When most people think of startups, cities like San Francisco and New York come to mind.
Los Angeles, not so much.
But Mike Jones, the CEO and founder of startup studio Science, disagrees.
“I find there’s incredible talent here,” he says. “I’ve got a strong reputation here; it’s a natural place for me to be.”
Jones is probably on to something. Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti said in his 2013 inaugural speech that Los Angeles would give Silicon Valley a “run for their bitcoin.”
Secret-sharing app Whisper, privacy app Burner, and Snapchat have all set up shop in the area.
Jones, formerly a CEO at MySpace and an AOL executive, co-founded Science three years ago. Science invests, funds, and develops early-stage startups, and it forms deeper relationships with startups than your typical VC firm would.
Part of Science’s formula for success is something Jones calls Science’s “Growth Platform,” its internal technology platform and series of practices. Jones says Science’s Growth Platform is what’s responsible for helping to scale the startups Science has invested in, and for driving customer growth.
Jones says Science, which has already launched 25 startups, ended 2014 “having acquired, founded or invested in 18 portfolio companies generating over $US150M in 2014 total gross revenue.” You’re probably familiar with at least a couple of Science’s companies.
Subscription shaving startup DollarShaveClub raised a hefty $US50 Million Series C round in September, and announced in November that it now serves 8% of global razor shipments and has over a million members.
“As a brand guy, I have an originality problem with it,” Michael Dubin, the cofounder and CEO of DollarShaveClub, told Business Insider. “It implies that what’s happening ‘down here’ is just our version of what’s happening ‘up there.'”
Marketing firm HelloSociety, which connects the 300 most influential Pinners with brands like J.Crew and Madewell, reaches more than 36 million Pinterest users every month, and is responsible for more than 372,000 daily engagements on and off of Pinterest every day, Jones says.
And pet boarding marketplace DogVacay, which offers an alternative to dog kennels, raised a $US25 million Series B round in November, and later announced it had surpassed more than a million dog stays, making it the largest pet service company in the world.
Science is fixated on breathing life into antiquated industries — shaving, for example, or disrupting pet care — so it’s no surprise Jones says Science has developed a focus on millennials. “While our reach is broad because of our ability to market and grow companies across the most ubiquitous social destinations, at this point Science possesses the strongest portfolio of platforms and technologies enabling brands to reach millennials,” he says.
Science says it sets itself apart from traditional VC firms not only in its unique location, but also in its method of how it builds startups. Jones stresses that Science builds its companies internally to make them self-sustaining.
Whatever Science is doing, it’s working: Science has tripled its growth, marketing and finance teams in its Santa Monica headquarters, ending 2014 with 150 people on staff. Nearly one-third of Science’s portfolio became profitable in the last quarter of 2014, too.
“When we started Science, our vision was simple — build big companies by pairing operational all-stars with the most passionate entrepreneurs,” Jones says in a post on Medium. “Three years later, we’ve substantiated our formula of leveraging our network of companies across a spectrum of direct to consumer goods and services, with online growth and marketing companies to nurture an environment of experimentation and advancement.”