USC Backs New Tech Startups Grow

UTA, venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers launch Viterbi Startup Garage to back new media ventures.

Los Angeles has long sought to create its own version of Silicon Valley called Silicon Beach. But its strategy has relied mostly on coaxing companies to move here.

The University of Southern California is now looking to change that and encourage graduates or alumni to launch their own local technology startups.

United Talent Agency and venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers have paired up with USC to back the Viterbi Startup Garage, a so-called “technology accelerator” that will provide financial grants, strategic guidance and mentorship to an initial round of 10 companies. In return for the investment, partners will own 4% of the companies.

KPCB has already funded more than 500 ventures including, Amazon and Google, while UTA has helped incubate and advise startups like AwesomenessTV, Andover Games, Playcast, Gold Run, Media Morph, Kevita and e-commerce site ShopHers.

New Viterbi-backed startups will work out of USC’s Information Sciences Institute in Marina del Rey for 12 weeks beginning May 28. Each team selected for the summer program will receive $20,000 to produce a working prototype by the end of the summer, or have a detailed plan in place for production.

USC undergraduate or graduate students or alumni who graduated in the past five years are eligible to apply now through April 22.

“We are very excited to provide our students world-class opportunities and resources by launching the first Los Angeles accelerator backed by a prominent University,” said Ashish Soni, executive director of digital innovation and founding director of the Viterbi Student Innovation Institute at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering. “We believe that KPCB and UTA are ideal partners, given KPCB’s unparalleled track record in identifying and advising phenomenal entrepreneurs, and UTA’s track record in providing early-stage companies strategic assistance across a number of categories.”

Idea for the startup garage, conceived by Soni, came about as a way to generate more jobs for USC’s Viterbi School of Engineering, which was seeing more of its students leave L.A., and even California, for jobs after they graduated. School has 1,800 undergraduate and 3,800 graduate students.

Goal is to incubate the largest technology company in Los Angeles in the next five years.

UTA sparked to the idea, which also saw it an opportunity to identify new talent to represent as it grows its in-house digital media biz.

“We have been proudly advising technology startups for many years, and the Startup Garage will give us an opportunity to be even more hands-on with inspiring entrepreneurs who are working on groundbreaking ideas,” said Brent Weinstein, head of digital media, UTA. “So many early-stage companies are media focused or media adjacent, that we feel Los Angeles is the ideal place to launch an accelerator in partnership with world class partners like USC and KPCB.”

USC is also working with L.A.-based Dun & Bradstreet Credibility Corp. to sponsor and support other initiatives within the Viterbi Student Innovation Institute in and out of the classroom.

“Talent is global, and we are very impressed by the quality of engineers emerging from USC’s Viterbi School,” said Mike Abbott, general partner at KPCB. “The partnership with USC and UTA is an example of our intensifying efforts to identify and nurture the next-generation of technology leaders wherever they are in the world, adding to our strong track record of organizing and supporting pioneering development programs to build scalable successful businesses.”

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