins and Hardeep Johar, has raised more than $75,000 from nearly 500 backers during a monthlong Kickstarter campaign for a product designed to eliminate the hassle of untangling holiday lights at Christmas.

The company is creating wirelessly powered lights in the shape of ornaments that can be hung on trees and turned on and off via a mobile app or remote control.

The only thing that needs to be plugged in is a “power ring” that beams power to the lights from the base of a tree.

The money raised so far exceeds the company’s goal of $50,000.

Higgins, Powered by Aura’s chief technology officer, said the lights are still just a prototype, and the company hopes to ship the finished product to its backers by October.

He said the company is also in discussions with national distributors about bringing the lights to major retailers across the country.

“The Kickstarter obviously was to gauge whether or not this was something that people wanted,” Higgins said. “I think we’ve gotten that.”


After promoting Chief Financial Officer Barry Plaga to the interim chief executive role last month, Pasadena e-discovery and security firm Guidance Software Inc. named Jay Ackerman as its first chief revenue officer. Ackerman previously served as head of worldwide sales and customer success for ServiceSource International Inc. in San Francisco. … Woodland Hills online marketing firm ReachLocal Inc. has elected board member James Geiger as its chairman. ReachLocal’s board has also appointed two new members: Tom Hale, chief product officer of in Austin, Texas; and Larry Kutscher, chief executive officer of New York’s TravelClick Inc. … CurbStand, maker of an app that lets drivers prepay for valet services, has hired Ethan Kravitz as its chief technology officer and Frank Mastronuzzi as chief revenue officer.

Staff reporter Omar Shamout can be reached at or (323) 549-5225, ext. 263.

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