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Member Spotlight
Mariah Lichtenstern-Walebowa

Founder, CINESHARES

We are excited to introduce the UCLA VC Fund’s Member Spotlight series! Each article will showcase one of our members by highlighting their diverse background, experiences, and how they've impacted and benefitted from the VC Fund.

An Oakland native and Kauffman Fellows Finalist, Mariah is an entrepreneur and media consultant who studied motion picture producing at the UCLA school of Theatre Film & Television. She is the founder of Lightedstar Entertainment LLC and has a patent pending for CINESHARES, a motion picture marketplace where users watch, make, and fund films.

"The UCLA Theatre, Film, and Television's Producing Program provided an incredible experience. I'm thankful to be part of UCLA's legacy of empowering thought leaders and entrepreneurs. As a member of the UCLA VC Fund, I look forward to supporting and interacting with fellow Bruins—particularly, at the intersection of entertainment, education, technology, and finance. There are few institutions possessing the diversity of talent to capitalize on this opportunity like UCLA, and I intend to be a catalyst for it.

With both parents disabled, Mariah emancipated from foster care at age 17, supporting herself through high school and college. At UC Berkeley, she studied the impact of cultural representation in media, seeking to understand the dynamics shaping her experience as a multi-ethnic youth and those in communities she observed. Through activities offered at Haas School of Business, Mariah developed an interest in how technology would influence the future of film development and distribution.

Desiring to bridge the gap between Hollywood and Silicon Valley, Mariah pursued the business of filmmaking. Transferring from USC to UCLA, she learned from Hollywood's top studio executives, producers, and marketers, including a mentorship with Tom Ortenberg, then President of Lionsgate. She served in entertainment-oriented organizations including Film Independent, The Film Arts Foundation, and the Pan African Film Festival.  She brought the first annual NAACP Image Awards Diversity Forum to UCLA’s Freud playhouse and, as a producer for UCLA Next, she interviewed Barack Obama, the late Gil Cates, and many others.

Traveling the world and attending film markets and producing boot camps—from Cannes to the Los Angeles–Tel Aviv Master Class in Producing—Mariah has researched and observed global trends in entertainment first-hand. Combined with her professional designations in financial planning and securities, this has informed her interest in venture capital.

While venture ecosystem prides itself on meritocracy, Mariah understands that not everyone has an equal opportunity to demonstrate his or her merits. While at UCLA, she was impressed by the contributions of four African American women: Felicia D. Henderson, Gina Prince‑Bythewood, Sara Finney-Johnson and Mara Brock Akil, all of whom achieved successful careers in entertainment, and formed an endowment to help others do the same. With UCLA providing broader access to top tier education, Mariah intends to follow the example of these industry players by contributing to the student and alumni community as a member of the VC Fund and beyond.
To connect with CINESHARES, subscribe to their Facebook page or Twitter @CINESHARES
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