Since 1985 the Los Angeles Venture Association has been providing forums where entrepreneurs and executives of start-up, emerging growth and late stage venture funded companies actively meet and learn from fellow executives, investors, bankers, financial advisors and other providers of professional services. LAVA’s extensive slate of monthly Strategic Interest Group meetings and panel discussions feature exceptional presentations by prominent members of our investment, entrepreneurial, business and academic communities. The annual Meet the VC conference, First Look LA and the LAVA Awards Dinner are the region’s premiere forums on investment capital. LAVA also co-produces events with many of their affiliated organizations.
LAVA & BRYANT STIBEL
Giving Back to the Startup Ecosystem
Bryant Stibel’s goal since its inception has been to partner with visionary entrepreneurs and companies while also extending their impact to educational institutions and organizations that support the community and the startup ecosystem. From Bryant Stibel’s enduring relationship with Pepperdine University to the symbiotic startups they advise on a daily basis, Bryant Stibel’s commitment to helping others is a driving force behind their business.
It was a natural fit when Leonard Lanzi (aka Len), Executive Director of the Los Angeles Venture Association (LAVA) asked Jeff Stibel to be recognized as an honorary inductee into the LAVA Hall of Fame in 2017, joining the likes of other “godfathers of venture capital” such as Adam Miller (‘16) and Chuck Davis (‘15) more recently, as well as other notable figures such as former L.A. Mayor Richard Riordan (‘11) and Ideo Lab’s Bill Gross (‘08).
Lanzi’s role connects him with successful serial entrepreneurs in the community, and while he first met Jeff a few years earlier when Stibel and team had wrapped up the Dun & Bradstreet Credibility Corp deal, Len was introduced to the Bryant Stibel team that night and knew he wanted to work with them.
The time was right to reconnect. With Bryant Stibel gaining prominence in LAVA’s community, a productive partnership would begin to ensue between the two entities.
According to Lanzi, he could tell that LAVA and Bryant Stibel were aligned from the start as he points out, “The things that stick out in my mind in his acceptance speech were Jeff talking about the value that we have in this community and how if we all work together, we can make it better.”
After meeting Len at the LAVA awards dinner, Bryant Stibel Managing Partner Peter Delgrosso knew that Bryant Stibel could make a unique impact with LAVA. It didn’t take long before Pete became invaluable as a LAVA Board Member and Executive Committee Member, representing Bryant Stibel as an Institutional Venture Capital firm by offering up advice, participating in programs, bringing thought leadership, and giving back to the ecosystem where needed.
Lanzi reveals that engaging Pete benefitted the business trade association across multiple areas – from helping LAVA develop membership plans to revenue plans that help their bottom line. “What I love about Pete is he doesn’t just give lip service. He is a person that if he says he’s going to do something, not only does he do it, he does it 100-percent,” praises Lanzi. “It’s not just giving advice or telling people what to do, but he’s willing to sit and do the hard work, roll up his sleeves, and lead by example. That’s his style.” But he can also be strategic, says Lanzi. “He’s smart, he’s engaged, he opens doors and makes introductions to other firms, to other entrepreneurs. He’s an invaluable asset to the organization.”
Leading by example is Bryant Stibel’s style as well, notes Lanzi. “Bryant Stibel really led the charge by bringing themselves on as an Institutional Venture Partner with LAVA. They were one of the inaugural people to write a check to the organization and be part of it. We have three or four others that have followed their lead, so we needed that gateway to be opened.”
Pete’s work with LAVA has been beneficial for Lanzi not just in terms of style, but results – by devising “an accountability system that both measures the organization’s effectiveness and keeps people’s feet to the fire.”
The proactive nature of Pete and the team has helped Lanzi extend LAVA’s impact and give back to the startup ecosystem. Lanzi explains, “The thing I find about Jeff and Pete and the rest of the team there is that ‘no’ does not exist in their vocabulary. It’s always: ‘how can we help?’ I think that is a great example of how businesses can help nonprofits, how businesses can help their respective ecosystems, and just how to be a friendly ear to folks.” To Lanzi, this perspective is a true sign of being a leader in the venture capital community.
Because LAVA is a non-profit business trade organization, personnel is one area that needs significant help. Through Bryant Stibel’s relationship with Pepperdine, Pete facilitated an introduction that led LAVA to bring in several classes of interns for big projects, such as “analyzing data over the past 10 years of companies that have participated with LAVA and where they are in their lifecycle,” reveals Lanzi. This analysis was presented in the interns’ report where “We took a snapshot of specific programs and did a year-to-year analysis of how many of those companies are still in business; how many have gone out of business; how much money they raised, and what’s been their success matrix,” details Lanzi.
As for the future of the partnership between Bryant Stibel and LAVA, Pete is currently in the third year of a six-year term on the board. But Lanzi sees bigger things for LAVA and Pete, “I see him being a future president of LAVA quite frankly if that is something he chooses to do,” admits Lanzi. “As long as I’m around, I’d like to keep him by my side. He’s willing to speak up and when he speaks, he asks how we can support LAVA and help as board members. He’s a cheerleader for me, he’s helpful to me, he’s interested in my success, and I think the way he treats me is probably indicative of how he works with the partners that they invest in from a company standpoint.”
Reflecting on his work with the Bryant Stibel team, Lanzi reveals that it’s the people behind the organization that make the partnership with LAVA the most rewarding. “They’re good people. I trust them. They have heart and those are the type of people I like to work with… They make me feel like I’m part of the family.”
With their mutual commitment to giving back, Lanzi foresees an impactful and enduring partnership with the Bryant Stibel family, explaining “Jeff has a long view of how to increase the economic viability of the places that he lives in and wants to give back to the community. LAVA is just one part of Bryant Stibel’s plan in keeping this engine going, knowing that the things that we do reflect back to the community and ultimately help everybody.”