Dalia M. Cohen

The serial investor that’s putting Silicon Beach on the map

Brad Zions (courtesy)
Brad Zions (courtesy)

Los Angeles may be more commonly associated as the land of movie stars and film studios, but it’s making a new name for itself thanks to its burgeoning tech hub and rising number of successful startups. 

Los Angeles is now the third-largest startup market in the US with nearly 4,000 venture-backed startups based here. LA comes in behind mega hubs in the San Francisco Bay Area and New York and ahead of other emerging tech hubs like Miami and Houston, highlighting its importance within the US startup scene. 

Known as “Silicon Beach” due to its proximity to surf and sand, the tech community’s attraction to the area is partly credited to its proximity to LAX and the diversity of LA’s industries. This mash-up between the old glamour of Hollywood and innovation from the Bay Area has already given rise to prominent startups.  

Los Angeles now the third-largest startup market in the US / Unsplash

In many cases, LA startups can draw upon a strong network of private investors who know the market well and can help businesses grow over time. There is also a large culture of entrepreneurship here that makes it easier for many companies to find employees and talent.

One of the active investors helping to drive this trend over the past two decades is Jewish tech investor Brad Zions. 

Meet LA-based investor Brad Zions 

Brad Zions is something of a veteran from the LA tech scene, being active for years as both an investor and entrepreneur. In 2021 he founded Pitbull Ventures in the area building on his years of experience as an early-stage investor both as a partner at Structure Fund and on an independent basis. 

To date, he’s achieved seven exits that include notable names Venga, Podsights, and MoviePass. Big winners from his portfolio more generally include Clutter, Parachute Home and Harri. 

He’s also active with investment opportunities outside of the tech space, partnering up with chef Alan Jackson in March 2009 to co-found the Lemonade Restaurant Group helping to grow the concept to over 10 locations during his time as Chief Financial Officer. 

Zions can draw his tech roots back to one of the earliest internet brands. He worked with America Online for five years from 1994 and played an integral role in founding AOL Europe. 

A knack for finding promising ideas

Zions has a long track record when it comes to uncovering early-stage ideas with potential. One of these examples can be found with LA-based company GroWrk, a smart IT asset management platform. 

The platform helps to reliably deploy and manage global teams’ IT assets, control all equipment processes and track procurement and delivery through an intuitive dashboard. 

The company addresses a niche in IT that is growing alongside the rise of distributed teams in recent years, making IT logistics more tricky and time-consuming to manage. The global logistics infrastructure and seamless technology platform is redefining how companies equip and manage their IT equipment for remote teams.  

In 2019, after its founders encountered significant challenges equipping team members abroad in previous organizations, GroWrk was established to give remote companies an IT equipment management solution that can assist with on-demand scalability. 

The company includes tech brands like Typeform in its list of clients and provides services across over 150 countries. GroWrk was named one of Business Insider’s most promising cloud startups in 2022. 

Raising funds in the City of Angels 

Pitbull Ventures is an LA-based, pre-seed and seed-stage fund that’s so far invested in 31 startups. 

Zions is steering the fund forward with an interesting take on how to track the hottest industries to focus on. 

Food tech (including software and robotics) are among the themes he’s aiming at in Pitbull’s current fund. Additionally, he said he often taps older founders, which he says gives him a competitive advantage over investors who zero in on “boy wonders.”

“I’m constantly adjusting the lens because that’s what’s so interesting about early-stage venture, where you make these bets and it takes years to find out if it was a good bet,” Zions said. “So you’re constantly readjusting.”

Given Zions’ impressive track record to date, however, it’s likely that Pitbull Ventures will include household names in its portfolio down the line. 

The continued evolution of Silicon Beach 

While Zions has been an active player in the creation of Silicon Beach, it looks like the location will have a stronger Israeli presence in the future. 

Fusion LA, a Santa Monica early-stage accelerator that provides nascent software startups from Israel’s booming tech scene an entree into the US market, is upping its initial investment to $110,000. That’s up from the $20,000 checks it has written since the program started in 2017.

About the Author
Dalia Cohen has worked in magazines such as Newsweek, Fortune and Women's Health in her editorial career. She is actively involved in many NGOs and writes articles on topics such as politics, health and technology. She is also actively working on antisemitism and women's rights.
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