New Venture Studio Cursive Labs Raises $2.2M for DIY Startups

The Bay Area has Giant Pixel and Monkey Inferno. New York has betaworks and Thirty Labs. Boston has Blade and Redstar. Los Angeles has Science. Now San Diego has Cursive Labs, a “venture studio” founded by a team of entrepreneurs who prefer to start and build their own digital technology ventures.

The operational details may vary from place to place, but venture studios represent a new paradigm in the innovation ecosystem. In general, though, a venture studio operates as a kind of holding company that enables experienced entrepreneurs to pursue their own ideas and use their own resources to start and grow tech companies in-house.

Established last summer by six co-founders, Cursive Labs recently closed on $2.2 million in Series A funding from Crescent Ridge Partners, Wavemaker Partners, Howard Lindzon of Social Leverage, Keshif Ventures, Bootstrap Incubation, and other Southern California investors.

“We really believe in the venture studio model,” Cursive Labs co-founder Ryan Bettencourt told me this morning. “The idea is a new way to get a business off the ground quickly, and see if there is something there or not.”

While such terms as “incubator,” “foundry,” and “accelerator” might seem interchangeable to many entrepreneurs, Cursive Labs co-founder Jon Belmonte said a venture studio takes a fundamentally different approach to the business of starting new companies.

In an incubator or accelerator, Belmonte said, “You’re helping other people start their companies. In a venture studio, you’re building your own companies. You have 100 percent equity ownership, you’re in control, and you’re betting on yourself instead of somebody else.”

Where investing in the right team is often the paramount criteria for venture investors, Belmonte and Bettencourt contend that a venture studio mitigates the risk of investing in the wrong team because the same team works together on every startup.

Some observers might rightly ask, “Isn’t one startup usually hard enough for even a highly talented and experienced team?” Maybe. At Cursive Labs, however, outside entrepreneurs need not apply.

Belmonte and Bettencourt, who together serve as Cursive Labs’ managing directors, said their core skills are in operations—Belmonte was the former CEO and longtime COO of the Active Network and Bettencourt is a serial entrepreneur with leadership roles at San Diego’s KidZui, Blurtopia, CellarThief, and Digital Telepathy.

Cursive Labs founders (from left) Ryan Bettencourt, Josh Schlesser, Jon Belmonte, Evan Witte, Kieran Flanigan, Grant Bostrom

Cursive Labs founders (from left) Ryan Bettencourt, Josh Schlesser, Jon Belmonte, Evan Witte, Kieran Flanigan, Grant Bostrom

They also enlisted former colleagues Josh Schlesser, the Active Network’s former senior vice president for technology; Keiran Flanigan, a veteran mobile developer and Blurtopia co-founder; Grant Bostrom, a KidZui strategist and expert in marketing, growth hacking, and product development; and Evan Witte, a product developer on key projects at the Active Network.

Cursive Labs already has two digital media companies under development: Spoutable, an advertising platform for … Next Page »

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Bruce V. Bigelow is the editor of Xconomy San Diego. You can e-mail him at bbigelow@xconomy.com or call (619) 669-8788 Follow @bvbigelow

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  • Jerry Hall

    Awesome model. Another win for San Diego. Best wishes for a rousing success!

  • Jim Hoffman

    Well done guys!