Demand Media Field Trip

Like most accelerators, we sit at the intersection of startups, investors, and large companies. While investors and fundraising typically receive more attention, we also constantly connect our portfolio companies with mentors and strategic partners who can provide advice about different parts of their business. Last week, we took our current class to meet with top Demand Media executives and discuss their businesses.

Demand Media is a publicly traded digital media and domain services company. Founded by Richard Rosenblatt and Shawn Colo in 2006, the company was started here in Santa Monica, raised over $300m in venture capital between 2006-2007, and IPO’d in 2010. Lucky for us, their office is located down the street from Launchpad LA.

While at Demand, our founders presented their companies and engaged with executives to answer questions and discuss potential opportunities to integrate with Demand Media business sectors. They were also assigned a relevant point person for follow-up.

When building a startup, it’s easy to forget about big companies in your own backyard that could be helpful. It can also be unclear how meaningful a meeting will be or what engaging with them should look like. We have repeatedly found that having these conversations is often fruitful even if no direct outcome is immediate. Large companies can be amazing resources for knowledge, experience, and useful contacts for building a startup. Obviously, partnerships can be rocket fuel for distribution, and since startups are rarely in a position to offer anything in return early on, mentorship and access to people who have built, scaled, and operated companies in the past is incredibly valuable.

We are extremely lucky to have companies like Demand Media in LA who are always willing to work with our entrepreneurs to help them succeed. This is meaningful not only to our own companies, but mentors and partners are essential components to growing any startup ecosystem. While the media will continue to debate the current position of the LA startup ecosystem, a derivative is usually more telling, and it is unquestionably positive.

A special thanks to the Demand Media team: Shawn Colo, Stewart Marlborough, Julie Campistron, Maggie Jones, Jeremy Daw, Chuck Ursini and Michael Kirby.

Our Investment in Melon

We are excited to announce our investment in Melon. Three weeks ago, their Kickstarter campaign launched and eclipsed their $100,000 goal in less than 3 days. It’s still going strong, and they just passed their stretch goal of $250,000 (ps there are 3 days left to preorder if you haven’t already!).

Wearable tech and health informatics are currently of great interest to investors, entrepreneurs, and consumers. David Lee of SV Angel recently identified “Health Informatics,” the intersection of software and biology, as a “megatrend” his firm will be investing in heavily. When we met the founders of Melon in early February, we were immediately interested in their business.


Melon is an EEG (electroencephalography) powered headband with an accompanying mobile app which allows wearers to measure, understand, and improve their mental focus. It’s rare we meet companies with such an ambitious goal, and it’s even more rare we come across young founders who are already uniquely positioned and prepared to tackle the challenge they are going after. Here’s what the Melon team has done right, and why we believe the excitement around their launch is more than justified:

Founders – Arye and Laura met while studying cognitive science and computer science at Pomona College. They quickly recognized that EEG technology, while readily available and heavily used in research labs and medical settings, had never been brought to consumers. Seeing its power first-hand in aiding and understanding the human brain, they dropped out of college with one year left to pursue their passion and make this technology more accessible.


Team – One of the strongest signals we can pick up on is when a founding team is able to put together a team of talented people who are willing to work for less than market rate because they’re passionate about what the company is building. Arye and Laura quickly assembled a team of experienced hardware engineers and an artificial intelligence expert to to fill the gaps where they lacked experience.

Manufacturing – Chris Dixon recently wrote about the emergence of hardware startups and the challenges that still exist.

“Many hardware startups stumble when they try to go from prototype to large-scale manufacturing. There is no AWS-equivalent for hardware. To get manufacturing right, entrepreneurs often end up living in China for months and even years.”

Arye and Laura both moved to China for 6 months to figure this out before coming to Launchpad.

Big Vision – It’s been surprising to see the walled-garden approach that several of the first movers in the wearable tech space have adopted. Only recently have some opened up an API for third-party applications, and most of them limited in doing so. From the beginning, Arye and Laura have stood by the idea that the real power of what they’re building is the opportunity to see what other people want to build for it.

Design / Branding – As several others (Tom Tunguz, Jason Calacanis, etc.) have written about, a beautiful product and branding are no longer a feature, they are a prerequisite. We have been consistently impressed by their creative instincts and talent on both the software and hardware aspects of their business.

Validation – Within any trending sector of a market there will be some products that consumers latch onto and some they don’t. With very little data and history on a consumer product that measures brainwaves and focus it is hard to predict what the future holds for Melon. But with such an amazing team, product, and overwhelming demand on Kickstarter, we are hopeful that Melon will revolutionize the way people understand themselves and their brains.