📦 Crate: Get Your (Online) Life in Order

Wil Chockley
WIl Chockley is a partner at 75 & Sunny, where he evaluates potential investment opportunities across sectors and works with founders to build their strategy and execute on their vision.

Hi folks,

We have another founder profile for you this week. It’s a fascinating early stage consumer business with just about the strongest LA ties possible. Read on below for more!

🏃♀️ Quick hits

The Founder: Anna Bofa is an LA native and Dartmouth graduate (go Big Green 🌲🌲), who has worked for some of the most successful consumer internet companies in Silicon Valley, including both Google and Facebook (pre-Meta shift).

The Company: Today, Crate is your AI-enabled space to save all your content, from any source and any file type. As it matures, the AI engine will learn about you and be able to curate “Crates” of content for your next trip, research project, hobby, or event without you having to lift a finger. Crate has raised pre-seed and seed rounds and is actively raising capital now!

LA Connection: Crate founder Anna Bofa was born and raised in Los Angeles, has raised money from multiple top LA VCs (Upfront Ventures, MaC VC), and the company is headquartered here as well.

I don’t know about you, but my online life is a mess. I have five email addresses, files stored across a multitude of Google Drives and my personal desktop, social media accounts on the major platforms, a notes app full of random ideas, shared albums on my phone, and a multitude of other content saved in places I don’t even know. I’m sure I’m not the only one in desperate need of a digital Marie Kondo. If you’re like me, Anna Bofa and her company Crate are coming to save the day.

Pre-Crate

🌴 Anna Bofa was born in sunny LA but went about as far from home as possible (in the continental US) to attend Dartmouth College in New Hampshire. At Dartmouth she immersed herself in the startup scene. While her classmates were prepping for jobs on Wall Street, reading the Financial Times and WSJ, Anna was avidly poring over TechCrunch, starting from its earliest days in the mid 2000s. Anna was hooked on reading about the seismic shifts in the business world, led by companies like Google and Facebook. Her jumping off point into the world of technology happened when she organized a speaker from Google to come all the way to Hanover New Hampshire to speak to her business club. After the talk, she and the speaker were at dinner, where he asked her why she was still thinking about a career on Wall Street, when she should be working for an innovator like Google.

In 2009, Anna applied to Google’s bizdev team, got the job, and moved to the Bay Area right out of school. For context, in 2009, Google’s share price was less than $10 per share (adjusted for stock splits), while it’s now trading at $136 per share. It was already a massive company, but it wasn’t yet a true pillar of the business world as it is today. When she was starting out, she still had to explain to business owners what internet marketing was and why it was superior to advertising in the Yellow Pages and in magazines.

My first job at Google was to help businesses understand the world had changed. Back then most businesses still used the Yellow Pages. There was this divide between the internet and the physical world, which was just starting to get bridged.

After two years helping transition the world to the digital age, Anna moved to Dropbox, which had just raised a Series B. She was one of the first hundred employees, and got her first taste of creating software for storage and organization of information. She then left to be an early employee at Pinterest (which was pre-revenue at the time), where she was even more immersed in the world of consumer content curation and organization.

After three years at Pinterest, Anna decided to do something a little different. She left Silicon Valley for Africa, working for a year with the Grameen Foundation in Kenya and Uganda, helping local entrepreneurs build a for-profit mobile data collection business. While Anna had been in the tech and startup scene for almost a decade at that point, she had never truly been on the ground floor of a startup, and she started getting the entrepreneurial itch.

That said, she still had to get one more feather in her Silicon Valley cap before setting off on her own, so she joined Facebook in 2017.

Thanos collecting Anna’s resume

2017 was an interesting year for Facebook. The 2016 election had just happened, moms - not college students - were now the dominant force on the platform, and the company had to do some soul searching. Zuck and co decided the core of the product should be Facebook Groups, and Anna joined to help lead that effort. Facebook Groups are still massive, with over 1.8 billion users per month in 2021. Anna was on the ground figuring out what made groups like “New Moms of Los Angeles” and “Massachusetts Real Estate Agents” tick. What she found was that the most successful, happy, and engaged groups were those where curated content was shared constantly.

This helped crystalize her vision for a new startup - one where content curation, sharing, and discovery was central, but people were not the product.

Crate

📦 Initially, Anna thought about building her new idea within the Facebook ecosystem, but (rightly) decided that building something just to be owned by her employer was probably not the best use of her time. So she struck out on her own, going through months of “co-founder dating” before eventually realizing she could just build the initial product herself as a solo founder.

I had this idea in my head that you need to have a co-founder to start a company. And I felt like I tried it, but I was sort of being held back because I was trying so hard to fit in with another person. So that's when I just decided to just go out on my own and be a solo founder.

Anna had been trying to get the company off the ground in London and then in San Francisco, but eventually connected with LA-based Upfront Ventures to lead her pre-seed round, after which, she decided it was time to move back home to Los Angeles. She then went on to raise another round led by another top-tier LA fund, MaC Venture Capital.

The idea for Crate at inception was pretty much what it is today, two years later. The goal is to help you organize your online life by saving content across all platforms and file types into a single location, a “Crate,” and making that Crate shareable and AI-enabled. For those of you who love Pinterest, Crate definitely has echoes from Anna’s time there. The key difference is that, according to Anna, Crate is a data company rather than a social company - more a Google than a Facebook or Pinterest.

🤔 So how does Crate work?

The easiest way to understand is with an example. Let’s say I’m planning a trip to New York. I’m scrolling on Instagram and see a photo a friend took. I add that to my crate. Next I’m looking at flights on Kayak or Google Flights and am deciding between two flights. I add them to my crate. I go on Yelp or Tiktok and find cool restaurants, I add them to my crate. Now this Crate is shareable, but the unique part comes from the AI enablement. Crate has built its own AI models, which take in data from all Crate’s users and build you custom Crates based on what the community is adding to Crates, and what you’re personally adding.

The end goal looks something like this: You’ve used Crate for a while. It knows your general preferences across entertainment, travel, education, etc. Now you’re planning a trip to Mexico City, and instead of you manually pulling in everything for your Mexico City experience, Crate takes what it’s learned about you, adds it to what it’s learned from everyone else going to Mexico, and pulls together a completely AI generated Crate with the best possible restaurants, activities, and travel details curated for you. This doesn’t only work for travel, but also for anything else you do on the internet. It will be able to help with research, with news, with entertainment. It will be like a personal assistant organizing your internet life for you.

Crate is still in its early days. Anna and team have spent the last two years building a cutting edge product, which is finally available as public beta. I’ve been playing around with it, and it’s been pretty helpful to have a single place to go for topics I’m passionate about (e.g., Los Angeles tech, dinosaurs, etc.), and the AI recommendations are just starting to kick in.

What’s next for Crate? Anna and co are actually just hitting the market now to raise some new capital to “build the next great consumer platform,” so if you’re interested in learning more, feel free to reach out to her directly or to dot.LA, and we’ll put you in touch.

Today Crate is available as an iOS app and a Chrome extension, so you can find it wherever you live on the internet. 📦🎁📦🎁

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🏰 Disney's Epic Investment Stands Out Amidst Gaming Industry Layoffs

Christian Hetrick

Christian Hetrick is dot.LA's Entertainment Tech Reporter. He was formerly a business reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and reported on New Jersey politics for the Observer and the Press of Atlantic City.

🔦 Spotlight

In the midst of widespread gaming industry layoffs, a glimmer of positive news emerges as Disney announces a significant move: a $1.5 billion investment in Epic Games. 🏰💰🐭

Image Source: Disney

Disney's $1.5 billion investment in Epic Games, disclosed late Wednesday, signals a strategic alignment aimed at expanding the success of "Fortnite." The deal enhances Epic's growth prospects after financial setbacks, including layoffs, and strengthens the partnership between the two companies. With Disney gaining a larger equity stake in Epic, the collaboration will broaden the integration of beloved Disney franchises like Marvel, Star Wars, Pixar, and Avatar into the game, potentially boosting its appeal and longevity. This significant investment underscores Disney's commitment to interactive entertainment and signifies a shift towards games as a primary revenue stream, aligning with the growing trend of digital engagement among younger demographics. Moreover, the potential for crossover sales of physical Disney products within "Fortnite" and the exploration of new content distribution channels are just some of the opportunities arising from this partnership.

For LA tech, the Disney-Epic Games partnership represents a validation of the region's burgeoning tech and gaming ecosystem. The substantial investment in Epic, who maintains a large Los Angeles office with 1,000+ employees (according to LinkedIn), reflects confidence in the LA’s talent pool and innovation potential. Additionally, this partnership between two industry giants fosters an environment for further collaboration, investment, and growth within LA's tech sector. As Disney and Epic Games deepen their ties and explore new avenues for content integration and distribution, it not only elevates the prominence of LA as a tech hub but also stimulates economic growth and job creation in the region. This partnership highlights LA's unique position as a hub where technology and entertainment converge. With its ability to integrate diverse industries, LA is driving innovation and expansion in digital entertainment. 🚀💸🎮

🤝 Venture Deals

LA Companies

  • ProducePay, a financing and marketplace platform for the fresh produce market, raised a $38M Series D led by Syngenta Group Ventures joined by Commonfund, Highgate Private Equity, G2 Venture Partners, Anterra Capital, Astanor Ventures, Endeavor8, Avenue Venture Opportunities, Avenue Sustainable Solutions, and Red Bear Angels. - learn more
  • Blush, an invite-only dating app that drives users to local businesses on dates, raised a $7M Seed Round from individuals like Naval Ravikant. - learn more
  • Mogul, a startup founded last year that provides an overview of an artist's royalty earnings and identifies areas where money is owed but has not yet been collected, raised a $1.9 million seed round from Wonder Ventures, United Talent Agency, AmplifyLA, and Creator Partners. - learn more
  • Avnos, a hybrid direct air capture startup, raised a $36M Series A led by NextEra Energy and joined by Safran Corporate Ventures, Shell Ventures, Envisioning Partners, and Rusheen Capital Management. - learn more
  • AI.fashion, startup whose mission is to help retailers enhance the online shopping experience by providing consumers with virtual try-ons and personalized fashion recommendations, raised a $3.6M Seed Round led by Neo. - learn more
  • Suma Wealth, startup that aims to demystify financial topics and provide culturally relevant content, virtual experiences, and resources to help Latino users navigate financial challenges and opportunities, raised a $2.2M Seed Round . Radicle Impact led, and was joined by Vamos Ventures, OVO fund and the American Heart Association Impact Fund. - learn more
  • 222, a startup that helps users discover their city and meet new people through unique social experiences, raised a $2.5M Seed Round. Investors included 1517 Fund, General Catalyst, Best Nights VC, Scrum Ventures, and Upfront Ventures. - learn more
  • LimaCharlie, a security operations cloud platform, raised a $10.2M Series A led by Sands Capital. - learn more
  • Polycam, an app that uses a smartphone’s sensors to capture 3D scans of objects, raised an $18M Series A co-led by Left Lane Capital and Adjacent, and joined by Adobe Ventures and individuals like Chad Hurley and Shaun Maguire. -learn more.

LA Venture Funds

Actively Raising

  • ReelCall, Inc., an entertainment technology company focused on powerful apps and platforms that help build and maintain the professional network of connections vital to career growth, is raising a $850K Pre-Seed Round. - learn more
  • CZero, a startup building software to decarbonize logistics for logistics businesses and goods business through a vetted marketplace and optimization software. - learn more
  • Couri, a technology startup addressing last-mile delivery issues, is raising a $450K Pre-Seed Round at a $2.2M post money valuation. - learn more
  • Sweetie, a marketplace to help people plan date nights, is raising a $1.5M Pre Seed Round. - learn more
  • StartupStarter, an investment platform that provides real-time data and analytics on startups, is raising an $850K Angel Round. - learn more

If you’re a founder raising money in Los Angeles, give us a shout, and we’d love to include you in the newsletter!

Venture Waves, Climate Tech Wins, and Silicon Beach's Ongoing Evolution

Christian Hetrick

Christian Hetrick is dot.LA's Entertainment Tech Reporter. He was formerly a business reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and reported on New Jersey politics for the Observer and the Press of Atlantic City.

Anduril Seeks $1.5B in VC Funds

Defense company Anduril Industries Inc., based in Costa Mesa and founded by Palmer Luckey, is seeking to raise $1.5 billion in fresh funds to boost its valuation to $12.5 billion or more, according to sources quoted by The Information. This fundraising effort, if successful, would mark one of the largest venture capital rounds of the year.

Image Source: Anduril

Anduril recently secured a contract to develop and test small unmanned fighter jet prototypes under the Air Force’s Collaborative Combat Aircraft (CCA) program, beating out major defense companies like Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and Northrop Grumman. Alongside General Atomics, Anduril will design, manufacture, and test these aircraft, with a final multibillion-dollar production decision expected in fiscal year 2026. This program aims to deliver at least 1,000 combat aircraft to fly in concert with manned platforms and is part of the Air Force’s Next Generation Air Dominance initiative. Central to Anduril’s success in this contract is the Fury autonomous air vehicle, acquired through the purchase of Blue Force Technologies. This victory underscores Anduril's rapid advancement in the defense sector, aligning with Luckey's vision of building faster and more cost-effective defense assets. - learn more

Los Angeles Ranks Number 1 in Emerging Climate Tech Hub

The 2024 Emerging Climate Tech Hubs Report by Revolution highlights Los Angeles as a burgeoning center for climate tech innovation. LA's growth in this sector is driven by its diverse talent pool, strong research institutions, and a culture of environmental consciousness. The city's unique mix of legacy industries, such as entertainment and aerospace, alongside emerging tech companies, positions it as a pivotal player in the climate tech landscape. This shift reflects a broader trend of decentralized climate tech funding across the U.S., reducing the historical dominance of California's traditional hubs. - learn more

Silicon Beach: Looking Back, Moving Forward

Assessing the overall health of the startup market is challenging, especially as venture capital funding has decreased by an average of 61% from 2021 to 2023 across the top VC markets in the US. Markets with robust ecosystems in AI, SaaS, Biotech, Healthtech, and Fintech appear to be weathering the downturn better than those focused on Consumer and Gaming industries, areas where Los Angeles traditionally excels.

Percent Change In VC Funding By Region

CB Insights

LA Times paints a rather bleak outlook on the Los Angeles tech scene noting venture capital funding in Greater Los Angeles plummeted 73% from 2021 to 2022. Silicon Beach, once a vibrant tech corridor, currently faces high vacancy rates and lacks late-stage financiers, especially in the AI sector. However, there are positive signs, including growth in aerospace startups and increased venture capital investment in early 2024, suggesting a potential rebound for LA's tech ecosystem.

While LA may not be exceeding expectations during this period, its tech ecosystem warrants a nuanced evaluation, given the broader market dynamics and its strong performance in specific sectors. Reach out to us with your thoughts.

🚀 SpaceX gears up for another stellar year, active raises, and more

Christian Hetrick

Christian Hetrick is dot.LA's Entertainment Tech Reporter. He was formerly a business reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and reported on New Jersey politics for the Observer and the Press of Atlantic City.

Happy Friday Los Angeles! You made it through the first week of 2024!

🔦 Spotlight

Elon Musk may be a divisive (albeit entertaining) figure, but the continued success of SpaceX is pivotal for the aerospace industry in Los Angeles and more broadly around the world.

Image Source: SpaceX webcast

What happened with SpaceX in 2023?

  • Elon Musk challenged Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg to a cage fight.
  • SpaceX launched 96 successful missions with its Falcon series of rockets, a 57% increase over its previous annual record.
  • SpaceX conducted two test flights of the largest and most powerful rocket ever built, Starship.
  • Roughly two-thirds of SpaceX's launches in 2023 were devoted to building out Starlink, the company's satellite-internet megaconstellation.
  • Isaacson’s Elon Musk biography was published in September including everything from Musk’s tumultuous relationship with his father to his work ethic and “demon mode”.

Moving forward what can we expect from SpaceX and its controversial founder? Continued innovation pushing the aerospace industry to new limits? Yes. More drama? Without a doubt.

Here is some of what is to come in 2024:

🤝 Venture Deals

Just Announced

Check back next week!

LA Exits

  • CG Oncology, an Irvine, CA-based developer of immunotherapies for bladder cancer, filed for a $100M IPO. It plans to list on the Nasdaq (CGON) with Morgan Stanley as left lead underwriter, and has raised around $317m in VC funding. - learn more
  • McNally Capital agreed to sell Advanced Micro Instruments, a Costa Mesa, CA-based maker of gas analyzers and sensing technologies, to Enpro (NYSE: NPO). - learn more

Actively Raising

  • ReelCall, Inc., an entertainment technology company focused on powerful apps and platforms that help build and maintain the professional network of connections vital to career growth, is raising a $850K Pre-Seed Round. - learn more
  • CZero, a hard-tech startup that is developing a technology for decarbonizing natural gas, is raising a $1.5M Seed Round. - learn more
  • Couri, a technology startup addressing last-mile delivery issues, is raising a $450K Pre-Seed Round at a $2.2M post money valuation. - learn more
  • Sweetie, a marketplace to help people plan date nights, is raising a $250K Angel Round. - learn more
  • StartupStarter, an investment platform that provides real-time data and analytics on startups, is raising an $850K Angel Round. - learn more

If you’re a founder raising money in Los Angeles, give us a shout, and we’d love to include you in the newsletter!

📅 LA Tech Calendar

Sunday, January 7th

Wednesday, January 10th

  • Startup Cafe: Networking with a Kick - Entrepreneurs, Startups, and Tech Enthusiasts join together to meet and connect with like-minded people, industry professionals and investors, while enjoying a nice cup of coffee in Venice at The KINN. This week’s interactive discussion about AI’s evolution in entertainment will feature Dr. Sam Khoze and Rachel Joy Victor.
  • Venice Tech Happy Hour- Join Startup Coil and FoundrHaus Wednesday evening and enjoy the sunset from the rooftop, grab a bite overlooking Abbot Kinney, and mingle with other tech enthusiasts and entrepreneurs by the bar on the patio.

Have an awesome event coming up? Reach out to be featured on next week’s Newsletter!

📙 What We’re Reading

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