The Blockchain Revolutionized the Creator Economy. Can It Do the Same for Health Care?

Keerthi Vedantam

Keerthi Vedantam is a bioscience reporter at dot.LA. She cut her teeth covering everything from cloud computing to 5G in San Francisco and Seattle. Before she covered tech, Keerthi reported on tribal lands and congressional policy in Washington, D.C. Connect with her on Twitter, Clubhouse (@keerthivedantam) or Signal at 408-470-0776.

The Blockchain Revolutionized the Creator Economy. Can It Do the Same for Health Care?
Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash

A two-year-old Beverly Hills company, Apotheka Systems, has been quietly working with the Department of Veteran Affairs in Washington D.C. to develop a more secure system to keep health records.

A breach hit the Department's portal for making health care payments last year, exposing the data of 46,000 patients. The VA system, which serves 19 million veterans, isn't alone in their concern about security.


Large-scale health care systems have been roiled by data thefts, from Anthem's 2015 data hack to the SolarWinds hack in 2020 that left health care companies vulnerable. The online-moving health industry is increasingly looking for a solution, now that their work relies more heavily on secure, interactive networks.

Apotheka Systems thinks the answer to security lies in blockchain - a system that permanently tracks every change to a record. Last week, it was awarded a patent for a blockchain-backed patient data management product. The six-point system integrates everything from patient intake to payment processing on the blockchain, and that data can be accessed with a patient's fingerprint scan rather than an intake form, which is inherently less secure.

There's a growing market of players using blockchain to secure health data, including Irvine-based Guardtime, a blockchain security company that worked with Hungary and Estonia to establish blockchain protocols in their health care systems. Factom, based in Austin, Texas, creates blockchain platforms only health care workers can access.

The Health Care Industry's Opportunity

Blockchain has famously been used to power cryptocurrency transactions, partly because it's such a secure digital system that can properly track transactions. But the uses for blockchain go far beyond banking. The technology has been embraced by the world of art, supply chains and even voting; the U.S. Postal Service filed a patent on blockchain voting technology in 2020.

Health care could be next. The pandemic has pushed the brick-and-mortar heavy industry further online, and digitization has forced it to grapple with issues of privacy, security and accessibility.

Because of the sensitive nature of health records, strict controls are placed on who can access it and how.

Guardtime

Few clinics and hospitals used telehealth services because of these restrictions, but when the pandemic hit, doctors (like many people working remotely) needed to access sensitive data from their homes. The federal government began to encourage remote medicine by making it easier for Medicare patients to receive telehealth services and relaxing restrictions on where providers can practice.

Apotheka's president, Dennis Maliani, said there's been an uptick in demand for blockchain solutions since the pandemic started. While many quickly hospitals quickly adopted technology to accommodate working from home, they also became vulnerable to massive ransomware attacks during an already devastating pandemic.

"Regardless of the technologies they are implementing, they still have challenges in terms of workflows, in terms of privacy, in terms of security," Maliani said.

Why Blockchain?

Experts say the blockchain's security and interoperability capabilities are crucial in a socially distant world.

"The records can never be deleted, meaning you can always find ways to track it and trace it and have the DNA fingerprints on the record from cradle to the grave," said Nick Vyas, a blockchain expert at the USC Marshall School of Business.

There are multiple benefits to using the blockchain in the health care industry, he added. Blockchain is inherently decentralized, with patient records copied in multiple places and uses layers of scrambled code to hide identifying information. Any changes or additions to the data is kept in a consecutive record, which allows for heightened security protocols when any changes are made to the data. Altered or hacked data is easily traceable.

"And those things can really enhance the traceability of the data, legitimacy of the data and provide a much better platform," Vyas said.

Blockchain can prevent high-cost mistakes in the pipeline of patient care. While patients are often operating between clinicians, lab workers, psychiatrists and pharmacists, patient care parties don't need to manually keep track of physical records. Unique codes, sometimes in the form of fingerprints or DNA scans, are assigned to each patient, so patients with the same name don't get confused.

Diagnoses and workflow can move quicker — a doctor can send a patient's records to a lab technician or radiologist, who can add to it and immediately send it back securely.

"We have the ability to connect all the intermediary and touch points," Vyas said. "I think the more cumbersome that is, the more you can make the case [for using the blockchain]."

Apotheka Systems began in 2018 to create blockchain technologies in health care spaces and began rolling out pilot programs at Pacific Stem Cells in Newport Beach and MetroHealth International, which is based in the United Kingdom.

Perhaps most notably, the company is part of an effort led by the Department of Veterans Affairs to identify retired vets who don't have access to patient care by assigning unique IDs for each veteran, so it becomes easier for the department to reach them and make sure they are getting the care they need.

"For minorities, access to care is very hard. And that is the same thing that we're seeing, especially with the VA community who are retired," Maliani said. "Some of them are disabled. Some of them have mental health problems because of PTSD during the war. So it's things of that nature whereby they see there's a need that technologies like ours can really come in and help."

The Blockchain Has Its Gaps, Too

Despite the potential benefits, the health care industry may not see the same explosion in blockchain technology that the creator world did. While NFTs have captured the imagination of moguls like Jack Dorsey and musicians like Kings of Leon, blockchain adoption in health care is more likely to be a slow burn.

Vyas said blockchain in art and finance has been largely embraced because so many players are involved in the process. With potentially millions of individuals using a financial system, for example, it can be difficult to verify transactions. Whereas, U.S. patient data changes hands in a mostly closed and already highly regulated system, Vyas said. That's because much of health care is siloed into insurance, hospital and network providers — rather than a universal health care system of hundreds millions.

Furthermore, the blockchain isn't infallible. The year 2020 saw more than a hundred Bitcoin hacks, and hackers will look for new ways to overcome blockchain-supported security in the future. Regulatory standards around blockchain inside health care still need to be addressed including making the system compliant with a 1996 federal patient protection law known as HIPAA that gives patients the right to access their records.

For years, the U.S. health care system lagged behind many industries when it came to embracing new technology and software, wary that sensitive health records could be breached. To push digitization, the federal government passed the HITECH Act in 2009 that created privacy and security regulations for digital patient records.

"It's a natural evolution that we're going through that just happened to have started 20 years later than other industries," said Chris Bergstrom, president of the tech-focused, disease management company AmalgamRx. "And that evolution is: we start with things on paper and then we digitize and collect them and then we learn how to do that [keep those records] do that on a go forward basis."

And just like the world has gotten used to sending large amounts of money online, the health care industry is similarly warming up to the way new innovations can cure inefficiencies, Vyas said.

"We're getting used to the idea of stretching our boundaries. We're comfortable with playing in this digital innovation space," he said. "The opportunities could be huge."

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🏰 Disney's Epic Investment Stands Out Amidst Gaming Industry Layoffs

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.

🔦 Spotlight

In the midst of widespread gaming industry layoffs, a glimmer of positive news emerges as Disney announces a significant move: a $1.5 billion investment in Epic Games. 🏰💰🐭

Image Source: Disney

Disney's $1.5 billion investment in Epic Games, disclosed late Wednesday, signals a strategic alignment aimed at expanding the success of "Fortnite." The deal enhances Epic's growth prospects after financial setbacks, including layoffs, and strengthens the partnership between the two companies. With Disney gaining a larger equity stake in Epic, the collaboration will broaden the integration of beloved Disney franchises like Marvel, Star Wars, Pixar, and Avatar into the game, potentially boosting its appeal and longevity. This significant investment underscores Disney's commitment to interactive entertainment and signifies a shift towards games as a primary revenue stream, aligning with the growing trend of digital engagement among younger demographics. Moreover, the potential for crossover sales of physical Disney products within "Fortnite" and the exploration of new content distribution channels are just some of the opportunities arising from this partnership.

For LA tech, the Disney-Epic Games partnership represents a validation of the region's burgeoning tech and gaming ecosystem. The substantial investment in Epic, who maintains a large Los Angeles office with 1,000+ employees (according to LinkedIn), reflects confidence in the LA’s talent pool and innovation potential. Additionally, this partnership between two industry giants fosters an environment for further collaboration, investment, and growth within LA's tech sector. As Disney and Epic Games deepen their ties and explore new avenues for content integration and distribution, it not only elevates the prominence of LA as a tech hub but also stimulates economic growth and job creation in the region. This partnership highlights LA's unique position as a hub where technology and entertainment converge. With its ability to integrate diverse industries, LA is driving innovation and expansion in digital entertainment. 🚀💸🎮

🤝 Venture Deals

LA Companies

  • ProducePay, a financing and marketplace platform for the fresh produce market, raised a $38M Series D led by Syngenta Group Ventures joined by Commonfund, Highgate Private Equity, G2 Venture Partners, Anterra Capital, Astanor Ventures, Endeavor8, Avenue Venture Opportunities, Avenue Sustainable Solutions, and Red Bear Angels. - learn more
  • Blush, an invite-only dating app that drives users to local businesses on dates, raised a $7M Seed Round from individuals like Naval Ravikant. - learn more
  • Mogul, a startup founded last year that provides an overview of an artist's royalty earnings and identifies areas where money is owed but has not yet been collected, raised a $1.9 million seed round from Wonder Ventures, United Talent Agency, AmplifyLA, and Creator Partners. - learn more
  • Avnos, a hybrid direct air capture startup, raised a $36M Series A led by NextEra Energy and joined by Safran Corporate Ventures, Shell Ventures, Envisioning Partners, and Rusheen Capital Management. - learn more
  • AI.fashion, startup whose mission is to help retailers enhance the online shopping experience by providing consumers with virtual try-ons and personalized fashion recommendations, raised a $3.6M Seed Round led by Neo. - learn more
  • Suma Wealth, startup that aims to demystify financial topics and provide culturally relevant content, virtual experiences, and resources to help Latino users navigate financial challenges and opportunities, raised a $2.2M Seed Round . Radicle Impact led, and was joined by Vamos Ventures, OVO fund and the American Heart Association Impact Fund. - learn more
  • 222, a startup that helps users discover their city and meet new people through unique social experiences, raised a $2.5M Seed Round. Investors included 1517 Fund, General Catalyst, Best Nights VC, Scrum Ventures, and Upfront Ventures. - learn more
  • LimaCharlie, a security operations cloud platform, raised a $10.2M Series A led by Sands Capital. - learn more
  • Polycam, an app that uses a smartphone’s sensors to capture 3D scans of objects, raised an $18M Series A co-led by Left Lane Capital and Adjacent, and joined by Adobe Ventures and individuals like Chad Hurley and Shaun Maguire. -learn more.

LA Venture Funds

Actively Raising

  • ReelCall, Inc., an entertainment technology company focused on powerful apps and platforms that help build and maintain the professional network of connections vital to career growth, is raising a $850K Pre-Seed Round. - learn more
  • CZero, a startup building software to decarbonize logistics for logistics businesses and goods business through a vetted marketplace and optimization software. - learn more
  • Couri, a technology startup addressing last-mile delivery issues, is raising a $450K Pre-Seed Round at a $2.2M post money valuation. - learn more
  • Sweetie, a marketplace to help people plan date nights, is raising a $1.5M Pre Seed Round. - learn more
  • StartupStarter, an investment platform that provides real-time data and analytics on startups, is raising an $850K Angel Round. - learn more

If you’re a founder raising money in Los Angeles, give us a shout, and we’d love to include you in the newsletter!

Venture Waves, Climate Tech Wins, and Silicon Beach's Ongoing Evolution

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.

Anduril Seeks $1.5B in VC Funds

Defense company Anduril Industries Inc., based in Costa Mesa and founded by Palmer Luckey, is seeking to raise $1.5 billion in fresh funds to boost its valuation to $12.5 billion or more, according to sources quoted by The Information. This fundraising effort, if successful, would mark one of the largest venture capital rounds of the year.

Image Source: Anduril

Anduril recently secured a contract to develop and test small unmanned fighter jet prototypes under the Air Force’s Collaborative Combat Aircraft (CCA) program, beating out major defense companies like Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and Northrop Grumman. Alongside General Atomics, Anduril will design, manufacture, and test these aircraft, with a final multibillion-dollar production decision expected in fiscal year 2026. This program aims to deliver at least 1,000 combat aircraft to fly in concert with manned platforms and is part of the Air Force’s Next Generation Air Dominance initiative. Central to Anduril’s success in this contract is the Fury autonomous air vehicle, acquired through the purchase of Blue Force Technologies. This victory underscores Anduril's rapid advancement in the defense sector, aligning with Luckey's vision of building faster and more cost-effective defense assets. - learn more

Los Angeles Ranks Number 1 in Emerging Climate Tech Hub

The 2024 Emerging Climate Tech Hubs Report by Revolution highlights Los Angeles as a burgeoning center for climate tech innovation. LA's growth in this sector is driven by its diverse talent pool, strong research institutions, and a culture of environmental consciousness. The city's unique mix of legacy industries, such as entertainment and aerospace, alongside emerging tech companies, positions it as a pivotal player in the climate tech landscape. This shift reflects a broader trend of decentralized climate tech funding across the U.S., reducing the historical dominance of California's traditional hubs. - learn more

Silicon Beach: Looking Back, Moving Forward

Assessing the overall health of the startup market is challenging, especially as venture capital funding has decreased by an average of 61% from 2021 to 2023 across the top VC markets in the US. Markets with robust ecosystems in AI, SaaS, Biotech, Healthtech, and Fintech appear to be weathering the downturn better than those focused on Consumer and Gaming industries, areas where Los Angeles traditionally excels.

Percent Change In VC Funding By Region

CB Insights

LA Times paints a rather bleak outlook on the Los Angeles tech scene noting venture capital funding in Greater Los Angeles plummeted 73% from 2021 to 2022. Silicon Beach, once a vibrant tech corridor, currently faces high vacancy rates and lacks late-stage financiers, especially in the AI sector. However, there are positive signs, including growth in aerospace startups and increased venture capital investment in early 2024, suggesting a potential rebound for LA's tech ecosystem.

While LA may not be exceeding expectations during this period, its tech ecosystem warrants a nuanced evaluation, given the broader market dynamics and its strong performance in specific sectors. Reach out to us with your thoughts.

🚀 SpaceX gears up for another stellar year, active raises, and more

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.

Happy Friday Los Angeles! You made it through the first week of 2024!

🔦 Spotlight

Elon Musk may be a divisive (albeit entertaining) figure, but the continued success of SpaceX is pivotal for the aerospace industry in Los Angeles and more broadly around the world.

Image Source: SpaceX webcast

What happened with SpaceX in 2023?

  • Elon Musk challenged Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg to a cage fight.
  • SpaceX launched 96 successful missions with its Falcon series of rockets, a 57% increase over its previous annual record.
  • SpaceX conducted two test flights of the largest and most powerful rocket ever built, Starship.
  • Roughly two-thirds of SpaceX's launches in 2023 were devoted to building out Starlink, the company's satellite-internet megaconstellation.
  • Isaacson’s Elon Musk biography was published in September including everything from Musk’s tumultuous relationship with his father to his work ethic and “demon mode”.

Moving forward what can we expect from SpaceX and its controversial founder? Continued innovation pushing the aerospace industry to new limits? Yes. More drama? Without a doubt.

Here is some of what is to come in 2024:

🤝 Venture Deals

Just Announced

Check back next week!

LA Exits

  • CG Oncology, an Irvine, CA-based developer of immunotherapies for bladder cancer, filed for a $100M IPO. It plans to list on the Nasdaq (CGON) with Morgan Stanley as left lead underwriter, and has raised around $317m in VC funding. - learn more
  • McNally Capital agreed to sell Advanced Micro Instruments, a Costa Mesa, CA-based maker of gas analyzers and sensing technologies, to Enpro (NYSE: NPO). - learn more

Actively Raising

  • ReelCall, Inc., an entertainment technology company focused on powerful apps and platforms that help build and maintain the professional network of connections vital to career growth, is raising a $850K Pre-Seed Round. - learn more
  • CZero, a hard-tech startup that is developing a technology for decarbonizing natural gas, is raising a $1.5M Seed Round. - learn more
  • Couri, a technology startup addressing last-mile delivery issues, is raising a $450K Pre-Seed Round at a $2.2M post money valuation. - learn more
  • Sweetie, a marketplace to help people plan date nights, is raising a $250K Angel Round. - learn more
  • StartupStarter, an investment platform that provides real-time data and analytics on startups, is raising an $850K Angel Round. - learn more

If you’re a founder raising money in Los Angeles, give us a shout, and we’d love to include you in the newsletter!

📅 LA Tech Calendar

Sunday, January 7th

Wednesday, January 10th

  • Startup Cafe: Networking with a Kick - Entrepreneurs, Startups, and Tech Enthusiasts join together to meet and connect with like-minded people, industry professionals and investors, while enjoying a nice cup of coffee in Venice at The KINN. This week’s interactive discussion about AI’s evolution in entertainment will feature Dr. Sam Khoze and Rachel Joy Victor.
  • Venice Tech Happy Hour- Join Startup Coil and FoundrHaus Wednesday evening and enjoy the sunset from the rooftop, grab a bite overlooking Abbot Kinney, and mingle with other tech enthusiasts and entrepreneurs by the bar on the patio.

Have an awesome event coming up? Reach out to be featured on next week’s Newsletter!

📙 What We’re Reading

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