12 local entrepreneurs who just can’t stop starting up

Written by John Siegel
Published on Aug. 30, 2017
12 local entrepreneurs who just can’t stop starting up

Successfully building a business is hard. Doing so on more than one occasion is a completely different story. Even still, a handful of local entrepreneurs have opted to start their second, third and even fourth business ventures right here in the City of Angels.


One of the most successful LA natives in tech, Gil Elbaz graduated from CalTech in the early ’90s. His first startup, Applied Semantics, was acquired back in 2003 by Google. After a few years as engineering director at Google Santa Monica, Elbaz went on to found data tech startup Factual. In addition to his work as a founder, Elbaz is also a partner of LA-based TenOneTen Ventures, an early-stage venture capital firm that boasts a number of local startups in its portfolio.


Eytan Elbaz, younger brother of Gil, co-founded Applied Semantics and worked for four years at Google following the acquisition. After taking a few years off to focus on his angel investments, Elbaz helped found three of LA’s brightest startupsScopely, Render Media and Social Native. Between May and July of this year, Scopely and Social Native raised a collective $68 million.


Since launching in 2013, Beautycounter has established itself as one of the premier e-commerce brands in the beauty and cosmetic industry. The company, which develops products carefully formulated to exclude ingredients linked to a number of diseases, was founded by Gregg Renfrew, who had previously founded The Wedding List, which was acquired by Martha Stewart in 2001. After the acquisition, Renfrew relocated to LA where she established a retail consultancy and served as CEO of Best & Co. before eventually founding Beautycounter.


Veteran software engineer and entrepreneur Mark Douglas started his career in the Bay Area in the early ’90s with Oracle before going on to found CenterView Software, which was acquired just three years later. Relocating to Los Angeles, Douglas spent time at eHarmony and the Rubicon Project before founding marketing powerhouse SteelHouse in 2009. In 2015, Douglas co-founded HomeMe, an app that streamlines the apartment rental process.


In 2012, right after graduating from college, Nanxi Liu co-founded Nanoly Bioscience, a company that developed a polymer designed to enable vaccines to survive without refrigeration. The same year, she co-founded Enplug, a software that allows businesses to manage and distribute content on their digital displays. In addition to her duties as co-founder and CEO, Liu also sits on the board of advisors for Covington Capital Management, a $2 billion investment management firm based in Los Angeles.


Chris DeWolfe is a titan of the LA tech community. Back in 2003, he co-founded MySpace, acting as CEO until 2009. Not long after that, he went on to co-found Culver City-based Jam City, which has developed into not only one of LA’s premier video game startups, but also one of the biggest tech companies in the area.


University of Southern California grad Ari Mir started and sold his first tech venture — a mobile social network called Mojungle — just a few short years after he left campus. Not long after that, he co-founded GumGum, one of the world’s leading in-image ad networks. His latest venture, Clutter, raised $64 million back in June to change the storage industry.


Cam Kashani, co-founder and CEO of Santa Monica-based COACCEL, is a staple in the LA tech community, having founded CoLoft, a coworking space which housed early teams from Fullscreen, Uber LA and Instacart, among others.   


In 2014, Lithium Technologies acquired San Francisco-based social media analytics startup Klout for $200 million. Co-founder and CEO Joe Fernandez stayed on with the company for a year before stepping back to work on an unnamed new business venture. Last October, Fernandez reemerged with the news of LA-based Joymode, a company that rents out all the stuff you wish you had — bounce houses, movie projectors, giant Jenga sets — but don’t have space for.


Jon Zweig, along with co-founders Randy Saaf and Octavio Herrera, founded one of LA tech’s biggest success stories in AdColony back in 2008. Six years later, the trio sold the company for $350 million. After a couple years recharging his batteries, Zweig got back into the startup game with AppOnboard in May 2016.


It’s safe to say that Lucid Sight co-founders Randy Saaf and Octavio Herrera enjoy working with each other. After founding MediaDefender and AlphaGenius together, the duo co-founded AdColony with Jonathan Zweig. After AdColony’s acquisition, Zweig invested in Lucid Sight, while Saaf and Herrera invested in Zweig’s new venture, AppOnboard.


Prior to founding Sense360, a startup that collects massive quantities of data for businesses in the casual restaurant industry, Eli Portnoy launched Culver City-based Thinknear, a location-based mobile advertising platform that was acquired by Telenav for $22.5 million. In April, Sense360 raised $7 million from Firstmark, Qualcomm Ventures and Upfront Ventures to grow its team.

Images via social media.

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