George Floyd Protests: Music Industry Vows 'Blackout Tuesday'; Snap CEO Calls for Reparation Commission; Cities Impose Midday Curfews
Here are the latest headlines regarding how the protests around the killing of George Floyd are impacting the Los Angeles startup and tech communities. Sign up for our newsletter and follow dot.LA on Twitter for the latest update.
- TikTok addresses 'tough but fair questions' about treatment of black creators
- L.A. VC's react
- L.A.'s top health official: racism fuels health inequities
- L.A.'s music industry will shut down for 'Black Out Tuesday'
- Hollywood, streaming services nod to Black Lives Matter
- Snap and Twitter reportedly used by ill-intentioned protesters to organize theft
- Snap CEO talks reparations and heartbreak
- Airmap's Santa Monica headquarters destroyed by looters
- Santa Monica, Beverly Hills announce 1 pm curfews for business districts
TikTok addresses 'tough but fair questions' about opportunities for black creators on the platform
TikTok sent a message out to "our black community" on Monday addressing what the company called "tough but fair questions" about whether the platform allows all creators the opportunity to have their content viewed.
In a message to its black community, Vanessa Pappas, TikTok's U.S. general manager and Kudzi Chikumbu, director of creator community, said "we hear you and we care about your experienced on TikTok.
"We acknowledge and apologize to our Black creators and community who have felt unsafe, unsupported, or suppressed. We don't ever want anyone to feel that way."
The company, which is owned by ByteDance, a Beijing-based internet technology company, said that on May 19 black creators and their allies changed their profile pictures and connected on the platform to speak out against how they felt marginalized on TikTok. Then, last week, "a technical glitch made it temporarily appear as if posts uploaded using #BlackLivesMatter and #GeorgeFloyd would receive 0 views."
TikTok said that the company understands that many assumed the bug to be an intentional act to suppress the black community's experiences and invalidate their emotions. It's unclear why TikTok wrote about the glitch Monday, or if had intended to do so before recent demonstrations in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death. A Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck while he pleaded for his mother and to breathe.
The company, which has its U.S. headquarters in Culver City, said it is donating $3 million in honor of black creators to nonprofits that help the black community, which has been disproportionately affected by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. TikTok also said it is committing $1 million to fighting racial injustice and inequality.
TikTok said it will standing in solidarity on Tuesday by participating in Blackout Tuesday, turning off all playlists and campaigns on its "Sounds" page to observe a moment of reflection and action. The company said it is also investing in technology. and better moderation strategies with a more user-friendly appeals process. It's also establishing a creator diversity council and developing a creator portal to expand communication and opportunities.
"We know we have work to do to regain and repair that trust," the post said.
-- Tami Abdollah
Los Angeles VC's reactArt by Candace Navi
It has been notoriously difficult for people of color to break into the insular world of venture capital, where who you know and previous success are are highly prized. Just 2% of investment professionals are black, which in turn makes it hard for black founders to get funded. Here is a sampling of some of the reaction from the Los Angeles VC community, many of whom have offices in Santa Monica near protests and looting:
LA County public health director calls police violence "a public health issue"
Los Angeles County top public health official Barbara Ferrer linked the unrest that has rocked the region to the deep health disparities that black Americans experience. Ferrer, who has been providing somber daily updates on coronavirus deaths and its spread, called police brutality a public health issue that must be addressed.
"It's important to comment on the connection between these two concerns the death of a black man at the hands of police and the experience of COVID-19 in L.A. County," she said in starting her briefing. "We know that black Americans fare worse than other groups on virtually every measure of health status. And it has become all too common to blame this on individual behaviors, when in fact the science is clear, the root cause of health inequities is racism and discrimination."
"Science also tells us that lifetime stress associated with experiences of daily acts of discrimination and oppression, play a major role," she said. "It starts at birth with higher rates of black infant mortality and shockingly higher rates of maternal mortality among black women and extends to adulthood, when we see black residents in L.A. County experiencing earlier onset of heart disease, hypertension and diabetes and earlier deaths."
"When I report each week that we have seen elevated numbers of black deaths in this county due to COVID-19, I am reporting on the consequences of these long standing inequities. And it's not just the direct victim of violence, the person who's beaten, or shot or asphyxiated who pays the price for brutality. It is an entire community that lives with the fear that the next time, it could be them or their son or daughter neighbor or friend. It is a consequence of that fear that we are seeing when we report instance after instance of inequality and health outcomes," she said.
"As the department responsible for public health in L.A. County and in acknowledgement of our national association, the American Public Health Association, declaring that addressing law enforcement violence is a public health issue, this rush to justice has to be part of our prescription, as well.
Los Angeles county and city declared a 6 p.m. curfew on Monday.
L.A.'s music industry will shut down for 'Black Out Tuesday'
Many organizations in the music industry are pledging to close on Tuesday as part of a 'Black Out Tuesday' campaign. Participants include the three major labels: Warner Music Group, Sony Music and Universal Music Group, along with many of their associated sub-labels.
The initiative started with a pop-up webpage calling for the music industry to shut down on Tuesday, published by Jamila Thomas, a marketing executive at Atlantic Records (owned by Warner Music Group), and Brianna Agyemang, an artist campaign manager at Platoon (owned by Apple).
"It is a day to take a beat for an honest, reflective and productive conversation about what actions we need to collectively take to support the black community," the post said. "The music industry is a multi-billion dollar industry. An industry that has profited predominantly from Black art. Our mission is to hold the industry at large, including major corporations + their partners who benefit from the efforts, struggles and successes of Black people accountable… This is not just a 24-hour initiative. We are and will be in this fight for the long haul. A plan of action will be announced."
The post includes a list of links for suggested actions to take on Tuesday.
#TheShowMustBePaused has traveled widely through the music industry's social media. Santa Monica-based Interscope (owned by Universal Music) pledged to delay releasing new music this week.
Other organizations have been posting messages of solidarity to their social media accounts including Sony Music, Columbia Records (owned by Sony), Universal Music, and Atlantic Records (owned by Warner).
— Sam Blake
Hollywood, streaming services nod to Black Lives Matter
Over the weekend, several streaming companies took to social media to show support for the peaceful protests.
Some streaming platforms have changed their social media profile names and descriptions to express solidarity, including
HBO Max and Quibi. Other organizations with similar messages on their social media pages include
NBCUniversal, Disney, and Hulu.
On Sunday, various Hollywood union leaders weighed in as well.
SAG-AFTRA leaders Gabrielle Carteris and David P. White issued a statement. "The murder of George Floyd is deeply emblematic of a corrosive inequality and injustice at the heart of America," it began. "It's not enough to demand change. We must recognize that racism lives in our culture and only we can change that."
WGA West President David Goodman said: "As demonstrations continue today across America, our union stands with those who peacefully protest the racist, extrajudicial murders of George Floyd and other Black people...National outrage about bigotry, discrimination, and injustice is the only way we will ever see real change."
ViacomCBS announced on Monday that several of its networks, including Nickelodeon, BET and CBS Sports Network, would go dark for 8 minutes and 46 seconds in tribute to George Floyd and "other victims of racial violence."
— Sam Blake
L.A.'s gaming companies express support for BLMlive.staticflickr.com
Several Los Angeles gaming companies have weighed in to express solidarity and sympathy with social activists.
Culver City-based Jam City, a mobile game developer founded in 2010, took to social media to stand with Black Lives Matter. Santa Monica's Activision Blizzard and West LA's Riot Games also posted on social media, as has startup Esports One.
Gaming and lifestyle company FaZe Clan, based in Hollywood, published an "honest message" to its fans:
FaZe Clan is donating all profits from a retail campaign to a Memorial Fund created in George Floyd's name.
— Sam Blake
Snap and Twitter reportedly used by ill-intentioned protesters to organize theft; Snap CEO talks reparations and heartbreak
Photo by Tami Abdollah
Twitter has long been the social media platform of choice for people protesting an abuse of power -- during the Arab Spring uprisings it proved crucially useful as a way to get around and deal with internet blackouts.
So too has it been used this past week, by groups organizing mostly peaceful efforts to express their anger at George Floyd's death. But as Twitter has upped its efforts to counter violence on its platform, notably by placing a warning label on a tweet by President Trump for glorifying violence, those with less peaceful intentions have also taken their messages to Snapchat to urge their contacts and the broader public to engage in violence, theft and property damage.
A Snap spokesperson said the company's Community Guidelines "prohibit content that incites or glorifies violence, hate speech and discrimination of any kind. We have in-app reporting tools that Snapchatters can use to quickly report any content that may be in violation of our guidelines to our Trust and Safety team, who then reviews the reports and takes appropriate action."
On Sunday evening, Snap CEO Evan Spiegel sent a letter to staff in which he said "we simply cannot promote accounts in America that are linked to people who incite racial violence, whether they do so on or off our platform.
"Our Discover content platform is a curated platform, where we decide what we promote. We have spoken time and again about working hard to make a positive impact, and we will walk the talk with the content we promote on Snapchat. We may continue to allow divisive people to maintain an account on Snapchat, as long as the content that is published on Snapchat is consistent with our community guidelines, but we will not promote that account or content in any way."
The self-described camera company is currently protected from financial liability for such messages by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act that that has been broadly interpreted by the courts over the years as shielding internet sites and apps from being financially liable for what user tweets, posts or generally publishes on their platforms.
Last week, Trump signed an executive order that may change all of that by enabling federal regulators to punish social media companies for how they moderate content on their sites. Lawmakers and internet freedom advocates called the action illegal and improper under the First Amendment.
Such a change could have far-reaching impacts on Santa Monica-based Snap and smaller companies with an online presence that lack the budgets to moderate every single message or post on their apps.
Spiegel said he is "heartbroken and enraged by the treatment of black people and people of color in America." He called for the establishment of a diverse, nonpartisan "Commission on Truth, Reconciliation, and Reparations" to investigate the criminal justice system and take action on reconciliation and reparations.
— Tami Abdollah
Airmap's Santa Monica headquarters destroyed by looters
Airmap's headquarters on Santa Monica boulevard near the Third Street Promenade was destroyed by looters Sunday night, according to co-founder Greg McNeal, who recounted the damage in a series of Twitter posts. The company, founded in 2015, is the world's leading airspace services platform for unmanned aircraft.
AirMap co-founder and chairman Ben Marcus added this on Twitter: "Last night, the AirMap office in Santa Monica was consumed by fire. Thankfully, nobody was hurt. What hurts is the unending racism & injustice in America. We all must work harder to make our union more perfect. We're all brothers and sisters. Let's treat each other with love, respect, & dignity, and create opportunity for all who choose to make a positive impact."
— Ben Bergman
Santa Monica, Beverly Hills announce 1 pm curfews for business districts
Santa Monica and Beverly Hills announced 1 p.m. curfews for their business districts on Monday, as shop owners and residents began sweeping the glass off the street and assessing the damage after a night of peaceful protests turned into fires, looting and vandalism over the death of George Floyd, who was killed by a police officer in Minneapolis. Citywide curfews will go into effect at 4 p.m. The chaos went to the heart of Silicon Beach, home to tech companies like Snap Inc and venture capitalists like Upfront Ventures, whose office overlooks the Pacific Ocean.
Long Beach issued a similar curfew.
"Sunday was one of the most distressing days in Santa Monica history," said Santa Monica Mayor Kevin McKeown in a statement. "We know better than to let the looters obscure the message of the protesters, who have indeed been heard."
Downtown L.A., Beverly Hills, Fairfax District and the Grove shopping center all got hit by looters over the weekend as police cars were set ablaze and the national guard was called in. News outlets reported that some chanted "eat the rich" as they marched along Rodeo Drive, one of the most expensive slices of commercial real estate in the region.
Floyd's death caused anguish in communities that have seen a number of black men die or be hurt by police officers who often suffer few consequences. Meanwhile, blacks and Latinos have higher arrest and incarceration rates. The deep disparity extends beyond the criminal justice system to education, housing and other areas.
And the frustration over it played out during the protests. Unlike the 1992 civil unrest after the release of Los Angeles police officers who beat Rodney King, demonstrations hit some of the wealthiest parts of the city. In 1992, looting and fires devastated South Central, further impoverishing an already economically disadvantaged area.
"Pretty wild to see the epicentre of this chaos at my office," Laurent Grill, an investor at Santa Monica based Luma Launch wrote on Twitter Sunday. "Quite a divide... on one side we had massive peaceful protests and 3 blocks away, people are looting & burning stores in my community. Makes me extremely sad."
— Rachel Uranga
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Though Silicon Valley is still very much the capital of venture capital, Los Angeles is home to plenty of VCs who have made their mark – investing in successful startups early and reaping colossal returns for their limited partners.
Who stands out? We thought there may be no better judge than their peers, so we asked 28 of L.A.'s top VCs who impresses them the most.
Mark Mullen, Bonfire Ventures<p>Mark Mullen is a founding partner of Bonfire Ventures. He is also founder and the largest investor in Mull Capital and Double M Partners, LP I and II. A common theme in these funds is a focus on business-to-business media and communications infrastructures.</p><p>In the past, Mullen has served as the chief operating officer at the city of Los Angeles' Economic Office and a senior advisor to former Mayor Villaraigosa, overseeing several of the city's assets including Los Angeles International Airport and the Los Angeles Convention Center. Prior to that, he was a partner at Daniels & Associates, a senior banker when the firm sold to RBC Capital Markets in 2007.</p>
Dana Settle, Greycroft<p>Dana Settle is a founding partner of Greycroft, heading the West Coast office in Los Angeles. She currently manages the firm's stakes in Anine Bing, AppAnnie, Bird, Clique, Comparably, Goop, Happiest Baby, Seed, Thrive Market, Versed and WideOrbit, and is known for backing female-founded companies.</p><p>"The real change takes place when female founders build bigger, independent companies, like Stitchfix, TheRealReal," she said this time last year in <a href="https://www.businessinsider.com/greycrofts-dana-settle-on-closing-funding-gap-for-female-founders-2019-12" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">an interview with Business Insider</a>. "They're creating more wealth across their cap tables and the cap tables tend to be more diverse, so that gives more people opportunity to become an angel investor." Prior to founding Greycroft, she was a venture capitalist and startup advisor in the Bay Area.</p>
Erik Rannala, Mucker Capital<p>Erik Rannala is a founding partner at Mucker Capital, which he created with William Hsu in 2011. Before founding Mucker, Rannala was vice president of global product strategy and development at TripAdvisor and a group manager at eBay, overseeing its premium features business.</p><p>"As an investor, I root for startups. It pains me to see great teams and ideas collapse under the pressure that sometimes follows fundraising. If you've raised money and you're not sure what comes next, that's fine – I don't always know either," Rannala wrote in <a href="https://www.mucker.com/more-funding-wont-magically-fix-your-startup/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">a blog post for Mucker</a>. </p><p>Mucker has a portfolio of 61 companies, including Los Angeles-based Honey and Santa Monica-based HMBradley.</p>
William Hsu, Mucker Capital<p>William Hsu is a founding partner at the Santa Monica-based fund Mucker Capital. He started his career as a founder, creating BuildPoint, a provider of workflow management solutions for the commercial construction industry not long after graduating from Stanford. </p> <p><a href="https://www.fastcompany.com/3048173/the-unexpected-and-hard-earned-lessons-from-a-dot-com-flame-out" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">In an interview with Fast Company</a>, he shared what he learned in the years following, as he led product teams at eBay, Green Dot and Spot Runner, eventually becoming the SVP and Chief Product Officer of At&T Interactive: "Building a company is about hiring correctly, adhering to a timeline, and rigorously valuing opportunity. It's turning something from inspiration and creative movement into process and rigor."</p> <p>These are the values he looks for in founders in addition to creativity. "I like to see the possibility of each and every idea, and being imaginative makes me a passionate investor."</p>
Jim Andelman, Bonfire Ventures<p>Jim Andelman is a founding partner of Bonfire Ventures, a fund that focuses on seed rounds for business software founders. Andelman has been in venture capital for 20 years, previously founding Rincon Venture Partners and leading software investing at Broadview Capital Partners.<br><br>He's no stranger to enterprise software — he also was a member of the Technology Investment Banking Group at Alex. Brown & Sons and worked at Symmetrix, a consulting firm focusing on technology application for businesses.</p> <p><a href="https://dot.la/la-venture-podcast-jim-andelman-of-bonfire-ventures-2648143780.html" target="_self">In a podcast with LA Venture's Minnie Ingersoll</a> earlier this year, he spoke on the hesitations people have about choosing to start a company.</p>"It's two very different things: Should I coach someone to be a VC or should I coach someone to enter the startup ecosystem? On the latter question, my answer is 'hell yeah!'"
Josh Diamond, Walkabout Ventures<p>Josh Diamond founded Walkabout Ventures, a seed fund that primarily focuses on financial service startups. The firm raised a $10 million fund in 2019 and is preparing for its second fund. Among its 19 portfolio companies is HMBradley, which Diamond helped seed and recently <a href="https://dot.la/hm-bradley-2649022900.html" target="_self">raised $18 in a Series A</a> round.</p><p>"The whole reason I started this is that I saw there was a gap in the funding for early stage, financial service startups," he said. As consumers demand more digital access and transparency, he said the market for financial services is transforming — and Los Angeles is quickly becoming a hub for fintech companies. Before founding Walkabout, he was a principal for Clocktower Technology Ventures, another Los Angeles-based fund with a similar focus.</p>
Kara Nortman, Upfront Ventures<p>Kara Nortman was recently promoted to managing partner at Upfront Ventures, making her one of the few women – along with Settle – to ascend to the highest ranks of a major VC firm.</p><p>Though<a href="https://upfront.com/thoughts/announcing-upfronts-new-co-managing-partner" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"> Upfront had attempted to recruit her</a> before she joined in 2014, she had declined in order to start her own company, Moonfrye, a children's ecommerce company that rebranded to P.S. XO and merged with Seedling. Upfront invested in the combination, and shortly after, Nortman joined the Upfront team.</p><p>Before founding Moonfrye, she was the SVP and General Manager of Urbanspoon and Citysearch at IAC after co-heading IAC's M&A group.</p><p><a href="https://dot.la/moving-from-the-passenger-seat-to-the-drivers-seat-upfronts-kara-nortman-named-managing-partner-2648493740.html" target="_self">In an interview with dot.LA earlier this year</a>, she spoke on how a focus for her as a VC is to continue to open doors for founders and funders of diverse backgrounds.<br></p><p>"Once you're a woman or a person of color in a VC firm, it is making sure other talented people like you get hired, but also hiring people who are not totally like you. You have to make room for different kinds of people. And how do you empower those people?"<br></p>
Brett Brewer, Crosscut Ventures<p>Brett Brewer is a co-founder and managing director of Crosscut Ventures. He has a long history in entrepreneurship, starting a "pencil selling business in 4th grade." In 1998, he co-founded Intermix Media. Under their umbrella were online businesses like Myspace.com and Skilljam.com. After selling Intermix in 2005, he became president of Adknowledge.com.</p><p>Brewer founded Santa Monica-based Crosscut in 2008 alongside Rick Smith and Brian Garrett. His advice to founders <a href="https://crosscut.vc/team/" target="_blank">on Crosscut's website</a> reflects his experience: "Founders have to be prepared to pivot, restart, expect the unexpected, and make tough choices quickly... all in the same week! It's not for the faint of heart, but after doing this for 20 years, you can spot the fire (and desire) from a mile away (or not)."</p>
Eva Ho, Fika Ventures<p>Eva Ho is a founding partner of Fika Ventures, a boutique seed fund, which focuses on data and artificial intelligence-enabled technologies. Prior to founding Fika, she was a founding partner at San Francisco-based Susa Ventures, another seed-stage fund with a similar focus. She is also a serial entrepreneur, most recently co-founding an L.A. location data provider, Factual. She also co-founded Navigating Cancer, a health startup, and is a founding member of All Raise, a nonprofit that supports and provides resources to female founders and funders.</p><p><a href="https://medium.com/@John_Livesay/when-google-bought-my-startup-81f1ee21488c" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">In an interview with John Livesay</a> shortly before founding Fika, Ho spoke to how her experience at Factual helped focus what she looks for in founders. "I always look for the why. A lot of people have the skills and the confidence and the experience, but they can't convince me that they're truly passionate about this. That's the hard part — you can't fake passion."</p>
Brian Lee, BAM Ventures<p>Brian Lee is a co-founder and managing director of BAM Ventures, an early-stage consumer-focused fund. <a href="https://dot.la/brian-lee-los-angeles-venture-capital-2645125301.html" target="_self">In an interview with dot.LA earlier this year</a>, Lee shared that he ended up being the first investor in Honey, which was bought by PayPal for $4 billion, through investing in founders and understanding their "vibe."</p> <p>"There's certain criteria that we look for in founders, a proprietary kind of checklist that we go through to determine whether or not these are the founders that we want to back…. [Honey's founders] knew exactly what they were building, and how they were going to get there."</p> <p>His eye for the right vibe in a founder is one gleaned from experience. Lee is a serial entrepreneur, founding LegalZoom.com, ShoeDazzle.com and The Honest Company.</p>
Alex Rubalcava, Stage Venture Partners<p>Alex Rubalcava is a founding partner of Stage Venture Partners, a seed venture capital firm that invests in emerging software technology for B2B markets. Prior to joining, he was an analyst at Santa Monica-based Anthem Venture Partners, an investor in early stage technology companies. It was his first job after graduating from Harvard, and during his time at Anthem the fund was part of Series A in companies like MySpace, TrueCar and Android.</p><p>He has served as a board member in several Los Angeles nonprofits and organizations like KIPP LA Schools and South Central Scholars.</p> <p>"Warren Buffett says that he's a better businessman because he's an investor, and he's a better investor because he's a businessman. I feel the same way about VC and value investing. Being good at value investing can make you good at venture capital, and vice versa," Rubalcava said in <a href="https://moiglobal.com/alex-rubalcava-interview/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">an interview with Shai Dardashti of MOI Global</a>.</p>
Mark Suster, Upfront Ventures<p>Mark Suster, managing partner at Upfront Ventures, is arguably L.A.'s most visible VC, frequently posting on Twitter and on his <a href="https://bothsidesofthetable.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">blog</a>, not only about investing but also more personal topics like weight loss. In more normal years, he presides over LA's biggest gathering of tech titans, the Upfront Summit. Before Upfront, he was the founder and chief executive officer of two software companies, BuildOnline and Koral, which was acquired by Salesforce. Upfront backed both of his companies, and eventually he joined their team in 2007.</p><p>In a piece for his blog, "Both Sides of the Table," <a href="https://bothsidesofthetable.com/finding-an-investor-who-is-in-love-with-you-d0badf1a3998" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Suster wrote about the importance of passion</a> — not just for entrepreneurs and their businesses, but for the VCs that fund them as well.<br></p><p>"On reflection of the role that I want to play as a VC it is clearly in the camp of passion. I really want to start my journeys only with people with whom I want to work closely with for the next 5–7 years or more. I only want to work on projects in which I believe can produce truly amazing change in an industry or in the world."</p>
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