Google Startup Grind comes to Santa Clarita

Loot Crate co-founder and chief experience officer Matthew Arevalo was the featured guest at the first Google Startup Grind in Santa Clarita, held Sept. 12.

“At Startup Grind, we believe in making friends, not contacts,” said James McKinney, vice president of strategic growth at Status Not Quo, a Santa Clarita-based marketing firm, which is hosting the Startup Grind events.

“We believe in giving, not taking. We believe in helping others before helping yourself. We are truly passionate about helping founders, entrepreneurs and startups succeed. We intend to make their startup journey less lonely, more connected and more memorable.”

James McKinney of Status Not Quo interviews Matthew Arevalo, co-founder of Loot Crate, at Google Startup Grind’s inaugural Santa Clarita event last month. Patrick Mullen/The Signal

At the event, budding entrepreneurs have a chance to hear the story of a successful startup from a founder while sharing ideas and experiences with each other.

Loot Crate’s 675,000 subscribers receive a box of geek and gaming-related merchandise each month. In 2016, Loot Crate raised $18.5 million in Series A funding, led by UpFront Ventures, with participation from Breakwater Investment Management, Time Inc., Downey Ventures, M13 and Sterling VC.

Loot Crate began as an idea at a Startup Weekend hackathon in 2012, a 54-hour event designed to give entrepreneurs a chance to hone and pitch their ideas to a panel of judges.

They finished fourth. “The judges didn’t get the concept, but people were giving us money the first day,” Arevalo said. “But we had 220 paying customers signed up to receive the first box within 30 days.”

Loot Crate was Inc. Magazine’s fastest growing private company in 2016 with $116 million in sales, but that growth has since stalled as it has entered numerous niche markets. The company has laid off more than a quarter of its workforce since last year.

On Oct. 17, the featured guest will be Larry Namer, co-founder of E! Entertainment Television, launched 30 years ago as Movietime, and Metan Global Entertainment Group, a “China-centric transformational media, entertainment and strategic development company,” according to its website.

The goal of Startup Grind, McKinney said, is to educate and mentor entrepreneurs through monthly business events and speaking series. “If you’re not in the grind or haven’t been through it, it’s difficult to understand what it’s like.” He has worked with other Startup Grinds over more than eight years working with startups.

“The value of these events is to be able to hear from someone who is further down the road, to hear how they overcame challenges,” McKinney said. “They bring that entire story of their startup. What were your conversations with potential investors like? How much bad money did you chase? What was it like when you got the financing?”

Derek Andersen and Spencer Nielsen founded Startup Grind in 2010. The company grew out casual meetings Andersen had with friends and fellow entrepreneurs in his office at a startup in Mountain View, about being an entrepreneur.

Startup Grind’s first event was held in Andersen’s Mountain View office with nine attendees. From a side project, Startup Grind became Andersen’s main business “when he realized his meetups were more successful than his startup,” McKinney said.

In 2011, it spread to Los Angeles and New York City. By March 2017, Startup Grind had a presence in 200 cities and 98 countries, according to its website.

In 2013, Google for Entrepreneurs came in as a global sponsor and technology provider to Startup Grind. Google for Entrepreneurs was launched in 2012 to connect and encourage startups around the world, by making it easier for entrepreneurs to use the search giant’s various products.

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