Marlon Nichols Featured in TechCrunch

By Jonathan Schieber @ TechCrunch 

The Los Angeles startup scene has come a long way in the three-and-a-half years since Marlon Nichols, Troy Carter and Trevor Thomas launched Cross Culture Ventures. The city and its surrounding Orange County exurbs were at the beginning of a venture capital surge that has seen invested capital in the region rise from $3.63 billion in 2015to $6 billion last year.

Since Cross Culture landed on the Los Angeles scene with a $50 million fund, Nichols and his partners have notched three exits and seen the paper value of the fund’s portfolio grow by an aggregate of 2,085 percent, according to people with knowledge of the firm.

And Nichols and his partners have done it by backing one of the most diverse pools of startup founders in any firm’s portfolio.



Hustle and Motivate, By Austin Clements

by Austin Clements

It has been a rough couple weeks since the City of Los Angeles was rocked by the death of Nipsey Hussle.

Since his passing, most media coverage eulogized him as an entertainer who just came off a Grammy nomination for Best Rap Album. It’s a meaningful milestone, but that description misses his most important contributions to the city. His music combined stories from the streets with thoughtful insights about personal and community wealth. But it wasn’t just talk, Nipsey was a living model for economic development in South LA.

Slauson Ave Soldier Raised

Nipsey grew up an LA native and frequently talked about Slauson Ave as a central part of his story. In fact, the LA Times did a great feature on his relationship with the street. It shaped him just liked it shaped so many others.

Slauson is my favorite street in all of Los Angeles. My appreciation for it comes from what it represents in our community. On one side, Slauson goes straight through South Central LA, an under-resourced area often overlooked for its economic potential. On the other side of Slauson you’ll find neighborhoods that represent the highest concentration of black wealth in the entire country (Ladera Heights, Baldwin Hills, View Park, etc). Slauson is the only street in LA that connects all those communities. Read the full post here.

I grew up right off Slauson so it has always been clear to me how those communities are inextricably linked. The people who lived off Slauson, both east and west of Crenshaw, held a lot of the same values and ambitions, but not the same access or opportunity. Nipsey’s success was so indicative of what can come from the area when you combine unique talents and dedication with a desire to serve your own community.

Ain’t really trip off the credit, I just paid all of my dues

Nipsey was creating new businesses, buying local businesses, and partnering on a couple of game-changing efforts. His understanding of ownership started with the music, where Nipsey passed on seemingly lucrative record label deals because he decided it was important to retain ownership of all of his masters. Today this decision is paying off many times over, because his music has risen to the top of the charts since his death. All the money goes to his family, which is one reason all his old fans are warmly welcoming all the new fans.

But in his early days, alongside the music, Nipsey and his brother sold T Shirts on the corner of Slauson and Crenshaw, which turned into them opening a store called Slauson Tees in a strip mall on that same corner. The store eventually became The Marathon and soared in popularity. Still Nipsey remained dedicated to the community, often hiring people from the neighborhood including the formerly incarcerated because they often couldn’t get honest work elsewhere.

Most recently Nipsey opened up Vector90, the first modern co-working space in SouthLA, located just off Slauson, between Van Ness and Western. It’s a couple blocks away from Harvard Park, which has been described in the media as one of the most dangerous areas in LA. But for me, Harvard Park was a place of nurturing and growth. It’s the park where I learned how to play tennis when I was growing up. I still play there on occasion.

With the addition of Vector90, this previously overlooked area will become ground zero for the tech community in SouthLA. It will bring ambitious entrepreneurs together in a safe and supportive space, where they can collaborate on ideas and learn from each other.

This concentration of talent will become a center of gravity which attracts financial resources and city support to the area. Nipsey and this co-working space paved the way for other efforts that are in development that will touch down nearby. I honestly believe Vector90 will impact the surrounding community for generations to come.

Quote me on all this, I got a lot more to prove

Read the full post here.


Urban Tech Connect 2019 – Register Now

Once again, it’s on. Urban Tech Connect returns Thursday, May 16, to the Nate Holden Performing Arts Center. Designed to nurture up and coming founders and taking place in your own backyard, this conference will be attended by a number of prominent Venture Capitalists that are eager to help you succeed. Whether you’re looking for investors, help refining your technology or potential business partners, look no further than Urban Tech Connect.


Plug In South L.A.’s Urban Tech Connect Gears Up For 2019


By Linette Coste (Plug In South LA)

A different type of conference for those who think differently.

LOS ANGELES (January 15, 2019) – On May 16, Plug in South L.A. will host Urban Tech
Connect 2019, the premier conference for the next generation of tech entrepreneurs
to connect, collaborate, create and receive counsel.

Held at the Nate Holden Performing Arts Theatre, the day-long conference is the
largest gathering of African-American and Latino founders in Southern California.
Sessions will focus on empowering and connecting local tech entrepreneurs and
founders to help fuel economic development and revitalization in South Los Angeles
around sectors that are shaping the future of the area.

“Urban Tech Connect is all about bringing tech leaders together to collaborate,
create, and empower,” said Derek Smith. “Success comes from diversity of thought,
and there is a growing network ready to make something happen in Los Angeles’s
innovation economy.”

Expected attendees range from students to start up founders. In addition to gaining
valuable insights into strategy and growth, attendees will participate in
comprehensive sessions that help address the unique challenges people of color face
as entrepreneurs. Successful venture capitalists, professional resources and other
founders and executives will also attend.

Last year’s speakers include such local and national leaders such as Eric Garcetti, the
mayor of Los Angeles, Matt Barnes, NBA champion and investor and Amy DuBoi
Barnett, Chief Content Officer for TheGrio and former Editor-in-Chief of Ebony.
“We have to make sure the [tech] industry reflects us,” said Garcetti at the 2018
Urban Tech Connect Conference. “L.A. is a place that we’ve tried to make sure that
everybody feels like they belong.”

Urban Tech Connect is a partner with Verizon Wireless, CISCO brothers, Amazon Web
Services – We Power Tech, TechStars and Los Angeles Urban League.
About Plug In South Los Angeles

Plug In brings together entrepreneurs, founders, VCs, innovators and emerging talent
for conversations and networking focused on creating a community and hub for
innovation in South LA. Come join our kick off Tech Summit and Digital Media program
in our movement to identify and accelerate the beautiful in tech and digital media.
For more information, go to


Checking In With digitalundivided Ahead Of Its Fourth BIG Incubator


By Monique Wingard (Afrotech)

In 2018, the energy behind catch phrases and hashtags like “The Future is Female” seemed to be limitless, and that movement seems to have gained more vigor with the election of President Donald Trump. A record breaking number of women were elected to state and local office in 2018, and we’re seeing more and more women in leadership roles.

But if you take a close look at the representation of Black and Latinx women in tech and among the ranks of well-funded entrepreneurs, it seems to be more of the same. DigitalUndivided(DID) wants to change that.

In 2013, DID founder Kathryn Finney made her dream of seeing more successful women of color in business a reality. That vision was DigitalUndivided (DID). Lead by Finney and her all woman leadership team, DID focuses on three primary areas: Research, Knowledge and Community. Finney’s work has continued with the development of Project Diane, a study taking a closer look at the state of Black women in the innovation space.

Now in 2019, DID will be welcoming its fourth cohort in its BIG Incubator—a program for Black and Latinx female-led startups. Soon, thousands of women across the country will be vying for the opportunity to take part in this 30-week, curriculum based experience in Atlanta, GA. However, only 20 startups will be chosen to receive assistance from industry leaders to turn their idea into a viable business.

We spoke to DID’s Director of Community, Darlene Gillard to learn more about BIG and the work being done to ensure another year of successful training for future women of color in tech.

If you have been wondering what “BIG” stands for, it’s not an acronym. The leaders of DID wanted to use it as a motivator for women to “Think BIG. Be BIG, and do BIG thangs!”

What makes 2019 more exciting than previous years of BIG?

This year, we’re running the BIG Incubator program in TWO different cities (Atlanta and Newark). We’re very excited about opening the new BIG Innovation Center, a 4000 sq.ft. space in downtown Newark, along with our groundbreaking center in downtown Atlanta (We have Oprah wallpaper!). It’s an honor to have the opportunity to reach more communities and to serve more Black and Latinx women, especially since people have been asking us about expanding to their cities for years. We also work with amazing pathway partners, who provide the “next step” to BIG founders, including the global accelerator, Techstars, and social enterprise pioneers, Echoing Green.

As with any project that deals with constantly shifting facts, stats, and outcomes (like diversity, funding, and data on women of color in tech), are there any new focuses for the next cohort?

digitalundivided has a bold mission, to create a world where women, especially Black and Latinx women, own our work. The BIG incubator focuses on finding great founders first, many of whom are new to the world of startups, and equip them with skill sets that will allow them to thrive. The heart of the BIG program is how to build a successful business, regardless of how the startup landscape changes.

Last year, there were mixed opinions shared by some leading women of color in tech regarding access to capital. Do you or the leaders of digitalundivided think that the landscape looks bleak for women of color who may require funding to take their business to the next level?

Funding avenues for women of color exist, though obviously not as many as there ought to be. The fact remains that it’s still relatively better than how things were back when we published the first ProjectDiane report and that infamous .2% statistic in 2016. For instance, our research in ProjectDiane shows that the total amount raised by Black women increased 500%, from approximately $50 million in 2016 to close to $250 million in 2017. That is positive. However, that $250 million is approximately .0006% of the $427 BILLION raised in total venture funds since 2009.

With the growing attention to the lack of inclusiveness in the space, coupled with the increase of visibility among successful WOC-led startup companies, we’re hoping we can sustain, if not expand, the access to capital of these founders.

Do you have any encouraging words for women of color just getting started on their entrepreneurial journey?

As women of color, we tend to feel pressured to always win in order to prove ourselves to the world. Know that it’s okay to stumble around a bit, or to not get everything right the first time. The best entrepreneurs aren’t those who haven’t failed or made any mistakes, but those who worked through hardships, even pivoting if they had to.

Ladies, if you have been looking for the perfect next step for your business, get your applications in today! The deadline is February 8, 2019–or until every slot is filled. Make sure you take a look at the FAQ first. Click here to apply or visit for more information.


Urban Tech Connect Set for May 16th, 2019!


Wheels are in motion to create community around innovation in South LA to support the next generation of creators, entrepreneurs and Founders coming out of South Los Angeles and underserved communities like it.

We’re excited to announce Urban Tech Connect will kick off on May 16th, 2019. Click here to sign up for early registration now!

Urban Tech Connect – Collaborate, Create, Empower


Calling all business minded professionals, founders, students and stakeholders in South Los Angeles. Urban Tech Connect is the premier conference for the next generation of tech entrepreneurs to connect, collaborate, create and receive counsel. It’s a day of empowerment. It’s a way to get plugged in. And it’s an opportunity to show the world that it’s all right here. Come join the largest gathering in SOCAL of African American and Latino Founders as they show you how to:

  • Fine tune your strategy for fundraising
  • Target angels and VCs to raise money
  • Overcome your fears and insecurities as a founder of color
  • Develop your go to market strategy
  • Think about opportunities in automation and how they might impact your business
  • Keep it moving even when the odds are against you
  • Vet alternative options to raising funds for your business
  • Develop tactics and strategies for product growth

You will meet:

  • Angles, VCs, & Successful Entrepreneurs
  • Professional resources (Banking partners, Legal advice, Incubators / Accelerator directors)
  • Other Founders and Executives that make up LA’s tech and digital media ecosystem
  • City Officials, Non-Profit and Philanthropic stakeholders in Los Angeles who want to see more diverse faces in LA’s innovation economy

Click here to sign up for early registration!


2019 Founder Lunch and Learn Series TBA in the coming weeks

Hope everyone is off to a great start in the New Year! We’ll be announcing our dates for this year’s lunch and learn series. We have some new updates and layers to help Founders execute on their GTM strategy as well as fine tuning how they go out and raise funds for their seed levels. Check back in the coming weeks for dates and announcements. Also, note the date for Urban Tech Connect this year is May 16th, 2019 at the Nate Holden Performing Arts Center. If lunch and lears are new to you, here’s a quick recap:

What is the goal of a Lunch  and Learn Meeting at Plug In South LA? 

Plug-In Lunch and Learns are designed to help cultivate the next generation of founders and entrepreneurs in Los Angeles. Our meetings and workshops take place in South LA and around Los Angeles at leading VC firms, corporations, entertainment, and digital media studios . If you’d like to be a featured presenter at one our programs, please get in touch by providing the information below. We’ll review and get in touch if we think we can help.

What Founders & VCs have to say: 

The lunch and learn series gives entrepreneurs a chance to workshop their vision with a hand-picked group of insightful founders and venture professionals without the added pressure of a formal pitch. Its particularly helpful for minority founders because we often lack the organic networks in tech that provide opportunities for open discussion and informal feedback. In an arena where access is the prime mover, there is tremendous value in the rare opportunity to just be heard.

Jibril Jackson, Co-Founder of HYVE

I’ve enjoyed participating in Derek Smith’s lunch and learn series via Plug in South LA.  For me, it’s a great opportunity to contribute to the growing entrepreneurial fabric of Los Angeles and to connect with emerging entrepreneurs and underrepresented founders in an open dialogue about their businesses.  I learned a lot in my first lunch and learn experience and look forward to participating again in the future.

I’ve enjoyed participating in Derek Smith’s lunch and learn series via Plug in South LA.  For me, it’s a great opportunity to contribute to the growing entrepreneurial fabric of Los Angeles and to connect with emerging entrepreneurs and underrepresented founders in an open dialogue about their businesses.  I learned a lot in my first lunch and learn experience and look forward to participating again in the future.

Cody Simms, Techstars

As a VC I typically don’t have the time to give every founder I speak with as much in-depth, actionable feedback as I would like, but the Lunch & Learn series solves this through a dedicated working session. It creates an intimate environment where early stage investors and successful entrepreneurs can provide guidance to the founders who need it most. Many of the founders have made progress by turning their ideas into real products, but the Lunch and Learn series is designed to strategically take that business to the next level.

Austin Clements, TenOneTen Ventures

“Candid and honest feedback is something that isn’t easy to come by. PISA provided that and has since allowed me to look at Playbook Five from a refined and more succinct perspective.”

Jason Robinson, Founder of Playbook 5 




Facebook and the National Urban League Will Team Up to Offer Digital Training in 13 Cities

By  (Adweek)

The National Urban League is doing its part to help Facebook achieve its goal of training 1 million people and small businesses in digital skills by 2020.

Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg and National Urban League president Marc Morial announced at the National Urban League’s Annual Conference in Columbus, Ohio, that the two organizations are teaming up to provide digital skills training to entrepreneurs and small business owners in 13 cities across the U.S., starting next year.

The National Urban League is also joining Facebook as a national advisor.

Facebook will offer in-person training in conjunction with local Urban League chapters in those 13 cities, giving attendees the opportunity to learn Facebook tools including pages, Messenger and Instagram, as well as access to free online support.

The cities are: Atlanta; Baltimore; Chicago; Cincinnati; Cleveland; Houston; Jacksonville, Fla.; Kansas City, Mo.; Las Vegas; Los Angeles; New Orleans; Philadelphia; and Washington, D.C.

Sandberg said in a statement, “Facebook wants to help more people benefit from the opportunities being created by technology. That’s why we made a commitment to train 1 million people and small businesses across the country in digital skills by 2020. We’re honored to do this work in partnership with the National Urban League, who will help us reach the underserved communities who need it most. Together, we’re offering two trainings per year at 13 National Urban League locations in cities nationwide. They’re also joining us as an advisor to help us create more opportunities for small businesses from underserved communities. We’re grateful to partner with such an effective civil rights organization helping change lives for the better.”


Ron Johnson, Co-Founder of Grolens, Scores 100K Seed Investment From Mucker Capital

At Plug In South LA, we know the talent exists locally and is ready to be harvested and cultivated.  That said, we’re excited to announce that Ron Johnson, South LA resident and Co-Founder of Grolens,  has secured a $100K in seed funding from Mucker Capital.  Ron is a recent participant in Plug-In South LA’s lunch and learn series.  He was also featured in Complex New’s recap of our Urban Tech Connect conference this past May.

We’re incredibly excited a Founder from and in South Los Angeles is developing traction with his SAAS based platform to help Cannabis growers efficiently manage and monetize their inventories.

This is the early beginning of tech in South Los Angeles and communities like it.

The fundraising journey is not an easy path for those Founders that don’t fit the stereotypical profile of what a successful entrepreneur looks like (the journey is tough even for those who do) but we’re excited to share in Ron’s accomplishment.

We know there are more announcements in the works and excited about Grolen’s journey to continue to raise funds and grow market share.

Founders: Sign up to present at our Lunch and Learn series.  Join the Plug In South LA Community.

PISLA Community: Get involved with Plug-In South LA. Help us foster and support Founders who look like Ron and come from communities like South Los Angeles.



Tech Demo: Tavio Hobson, Founder and CEO of Trufl

Tavio Hobson, Founder and CEO of Trufl gives a tech demo at Urban Tech Connect.

#urbantechconnect #pluginsouthla