Tech hard­ware start-ups sought

Los Angeles Times - - BUSINESS BEAT - By Paresh Dave paresh.dave@la­ Twit­ter: @peard33

Los An­ge­les’ tech­nol­ogy com­mu­nity is get­ting what’s be­ing billed as its only men­tor­ship pro­gram for hard­ware-mak­ing start-ups.

Make in LA plans to in­vest in and ac­cel­er­ate the devel­op­ment of 45 start-ups over the next three years. They could be de­sign­ers of move­ment-track­ing wrist­bands, whip-smart ro­bots, med­i­cal de­vices or lon­grange drones. What­ever the hard­ware, Make In LA wants to spot com­pa­nies that could some­day be worth $500 mil­lion or more, like vir­tual-re­al­ity head­gear maker Ocu­lus VR and cam­era man­u­fac­tur­ers Drop­cam and Go­Pro.

3-D print­ing and the fall­ing costs of elec­tron­ics have led to what many in tech see as a resur­gence in hard­ware devel­op­ment. Ac­cess to man­u­fac­tur­ing or mar­ket­ing ex­perts and even mas­sive fac­to­ries and top-of-the­line equip­ment could help get those start-ups off the ground quicker, said Shaun Arora, an early-stage in­vestor who came up with the idea for Make in LA.

Arora is a direc­tor of mar­ket­ing at his fam­ily’s com­pany Neo Tech­nol­ogy Solu- tions, a 40-year-old busi­ness that makes dis­plays, pro­fes­sional au­dio equip­ment and cochlear im­plants, among other items. It’s based in Chatsworth, with about a dozen of­fices world­wide.

Start-ups that join Make in LA for a four-month pro­gram will be based in a por­tion of the Chatsworth fa­cil­ity that’s be­ing ren­o­vated.

“Hav­ing a high-en­ergy pro­to­type space right next to our head­quar­ters is go­ing to change the cul­ture, and will be great for show­ing off to vis­i­tors,” Arora said of why Neo Tech­nol­ogy was will­ing to do­nate space and equip­ment with­out tak­ing shares in the start-ups.

Arora plans to se­cure $10 mil­lion from in­vestors this sum­mer, which would al­low Make in LA to put at least $75,000 into each start-up in ex­change for a 7.5% stake. Make in LA has re­ceived 10 ap­pli­ca­tions and hopes to at­tract 500 can­di­dates by Aug. 1 for the first 10 spots.

He’s run­ning Make in LA with Jor­dan McCol­lom, an ex­pert on rais­ing money through Kick­starter, and No­ra­may Cadena, a co­founder of Lati­nas in STEM Foun­da­tion.

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