SECOND STREET — Where can you find a mobile application that makes dating easier or pick a chef who can whip up a gourmet lunch or dinner in the comfort of your own home?
Santa Monica-based Science Media Inc., is a hybrid company and incubator that assembles, advises and acquires talented startups with the premise of working with entrepreneurs to help build their businesses or creating its own in-house companies.
Science, which will be two years old in October and is located on Second Street in Downtown, originally raised $10 million in venture capital to get off the ground, and a supplemental $30 million in February of this year.
Since its formation, Science has amassed various startups — 13 total — that include Let’s Date, a mobile dating app that connects people, and Fresh Dish, an in-house company that’s an on-demand personal chef service, providing restaurant quality meals directly to homes.
Santa Monica, which is known as Silicon Beach for its collection of tech companies, was the prime choice for Science to make its home because the majority of venture capitalists are aggregated here, Mike Jones, CEO and founder of Science, said.
“Half of our projects and companies we get involved in are entrepreneurs that pitch us ideas. We fall in love with them, invest money and resources in them and they pull from the operational resources we have at Science,” Jones, a former CEO of MySpace and senior vice president of AOL, said. “The other half of companies we fall in love with and build them internally.”
Each startup receives a different amount of cash to play around with depending on their potential, Jones, who has a background as a startup entrepreneur, said.
“We don’t have a specific investment doctrine that limits the amount of money we can put into the company,” Jones said. “If we really love the company or idea, we can put in as much as $1 million. At the end of the day, we are looking for great businesses to be involved in.”
Kyla Brennan said her company, HelloSociety, joined the space at Science in February 2012. HelloSociety is a Pinterest marketing and technology firm that exclusively represents the most followed people on Pinterest and connects them with various brands to run organic marketing campaigns. Pinterest is a social networking site where users can save and share some of their favorite things, like recipes, crafts or dream vacation destinations.
She said it was “invaluable” to have Science’s help because it has all the resources that make it easier for new entrepreneurs to learn how to run a business.
“It really gets things going faster,” Brennan said. “Literally the paperwork itself is worth it, but then you get to meet with all the different partners who come from different areas and help steer you in the right direction.”
Jones said there are certain “themes” the company follows such as developing brands and creating marketplaces where customers can engage in transactions such as someone coming to cook food in your home.
One such “marketplace” is Fresh Dish, a “Science created business,” Romi Lassally, general manager, said. The company, which is four months old, has a network of 30 to 50 chefs in Los Angeles and Los Angeles County that can, in 24 hours notice, be in someone’s home making a restaurant quality meal, she said.
“We were thinking that we know people love this concept of having a personal chef, [and] we made it more accessible, more affordable,” Lassally said.
The price ranges between $50 to $80 per person, depending on the size of the party. Since its formation earlier this year, Lassally said Fresh Dine has served thousands of customers.
“I think it’s integral to have Science involved because we’re trying to build a de-constructive food business, something that’s shaking it up,” Lassally said. “We are constantly pushed to think how this is going to scale and use technologies to grow. Eventually we will have an app, [and] have a very robust website where you can order online.”
Science also has companies that dabble in online dating in its startup portfolio.
Let’s Date is the “first, purely mobile dating app,” Adam Huie, CEO, said. The company, which set up shop at Science in May, requires an Apple product and the use of social media site Facebook. Users who download the free app can log into Facebook, which allows Let’s Date to glean metadata and come up with its own algorithm to find a potential date. Users can browse through profiles and either hit “no thanks,” or “let’s date” on potential suitors, Huie said. He said on any given day, millions of profiles are seen and reviewed.
Huie said the app, which was marketed nationwide earlier this year, is also available globally to users from Canada, Brazil and Mexico.
“Dating is universal,” Huie, who took over Let’s Date in May, said. “Everybody is on their phone all day long and meeting somebody is getting harder and harder and why not put it on a mobile phone?”
Jones said all the companies have an anticipated sale or initial public offering in the future. But since Science is only 18 months old, he said it’ll take five to seven years before any of the 13 startups will be sold or go public.
For now, Jones said the company has outgrown its two floor space on Second Street and hopes to move across the street to a bigger space next month, Jones said.
Jones hopes to add six to 10 businesses a year in the future.