5 Sizzling Silicon Beach Startups to Watch

By:  | March 7, 2014 (Featured on Entrepreneur.com)

Los Angeles’ rising tech startup scene is blowing up beyond Silicon Beach.

Once little more than an over-hyped nickname, Silicon Beach now sprawls outside of coastal Santa Monica and Venice deep into downtown L.A., Hollywood, Culver City and as far north as Pasadena. Startup Genome recently ranked the area third among the world’s leading startup ecosystems, behind Silicon Valley and Tel Aviv.

More and more tech startups are flocking to Tinseltown and the surrounding areas, not unlike aspiring actors hoping to snag their big break in “the biz.” Some fizzle out like one-hit wonders. Others explode into overnight viral hits, like Snapchat and Tinder.

Even tech colossi like Facebook and Google set up shop beneath our blazing sun and trademark palms. But it’s the fledgling startups, the wannabe big apps and e-tailers, driving Silicon Beach’s exponential growth. The area’s 18 or so startup accelerators and 30-plus incubators can also take a hefty slice of the credit.

Here are five startups burning up the Silicon Beach scene right now:

1. GoCoin
Singapore and Santa Monica-based GoCoin is seriously making bank in the fast-growing digital currency payments industry. So much so that it’s taking over the entire 7,000-square-foot third floor of Santa Monica’s historic landmark Keller Block Building. The ambitious international virtual currency payment transaction service, which bills itself as “the PayPal of Bitcoin,” signed a multi-year office lease just this week.

Not bad, considering that CEO Steve Beauregard got GoCoin off the ground less than a year ago, in July 2013. Only four months later, the company announced that it raised a seed round of more than $550,000 — including cash from former Amazon and Facebook exec Owen Van Natta — to help it become the “first truly open and international platform to facilitation the purchase of goods and services across the world bought with Bitcoin.”

GoCoin also claims to be the first company to accept Litecoin, a spinoff of Bitcoin, world’s first peer-to-peer cryptocurrency.

2. BloomNation
BloomNation, a Beverly Hills-based Etsy-style fresh flowers e-tailer, works with 2,000 florists to deliver locally sourced hand-picked blooms to some 3,000 cities across the U.S. The progressive Silicon Beach service claims to be the first ever florist to accept Bitcoin payments.

Founded by David Daneshgar, Farbod Shoraka and Gregg Weisstein in 2011, the startup directly connects customers with local florists who showcase their unique specialty floral arrangements within Bloom Nations gorgeous, Pinterest-like online marketplace. The images the florists upload have to be their own shots that they’ve taken themselves. Stock and catalog images don’t make the cut.

Daneshgar, a former World Series of Poker champion, scored the company’s initial seed funding, when he took all at a Los Angeles poker tournament. The money funded the beta launch of BloomNation, which has now raised some $1.65 million in seed funding from Andreessen Horowitz, CrunchFund, Spark Capital and Chicago Ventures.

3. Vow to be Chic
Vow to be Chic founder Kelsey Doorey is always a bridesmaid. She’s played the role six times, to be exact. The UCLA Anderson School of Management graduate knows what it’s like to blow a ton of cash on one-time-wear wedding apparel, so she created an online bridesmaid dress rental service that lets ladies get dressed for the best friend’s big day for a fraction of the usual cost, without sacrificing style. Bridal parties shop Vow to be Chic together to find the right designer dresses, which affordably range from $95 to $125.

Doorey launched the Santa Monica-based online rental business in April 2013, only a month after clinching first place — and some $17,000 in venture capital — in UCLA’s Knapp Venturestartup competition. Vow to be Chic, along with marketing automation firm Bridg, a fellow Silicon Beach upstart, was one of three finalists to compete in yesterday’s Oasis Summit Shark Tank-style startup Moneyball competition. Palo Alto, Calif.-based Deep Forest Media captured won the contest and, eventually, all the venture capital cash spoils, too.

4. TigerText
This Santa Monica-based hopeful wants to secure your text messages with “industrial grade” encryption. TigerText is a multi-platform (Android, iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Mac or PC) real-time messaging enterprise application specifically designed to let coworkers securely text and share photos with each other.

TigerText users can also securely send cloud storage files from Google, Box and Dropbox. Like Snapchat, TigerText messages, which comply with industry-specific privacy regulations like HIPAA and SOX, self-destruct after a user-determined preset period of time.

The company was co-founded in 2011 in by Brad Brooks, the brain behind the anonymous secret-sharing Whisper app, his orthopedic surgeon brother Andrew Brooks and tech entrepreneur Jeffrey Evans, now of Buskin Entertainment.

5. Whisper
TigerText’s Brad Brooks launched Whisper, a controversial gossip- and secret-sharing app, with his childhood friend and neighbor Michael Heyword in March 2012. The app is a lot like its scandalous successor Secret, lets users anonymously spill revealing confessions about their work and private lives, or whatever else they can’t hold back.

Whisper whisperers can post, share, and “heart” (like) tawdry, freeing gems like “My patient is being a totally *itch, so I just faked giving her pain medication.” and “Yesterday was my first day working for Starbucks and last night I slept with a coworker.” There’s no way to know if they are real or made up, but it’s fun to guess and wonder.

And apparently 18- to 24-year olds like spilling their guts on Whisper a heck of a lot — 3.5 billion page views per month a lot. The company says their spending an average of 25 minutes per day using the free iOS and Android app. Last September Whisper raised $21 million in a funding round led by Sequoia Capital.

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