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See our timeline below for key developments TikTok's story over the last 10 years, starting with the founding of ByteDance and moving through the app's rise to popularity and the mounting concerns about data privacy and security.
March 2012: Internet entrepreneur Zhang Yiming founds ByteDance in Beijing.
August 2012: ByteDance launches its first product, Toutiao, an AI-powered news aggregator.
July 2014: Alex Zhu launches Musical.ly, an app that enables users to create short-form lipsync music videos; Musical.ly is headquartered in Shanghai with an office in Santa Monica.
July 2015: Musical.ly hits #1 in Apple app store.
September 2016: ByteDance launches Douyin, an app with similar functionality as Musical.ly; within a year, the Chinese app achieves 100 million users and 1 billion views per day.
September 2017: ByteDance brings Douyin outside of China's Great Firewall under the name of TikTok; the app does well in numerous Asian markets.
November 2017: ByteDance acquires Musical.ly for $1 billion; the company starts operating Musical.ly in the US, Douyin in China and TikTok in other markets.
August 2018: ByteDance merges Musical.ly with TikTok and migrates all user profiles to TikTok; Alex Zhu becomes TikTok senior vice president, saying, "Combining Musical.ly and TikTok is a natural fit given the shared mission of both experiences – to create a community where everyone can be a creator."
October 2018: ByteDance achieves a record $75 billion valuation, making it the world's biggest privately backed startup.
February 2019: Lil Nas X releases "Old Town Road" on TikTok, catalyzing a viral sensation that ultimately reaches #1 on Billboard's charts.
February 2019: TikTok is fined $5.7 million for child data privacy violations.
September 2019:Washington Post reports that TikTok may be censoring protests in Hong Kong.
September 2019: Leaked documents show TikTok instructs its moderators to censor videos that mention various subjects deemed offensive by the Chinese government and Communist Party, The Guardian reports.
October 2019: U.S. Senator Marco Rubio calls on the U.S. government to investigate the national security implications of ByteDance's acquisition of Musical.ly, citing concerns over the Chinese government and Communist Party's use of TikTok to censor content and silence open discussion.
October 2019: U.S. Senators Chuck Schumer and Tom Cotton ask U.S. Acting Director of National Intelligence to assess the national security risks from TikTok and other Chinese-owned apps, and request a congressional briefing on the findings.
October 2019: Alex Zhu begins reporting directly to ByteDance head Zhang Yiming; he had previously reported to the head of Douyin.
November 2019: The U.S. government launches an investigation into ByteDance's acquisition of Musical.ly on the grounds that ByteDance did not seek clearance when it acquired Musical.ly.
TikTok reportedly has 26.5 million monthly active users in the U.S. at this time.
December 2019: The U.S. Defense Department's Defense Information Systems Agency issues a recommendation that military personnel delete TikTok from all smartphones.
Q4 2019: TikTok becomes the most downloaded app in the world and second in the U.S.
January 2020: Several U.S. military branches ban TikTok on government-issued smartphones.
March 2020: U.S. officials reach out to TikTok to discuss political disinformation.
April 2020: TikTok surpasses 2 billion downloads and sets the record for quarterly downloads.
May 2020: Various child privacy groups file a complaint with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission that TikTok is violating the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) and flouting terms agreed to following its February 2019 settlement.
A TikTok spokesperson says the company "takes the issue of safety seriously for all our users, and we continue to further strengthen our safeguards and introduce new measures to protect young people on the app."
May 2020: ByteDance hires former Disney executive Kevin Mayer as chief operating officer and TikTok chief executive officer.
June 2020: Teens organize on TikTok to fool Trump administration into anticipating high attendance for the President's Tulsa, Oklahoma campaign rally.
June 2020: India bans 59 Chinese apps including TikTok, citing national security and data privacy concerns; the move comes amid ongoing skirmishes between the two countries on the China-India border.
July 2020: Australia Prime Minister Scott Morrison launches an investigation into TikTok surrounding data concerns.
July 2020: U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo confirms the U.S. is looking into banning TikTok over concerns the app is sharing data with China; the next day, President Trump says he is considering a ban, framing it as a potential retaliation tactic against China for its handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
Aug. 2, 2020: Microsoft issues a blog post citing a conversation between chief executive Satya Nadella and President Trump around the company's potential acquisition of TikTok.
Aug. 4, 2020: Australia Prime Minister Scott Morrisson says there is not sufficient evidence to suggest a TikTok ban is necessary.
Aug. 6, 2020: President Trump issues an executive order banning American companies from transacting with ByteDance or its subsidiaries, namely TikTok; the U.S. Secretary of Commerce is to identify specific prohibited "transactions" 45 days after the order is issued.
Aug. 14, 2020: Trump issues another executive order demanding ByteDance "divest all interests and rights" in its assets and property that enable TikTok's U.S. operations, and data collected via TikTok in the U.S., within 90 days. The order says the U.S. investigation into ByteDance's acquisition of Musical.ly presented "credible evidence" that ByteDance "might take action that threatens to impair the national security of the United States."
Aug. 17, 2020: Oracle enters the discussion as a reported TikTok suitor.
Aug. 18, 2020: President Trump says he would support Oracle buying TikTok. Oracle's cofounder and CTO Larry Ellison had previously said he supports Trump and had fundraised for him in February 2020.
Aug. 24, 2020: TikTok announces it is suing the Trump administration over the ban for failure to protect due process. Separately, a U.S.-based TikTok employee also sues the administration, stating, "I am a patriot"
Aug. 26, 2020:Kevin Mayer steps down from ByteDance and TikTok, citing a diminished role in a letter to colleagues. Rumors swirl that he was left out of ByteDance's negotiations with potential acquirers
Aug. 27, 2020: Walmart issues a statement that it is interested in partnering with Microsoft to acquire TikTok.
Aug. 28, 2020: L.A.-based Triller, a TikTok upstart competitor, is reported to have issued a bid for TikTok along with investment firm Centricus.
Aug. 29, 2020:The Chinese government issues new export rules that complicate the exportation of TikTok's underlying technology – namely its "For You" algorithm – to any foreign buyer.
Aug. 31, 2020:CNBC reports TikTok has chosen a buyer, with an expected sale price of $20 billion - $30 billion.
Sept. 3, 2020: With uncertainty over whether a buyer will be able to acquire TikTok's algorithm, and debate mounting over how that affects the value of the company, numerous outlets negotiations are likely to slow as the Chinese government increases its involvement.
Sept. 13, 2020: Microsoft says in a blog post that "ByteDance let us know today they would not be selling TikTok's US operations to Microsoft." The company says it would have made "significant changes" to ensure security, privacy, online safety and combatting disinformation.
Sept. 14, 2020: Oracle confirms that it has been selected by ByteDance to become a "trusted technology provider" with TikTok. The company says the proposal was submitted by ByteDance to the Treasury Department over the weekend. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin says on CNBC that the proposal includes making TikTok-global a U.S. headquartered company with 20,000 new jobs.
Mnuchin adds that the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States is reviewing the proposal this week for national security implications, and will make a recommendation to the president, who will then review the proposal.
Sept. 19, 2020: President Trump tells reporters he approved the deal in concept between Oracle and TikTok's parent company ByteDance, in which Oracle and Walmart would partner with the app in the U.S. The U.S. government postpones a planned ban on TikTok for one week.
Sept. 27, 2020: A federal judge in Washington temporarily blocks President Trump’s order banning TikTok, granting the social media firm a reprieve just hours before it was to be removed from mobile app stores. The judge says Trump’s order was “largely a unilateral decision with very little opportunity for plaintiffs to be heard,” according to the Washington Post.
Oct. 30, 2020: TikTok averts a U.S. ban again after a federal judge in Pennsylvania temporarily blocks restrictions set to take place on Nov. 12—the Trump administration's deadline for ByteDance to close a deal in the U.S.
Nov. 7, 2020: Democrat Joe Biden defeats President Trump in the presidential election, the Associated Press and other media outlets confirm. A few days later, an advisor to President-elect Biden says it is “too early to say” Biden’s thoughts on TikTok.
Nov. 11, 2020: TikTok asks a judge to extend the deadline for its sale by 30 days. The company says it hasn’t heard an update from the administration in weeks.
Nov. 12, 2020: The U.S. Commerce Department says it won’t enforce the sale deadline imposed by Trump’s order "pending further legal developments." The department cites the Pennsylvania ruling from October that found the TikTok crackdown exceeded the government’s power.
Nov. 13, 2020: The U.S. government extends its deadline by 15 days, giving TikTok until Nov. 27 to strike a deal that allays the government’s national security concerns.
Nov. 26, 2020: ByteDance gets another week to sell off TikTok’s U.S. business. A spokesperson for the Treasury Department tells CNBC that the government granted the extension until Dec. 4 “to allow time to review a revised submission” that it recently received.
Dec. 4, 2020: The latest deadline passes without an approved deal to sell TikTok. The Treasury Department says it won’t extend the deadline again, but there are “no plans to enforce anything,” a source tells The Washington Post.
Dec. 14, 2020: The Federal Trade Commission orders TikTok—along with Snap, YouTube, Twitter and other social media and streaming sites—to turn over information about how they collect and use information about users.
Feb. 10, 2021: Newly-inaugurated President Joe Biden slams the brakes on forcing a TikTok sale. In court papers, Biden administration lawyers file a motion to postpone the cases related to a potential ban of the popular social media app.
June 9, 2021: President Biden revokes Trump’s executive order that sought to ban TikTok and replaces it with one that calls for a broader review of foreign-controlled apps that may pose national security risks.
June 25, 2021: CNBC reports TikTok is tightly controlled by Chinese parent company ByteDance. Insiders tell the news outlet that ByteDance has access to TikTok’s American user data and is closely involved in the Culver City company’s decision-making.
July 20, 2021: Pakistan bans TikTok for the fourth time, citing “inappropriate content.” The country lifts the latest ban a few months later.
Sept 27, 2021: TikTok announces that it has surpassed 1 billion monthly active users as the app continues to rapidly rise in popularity.
Oct. 26, 2021: During a public hearing, U.S. lawmakers press Michael Beckerman, TikTok’s head of public policy for the Americas, on whether TikTok’s Chinese ownership could expose consumer data to Beijing. Beckerman says “access controls for our data is done by our U.S. teams,” adding that the data that TikTok collects is “not of a national security importance,” according to the New York Times.
Dec. 17 2021: A Wall Street Journal investigation shows that TikTok’s recommendation algorithm is flooding teens’ video feeds with eating disorder content.
December 2021: TikTok overtakes Google as the most-visited website on the internet.
Feb. 8, 2022: Facing criticism over hosting harmful content, TikTok announces new rules aimed at preventing viral hoaxes, shielding the LGBTQ community from harassment and removing videos promoting unhealthy eating.
February 2022: As Russia invades Ukraine, TikTok is awash in raw footage from the battlefield and false and misleading clips. The war raises fresh concerns about TikTok’s handling of misinformation on its platform.
March 2, 2022: A bipartisan group of state attorneys general launch an investigation into TikTok, examining whether the social media giant is harming children and young adults through the content on its platform.
March 11, 2022:Reuters reports that TikTok is close to a deal to store all of the video-sharing app’s U.S. user data with American software giant Oracle. The partnership is aimed at resolving the U.S. government’s national security concerns.
March 15, 2022: California lawmakers unveil a first-of-its-kind bill to let parents sue social media platforms like TikTok for allegedly addicting children to their apps.
March 31, 2022: Attorneys general from 44 U.S. states and territories urge TikTok and Santa Monica-based Snap to strengthen parental controls on their platforms, telling the social media giants that they must do more to protect kids online.
April 3, 2022: “The Unofficial Bridgerton Musical” wins a Grammy for Best Musical Theater Album. It’s the first Grammy-winning album to originate on TikTok, solidifying the app’s growing influence over the music industry.
April 15, 2022: The Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice launch probes into TikTok’s moderation of content depicting child sexual abuse, according to the Financial Times.
April 2022: TikTok is the most-downloaded app in the world during the first quarter of 2022, according to a study from digital analytics firm Sensor Tower.
May 12, 2022: The mother of a 10-year-old girl who died after allegedly trying a dangerous “Blackout Challenge” sues TikTok. The case is one of several to claim the app’s algorithm showed kids and teens videos of people choking themselves until they pass out.
June 17, 2022: BuzzFeed News publishes a bombshell report that TikTok’s data on U.S. users was repeatedly accessed in China by employees of parent company ByteDance. The report raises fresh privacy and security concerns about the Chinese-owned social media app.
The same day, TikTok announces that it migrated all of its U.S. user traffic to servers operated by American software giant Oracle, an effort to assuage concerns that American data could fall into the hands of the Chinese government.
June 28, 2022: In the wake of the BuzzFeed report, Federal Communications Commissioner Brendan Carr urges Apple and Google to remove TikTok from its app stores. Nine Republican U.S. senators send a letter to TikTok with questions about the company’s handling of American data.
June 30, 2022: TikTok responds to Republican lawmakers by detailing its plans on keeping U.S. data out of the hands of Chinese parent company ByteDance. The company’s letter confirms that ByteDance employees in China can access TikTok data, but only when “subject to a series of robust cybersecurity controls” and approvals overseen by its U.S.-based security team.
July 5, 2022: Leaders of the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee ask the Federal Trade Commission to investigate whether TikTok deceived the public about whether people in China could access American user data.July 29, 2022: Bloomberg reports the Chinese government requested TikTok host stealth, propaganda accounts—a move that TikTok executives denied due to their growing efforts to distance the platform from its Chinese origins.
August 5, 2022: The flood of information coming from within the organization leads TikTok to hire roles meant to prevent internal leaks.
August 11, 2022: A Forbes review of TikTok and ByteDance employees’ LinkedIn profiles reveals that 300 current employees previously worked for Chinese state media publications. Fifteen employees apparently were employed by both at the same time.
August 16, 2022: Oracle begins its audit of TikTok’s algorithm and content moderation process to determine if the Chinese government has interfered with the platform.
August 18, 2022: Developer Felix Krause finds that the app monitors all keyboard inputs and tags, which could record private data like passwords and credit card information. TikTok denies these claims.
September 14, 2022: TikTok Chief Operating Officer Vanessa Pappas appears before the Senate Homeland Security Committee and says its ongoing negotiations with the U.S. government “will satisfy all national security concerns.” Notably, Pappas would not fully commit to cutting off U.S. data flow to China.
September 21, 2022: Former TikTok executives claim they were instructed to follow directions from ByteDance and had limited power to make internal decisions as people question TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew’s influence.
September 24, 2022: British regulators from the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) send TikTok a warning over how the company handles children’s data—a warning that could lead to a $29 million fine.
September 26, 2022: The Justice Department reaches a “preliminary agreement” with TikTok over national security concerns, though details are still being negotiated.
October 12, 2022: A BBC report finds that TikTok profited from refugees collecting donations via the app’s live streaming feature, with some claiming the platform took up to 70% of the profits.
October 27, 2022: Even as the government places increasing pressure on TikTok, the Biden administration invites eight TikTok stars to the White House in an effort to reach Gen Z voters.
According to a Forbes report last April, both the viewership and dollars behind women’s sports at a collegiate and professional level are growing.
In 2022, the first 32 games of the NCAA tournament had record attendance levels, breaking records set back in 2004, and largely driven by the new and rapidly growing women’s NCAA tournament. WNBA openers this year saw a 21% spike in attendance, with some teams including the LA Sparks reporting triple-digit ticket sales growth, about 121% over 2022’s total. In 2023, the average size of an LA Sparks crowd swelled to 10,396 people, up from 4,701 people.
Women make up half the population, but “also 50% of the folks that are walking into the stadium at Dodger Stadium, or your NFL fans are just about 50% women,” noted Erin Storck, a panelist and senior analyst at Los Angeles-based Elysian Park Ventures.
Storck added that in heterosexual households, women generally manage most of the family’s money, giving them huge purchasing power, a potential advantage for female-run leagues. “There's an untapped revenue opportunity,” she noted.
In the soccer world, Los Angeles-based women’s soccer team Angel City FC has put in the work to become a household name, not just in LA County but across the nation. At an LA Tech Week panel hosted by Athlete Strategies about investing in sports, Angel City head of strategy and chief of staff Kari Fleischauer said that years before launching the women’s National Women’s Soccer League team, Angel City FC was pounding the pavement letting people know about the excitement ladies soccer can bring. She noted community is key, and that fostering a sense of engagement and safety at the team’s home venue, BMO stadium (formerly Banc of California Stadium), is one reason fans keep coming back.
Adding free metro rides to BMO stadium and private rooms for nursing fans to breastfeed or fans on the spectrum to avoid sensory overload, were just some of the ways ACFC tried to include its community in the concept of its stadium, Fleischauer said. She noted, though, that roughly 46% of Angel City fans are “straight white dudes hanging out with their bros.”
“Particularly [on] the woman's side, I'd like to think we do a better job of making sure that there's spaces for everyone,” Fleischauer told the audience. “One thing we realize is accessibility is a huge thing.”
L.A. Tech Week has brought venture capitalists, founders and entrepreneurs from around the world to the California coast. With so many tech nerds in one place, it's easy to laugh, joke and reminisce about the future of tech in SoCal.
Here's what people are saying about the fifth day of L.A. Tech Week on social:
#LATechWeek has been on 🔥🔥🔥. Yes the events are super cool at amazing venues. But, I’m blown away by the people. I’ve met so many founders building generative AI companies from the ground up. I’m so bullish on LA right now🥳. LA is for builders #longLA
Thanks @rpnickson 📸 pic.twitter.com/B6rT2jJYIs
— Dr. Kelly O'Brien (@Kvo2013) June 8, 2023
Successful LatinxVC Avanza Summit 2023 in LA! It’s been an amazing few days near the beach w great company. Thank you to our panelists & participants.
Huge thanks to our incredible sponsors SVB, Chavez Family Foundation, Annenberg Foundation, PledgeLA, Fenwick & West, Countsy! pic.twitter.com/oVuGIgFurk
— LatinxVC (@LatinxVCs) June 9, 2023
30+ gaming startups presented at the A16z Speedrun Demo Day in LA yesterday. Great thanks to the @a16zGames team for an awesome day of events! #LATechWeek pic.twitter.com/DKq8IFo5QZ
— Grace Zhou (@graceminzhou) June 9, 2023
📣🤩 What’s the buzz? It’s #LATechWeek from @TechstarsLA & @TechstarsHealth joint demo day with the #Techstar HC team where our @fyelabs founder/CEO Suvojit Ghosh mentored both cohorts! #TechStars demo day highlighted 12 amazing emerging #startups in #healthtech #innovation. 🩺 pic.twitter.com/0RXClCtfDQ
— FYELABS (@fyelabs) June 9, 2023
Another successful Coffee On Slauson in the books for #LATechWeek.
Special thanks to the good people at Pledge LA, SVB and @GundersonLaw for the ongoing support and the @findyourhilltop staff for providing the space, eats & vibes. ♻️ pic.twitter.com/51cMDoEn30
— Slauson & Co. (@SlausonAndCo) June 9, 2023
The perfect combo to start #LATechWeek Day 5: pastries, coffee, and great convos with industry founders ✨
Fireside chats with @enriquealle, @wp, and @robynpark pic.twitter.com/booYPdekVV
— Tech Week (@Techweek_) June 9, 2023
Of course @designerfund has the most amazing pastries at their event. #LATechWeek pic.twitter.com/PjyWlGTQI4
— Jesse Pickard (@jessepickard) June 9, 2023
My favorite event from @Techweek_ has to be "Modern Storytelling & Business Building." Hosted by @STHoward #LATechWeek pic.twitter.com/SV1eexMJ4k
— JonnyZeller (@JonnyZeller) June 9, 2023
And the finale of the night was courtesy of the one and only @zedd for an unforgettable end to the "City of Games" party! Hosted by @a16zGames and @100Thieves #LATechWeek pic.twitter.com/hliI9yLKse
— Tech Week (@Techweek_) June 9, 2023
Excited to be at the @a16zGames Speedrun Demo Day! Loved the energy and excitement from the companies that pitched there. It was also great to see @Tocelot and @ndrewlee at this amazing #LATechWeek event pic.twitter.com/NfLQO5lR27
— Andy Lee | andypwlee.bit (@andypwlee) June 9, 2023
Thank you to everyone who joined the Sony Venture Fund US team at #LATechWeek for our screening of Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse. Last summer, we started building a presence in LA. Today, it's exciting to host such an event with the @Sony family and the LA VC community. pic.twitter.com/wdDm6qtHdL
— Sony Innovation Fund (@Sony_Innov_Fund) June 9, 2023
Time to eat, connect and build while @remi_rodney provided the vibes. 🙏🏽#LATechWeek @BuildOnBase @developer_dao @WeAreRazorfish pic.twitter.com/QIPh1gjvoA
— Hola Metaverso-Blockchain & New Web Tech Events 🎪 (@holametaverso) June 9, 2023
@Lux_Capital at #LATechWeek advancing the impossible to inevitable, from..
..defense primes partnering with cutting edge defense tech startups, to..
..hardware x LLMs improving mental health.
From the rich and diverse LA ecosystem stems generational companies: pic.twitter.com/v5S5r8JtbU
— Shahin Farshchi (@Farshchi) June 9, 2023
LA Tech Week has been a blast! Met some amazing creators, founders and investors from all over the world! #LATechWeek pic.twitter.com/AAh9JFELhe
— Chris Germano (@netslayer) June 9, 2023
Had such a blast at LA Tech Week and hosting events for @brexHQ
Top highlights were collabing with @pulley on an Emerging Managers / Founder mixer at the @poplco House, rooftop event in Venice, creator panel with @thechangj & proper Korean food with in KTown.
Exhausted is an… pic.twitter.com/mGQnSYGPdg
— Τyler Robinson (@TyyRob3) June 9, 2023
Did you have fun at @sophiaamoruso’s launch party for @trustfundvc? #LATechWeek pic.twitter.com/gbrbXRQ9Xx
— Kay (@KaySnels) June 9, 2023
y00tilty in every city with @KaylaLor3n & @cryptochrisg813.
Welcome to the LA @y00tsNFT fam! #LATechWeek #3XP week. pic.twitter.com/6wWKlsTacx
— VanG0xH (@CryptoVanGoghs) June 9, 2023
Really enjoyed #LATechWeek. Here are some observations I made 👇
— s.personal.ai (Suman Kanuganti) (@SumanPersonalAI) June 9, 2023
Thank you @TheKofiAmpadu for including me in #demoday with the latest @a16ztxo cohort! It was a real full circle moment to witness the brilliance of both @ChrisLyons & @ZMuse_ & #PledgeLA very own. She’s why we’re #LongLA 🚀💕 #LAtechweek pic.twitter.com/itkKXMxQRb
— Qiana Qiana! (@Q_i_a_n_a) June 9, 2023
@upfrontvc Gaming Founders Podcast #iLOVELA #LATechWeek @Techweek_ @KatiaAmeri @mucker @fikavc @bonfire_vc @TenOne10 @WatertowerGroup @ganasvc @IAmRobRyan @john_at_stonks @eva_ho @dereknorton pic.twitter.com/LCbaGXCoW7
— Sean Goldfaden (@seangoldfaden) June 9, 2023
Hosts Kevin Zhang, Partner at @upfrontvc, and Eden Chen, CEO of @pragmaplatform, interviewed two special guests from @raidbaseinc Stephen Lim, Co-Founder & Product Director, and Trevor Romleski, Co-Founder & Game Director. 🎙 #LATechWeek pic.twitter.com/hxHEAoELZ6
— Tech Week (@Techweek_) June 9, 2023
Kicking off @a16zGames @100Thieves City of Games party at #LATechWeek 🔥🔥🔥 pic.twitter.com/zQcZedG15f
— Jon Lai (@Tocelot) June 9, 2023
Yesterday at @socinnovation I got to have this AWESOME conversation with @iamwill — musician, producer, technology entrepreneur, and Founder & CEO of https://t.co/D60y1e2JOu #LATechWeek pic.twitter.com/KBxK6rXyTG
— Anna Barber (@annawbarber) June 9, 2023
I absolutely love this game. Proud moment for the team @investwithatlas. #LATechWeek pic.twitter.com/fPZvKXU7TC
— Tobias Francis (@TobiasFrancis) June 9, 2023
Had a blast at LA Tech Week this year with @brexHQ
From hosting & moderating my first creator panel featuring @BlakeMichael14, to a fun rooftop night in Venice, and to attending some amazing events such as Watertower’s emerging manager panel and a VC/founder tennis tournament pic.twitter.com/udjfmLHE0L
— Jonathan Chang (@thechangj) June 8, 2023
At Lowercarbon Capital’s LA Tech Week event Thursday, the synergy between the region’s aerospace industry and greentech startups was clear.
The event sponsored by Lowercarbon, Climate Draft (and the defunct Silicon Valley Bank’s Climate Technology & Sustainability team) brought together a handful of local startups in Hawthorne not far from LAX, and many of the companies shared DNA with arguably the region’s most famous tech resident: SpaceX.
Here’s a look at the greentech startups that pitched during the Tech Week event, and how they think what they’re building could help solve the climate crisis.
Arbor: Based in El Segundo, this year-old startup is working to convert organic waste into energy and fresh water. At the same time, it also uses biomass carbon removal and storage to remove carbon from the atmosphere and sequester it in an attempt to avoid further damaging the earth’s ozone layer. At the Tech Week event Thursday, Arbor CEO Brad Hartwig told a stunned crowd that Arbor aims to remove about five billion tons of organic waste from landfills and turn that into about 6 PWh, or a quarter of the global electricity need, each year. Hartwig is an alumni of SpaceX; he was a manufacturing engineer on the Crew Dragon engines from 2016-2018 and later a flight test engineer at Kitty Hawk.
Antora: Sunnyvale-based Antora Energy was founded in 2017, making it one of the oldest companies on the pitching block during the event. Backed by investors including the National Science Foundation and Los Angeles-based Overture VC, Antora has raised roughly $57 million to date, most recently a $50 million round last February. Chief operating officer Justin Briggs said Antora’s goal is to modernize and popularize thermal energy storage using ultra-hot carbon. Massive heated carbon blocks can give off thermal energy, which Antora’s proprietary batteries then absorb and store as energy. It’s an ambitious goal, but one the world needs at scale to green its energy footprint. According to Briggs, “the biggest challenge is how can we turn back variable intermittent renewable electricity into something that's reliable and on demand, so we can use it to provide energy to everything we need.”
Arc: Hosting the panel was Arc, an electric boating company that’s gained surprising momentum, moving from design to delivering its first e-boats in just two years of existence. Founded in 2021, the company’s already 70 employees strong and has already sold some of its first e-boats to customers willing to pay the luxury price tag, CTO Ryan Cook said Thursday. Cook said that to meet the power needs of a battery-powered speedboat, the Arc team designed the vehicle around the battery pack with the goal of it being competitive with gas boats when compared to range and cost of gas. But on the pricing side, it’s not cheap. Arc’s flagship vessel, the Arc One is expected to cost roughly $300,000. During the panel, Cook compared the boat to being “like an early Tesla Roadster.” To date Arc Boats has raised just over $35 million, according to PitchBook, from investors including Kevin Durant, Will Smith and Sean “Diddy” Combs.
Clarity Technology: Carbon removal startup Clarity is based in LA and was founded by Yale graduate and CEO Glen Meyerowitz last year. Clarity is working to make “gigaton solutions for gigaton problems.” Their aim? To remove up to 2,000 billion pounds of carbon from the atmosphere through direct air capture, a process which uses massive fans to move chemicals that capture CO2. But the challenge, Meyerowitz noted in his speech, is doing this at scale in a way that makes an actual dent in the planet’s emissions while also efficiently using the electricity needed to do so. Meyerowitz spent nearly five years working as an engineer for SpaceX in Texas, and added he’s looking to transfer those learnings into Clarity.
Parallel Systems: Based in Downtown LA’s Arts District, this startup is building zero-emission rail vehicles that are capable of long-haul journeys otherwise done by a trucking company. The estimated $700 billion trucking industry, Parallel Systems CEO Matt Soule said, is ripe for an overhaul and could benefit from moving some of its goods off-road to electric railcars. According to Soule, Parallel’s electric battery-powered rail vehicles use 25% of the energy a semi truck uses, and at a competitive cost. Funded in part by a February 2022 grant from the U.S. Department of Energy, Parallel Systems has raised about $57 million to date. Its most recent venture funding round was a $49 million Series A led by Santa Monica-based VC Anthos Capital. Local VCs including Riot Ventures and Santa Monica-based Embark Ventures are also backers of Parallel.
Terra Talent: Unlike the rest of the startups pitching at the Tech Week event, Terra Talent was focused on building teams rather than technology. Founder Dolly Singh worked at SpaceX, Oculus and Citadel as a headhunter, and now runs Terra, a talent and advisory firm that helps companies recruit top talent in the greentech space. But, she said, she’s concerned that all the work these startups are doing won’t matter unless we very quickly turn around the current trendlines. “Earth will shake us off like and she will do just fine in 10,000 years,” she said. “It’s our way of living, everything we love is actually here on earth… there’s nothing I love on Mars,” adding that she’s hopeful the startups that pitched during the event will be instrumental in making sure the planet stays habitable for a little while longer.