LA Tech Week: ADUs, Legacy Roadblocks and the Landscape for LA's Booming Proptech Startups

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.

LA Tech Week: ADUs, Legacy Roadblocks and the Landscape for LA's Booming Proptech Startups
Photo by Decerry Donato

Los Angeles has seen a rise in property technology (proptech) startups emerging over the last few years and the smaller players are beginning to take shape.

On Monday, at its home base in Culver City, 3D printing construction company Azure Printed Homes hosted a proptech meetup to kickstart L.A. tech week. A group of budding proptech founders shared successes, struggles and advice with those seeking to start their own companies. Renee Eng, anchor of Spectrum News 1 SoCal, moderated the discussion. Zuma co-founder Kendrick Bradley along with The BuildClub CEO and founder Stephen Forte shared the stage with Azure Printed Homes’ Ross Maguire.


“We actually took our units to market earlier this year,” Maguire said, “and we ran marketing ads for one week and we got picked up by various publications. This led to our pre-orders reaching up to 11.5 million which is spread across over 50 customers.”

But with any success comes roadblocks. Maguire admitted that the startup has struggled with production lead times due to the spike in demand of their accessory dwelling units (ADUs).

For Zuma’s Bradley, technology integration in the real estate space has been one of the biggest issues his team has encountered. The Santa Monica-based startup designs an AI leasing assistant for apartment complexes that aims to help property managers run efficient marketing.

“There’s a lot of legacy players in real estate," Bradley said, "which makes it very hard to integrate and design futuristic solutions.”

It's nothing new when companies that have long dominated the space reject or push back on new solutions.

While Bradley admits that there will always be pushback from so-called legacy players, he said that it comes down to having a really solid product and the ability to handle these customers.

Eng asked the panelists what advice they would give to an entrepreneur just starting out, and Forte quickly said that one must be flexible.

For example, Forte said that when he first launched his digital marketplace for building materials, it was based on the Instacart model that sold a variety of brands. Forte learned that nobody cared what piece of plywood showed up, whether it was from Martin Lumber or Home Depot. All that mattered to the customer was that the product arrived. So Forte took the feedback to his team and they rearranged the site to better cater to clients.

“Be highly convicted,” Forte said, “but hold them loosely because many of your assumptions may be wrong.” He also added that they should be willing to go along with the market.

Attendees networking at Azure's Culver City headquarters after the panel. Photo by Decerry Donato

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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.

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