Behind the Scenes: Troy Carter’s SMASHD LABS with Suzy Ryoo

Troy Carter’s ATOM FACTORY recently announced dates for Season Two of its SMASHD LABS Accelerator Program; applications are now being accepted until June 5. Up to seven companies will be selected for this year’s program, which launches right after Labor Day, and wraps in the middle of November.

SMASHD’s first Cohort brought four early-stage + one mature company into the fold:

Sidestep: Mobile platform for live events that allows fans to order merchandise before, during and after an event for VIP pickup and delivery, who has relationships in place with Ticketmaster, and is a merch partner on Beyonce’s latest tour.

Enrou: Socially conscious marketplace started by UCLA graduates, and discovered by Troy Carter at the 30 Under 30 Summit in Philadelphia, where shoppers discover goods from all around the globe and support the people who made them through their purchases.

WeTransfer: A six-year-old bootstrapped, Amsterdam-based file-sharing service introduced to the SMASHD team by a Harvard professor, which has been profitable for the past six years. It was a bit of a stretch for the principals of this 40-person company to displace themselves halfway around the world and continue to work with their teams on international time zones, but the experience was so transformational that WeTransfer named Carter an independent Board member and plan to take further steps to build their presence in North America.

THRONE, the mobile peer-to-peer marketplace for the $85B sneaker and streetwear industry, which prior to joining SMASHD had received $25,000 from DreamIt Ventures.

Trakfire: a platform that enables its community to curate the best music from emerging artists, the third company founded founded by 19 year old USC Iovine Young Academy sophomore Arjun Mehta.

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SMASHD LABS First-Round Cohorts

Over the course of the ten-week program, SMASHD LABS brought in over fifty mentors from a wide range of businesses — founders, investors, operators from arts, culture, fashion, and other decidedly non-tech businesses, including famed investor Tim Draper, music and lifestyle mogul Russell Simmons, Nasty Gal founder Sophia Amoruso, Warby Parker founders Neil Blumenthal & Dave Gilboa, uBeam Founder Meredith Perry, Brian Lee (Founder/CEO, The Honest Company), Brian Robbins (Founder/CEO, Awesomeness TV), Judy Smith (Executive Producer, Scandal), and members of Andreessen Horowitz, Upfront Ventures, Coca-Cola, HBO, Snapchat, and many more. Each mentor spoke for nearly an hour to the entire group, answered questions, and sat with each company for one-on-one mentoring.

In addition to advising the companies on various core business practices and ways to improve their products, SMASHD LABS worked to create experiences that set them apart form other accelerators, in order to enrich its entrepreneurs with different ways to approach their businesses and their products.

SMASHD LABS brought the founders to the Revolt Conference in Miami, where the Cohorts pitched their businesses in front of a live audience in a Shark Tank meets The Voice type environment. In addition to showing the audience what the pitch process is like, the judges — Anthony Saleh (Queensbridge Ventures, NAS, The Future), Angela Benton (NewMe Accelerator), Steve Pamon, (formerly JP Morgan Chase), Derek Ferguson (Revolt TV) — each picked 2 companies to mentor.

SMASHD LABS also took its founders on a private tour of LA MOCA led by its Director, Phillippe Vergne in order to understand the parallels of the worlds of art and VC, and spent a day in artist Mark Bradford’s Leimert Park studio space to gain insights into Bradford’s psyche as a creator, and how he uses his cache as a catlayst to build a more collaborative community in his own backyard.

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All this is by design, per the vision of Atom Factory founder Troy Carter. As SMASHD Labs co-founder Suzy Ryoo explains, “It’s important to find the humanity in the products being built, how to bring your unique value, to bring people, that might not be in a typical accelerator.”

Ryoo expects to bring in up to seven companies on this round, which will all receive hands-on mentorship from Atom Factory’s management, investment, and content teams, as well as a direct connection to a new batch of mentors culled from the companies’ far-reaching Rolodex. When it comes to what type of companies SMASHD LABS is considering this Season, Ryoo says that they are “Industry agnostic — we are looking for early stage companies that can be supported by, and benefit from, our company’s unique composition.”

The companies work out of Atom Factory’s offices in a program structured week by week, tailored to meet the companies’ needs. Ryoo is also quick to acknowledge the support of the overall tech community, who really embraced SMASHD LABS and offered tons of support — not just local firms like Amplify, but folks from companies like TechStars, Y Combinator, and Andreessen Horowitz.

A USC grad who has been immersed in LA tech for the past few years, Ryoo notes that LA’s scene is continuing to blossom — “LA is a younger ecosystem, and feels more collaborative, with input from diversified firms — talent agencies, management companies, studios, entertainment companies all contributing to this unique ecosystem.”

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Ryoo spent years at Ignition Factory, which acted as a de facto VC firm by connecting innovative and emerging platforms with parent company OMD’s brand clients, such as GE, Levi’s, Gatorade, and dozens more.

This fostering of relationships with early stage companies led her to Atom Factory, and in time directly with Troy Carter, with whom she instantly connected over similar backgrounds and values, since both continuously hustle in their pursuit of the American Dream.

Says Ryoo, “We’ve had a special rapport from day one. We met, and I was here eight weeks later. The experience for me has been a dream come true, an opportunity to learn from Troy, to shadow him from everything he learned from music, tech, venture, culture. I work doubly as hard to meet that pace to contribute to the overall mission.

“Mentorship is a high priority; our entire mission has evolved, for Atom Factory to become a platform that supports & empowers artists and entrepreneurs. Troy is an incredible mentor to artists, to our entrepreneurs, and hustles harder than anyone else,” inspired by incredible mentors from his own past, including an early internship at P Diddy’s Bad Boy Records, as well as moving from Philadelphia to LA to work with Will Smith and James Lassiter during the “Fresh Prince of Bel Air” days. Troy’s appreciation extends to his early forays into venture capital, where he learned the ropes under the guidance of mentors like Ron Conway, Shervin Pershivar, and Bill Maris.

“Troy, in his unique position via Atom Factory, can be a voice and make a difference. You can’t be what you can’t see — if we can be an inspiration and an encouragement to our artists, our founders, our entrepreneurs, and to our future entrepreneurs… one of the most important reasons why I feel connected to Troy is the mission of Atom Factory, and everything we have going on.”

Wraps Ryoo, “A lot of our wider efforts in diversity, philanthropy, and minority entrepreneurship haven’t been fully released yet; we’re excited for 2017.”

In addition to running the accelerator, Ryoo is Venture Partner, Vice President of Technology & Innovation, managing the deal flow for Atom Factory’s investment portfolio, which includes the likes of Uber, Spotify, MOAT, TheSkimm, StyleSeat, Represent, uBeam, Enplug, Washio, Ritual, Beautycon and many more. Atom Factory also has a venture fund, Cross Culture Ventures, which has made 8 investments so far.

To apply to SMASHD Labs, visit http://smashdlabs.co/. Applications are open through June 5, 2016. Participating companies also receive a $50,000 investment.

Author Description

Scott Perry -- LA Tech Digest founder

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