Angel City FC Athletes, Execs Talk Challenges Facing Women in Sports and Tech

Decerry Donato

Decerry Donato is a reporter at dot.LA. Prior to that, she was an editorial fellow at the company. Decerry received her bachelor's degree in literary journalism from the University of California, Irvine. She continues to write stories to inform the community about issues or events that take place in the L.A. area. On the weekends, she can be found hiking in the Angeles National forest or sifting through racks at your local thrift store.

​The speakers talk on stage about the challenges they face in tech and sports.
Image by Decerry Donato

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Following the U.S. women’s national soccer team’s recent $24 million equal pay settlement, Los Angeles’ own women’s soccer club, Angel City FC, teamed up with Swedish fintech startup Klarna to host a panel on Tuesday evening spotlighting the obstacles women still face in the worlds of tech and sports alike.

Held at the Banc of California Stadium in Exposition Park (where Angel City FC plays its home games), the panel featured businesswomen like FounderForward CEO Robyn Ward and Klarna executive Raji Behal, as well as women athletes like former U.S. women’s national team player Shannon MacMillan and current Angel City players Cari Roccaro and Sarah Gorden.

An ad for Women\u2019s History Month from ACFC and Klarna at the Banc of California Stadium.An ad for Women’s History Month from ACFC and Klarna at the Banc of California Stadium.Courtesy of Klarna

Angel City has close ties with L.A.’s tech community, having been founded in 2020 with backing from investors like Upfront Ventures’ Kara Nortman, gaming entrepreneur Julie Uhrman and Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian. Tennis legend (and Ohanian’s wife) Serena Williams is also an investor, as are celebrities like Natalie Portman, America Ferrera, Eva Longoria and Jennifer Garner.

Though the worlds of tech and sports may, at first glance, seem to have little in common—existing at nearly opposite ends of the vocational (and high school popularity) spectrum—the evening’s speakers found common ground on the challenges that women encounter in both male-dominated industries.

“I was almost always the only woman in the room,” said Ward. Prior to founding Santa Monica-based leadership consulting business FounderFoward, Ward (who’s also an Angel City investor) ran United Talent Agency’s strategic investment arm and served as an executive at startups like Docstoc and Betterworks. “I’ve been a proud activist for a long time for changing the ratio of [women] founders and funders in the tech ecosystem,” she noted. “We are starting to see some change.”

Speaking on the sports end of the matter, Gorden told the audience that while the National Women’s Soccer League (in which Angel City competes) has not achieved the same pay equity that the U.S. women’s national team has, the settlement “is still important to all female athletes, because they’re setting the standard for what we will eventually follow.”

The team up between ACFC and Klarna brought Angel City players to the stage.The team up between ACFC and Klarna brought Angel City players to the stage.Decerry Donato

Upon winning the FIFA Women’s World Cup in 2015, the U.S. women’s national team took home $2 million in prize money; meanwhile, the U.S. men’s team won $9 million for its 11th-place finish in the 2014 World Cup. A similar discrepancy is at play in the business world, where women executives continue to face a sizable pay gap and women startup founders receive only a sliver of overall venture capital funding.

The role that women usually play as the primary caretakers in their families often forces compromises in their careers. Though a challenge, Gorden noted how she’s been able to balance motherhood with a pro soccer career. “I had my son in college and it realigned my focus,” she said. “Being pregnant made me realize I love the game and I want to be able to follow a dream of mine.”

Angel City is set to play its first-ever competitive game on Saturday against San Diego Wave FC in the NWSL Challenge Cup. While that game will be played in Fullerton, the team will open the NWSL regular season at Banc of California Stadium on April 29. It is the first time since 2010 that Los Angeles has a professional women’s soccer team of its own.

“We’re not just building a company,” said MacMillan, also an investor in the team. “We’re building this movement and the community has been so solid in this.”

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Genies Wants To Help Creators Build ‘Avatar Ecosystems’

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.

Genies Wants To Help Creators Build ‘Avatar Ecosystems’

When avatar startup Genies raised $150 million in April, the company released an unusual message to the public: “Farewell.”

The Marina del Rey-based unicorn, which makes cartoon-like avatars for celebrities and aims to “build an avatar for every single person on Earth,” didn’t go under. Rather, Genies announced it would stay quiet for a while to focus on building avatar-creation products.

Genies representatives told dot.LA that the firm is now seeking more creators to try its creation tools for 3D avatars, digital fashion items and virtual experiences. On Thursday, the startup launched a three-week program called DIY Collective, which will mentor and financially support up-and-coming creatives.

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Here's What To Expect At LA Tech Week

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.

Here's What To Expect At LA Tech Week

LA Tech Week—a weeklong showcase of the region’s growing startup ecosystem—is coming this August.

The seven-day series of events, from Aug. 15 through Aug. 21, is a chance for the Los Angeles startup community to network, share insights and pitch themselves to investors. It comes a year after hundreds of people gathered for a similar event that allowed the L.A. tech community—often in the shadow of Silicon Valley—to flex its muscles.

From fireside chats with prominent founders to a panel on aerospace, here are some highlights from the roughly 30 events happening during LA Tech Week, including one hosted by dot.LA.

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PCH Driven: Director Jason Wise Talks Wine, Documentaries, and His New Indie Streaming Service SOMMTV

Jamie Williams
­Jamie Williams is the host of the “PCH Driven” podcast, a show about Southern California entrepreneurs, innovators and its driven leaders on their road to success. The series celebrates and reveals the wonders of the human spirit and explores the motivations behind what drives us.
Jason Wise holding wine glass
Image courtesy of Jason Wise

Jason Wise may still consider himself a little kid, but the 33-year-old filmmaker is building an IMDB page that rivals colleagues twice his age.

As the director behind SOMM, SOMM2, SOMM3, and the upcoming SOMM4, Wise has made a career producing award-winning documentary films that peer deep into the wine industry in Southern California and around the world.

On this episode of the PCH Driven podcast, he talks about life growing up in Cleveland as a horrible student, filmmaking, Los Angeles and his latest entrepreneurial endeavor: A streaming service called SOMMTV that features–what else?–documentaries about wine.

The conversation covers some serious ground, but the themes of wine and film work to anchor the discussion, and Wise dispenses bits of sage filmmaking advice.

“With a documentary you can just start filming right now,” he says. “That’s how SOMM came about. I got tossed into that world during the frustration of trying to make a different film, and I just started filming it, because no one could stop me because I was paying for it myself. That’s the thing with docs,” or “The good thing about SOMM is that you can explain it in one sentence: ‘The hardest test in the world is about wine, and you’ve never heard about it.’”

…Or at least maybe you hadn’t before he made his first film. Now with three SOMM documentaries under his belt, Wise is nearing completion of “SOMM4: Cup of Salvation,” which examines the history of wine’s relationship with religion. Wise says it’s “a wild film,” that spans multiple countries, the Vatican and even an active warzone. As he puts it, the idea is to show that “wine is about every subject,” rather than “every subject is about wine.”

For Wise, the transition to launching his own streaming service came out of his frustration with existing platforms holding too much power over the value of the content he produces.

“Do we want Netflix to tell us what our projects are worth or do we want the audience to do that?” he asks.

But unlike giants in the space, SOMMTV has adopted a gradual approach of just adding small bits of content as they develop. Without the need to license 500 or 1,000 hours of programming, Wise has been able to basically bootstrap SOMMTV and provide short form content and other more experimental offerings that typically get passed over by the Hulus and Disneys of the world.

So far, he says, the experiment is working, and now Wise is looking to raise some serious capital to keep up with the voracious appetites of his subscribers.

“Send those VCs my way,” Wise jokes.

Subscribe to PCH Driven on Apple, Stitcher, Spotify, iHeart, Google or wherever you get your podcasts.

dot.LA reporter David Shultz contributed to this report.