Yellow Manager Alex Levitt and Yellow Director Mike Su.

Yellow Manager Alex Levitt and Yellow Director Mike Su.

Launching a startup is like jumping off a cliff and building a hang glider on your way down, according to Nicole Emrani Green, who co-founded ecommerce gifting startup Givingli Inc.
 
Fortunately for Emrani Green, her West Hollywood-based business had help staying aloft after taking that leap.

 
The 29-year-old entrepreneur is a part of the 2021 class at Yellow, an accelerator for startups from Santa Monica-based Snap Inc.


“The Snap accelerator has been extremely helpful with packaging that glider on the way down and making sure it goes back up,” Emrani Green said.

 
Launched in 2018, Yellow offers $150,000 in funding, mentorship and networking opportunities. The annual program is open to startups operating in the “intersection of creativity and technology,” said Yellow Manager Alex Levitt.

 
The 2021 cohort, the fourth since Yellow’s launch, is comprised of nine startups across various industries, including health and wellness, travel, and ecommerce.


 “I think what we offer is so much more beyond the check. It’s the community as well,” Levitt said. “One of the greatest benefits of joining the accelerator is the cohort you’re surrounded with and the individuals you’re spending time with and learning alongside.”
 
Thomas Phelps IV, chief information officer at Long Beach software company Laserfiche and former chairman of the Long Beach Accelerator, said one of the biggest benefits of accelerator programs for startups is guidance and education from industry leaders.

 
“It’s important for founders to realize that passion for their product or for their service doesn’t equal success,” Phelps said. “The right accelerators with the right mentors provide guidance to these founders. They’re able to harness their enthusiasm and their passion for their business with that product market fit and marketing strategy to help grow their sales.”

 
The Yellow accelerator is one of nearly 20 notable accelerator programs in Los Angeles, according to Phelps.


Three-month program

Yellow’s Levitt would not disclose how many applications the program receives annually, but she said the process consists of two rounds of interviews: one with team members from Yellow and a second with a panel of interviewers from Snap.
 
Each chosen startup joins a three-month program on topics such as business development, strategy and marketing. Participants also have access to networking events, commercial support, partnerships and mentorship from startup veterans.

 
When Emrani Green first heard about Yellow and its focus on creative technology, she said she felt Givingli was the perfect fit. Emrani Green founded Givingli in 2018 with her husband, Ben Green. The app allows customers to send personalized digital greeting cards and gift cards from brands such as Nike Inc., Sephora and DoorDash. The company takes a small percentage of every gift card sale and offers subscriptions for $3.99 a month or $32.99 a year that give users access to digital card design tools.


Yellow has offered Emrani Green resources to help bolster Givingli’s offerings, connections with venture capital firms and business education. But one of the ways in which she has benefited from the program is access to a vast network of other startup founders and industry veterans, she said.

 
“It’s not just, like, a small handful of people that we talk to,” Emrani Green said. “Rather than bringing one CEO that’s been through it all, they bring in five or more that can tell you their personal experience, because everyone’s experience is completely different.”


Levitt said participants are usually required to temporarily relocate to Los Angeles to take part in the cohort. But the pandemic moved the program online, allowing participants to work from their home cities. The program currently enrolls startups operating across the United States.


Demo Day

Yellow’s program runs from February to early May annually, culminating in a Demo Day for startups to attract potential investors. This year’s Demo Day took place on April 29.
 
“It’s a chance to really get a glimpse at what the companies have been building, especially the work they’ve been doing heads down over the three months of the accelerator,” Levitt said.

 
At the virtual 2021 Demo Day presentation, Snap Chief Executive Evan Spiegel said he had the “unique privilege” of spending time with each of the nine startups in the program.  


“They’re united in the sense that they’re all building companies based on their values, and that’s something we really admire here at Snap,” he said.


Though every startup was seeking investors, many had already attracted backers. Nikhil Pooviah, co-founder of West L.A.-based digital health startup Elly Health Inc., said in his presentation that his company, which provides daily motivation for people living with chronic conditions, has already closed a preseed financing round with participation from Morgan Stanley, Google and Bayer.


“For our future capital raise, we’ll be looking for partners who strategically aligned with our mission,” Pooviah said. “Our mission is to be the first startup ever to improve the overall survival of patients.”


Emrani Green said that Givingli is working now to put together a seed funding round of $4 million.


Yellow also supports its startups after graduation.

 
Laura Wittig, co-founder of eco-conscious marketplace and podcast Brightly, said that her Seattle-based company has blossomed since finishing the Yellow cohort. Wittig said Yellow connected her with investors and helped with fundraising strategy months after she had finished the program in May 2020. With Yellow’s help, Brightly closed its first fundraising round of $1 million in January, she said.

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