Our Most-Read LA Startup and Tech Stories of 2020

Eric Zassenhaus
Eric Zassenhaus is dot.LA's managing editor for platforms and audience. He works to put dot.LA stories in front of the broadest audience in the best possible way. Prior to joining dot.LA, he served as an editorial and product lead at Pacific Standard magazine and at NPR affiliate KPCC in Los Angeles. He has also worked as a news producer, editor and art director. Follow him on Twitter for random thoughts on publishing and L.A. culture.
Our Most-Read LA Startup and Tech Stories of 2020

This year was filled with pivots, pauses and restarts for L.A.'s tech and startup world. In our first year of chronicling it (we officially launched January27th), our most-read stories reflect the strangeness of 2020, and go some way in predicting some big questions for 2021. From gaming to biotech, movies to music, and transportation to education, the shifts have been dramatic. Where will we be when the dust settles from this year? As we head into our second year, we'll keep a close eye on the trends that have transformed some of L.A.'s core industries.

Take our survey below and help us as we get started with year two!


#1: Bird's Botched Layoffs

Bird scooters

The early days of the pandemic, as companies scrambled to shore up cash and preserve their business, provided a number of examples of how to handle a crisis. L.A.-based scooter unicorn Bird, sadly, provided the world a lesson in how not to do it, calling over 400 employees into a glitchy virtual chat and summarily dismissing them all in a two-minute, no-question call that left employees feeling baffled, humiliated and betrayed. In a post that went viral, dot.LA spoke with employees and obtained a recording of the call.

#2: Ageism and Women in the Workplace

"When you're older you get discredited and when you're younger you get discredited." Our virtual discussion on how ageism affects women in the workplace struck a nerve with readers. Inclusology founder Cheryl Ingram, PhD and Cue Career founder Heather Wetzler discussed strategies for women to employ at every stage of their careers, and tools that companies can use to combat workplace discrimination.

#3. The Twentysomething Who Built LA's COVID Testing Response

Interest in our profile on Fred Turner, the 25-year-old college dropout who founded of Curative Inc., gathered over the course of the year, as more people became personally familiar with the testing system he helped deploy at Dodger Stadium and throughout the city (and, eventually, the country). "We are a strange company because our goal is to essentially put ourselves out of business," Turner told dot.LA at the time. Sadly, his startup has only grown since we published the story.

#4. The Rise and Collapse of LA's $164M Cannabis Startup

The killing of a well-connected Russian investor and the missteps of the twenty-something U.S. executives he hired to run his $164 million cannabis empire made for one of the most compelling stories we published this year. dot.LA spoke to dozens of former employees, as well as state and national law enforcement, to bring readers this 5-part series on the collapse of the Genius Fund.

#5. The Tech Startups Poised to Reshape How Music is Made

"Music is no longer just music." The pandemic has completely reshaped the music industry, and transformed how music is made, performed and distributed. In a post that was reached far beyond Southern California, we took a look at the new players that are rapidly growing as the traditional model has hit pause.

#6. Where Celebrities Meet the Gig Economy

Cameo CEO Steven Galanis

In 2020, CEO Steven Galanis moved from Chicago to L.A. with a number of his Cameo cohorts. The app has increasingly found itself at the intersection of two mega-trends: the growth of gig work and the rise of the influencer economy. Social media stars have been leveraging their massive audiences and forcing the advertising industry — so often fixated on TV, film and sports celebrities — to take notice. Our profile of Galanis and his company revealed a world of celebrities eager to take hold of their audiences — and monetize them.

#7. The Investors Who Remained Unfazed

When the pandemic brought the economy to a standstill in March, many L.A. entrepreneurs found themselves staring down a frightening future. But investors were still spending. Inspired by a LinkedIn post from Luma Launch partner Laurent Grill, dot.LA published a list of local investors still looking to fund great ideas. The resulting post took off and so did the dealmaking.

#8. FAANG Reimagines LA Real Estate

Among the trends that have reshaped L.A. during the pandemic has been the rapid rise of streaming services and the equally stunning shift in audience habits for movies and TV. As the world emerges from the pandemic in 2021, it will find Netflix, Google and other FAANG companies have gobbled up real estate — especially on the Westside, where Netflix alone is poised to occupy 10% of commercial real estate by 2023.

#9. Sketchy's Product Plans and Edutainment's Rapid Rise

In 2020, Sketchy Medical grew from a cult startup that helped medical students efficiently memorize clusters of information into an edtech darling, with big raises, a new CEO lured from Disney and plans to leverage its foothold in education technology into a full-blown media empire that aims to make remote learning more effective and far more entertaining. Its story parallels the incredible disruption taking place in schools and homes globally, as parents, teachers and school districts confront the pandemic and rethink how education can happen.

#10. Karma's IPO Push and Electric Cars' Banner Year

dot.LA got the scoop on luxury electric car company Karma's moves to go public via SPAC, but it was far from the only SoCal electric vehicle startup to do so. In the wake of Tesla's turbocharged stock market rise, Canoo, Fisker, Xos, Envoy and many others sought their own IPOs or raised massive rounds. It's a trend we'll be watching closely as California ramps up its plans to go fossil fuel free by 2035.

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Office Hours: MyFitnessPal CEO Tricia Han on How to Reboot a Business

Spencer Rascoff

Spencer Rascoff serves as executive chairman of dot.LA. He is an entrepreneur and company leader who co-founded Zillow, Hotwire, dot.LA, Pacaso and Supernova, and who served as Zillow's CEO for a decade. During Spencer's time as CEO, Zillow won dozens of "best places to work" awards as it grew to over 4,500 employees, $3 billion in revenue, and $10 billion in market capitalization. Prior to Zillow, Spencer co-founded and was VP Corporate Development of Hotwire, which was sold to Expedia for $685 million in 2003. Through his startup studio and venture capital firm, 75 & Sunny, Spencer is an active angel investor in over 100 companies and is incubating several more.

Tricia Han
Image courtesy of Tricia Han

On this episode of Office Hours, MyFitnessPal CEO Tricia Han discusses her role revitalizing the company and redefining its mission during a time of uncertainty for the company.

“I love a good reboot,” she said. “Let me just say that. That's how I came to be at the company.”

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LA Tech ‘Moves’: Harbinger Taps Tesla Exec, REAL Messenger Gains Meta Director

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 ‘Moves’: Harbinger Taps Tesla Exec, REAL Messenger Gains Meta Director
LA Tech ‘Moves’:

“Moves,” our roundup of job changes in L.A. tech, is presented by Interchange.LA, dot.LA's recruiting and career platform connecting Southern California's most exciting companies with top tech talent. Create a free Interchange.LA profile here—and if you're looking for ways to supercharge your recruiting efforts, find out more about Interchange.LA's white-glove recruiting service by emailing Sharmineh O’Farrill Lewis (sharmineh@dot.la). Please send job changes and personnel moves to moves@dot.la.

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This Week in ‘Raises’: Bionaut Labs Grabs $43M, Embodied Lands $19.2M

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.

This Week in ‘Raises’: Bionaut Labs Grabs $43M, Embodied Lands $19.2M
Modified by Joshua Letona

Robotics company Bionaut Labs raised fresh funding to advance its first-in-class micro-robotic technology and remove the barriers to treat rare and debilitating diseases, while digital pathology company PictorLabs launched out of stealth and will use its funding to continue developing an AI-powered virtual staining platform and accelerate clinical research to improve patient outcomes.

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