Why I Joined M13 as a Partner and Head of Launchpad
At M13, I’ll build on the work I did at Techstars by starting even earlier in the innovation cycle.
By Anna Barber
December 1, 2020
I love building companies in Los Angeles, and after four years as the Managing Director of Techstars LA, I’ve joined M13—as a partner and head of Launchpad, M13’s venture studio—to work even earlier in the innovation cycle.
For Techstars LA, my goal was to invest in high-performing teams of diverse founders across all sectors with a focus on the LA ecosystems and companies that would stay and grow in LA. More importantly, we built a vibrant and diverse community of founders, mentors, and investors around Techstars LA, firmly anchored in Techstars’ core principles of givefirst, network over hierarchy, and doing what’s best for founders. I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to work with so many amazing people, and to play a small part in shaping and helping the LA tech community prosper.
Expanding access to entrepreneurship with M13’s Launchpad
M13 is a fully integrated venture engine focused on identifying shifts in consumer behavior and building great companies to meet emerging needs. Joining M13 is an opportunity to build something that will have a big impact in the world—and on the LA tech community—and to do it with a team of world-class and truly kind people. And while I love Techstars and will always be #Techstarsforlife, leading M13’s Launchpad was too exciting to pass up.
When I met the M13 team, I was immediately struck by the fact that M13 is really a TEAM. The partners are all individually impressive, but together they’re a high-performing team. They each play an important role in making the whole venture engine much greater than the sum of the parts. They’re also universally kind—which may sound like an odd thing to mention, but great things happen when high performance is combined with empathy.
Techstars works to accelerate companies that already exist: teams that have formed, identified a market opportunity, built an MVP, and gotten some customer traction. Techstars LA alums include Stackin, Fernish, Slingshot Aerospace, PopCom, Fly by Jing, Dash Systems, Finli, and Ayana Therapy.
At M13, I’ll build on the work I did at Techstars by starting even earlier in the innovation cycle. M13’s Launchpad starts from a blank sheet of paper, looking at market white spaces for opportunities and forming teams to generate strong brands and businesses to meet those opportunities. M13’s talent pipeline is impressive, and what M13 has proven to do well is invest in great founding teams. Launchpad will continue to do that and enable a path to entrepreneurship by helping entrepreneurs build where there is white space.
For a studio building new brands for consumers, there are many important problems that 2020 has shone a light on, and that entrepreneurs can solve. It has been astounding to witness the speed of innovation this year in digital education, consumer digital health, mental wellness, remote work, social media and community, restaurant tech, gaming, consumer fintech, and other sectors fueled by the pandemic. Other areas that excite me:
Solutions for working mothers: I’m very concerned about the data indicating the pandemic has adversely affected the careers of women—particularly mothers—far more than men. There’s a huge need for solutions to the challenges of childcare, housework, meal preparation, and the “mental load” borne disproportionately by women to run the household.
Portfolio work platforms: Our economy is moving from “gig work” to “portfolio work,” where people have multiple income streams from different projects and activities. Managed marketplaces, payment platforms, and services that help workers find work and get paid for what they do are interesting.
DTC brand ecosystem: I’ve always been interested in companies that help DTC brands build better direct customer relationships. Given M13’s talent at launching strong brands, this focus area could be a great complement to the existing portfolio.
It’s particularly energizing to take on this challenge at the end of 2020, during which a global pandemic, economic disruption, and a cultural reckoning about race have given us a glimpse of the future that’s coming.
Committing to diversity, equity, and inclusion
Another principle that will carry forward to my work at M13 is my commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. At Techstars LA, we backed 40 companies, 30 of which were founded by women, Black, or Latinx founders. This focus on DEI is a smart investment strategy; every company that went through Techstars LA successfully attracted follow-on capital during or after the program, and many have achieved product-market fit and are experiencing rapid growth.
M13 is equally committed to backing underrepresented teams, which is reflected in its current portfolio: 30% have one or more female co-founders, and 30% have one or more co-founders from an underrepresented group. At Launchpad, we’ll bring diverse founding teams together to build companies in growing markets, including finding customer segments that are currently underserved.
There is no better place for M13’s Launchpad than Los Angeles. LA is home to a creative, diverse community of entrepreneurs and operators who want to make the world better. LA is also a center for innovation in everything from media to biotechnology, from proptech to food. As a tech community, we’re also committed to growing in a way that includes everyone—reflected in the work of PledgeLA, which M13 joined and where I’m a founding member of the Advisory Board. I’m looking forward to continuing to build that inclusive ecosystem and work alongside the M13 team to build great companies.
Photo caption: Moderating a M13-Techstars LA fireside chat with Jerry Colonna (right) in July 2019.