NextGen 10: Sports & Entertainment [2017]

Our annual list of up and comers, movers and shakers, innovators, and disruptors in Sports & Entertainment

July 25, 2017

Since we introduced our NextGen 10 (our annual list of under 40 disruptors, innovators, and rising stars) in Sports & Entertainment in 2013, the dividing line between sports and entertainment has blurred to virtual nonexistence. The convergence in many ways is thanks to the continued advances and implementations of technology (see Snap and Instagram, referenced below) as well as media advances (see Erik Huberman’s Hawke Media and Gabriel Ornelas’ dc Media Ventures below). Whatever the reasoning for the convergence, one thing is certain – the world of sports and the world of entertainment are more dynamic today than they have ever been, thanks in part to this class of NextGen leader – so strong we needed 11. Together, they are elevating their companies and industries and further shaping Los Angeles.


COREY CONRAD, 30

Senior Director, Brand & Global Partnerships, sbe
Hotels, Restaurants, Nightlife, Events & Catering

Residence West Hollywood
Education Belmont University
HQ Los Angeles
Company Founded 2002
Impact of LA on Company Success The City of Angels is where sbe was founded. As our company grows, we strive to capture the same energy we have in LA.
In the Morning Enjoy a cup of espresso and catch up on emails.
Before Bed Kiss my wife.
Advice “Every man dies, not every man truly lives.”
Success I constantly set new goals so that I am always pushing myself to get to the next level. Once I succeed and reach one goal, I push myself to achieve the next one.
Local Companies You Admire Caruso and AEG
Talent You Want to Work With Derek Jeter, Billy Joel, and Jordan Spieth
App You Can’t Live Without Waze


DAVID GRAY EDWARDS, 32

Senior VP, Digital Marketing, Lionsgate

Residence Culver City
Education SDSU
HQ Santa Monica
Company Founded 1997
In the Morning Check phone, read email, read the news, make coffee and – of course – shower.
Before Bed Check phone, read email, and read the (lighthearted) news.
Advice You say it, you mean it.
Success The satisfaction of knowing you made a positive impact and the reassurance that you’ll be enabled to do so again.
Mentors Danielle De Palma-Sherman (EVP, Digital Marketing, Lionsgate); Dr. Andrew J. Maxwell (pediatric cardiologist)
Local Companies You Admire In VR: Kite & Lightning and WEVR; in Entertainment: A24 and Annapurna Pictures; in Media: ZEFR and theAmplify
Talent You Want to Work With Ridley Scott
App You Can’t Live Without Google Maps (my sense of direction is woeful)
Awards and Honors 3-time Webby Award winner, Variety’s “Hollywood’s New Leaders” 2016, and numerous Clio Key Art awards (now called the ‘Clio Entertainment’ award)


STEVE EZELL, 36

Co-founder & CEO, CraftX
Exclusive craft beer, delivered monthly

Residence North Hollywood
Education University of Michigan
HQ Cerritos
Company Founded 2016
Impact of LA on Company Success Our initial brewery partners were based in Los Angeles and helped give us a jumpstart in the brewing community.
In the Morning Let the dogs out the back door.
Before Bed During the NBA season, watch SportsCenter. Otherwise, watch The Daily Show.
Advice My mom’s advice on why not to worry about spending money on chasing your dreams – “You can’t take it with you.”
Success Feeling like I’ve made a positive impact on my industry and my customers.
Local Companies You Admire All of the local, independent craft breweries. I’ve seen how hard they work and how small the ROI is on both their time and financial investment, but they do it with passion every day.
Talent You Want to Work With That’s tough to answer. I’m a diehard Phoenix Suns fan, so it would probably be one of their current or former players.
App You Can’t Live Without Slack


RUSSELL GORDON, 36

Senior Director, Events & Venue Operations, Microsoft Theater

Residence Hollywood
Education CSUN
HQ Downtown Los Angeles
Impact of LA on Company Success LA is a city of endless entertainment and is the center of music, movies, and television.
In the Morning Barry’s Bootcamp. Then catch up on the news of the day.
Before Bed Watch TV, read, or listen to music.
Advice If you work really hard and you’re kind, amazing things will happen.
Success When I know that I’ve helped create a memorable experience for someone, or helped someone create a moment for someone else.
Mentors Danielle Edouarde, Don Graham, Lee Zeidman, Rick Merrill
Local Companies You Admire The Walt Disney Company and Pixar Animation
Talent You Want to Work With Ryan Seacrest, mostly because I’d like to understand how he has time to do everything in the industry!
Apps You Can’t Live Without Dropbox for work and Instagram for entertainment
Awards and Honors Venues Today Magazine 2015 Generation Next Recipient (also nominated in 2012)


ERIK HUBERMAN, 30

Founder & CEO, Hawke Media
Digital marketing agency with month-to-month services

Residence Santa Monica
Education University of Arizona
HQ Santa Monica
Company Founded 2014
Impact of LA on Company Success Our company was built thanks to the unique LA startup ecosystem – where there is a shared “all ships rise together” outlook. Our largest advocates would be harsh competitors in other cultures.
In the Morning Scroll through social media. I used to jump out of bed quickly and go right about my day, but I found that doing something simple for just a few minutes in the morning really helps me manage stress the rest of the day.
Before Bed Something mindless as well. I need to allow my brain a few minutes to wind down.
Advice Swing the bat. Just keep pushing and doing, and something will hit.
Success Being able to sustain doing something you love to do.
Local Companies You Admire ZipRecruiter and TaskUs for bootstrapping in the beginning, eventually building massive and successful companies.
App You Can’t Live Without Captio
Awards and Honors Forbes 30 Under 30, Inc Top 25 Marketing Influencers, American Business Awards Agency of the Year


SOUMYA JAIN, 26

Co-founder, PopMark
Platform to find or advertise real estate for popups

Residence West Hollywood
Education UCLA
HQ Los Angeles
Company Founded 2016
Impact of LA on Company Success The city’s diverse and collaborative spirit is essential for fostering innovation.
In the Morning Coffee, email, and the news
Before Bed Read (Currently: The Rational Optimist by Matt Ridley)
Advice Someone is always willing to work harder and learn more than you, so give it your best shot.
Success Having worthy goals that create meaningful impact and value.
Mentors My friends and my parents
Local Companies You Admire Snap, Pixar, SH//FT, SpaceX, and The Virtual Reality Company
App You Can’t Live Without Instagram. It’s a great way to source prospective clients.
Awards and Honors Recognition by Prime Minister of India in 2008


ERICA LEE, 36

EVP, Development & Production, Thunder Road
Film and television production company

Residence Los Angeles
Education Florida State
HQ Santa Monica
Company Founded 2004
In the Morning Drink coffee
Before Bed Check my email
Advice Don’t ever stop receiving
Success Ability to balance work and personal life. Being able to make movies you love, that are both critically acclaimed and perform at the box office.
Mentor My grandfather
Local Companies You Admire Amblin, See’s Candy
Talent You Want to Work With Damien Chazelle, Cary Fukunaga, Jordan Peele
Apps You Can’t Live Without Instagram, Waze
Awards and Honors Producers Guild of America


GABRIEL ORNELAS, 30

Managing Partner, DC Media Ventures
Boutique management and brand strategy consulting agency

Residence Venice
Education USC
HQ Los Angeles and New York, but in the digital age, we are everywhere.
Company Founded 2012
Impact of LA on Company Success As one of the cultural and creative capitals of the world, Los Angeles is filled with risk takers and dream makers who help the city stay constantly changing and evolving.
In the Morning On my hourlong bike ride, I contemplate how this day will be different than the next.
Before Bed Shut off the lights.
Advice Would you rather win or be right?
Success Going somewhere I’ve never been before, both literally and figuratively.
Mentors My father Ralph Ornelas, a chief of police, who taught me about discipline and following my personal path; Jennifer Breithaupt (Global CMO, CitiBank) is a leader in marrying experiential branding and entertainment experiences; my business partner David Codikow; and Steve Prefontaine.
Local Companies You Admire Stance Socks, Casamigos, SpaceX, GT Kombucha, and Netflix
Talent You Want to Work With Virgil Abloh, Es Devlin, Bozoma Saint John, and Donald Glover
Apps You Can’t Live Without Uber, Instagram, Resy, and Product Hunt


MILANA RABKIN, 29

Co-founder & CEO, Stem
Distribute and monetize content across digital platforms (i.e. YouTube, Spotify, Apple Music) while automating payment to writers and producers.

Resident Hollywood
Education UCLA
HQ Hollywood
Company Founded 2015
Impact of LA on Company Success We’re lucky to have offices walking distance to recording studios and music publishing companies. Los Angeles has also positioned us in proximity to world class talent who have worked at places like MySpace, Hulu, Apple, and Riot Games.
Advice Be diligent; reference check everyone before you work with them.
Mentors Kara Nortman (Partner, Upfront Ventures) who is our investor and first board member. As a former CEO, she has been an extraordinary mentor on the business side and her coaching has leveled me up so much. On a personal level, I admire her as a mother, wife, and friend. Vivien Lewit (Global Head of Artist Relations, YouTube) has been a mentor since I was a young agent at UTA. Melody McCloskey (CEO, StyleSeat) has been my peer mentor. She gave me the confidence I needed to take the leap from my cushy job at UTA to being a founder. I’ll never forget when I first told her my idea for Stem in the artists’ area at Bonnaroo over a beer (we were there for a bachelorette party). She looked at me and said, “Just do it, I’ll hold your hand through it.” And boy has she; I have leaned on her literally every step of the way.
Local Company You Admire Parachute
Talent You Want to Work With Chance The Rapper, Taylor Swift, and Bill Nye the Science Guy
Awards and Honors Variety’s “Hollywood New Leaders” and one of Refinery29’s “30 under 30” most influential rising stars in 2012


MACKENZIE TODD, 32

Founder & CEO, UGP
Comprehensive golf development center combining expert coaching, club fitting, fitness, and health service

Residence West Los Angeles
Education University of Colorado
HQ West Los Angeles
Company Founded 2013
Impact of LA on Company Success Los Angeles is home to innovators, thought leaders, and the best of the best across all industries. UGP is here to impact and transform the golf industry from the inside out, making LA the perfect place for our formation and development.
In the Morning Writing three things that I’m grateful for and three things that I appreciate about myself. Starting the day with compassion and gratitude helps me navigate my life with more joy, connecting me authentically with my team and community.
Before Bed I typically fall asleep cuddling my two wonderful kids. The family ritual of bath time and storytime consumes my evenings.
Advice Blake Mycoskie has had an immense impact on my views on entrepreneurship and work/life balance. The main message I’ve become aware of is that leadership is not a rank or position to be attained but rather a service to be given.
Success Impacting the world in a positive way that reminds us of why we are on this earth. It starts within, and then into our homes, into our work, and then throughout our community. Success is about listening to who you are, and stopping at nothing to link your dreams to your living reality.
Local Companies You Admire Chocovivo, a chocolate company that grinds chocolate in the manner done in Mesoamerican times. I admire companies that apply ancient rituals and practices to modern consumerism.
App You Can’t Live Without iCal


JENNIFER VAN DIKJ

Chief Strategy Officer, LA Clippers

Residence Downtown Los Angeles
Education Mount Holyoke College
HQ Downtown Los Angeles
In the Morning Coffee and Flipboard to read the news
Before Bed Set an intention for the next day.
Advice Do great work and come what may. The rest will take care of itself and it always has.
Success Success is team-based (on the court and in the boardroom).  I am most fulfilled when my whole team has worked together, grown together, and accomplished something together.
Mentor Todd McCormack; he taught me to see the the underlying structure of the sports business, rights. Once I knew what to look for, everything was easier and the landscape became a creative canvas to build upon.
Local Companies You Admire BYD, Two Bit Circus, Red Bull, Mattel
App You Can’t Live Without Flipboard. It’s the best way to read hundreds of sources of information in a beautiful, visual presentation.
Awards and Honors 2015 Sports Business Journal’s 40 Under 40

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