Interview of Paul Bricault, Founder/Managing Director of Amplify.LA

Interview of Paul Bricault, Founder/Managing Director of Amplify.LA

Amplify.LA is a new startup accelerator in Los Angeles that provides $50K seed funding, office space and hands-on mentorship to tech startup entrepreneurs. Paul Bricault, Founder of Amplify.LA, was a partner at Greycoft Venture and a veteran startup investor, with an impressive portfolio of such companies as Beach Mint, Burstly, ContextLogic, Gamesalad, Needly, Mtime, Pose and Wide Orbit. In this interview, Paul shared with us the grand vision for Amplify.LA in shaping the Los Angeles tech startup ecosystem and the investment philosophy used in selecting startups to the program.

(Very grateful to my sponsor Wistia for hosting the video.)



Giang: Hi there this is Giang Biscan from, I have today with me, Paul Bricault from Amplify the new accelerator program in LA. Hi Paul, how are you?

Paul: I’m good thank you.

Giang: Thank you so much for doing the interview with us. So, what is the Amplify accelerator?

Paul: So Amplify is a startup accelerator similar to TechStars, which now has multiple units across the country starting off in Boulder. We modeled ourselves probably most closely to them although there are a lot of accelerators in the country like Y Combinator and TechStars, being so popular, the most famous, we chose TechStars because TechStars operates out of a physical facility and we felt that L.A. in particular needs a physical location because it’s a diverse landscape where entrepreneurs basically don’t have a place where they can all gather and show thoughts and compare notes and look at, you know, each other’s wireframes. And we felt that LA really needed something like that, Y Combinator can exist and succeed in the valley without a physical location where everybody you know gathers in one place and goes through a consistent program but we felt like L.A. kind of like Boulder in the case of TechStars, really needed a single location so that’s Amplify. It’s a four month program, companies apply, we don’t do set start dates where everyone is in the start with the same dates, so its staggered acceptance.

Giang: So it’s a rolling enrollment?

Paul: It’s a rolling you know rolling entrance with some applications through a fall, as well as through a website and then we go through an interviewing, a filtering process where we bring in some of those companies for an interview, some of the companies that come in for an interview, we go through a diligence process similar to any other venture firm effectively because we’re giving them a certain amount of capital and companies get from 40 to 50 thousand dollars in capital based on a number of founders and then those companies come in to the program, they get access to free facilities, free hosting, a suite of various arrangements that we have with local vendors who are providing their free or discounted services and those range from Fenwick & West, Silicon Valley Bank, Price Water House Coopers, Microsoft, TriNet, Frost & Sullivan…

Giang: So you’re just listed a range of really fundamental support structure that any startup needs from HR services, payroll, legal, cloud support…

Paul: Exactly.

Giang: And you mentioned $40k-$50k funding, is there any particular stage?

Paul: Oh well because we are an accelerator, someone that has raised venture capital is not going to coming to an accelerator right? so by its very nature, an accelerator tends to work with early stage companies Now the stage of that early stage can be broad, some
companies have come in to our program with a little bit of angel
funding already in, some companies have raised not a dollar and some
companies have fully developed platforms with customer traction and
revenue. We’ve had one company that’s come in that was already
profitable and some companies come in at an earlier stage without the
actual platform fully launched. Then what’s happened recently in the
sort of tech startup world is that because of the lowering cost on
basically as a byproduct of web based services and the cloud and SAAS
software systems and basically the lower cost basically will bring a
startup to fruition, we have in not just our community but all over
the country, companies that could basically launch and build and have
a platform up and running and not just having the data but actually
have customers using the platform whether its consumer facing or
enterprise facing and actually be generating revenue off that platform
with some very small amount of capital, right? At five years ago you
would need few million dollars to get to that stage, today depending
on the type of company it could be; you can bootstrap it with some
very small amount of capital.

Giang: Yes it’s a very good time to do, to build a standup?

Paul: Yes so as a result, some of the companies we, I mentioned it
before coming to Amplify, I launched a venture capital fund called the
Mailroom Fund in partnership with Excel and William Morris and AT&T and Venrock and that was in 2008 and some of the companies we saw there
in 2008 in my opinion were less advanced than the companies I’m seeing
today and those were companies that were you know looking to raise
their series A of a million to 2 million dollars, but today companies because
of their abilities they could get up in the marketplace and build traction
very quickly, we are the beneficiaries of that I think because
were able to basically see companies with a far more developed product
so we’re not just looking at a PowerPoint and trying to make a bet.

Giang: Yes, so it’s not just a concept.

Paul: Yes.

Giang: Is there any particular type of company?

Paul: We focus on five particular areas but we don’t focus on those with strict exclusivity so and we pick those areas which I will describe in a second because they’ve had a history of being
successful in LA so they have an endemic pool of talent, to draw from
because we didn’t want to focus on businesses and say the hard tech or
bio tech areas where there wasn’t an opportunity to draw from a
talent pool, we also want to pick sectors and types of business
that could actually have a visibility towards milestones being reached over a short tenure i.e. four months and so if your
developing say a clean tech company which LA does have a strong
history in, it would be very difficult to do that inside of an
accelerator because you generally need a lot more time frame and more
capital and so the areas that we’re focusing on are gaming, social
gaming Mobile across all the different platforms, Mobile, sort of
a broad context across Mobile, social commerce because social
commerce has a strong history of success in LA more recently
with things like ShoeDazzle, disrupted media and by
that I mean any company that’s disrupting the traditional distribution
production exhibition path of content, so this could be companies that
directly or tangentially involved in the content landscape or the
content ecosystem, they don’t have to be producing content but in some
ways. So Spotify would be a disruptive media company, Huffington Post
would be a disruptive media company because it’s a new method of distributing. What you are doing is a disruptive media company at StartupAngel with a new way of communicating with an audience
right instead of the traditional print media version. So anything in and around that area is something that were also looking at and then the fifth
area is AdTech, and again AdTech has had a strong history in L.A

(The rest of the transcript will be posted shortly.)

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  • Pierre Bradshaw

    Nice interview.  I met Paul last week.  He’s a ridiculously cool guy.  

    • Giang Biscan

      Thanks Pierre, it was great to see you again at Amplify.  Yes, both Paul and Jeff seem like cool guys, and they have such a great space.  Can’t wait to see what it looks like when it finishes.

  • Michael Wills

    Great job G! An interesting insight into an accelerator. I really like how they’re not just operating behind closed doors and actually involve other communities of people to really influence the process.

    • Giang Biscan

      Thanks, Michael.  We have such a lively community now in LA.  Is there anything like that in Melbourne?  Would love to visit some startups or attend a meetup when we visit, do you know some that you can introduce?  PS. Yes, we are going.  Just still trying to work out the details.  Will keep you posted.

      • Michael Wills

        Awesome. To be honest, I am not really sure how lively it is here – although I do know that I am going to have to investigate soon. I need to be a part of it more than I have in the past. I need to find the good things and to be inspired. I’ll have time soon to start looking!

        • Giang Biscan

          It seems there are more activities in Sydney than Melbourne.  There are a few small groups in Melbourne here:

  • Jean-Marc Dedeyne

    Great job Giang. It’s an insightful interview for all the talented people living in and coming to LA. I will definitively share with our foreign students. 

    • Giang Biscan

      Thank you, Jean-Marc.  Really appreciate your support.