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Oct 29 2021
Meet the New BallerTV CTO Holding Court at Pickup Basketball Games as Sports Seasons Rebound
If you stop by Koreatown's Immanuel Presbyterian Church on Sundays, you might run into Kavodel Ohiomoba pushing a broom across a basketball court hidden on an upper floor of the cavernous historic French Gothic cathedral. It's a favorite movie backdrop for Hollywood films.
On a Bose portable speaker, you also might hear rapper Polo G's mellow-sounding "RAPSTAR" echoing off of the mid-century gymnasium's walls: "Lately, I've been prayin', God, I wonder, can you hear me? Thinkin' 'bout the old me, I swear I miss you dearly."
The six-foot, four-inch tall Ohiomoba, known as "Kav", gets the gym tidied up before the first game starts at 9 a.m. sharp. The "run," or freewheeling run-and-gun basketball game with connections drawn together by Kav, came together this past summer as the pandemic began to subside and vaccines were readily available to all. He got the idea of using pickup basketball as a way to network with the tech community from Jeff Jordan, partner at A16Z, who runs a famous pickup game in Palo Alto.
Kav is chief technology officer of BallerTV, the Pasadena-based streaming sports company that livestreams youth sporting events at scale, and is currently focused on basketball, volleyball, soccer and lacrosse.
Before BallerTV, the Stanford alum put in work at a few tech startups in the Silicon Valley, including MOCAP Analytics, where he was a member of the founding team as a data scientist and software engineer. The MOCAP team leveraged machine learning and computer vision to build a data storytelling engine on top of the player tracking data that was quickly being adopted by NBA teams.
"The opportunities were truly endless," Kav said. "We were building models that told us which players and teams did what, where, how and when."
As advances in computer vision — and later, machine learning and artificial intelligence — introduced new possibilities for sports viewing, Kav sought to bring broadcasting and video to athletes who weren't being streamed on ESPN or major television outlets. Not long after, he co-founded FieldVision, which built hardware and software using artificial intelligence and computer vision to autonomously film any team sport, anywhere.
BallerTV CTO Kavodel Ohiomoba
FieldVision came into the BallerTV fold via acquisition about two years ago, and proved to be a slam-dunk for the company. Since its launch in 2016, BallerTV had relied on an army of 30,000 videographers throughout the United States to film youth athletic games ranging from basketball to volleyball.
Kav spearheaded the effort to take FieldVision's machine learning — fueled by artificial intelligence algorithms — and put it all into an iPhone app. After a few months, the i1 platform was born. The platform uses an iPhone rigged up with a wide-angle lens and its software tracks players on the court, ball movement and shifts in a fast-moving game. The game is then broadcast live to BallerTV's rapidly growing network of subscribers, allowing anyone with an internet connection to watch as if they were sitting courtside at the game.
The i1 platform has been revolutionary for BallerTV, which filmed 350,000 youth sports games in 2021. On a given weekend, BallerTV can film more than 20,000 games. That's 5,000 more games in a weekend than the 15,000 ESPN televises in an entire year.
Kav says there's a bigger purpose behind his basketball runs. The group is diverse and inclusive, with participants coming from all parts of L.A. and a variety of professions. The basketball games serve as a form of connection between people, regardless of their backgrounds.
Some runs have included BallerTV's co-founder and co-CEO Aaron Hawkey, nicknamed "15 and in," mostly because he's money from within 15-feet of the basket; Marcus Boyd, a former professional track and field athlete turned software engineer; John Daniels, founder and CEO of Navtrac, a logistics technology company that utilizes artificial intelligence software to track inventory, and Tommer Schwarz, a doctoral candidate in genetics at UCLA.
"I'm an old man. I did not injure myself last weekend, but I missed several layups in spectacular fashion," said the 40-year-old Paul Haaga, managing director of HW Capital in Santa Monica, of his performance one weekend in October.
Haaga's firm was an early investor in BallerTV, as well as a number of other early-stage companies and real estate deals.
"It's interesting, if you see guys enough on several Sunday mornings in a row, you get to know who they are as people on the basketball court, and that's probably a pretty good indicator of who they are in life. Do they play fair? Do they play hard? Do they compete? It's a good indicator of someone's qualities, and if they have relationships outside of the game, then that's all the better," said Haaga, who makes the 14-mile drive in from his La Cañada residence.
And few reveal who they are quite like Kav, who attends to the runs as he would a group of his close friends.
"There is no job that is below [Kav], whether it's dusting the floor before we get there, or making sure that everybody's hydrated with Gatorade. He's always thinking about your health, right? Everything is sugar-free," observed Ryan Sauter, an entrepreneur in the hospitality industry whose Hybrid One is headquartered in downtown's Arts District.
Sauter's highlight of the week is when he gets the weekly email from Kav asking 60 other like-minded people on the distribution list if they're in or not for the weekly pick up at the church.
"I definitely look forward to that email, which comes Wednesday or Thursday," Sauter said. "It kind of brightens your day a bit because you're like, 'Hey, I can't wait until Sunday to play with everybody."
After breaking a sweat at the church, Kav and the others head over for some chit-chat and a cup of joe at the Starbucks or Blue Bottle Coffee near the K-Town church. Even grabbing a post-run cup of coffee is a welcome respite in a time where people are trying to be connected more than ever.
"We're coming out of COVID, and that's how this evolved," Kav said. "We were itching to meet each other. And of course, I think we were all itching to get back out on the court."
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From AI to Layoffs, Here's Why College Grads No Longer Want Tech Jobs
May 31 2023
A new report in Bloomberg suggests that younger workers and college graduates are moving away from tech as the preferred industry in which to embark on their careers. While big tech companies and startups once promised skilled young workers not just the opportunity to develop cutting-edge, exciting products, but also perks and – for the most talented and ambitious newcomers – a relatively reliable path to wealth. (Who could forget the tales of overnight Facebook millionaires that fueled the previous dot com explosion? There were even movies about it!)
But aside from the intensity and hype around employment-eradicating AI apps, the big tech story of 2023 has been downscaling, belt-tightening, and massive layoffs. So far this year, tech companies have laid off thousands of workers, while cutting back on compensation packages, fringe benefits, and some of the other amenities and perks that made these jobs so sought after in the first place.
According to data compiled by Bloomberg, tech has shed nearly 200,000 jobs just since October, more than twice the number of layoffs that have hit the financial sector. Additionally, data on industry pay from Levels.fyi suggests that overall compensation packages within the industry have dipped as much as 25% in the past year. The rate at which these layoffs are happening also doesn’t seem to be slowing down very much, and may still even be increasing month-over-month.
Layoffs aren’t just bad PR that make current employees nervous and potential new hires dubious. They also mean there are simply fewer hands on deck at these companies to collaborate on important jobs; major rounds of layoffs also mean more work for the employees who got to keep their gigs. Meta, Amazon, Alphabet, and Twitter have all massively reduced the size of their workforce, including teams that deal with important time-sensitive tasks, such as fact-checking or community moderation. Those jobs don’t stop needing to be done because the people doing them got laid off; it’s just now more work for fewer staffers.
Many tech companies also rely on the promise of lucrative stock options when recruiting top graduates with significantly in-demand skills. But with tech stocks slumping in 2022, and bouncing back this year mainly on the backs of the AI craze, embarking on a new career with a brand like Meta or Amazon suddenly seems less appealing than it did just a few years ago.
According to Insider, anecdotal evidence from job forums like Blind and other communities such as Reddit also indicate that the “rise-and-grand” hustle mindset so prevalent in the industry – which became synonymous with tech culture during the last startup wave – has led to widespread stress, discontent, and burnout among employees, many of whom are purposefully seeking jobs outside the industry now that the big paydays are also drying up. The Washington Post reported that disaffected Amazon employees in Seattle – fed up with layoffs, return-to-office mandates, and some of the company’s other practices – are currently attempting to organize a mass walkout.
Within the tech industry, the massive hype around AI has been something of a reprieve from this torrent of bad news. But from the perspective of young people considering careers in tech, the industry’s love affair with thinking machines may also be triggering some concerns about the future.
In late April, Dropbox announced it would lay off 500 employees – around 16% of its total workforce – and use the savings to build out an AI division instead. CEO Drew Houston explained that “I’m determined to ensure that Dropbox is at the forefront of the AI era.” IBM CEO Arvind Krishna echoed a similar sentiment in May, suggesting that his company will pause hiring for roles that could potentially be replaced with AI in the near future. He suggested, over the next five years, IBM will likely replace 30% of its employees – around 7,800 people – with apps.
It shouldn’t be that terribly surprising when young people develop cold feet about entering an industry that’s already decided they’re irrelevant, with CEOs simply biding their time before they can fire everyone working on the floors below them. But even beyond the personal stakes, it’s also possible that young people are turning their backs on technology due to a reputational downgrade.
That said, some tech firms dominate both the top and bottom of Axios Harris’ annual “brand reputation survey,” which investigates how American adults feel about various companies. IN particuar, tech companies that produce tangible products or offer vital services continued to perform very well on the survey, with Samsung, Amazon, Apple, and Sony receiving positive appraisals from about 80% of surveyed adults. Conversely, social media and related internet companies – including Google, TikTok, Meta, and Twitter – found themselves near the bottom of the list, with reputation scores around the 60% line. That’s around the same level as bankrupted crypto exchange FTX.
Anecdotally too, it appears that many recent grads who would otherwise be pursuing careers in tech are moving over to the banking industry instead. As one global talent partner told Bloomberg, while tech course-corrects by dropping tens of thousands of workers, “on Wall Street, you work really hard and you make a lot of money. That’s the deal.”
In light of this moment, JPMorgan Chase, in particular, has ratcheted up its recruiting. The company’s workforce jumped 8% in the first quarter of 2023 vs. one year ago. All other factors aside, many of the top college grads are simply going to follow the money. Right now, that’s clearly leading them to the financial sector.
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The family of Kerri Moynihan, an Activision Blizzard employee who died by suicide during a company retreat in 2017, have reportedly dropped their wrongful death lawsuit against the Santa Monica-based video game publisher.
Paul and Janet Moynihan originally sued Activision in March, alleging that sexual harassment their daughter experienced at work was a “significant factor” in her death. The Moynihans subsequently requested to drop the lawsuit on May 6, Axios reported on Tuesday, and asked that it be dismissed “with prejudice,” meaning that they can’t sue again.
Attorneys at Los Angeles-based firm Isaacs Friedberg, which represented the Moynihan family, and representatives for Activision did not immediately return requests for comment.
Kerri Moynihan was found dead in her Disneyland hotel room during an Activision company retreat in April 2017. The former finance manager was 32 years old.
Moynihan’s experiences at Activision were referenced in the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing’s ongoing workplace harassment lawsuit against Activision, though she was not named in the DFEH’s complaint last July. Both the state’s complaint and the Moynihan family’s lawsuit alleged that she was the subject of sexual harassment at work, including having pictures of her genitalia passed around by co-workers at a company holiday party in December 2016.
The Moynihan family’s lawsuit also alleged that Kerri had a sexual relationship with her boss, former Activision senior finance director Greg Restituito, and that Restituito lied to detectives investigating Moynihan’s death by failing to disclose their relationship.
The Moynihan family’s complaint was one of numerous sexual harassment lawsuits filed against Activision by current and former employees, who have alleged a workplace that was particularly toxic for women. Last fall, Activision CEO Bobby Kotick faced calls for his resignation from employees and shareholders after the Wall Street Journal reported that Kotick knew of alleged sexual assaults at the company but failed to inform Activision’s board. Activision has disputed the Journal’s reporting, claiming that there is “no evidence“ that senior executives including Kotick “ever intentionally ignored or attempted to downplay the instances of sexual harassment that occurred and were reported,“ the company said in a statement to dot.LA.
Activision is currently in the midst of being acquired by Microsoft in a deal valued at $69 billion. The transaction, which is pending regulatory approval, would be the gaming industry’s largest-ever merger.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached at (800) 273-8255 or by texting HELLO to the Crisis Text Line at 741741.Update, June 2: This story has been updated to include comment from Activision on the Wall Street Journal allegations against CEO Bobby Kotick.
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