LA Tech Updates: Fidelity Reportedly Seeks to Unload Bird Shares at a Loss; Warner Bros Streaming 2021 Releases; Plug-In South LA's Accelerator for 2021

Ben Bergman

Ben Bergman is the newsroom's senior finance reporter. Previously he was a senior business reporter and host at KPCC, a senior producer at Gimlet Media, a producer at NPR's Morning Edition, and produced two investigative documentaries for KCET. He has been a frequent on-air contributor to business coverage on NPR and Marketplace and has written for The New York Times and Columbia Journalism Review. Ben was a 2017-2018 Knight-Bagehot Fellow in Economic and Business Journalism at Columbia Business School. In his free time, he enjoys skiing, playing poker, and cheering on The Seattle Seahawks.

LA Tech Updates: Fidelity Reportedly Seeks to Unload Bird Shares at a Loss; Warner Bros Streaming 2021 Releases; Plug-In South LA's Accelerator for 2021

Here are the latest updates on news affecting Los Angeles' startup and tech communities. Sign up for our newsletter and follow dot.LA on Twitter for more.

Today:

  • Fidelity Seeking to Unload Bird Shares at a Loss
  • Warner Bros.' 2021 Films Will Be Released in Theaters, HBO Max Simultaneously
  • Plug-In South LA Opens New Accelerator Cohort for 2021

    Fidelity Reportedly Seeks To Unload Bird Shares at a Loss 

    Escooter Unicorn Bird Seeks to Unload Santa Monica HQupload.wikimedia.org

    Fidelity Investments is attempting to unload some of its shares in Bird Rides Inc. at a loss, according to a report published Wednesday night by Business Insider.

    The move comes after dot.LA reported in October that the mutual fund giant has marked down the value of its Bird investment by 17% since the beginning of the year.


    As a private company, Bird does not have to share its financials. Nor do the venture funds that hold most of its shares. However, Fidelity is required to account for shares at their fair market value so it provides a rare glimpse into the company's health.

    But a source close to the matter said the sale should not be seen as any indication of Bird's financial performance. The shares represent less than ten percent of Fidelity's position and the intended sale is the result of a new portfolio manager taking over who does not want to invest in pre-IPO companies, the source said.

    Neither Bird nor Fidelity would respond to dot.LA's request for comment.

    Bird became the fastest company in history to reach unicorn status in 2018 and achieved a $2 billion valuation less than a year later. But as the pandemic hit, it abruptly laid off 406 employees via a Zoom call and was forced to remove its fleet from city streets just as it was gearing up for its normally lucrative summer season.

    dot.LA reported in October the company put its Santa Monica offices up for sublease less than a year after completing a costly renovation.

    Bird has maintained the pandemic has been a positive as riders prefer scooters over crowded buses and subways. It says it is seeing riders take longer trips than they did before the pandemic.

    Last month, Bloomberg reported Bird is looking to go public via a blank-check company. Bird said it had no plans to go public "this year," which did not exactly rule out a SPAC sometime in the near future.

    ​Plug-In South LA Opens New Accelerator Cohort for 2021

    Plug In South LA's Accelerator Program is returning in 2021. The outfit is looking for 10 Black and Latinx founders who have proof of product-market fit and traction. The organization, founded in 2015 by Derek Smith, aims to build a network for Black and Latinx founders in South Los Angeles.

    Last year was the inaugural accelerator program funded by Verizon, Silicon Valley Bank and Nike. The 2019 cohort hosted five startups including Spooler, a tech-based clothing design startup that credits the program with helping to increase revenue two fold since March. During the program, the company received a contract to launch a Sesame Street active wear product line.

    The last day to apply for the program is Dec. 9

    Warner Bros.’ 2021 Films Will Be Released in Theaters, HBO Max Simultaneously

    Warner Bros. will be streaming all its 2021 theatrical releases on HBO Max in a blow to already struggling theater chains as the pandemic continues to reshape Hollywood.

    The AT&T-owned studio's 17-film slate, including "Godzilla vs. Kong," "Mortal Kombat," "The Suicide Squad" and "Matrix 4," will be available on the streaming platform exclusively for one month, starting when they are released in theaters and then will disappear from the platform.The move comes shortly after the company announced it would bring its expected blockbuster "Wonder Woman 1984" directly to HBO Max.


    "We're living in unprecedented times which call for creative solutions, including this new initiative for the Warner Bros. Pictures Group," said Ann Sarnoff, chair and CEO of WarnerMedia Studios and Networks Group, in a statement released on Thursday. "No one wants films back on the big screen more than we do. We know new content is the lifeblood of theatrical exhibition, but we have to balance this with the reality that most theaters in the U.S. will likely operate at reduced capacity throughout 2021."

    Sarnoff said the model is a temporary one, but the decision will reverberate across an industry that has taken away screening exclusivity from theaters and reshaped how studios function.

    "With this unique one-year plan, we can support our partners in exhibition with a steady pipeline of world-class films, while also giving moviegoers who may not have access to theaters or aren't quite ready to go back to the movies the chance to see our amazing 2021 films," Sarnoff said. "We see it as a win-win for film lovers and exhibitors."

    AT&T's decision to favor its streaming service over theaters comes in response to the pandemic, but it also aligns with CEO John Stankey's public comments that he wants to center his company's strategy around streaming. It's part of a broader blueprint meant to goose AT&T's broadband business, which led the company to acquire Time Warner in 2018 for $85 billion. Comcast, AT&T's chief broadband rival, is pursuing a similar game plan with its own streaming service, Peacock, which falls under its subsidiary NBCUniversal.

    AT&T last month announced layoffs at WarnerMedia to focus the company around HBO Max. Elsewhere, Disney — which logged nearly 74 million paid subscribers to its Disney Plus streaming service last quarter — has refocused on that format. It's another example of a shift toward streaming that was already underway but which has been accelerated by the pandemic.

    https://twitter.com/thebenbergman
    ben@dot.la
    🤠Musk Picks Texas and 🔥Tinder AI Picks Your Profile Pictures
    Image Source: Tinder

    🔦 Spotlight

    Tinder is altering dating profile creation with its new AI-powered Photo Selector feature, designed to help users choose their most appealing dating profile pictures. This innovative tool employs facial recognition technology to curate a set of up to 10 photos from the user's device, streamlining the often time-consuming process of profile setup. To use the feature, users simply take a selfie within the Tinder app and grant access to their camera roll. The AI then analyzes the photos based on factors like lighting and composition, drawing from Tinder's research on what makes an effective profile picture.

    The selection process occurs entirely on the user's device, ensuring privacy and data security. Tinder doesn't collect or store any biometric data or photos beyond those chosen for the profile, and the facial recognition data is deleted once the user exits the feature. This new tool addresses a common pain point for users, as Tinder's research shows that young singles typically spend about 25 to 33 minutes selecting a profile picture. By automating this process, Tinder aims to reduce profile creation time and allow users to focus more on making meaningful connections.

    In wholly unrelated news, Elon Musk has announced plans to relocate the headquarters of X (formerly Twitter) and SpaceX from California to Texas. SpaceX will move from Hawthorne to Starbase, while X will shift from San Francisco to Austin. Musk cited concerns about aggressive drug users near X's current headquarters and a new California law regarding gender identity notification in schools as reasons for the move. This decision follows Musk's previous relocation of Tesla's headquarters to Texas in 2021.

    🤝 Venture Deals

    LA Companies

    LA Venture Funds

    LA Exits

    • Penguin Random House agreed to acquire comic book publisher Boom! Studios from backers like Walt Disney Co. - learn more

    Download the dot.LA App

    Top LA Accelerators that Entrepreneurs Should Know About

    Los Angeles, has a thriving startup ecosystem with numerous accelerators, incubators, and programs designed to support and nurture new businesses. These programs provide a range of services, including funding, mentorship, workspace, networking opportunities, and strategic guidance to help entrepreneurs develop their ideas and scale their companies.


    Techstars Los Angeles

    Techstars is a global outfit with a chapter in Los Angeles that opened in 2017. It prioritizes local companies but will fund some firms based outside of LA.

    Location: Culver City

    Type of Funding: Pre-seed, early stage

    Focus: Industry Agnostic

    Notable Past Companies: StokedPlastic, Zeno Power


    Grid110

    Grid110 offers no-cost, no-equity programs for entrepreneurs in Los Angeles, including a 12-week Residency accelerator for early-stage startups, an Idea to Launch Bootcamp for pre-launch entrepreneurs, and specialized programs like the PledgeLA Founders Fund and Friends & Family program, all aimed at providing essential skills, resources, and support to help founders develop and grow their businesses.

    Location: DTLA

    Type of Funding: Seed, early stage

    Focus: Industry Agnostic

    Notable Past Companies: Casetify, Flavors From Afar


    Idealab

    Idealab is a renowned startup studio and incubator based in Pasadena, California. Founded in 1996 by entrepreneur Bill Gross, Idealab has a long history of nurturing innovative technology companies, with over 150 startups launched and 45 successful IPOs and acquisitions, including notable successes like Coinbase and Tenor.

    Location: Pasadena

    Type of Funding: Stage agnostic

    Focus: Industry Agnostic, AI/Robotics, Consumer, Clean Energy

    Notable Past Companies: Lumin, Coinbase, Tenor


    Plug In South LA

    Plug In South LA is a tech accelerator program focused on supporting and empowering Black and Latinx entrepreneurs in the Los Angeles area. The 12-week intensive program provides early-stage founders with mentorship, workshops, strategic guidance, potential pilot partnerships, grant funding, and networking opportunities to help them scale their businesses and secure investment.

    Location: Los Angeles

    Type of Funding: Pre-seed, seed

    Focus: Industry Agnostic, Connection to South LA and related communities

    Notable Past Companies: ChargerHelp, Peadbo


    Cedars-Sinai Accelerator

    The Cedars-Sinai Accelerator is a three-month program based in Los Angeles that provides healthcare startups with $100,000 in funding, mentorship from over 300 leading clinicians and executives, and access to Cedars-Sinai's clinical expertise and resources. The program aims to transform healthcare quality, efficiency, and care delivery by helping entrepreneurs bring their innovative technology products to market, offering participants dedicated office space, exposure to a broad network of healthcare entrepreneurs and investors, and the opportunity to pitch their companies at a Demo Day.

    Location: West Hollywood

    Type of Funding: Seed, early stage, convertible note

    Focus: Healthcare, Device, Life Sciences

    Notable Past Companies: Regard, Hawthorne Effect


    MedTech Innovator

    MedTech Innovator is the world's largest accelerator for medical technology companies, based in Los Angeles, offering a four-month program that provides selected startups with unparalleled access to industry leaders, investors, and resources without taking equity. The accelerator culminates in showcase events and competitions where participating companies can win substantial non-dilutive funding, with the program having a strong track record of helping startups secure FDA approvals and significant follow-on funding.

    Location: Westwood

    Type of Funding: Seed, early stage

    Focus: Health Care, Health Diagnostics, Medical Device

    Notable Past Companies: Zeto, Genetesis


    KidsX

    The KidsX Accelerator in Los Angeles is a 10-week program that supports early-stage digital health companies focused on pediatric care, providing mentorship, resources, and access to a network of children's hospitals to help startups validate product-market fit and scale their solutions. The accelerator uses a reverse pitch model, where participating hospitals identify focus areas and work closely with selected startups to develop and pilot digital health solutions that address specific pediatric needs.

    Location: East Hollywood

    Type of Funding: Pre-seed, seed, early stage

    Focus: Pediatric Health Care Innovation

    Notable Past Companies: Smileyscope, Zocalo Health


    Disney Accelerator

    Disney Accelerator is a startup accelerator that provides early-stage companies in the consumer media, entertainment and technology sectors with mentorship, guidance, and investment from Disney executives. The program, now in its 10th year, aims to foster collaborations and partnerships between innovative technology companies and The Walt Disney Company to help them accelerate their growth and bring new experiences to Disney audiences.

    Location: Burbank

    Type of Funding: Growth stage

    Focus: Technology and entertainment

    Notable Past Companies: Epic Games, BRIT + CO, CAMP


    Techstars Space Accelerator

    Techstars Space Accelerator is a startup accelerator program focused on advancing the next generation of space technology companies. The three-month mentorship-driven program brings together founders from across the globe to work on big ideas in aerospace, including rapid launch services, precision-based imaging, operating systems for complex robotics, in-space servicing, and thermal protection.

    Location: Los Angeles

    Type of Funding: Growth stage

    Focus: Aerospace

    Notable Past Companies: Pixxel, Morpheus Space



    Download the dot.LA App

    🚁 One Step Closer to Air Taxis in LA
    Image Source: Joby Aviation

    🔦 Spotlight

    Joby Aviation, a pioneering electric air taxi company, has achieved a significant milestone by successfully flying a hydrogen-electric aircraft demonstrator for 523 miles with only water as a byproduct. This groundbreaking flight showcases the potential for emissions-free regional travel using vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft, eliminating the need for traditional runways. The company's innovative approach combines its existing battery-electric air taxi technology with hydrogen fuel cells, paving the way for longer-range, environmentally friendly air travel.

    For LA residents, this development holds exciting implications for future transportation options. Joby's technology could potentially enable direct flights from LA to destinations like San Francisco or San Diego without the need to visit conventional airports, offering a cleaner and more convenient alternative to current travel methods. The company's progress in both battery-electric and hydrogen-electric aircraft positions it at the forefront of next-generation aviation, promising to revolutionize urban and regional mobility.

    Notably, Joby Aviation has already made strides in Southern California by securing an agreement with John Wayne Airport earlier this year to install the region's first electric air taxi charger. This strategic move sets the stage for LA to be among the initial markets where Joby will launch its electric air taxi service. With plans to commence commercial operations as early as 2025 using its battery-electric air taxi, LA residents may soon have access to a fast, quiet, and environmentally friendly mode of transportation that could significantly reduce travel times and traffic congestion in the region. In the not too distant future, LA might find itself in an identity crisis without traffic and excess smog 🤞🤞.


    🤝 Venture Deals

    LA Companies

    LA Venture Funds


    Download the dot.LA App

    RELATEDEDITOR'S PICKS
    Trending