Espree Devora started WeAreLATech, a local startup resource, to create a safe space for the local community to learn about growing a business. Born and raised in LA, Espree has started multiple companies of her own, including ZexSports, an action sports media agency. Erik Huberman, CEO of Hawke Media, talks to Espree about how he became an entrepreneur, the Silicon Beach scene andWeAreLATech.com.
Erik Huberman: What made you want to become an entrepreneur?
Espree Devora: I don’t feel that I ever became an entrepreneur; I feel that I was born one. But, even when I had my first company, I don’t think I identified as an entrepreneur. I was figuring out what technology was, and what the bottom-line stuff was. My second company is when I really identified with that word. And afterward, when I raised money, I realized “wow, I guess I’m an entrepreneur.” I remember I had some investors interested and I really didn’t know how to navigate the steps to take with investors. I met with one of the biggest VC firms in the world. They needed my executive summary and I didn’t know what an executive summary was. I think that’s when I first started to learn all these terms: executive summary, and startup, and entrepreneur, etc. Up until that point I was just a girl in love with action sports, the Internet and tech, trying to figure out how to combine all of these cool things together because they’re awesome.
EH: Tell me about what you’re doing now.
ED: I noticed from starting my first and second companies, that there wasn’t really a safe place to learn where to go to start a startup after getting of a plane in Los Angeles. Even for people that are from here – like me, I was born and raised in LA – I didn’t have the many cool resources that exist today. I didn’t have that. So I wanted to create this safe place resource, WeAreLATech. It’s a bridge. It’s like your best friend saying “yeah, these people – they’re cool” or “you should check out that hair stylist” The kind of questions we typically get are about office space, or raising money, or what events are going on; the general stuff that you can’t really walk into a coworking space or accelerator and be like “here I am, help me!” That’s why WeAreLATech exists. We recently started the WeAreLATech podcast, which is the first to focus on startups and it just hit number two in all of iTunes last week. We interview people that are part of the LA startup space. It’s both for people in the LA startup space, and for those wanting to learn about it, or those that are thinking about moving to LA to start a startup here.
EH: What made you choose Santa Monica
ED: I live in Santa Monica. I built all my companies in Santa Monica before there was any tech scene here. I had an office in Santa Monica for my action sports company and met these two people named Cameron and Avesta. They mentioned they were starting Coloft, which is a coworking space. There were some coworking spaces in MidWilshire but none in Santa Monica. They told me to come by and I went over there and became part of the initial crew. We would have these chats about how we were going to exist. I remember them saying specifically that their focus was on the community and not on money.I said, “You guys have a rent to pay.” And they said no, that they were going to focus on the community and everything else will work out. They were adamant about it, and it did. Now, Santa Monica is the third largest startup hub and I truly think that’s because of Coloft and their focus on the community. Without that, I don’t think the startup community here would exist.
EH: Do you have one piece of advice for an entrepreneur starting their own business?
ED: Keep taking steps forward. Before, I saw success as being on the cover of a business magazine or having millions of dollars in the bank. What I’ve learned in growing multiple companies is that all success means is taking steps forward. As an entrepreneur you don’t know what’s going to happen, so your intuition is your oracle. Everyone is going to have something to say about what you should do, but the only person that truly knows what’s right for your company and for you, is you.
EH: What’s something you’d like to share with Santa Monica?
ED: Reach out to us if they have questions. That’s what we’re here for.We’re a bridge. Even if you’re in a coworking space, it can feel really isolating to grow a company. That’s why WeAreLaTech exists. So you don’t have to feel alone, so you can feel like you have a friend to reach out to. There’s no dumb question. We just want to help you. It doesn’t cost anything to reach out. We’re not trying to turn you into a client; we don’t have clients. We’re here to help.