The Venture Accelerator’s Newest Startups Take Flight

The Venture Accelerator’s Newest Startups Take Flight


More than 200 companies have launched, the latest showcased in an iconic airplane hangar

November 22, 2022

Venture Accelerator founders pitched their startups at the fall 2022 Showcase

In industries ranging from cardiac rehab to African fashion to archery, 10 members of the Venture Accelerator at Anderson’s current cohort and four Accelerator alumni founders presented at the Spruce Goose Hangar — a sprawling 450,000-square-foot facility constructed by Howard Hughes that now serves as Google and YouTube’s home in the Playa Vista neighborhood of Los Angeles. Opening the 2022 Accelerator Showcase, Dean Tony Bernardo welcomed more than 225 guests and several hundred more via livestream, including Anderson alumni and faculty, Accelerator mentors and supporters, and L.A.-based investors and entrepreneurs. Then, the pitching began.

“Showcase is a culmination of our year’s programming, and at this early stage, you witness first hand the fast progression of the companies and the impact of the Accelerator programs and mentors,” said Accelerator director Trish Halamandaris (’92). “Literally, a showcase of the impact of the Accelerator programming. This venue was impressive in size and meaning to the L.A. creator space, which added energy to an evening that is already fast-paced and spirited.”

Of the 14 founders who presented on October 24, 11 were women, four were international and six were cross-campus and community.

Since its inception in 2016, the Accelerator has supported startups that have raised $176 million in funding and generated $67 million in revenue, and 61% of founders hail from underrepresented communities.

Adjunct Assistant Professor Nathan Wilson (’11) (second from left), Price Center executive director Elaine Hagan (’91) (third from left), Dean Tony Bernardo (center) and Price Center faculty research director Olav Sorenson (second from right) joined the Venture Accelerator team at the fall 2022 Showcase

Here’s a closer look at some of the latest cohort’s founders, along with a full list of presenters at the fall Showcase:

Tackle This Problem from the Ground Up

David Cho is a board-certified cardiologist at UCLA Health who gathered a cross-campus team affiliated with the schools of engineering, medicine and management that identified a gap between treatment and recovery for patients following heart attacks — in particular among women, who are 60% less likely than men to participate in cardiac rehabilitation, despite facing higher risk.

“We wanted to tackle this problem from the ground up, providing women survivors of heart disease a platform in which they could safely perform their cardiac rehabilitation program on their own schedule,” said Cho, co-founder and chief medical officer at Kocoro Health. “We provide a 12-week exercise program that adapts based upon prior performance and user feedback, paired with a live safety-monitoring algorithm during exercise. We also connect women heart attack survivors through an online, geographically matched peer support group to create a community of support and accountability. Our goal is to make cardiac rehabilitation a more personalized, convenient, yet equally effective alternative to in-person programs.”

Cho, who led off the Showcase pitches, admits he’s new to the startup world and public speaking, but he credits the Accelerator with giving him the confidence to take the stage. “I trusted in the process of the Accelerator staff and advisors, as well as diligent practice, and the pitch and subsequent meetings went great,” he said. “It was an incredible professional-development and learning experience that I am thankful to have lived.”

Remove the Stigma That Comes with a Sober Lifestyle

When she’s not studying or working on her business, Ashley Johnson (’22) moonlights as a DJ. She gave up drinking five years ago, as have so many in the growing sober-curious movement, but navigating nightlife without alcohol remained a challenge. “I had learned to overcome social anxiety without alcohol, but there were still areas where I felt limited,” said Johnson, the founder and CEO of Wine Not. “When it came down to toasts and celebrations, I was left with very few options, which mostly included water... and who wants to make a toast with water?

“I wanted to challenge the norms and remove the stigma that comes with a sober lifestyle,” she added. “You can be cool, fun, social and sober.”

Johnson says the Accelerator helped her recognize her strengths as a leader. “I completely immersed myself into the weekly prep sessions as I gained invaluable feedback,” she said. “I felt so prepared that on the day of the Showcase, I felt calm. No nerves, no fears, just execution. Sharing your vision and ideas can be a very vulnerable experience. However, I was met with nothing but support and admiration. Not only did I connect with investors who were committed to the success of my brand and business, I also received an influx of messages from people who were inspired by my story and journey.”

Feedback That Is More Meaningful, Detailed and Inclusive

After spending 15 years at some of the biggest technology companies in the world, Shirin Nikaein (’19) grew frustrated with the employee performance review process, much like anyone who’s sat through a performance review. Turns out, it’s also a drain on the bottom line. According to Nikaein, 86%of employees feel their reviews are not accurate, which leads to more than $1 trillion in losses for U.S. businesses. So she founded

“ is a software coaching tool that analyzes performance reviews in real time, as the manager is typing, and helps them give feedback that is more meaningful, detailed and inclusive,” Nikaein said. “It’s scalable, customized, proactive and preventative, available 24/7, and works on top of the platforms employees already use every day.”

Nikaein describes the Accelerator as the “favorite part” of her Anderson experience. “It’s what Trish and her team bring to the table — guidance, mentors, network,” she said. “Presenting at Showcase is an amazing opportunity to get exposure to an audience. I love pitching in person because there is just so much energy and support. You can hear how people react, and it helps spark so many great conversations.”