Braid Theory's Plan to Foster the Next Generation of Ocean Tech Startups

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.

Braid Theory's Plan to Foster the Next Generation of Ocean Tech Startups
Photo courtesy of the Port of Los Angeles.

San Pedro-based Braid Theory is one of the growing number of accelerators in the country looking to grow the so-called blue economy, which spans a range of ocean-related industries and is estimated at $2.5 trillion a year.

The accelerator is accepting online applications until July 18, with its second-ever program kicking off in August.

This year’s focus will be different from the typical accelerator: Startups in this group will test their products directly with companies active in the ocean economy for four months, collecting data on what works, what doesn’t and further developing proof of concept. Braid Theory will help these startups come up with their business plan and pitches, and connect them to investors and potential partners in the field. In return, it takes an equity warrant that can be converted after three years.

The startups joining Braid Theory typically span industries like port logistics, aquaculture and energy, all of them aiming to test their technologies and untapped opportunities of the burgeoning industry. The accelerator’s goal is to bring those companies from pre-revenue into commercialization.

And all of them are looking to solve challenges within the blue economy ecosystem, many of which have also been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. With 31% of all goods floating across the ocean to and from the U.S. pass through the Port of L.A. and the Port of Long Beach, COVID-19 strangled supply chains and increased the volume of goods handled at L.A. 's premiere dock by nearly 16% between 2020 and 2021. This created numerous logistical challenges for the dwindling workforce at the nation’s busiest ports while increasing emissions.

“The thing that we're trying to think about are ways in which we can leverage biological systems and software to make more immediate changes in markets that have a low barrier to entry,” Braid Theory co-founder Jim Cooper said of accelerator’s approach to addressing a wide range of climate and logistical issues.

Cooper founded Braid Theory with his colleague Ann Carpenter after the pair left PortTechLA, a maritime and logistics incubator that shuttered in 2016. The two wanted to create an accelerator for port and ocean startups that went beyond logistics and took into account other promising sectors of the ocean economy, including sustainable fish and plant cultivation as well as tools to make the shipping sector more efficient.

Braid Theory co-founder Jim CooperJim Cooper co-founded Braid Theory with his former colleague from PortTechLA, Ann Carpenter.Image courtesy of Braid Theory

Accelerators like Braid Theory are attempting to fill a void in the blue economy ecosystem. Despite being home to several universities with robust maritime research centers and a giant port infrastructure that could be better optimized, few startups survive in Los Angeles due to a lack of early stage funding, according to a 2020 report from the Los Angeles Economic Development Corporation. The accelerator provides funds and lab space and investor connections to nascent startups tackling a wide range of ocean-related problems.

The same report found that ocean startups, particularly early-stage ones, have a difficult time getting funding to accommodate the need for expensive lab equipment like centrifuges, chillers and pipettes. Startups in the blue economy space are primarily funded through federal and state dollars, NGOs and philanthropies, and competitions. But while angel funding has historically been slow to trickle into blue economy startups, some are starting to take note of the size of the market. In the first cohort, eight out of 12 startups received federal funding and investor funding with the help of Braid Theory.

The accelerator’s first graduating class included Florida-based Tampa DeepSea Xplorers, which makes seafaring autonomous vehicles that can scrape the bottom of the ocean and collect data faster for researchers to use as they study climate change impact or source for different medicines. Irvine-based ReCreate Energy is another graduate, which sources algae to create a more sustainable bio-crude oil that can be used at gas and oil refineries. While FlashQ, a Canada-based AI platform, is trying to reduce truck congestion and the emissions caused by them at the port by creating a scheduling platform that optimizes waiting and shipment times.

“The key is the opportunity, the opportunity was there,” Mimi Carter, a biotech investor with the Pasadena Angels, said of the business opportunities in the ocean market. “We saw a market that was unaddressed and is still an emerging market.”

Port of Long BeachA cluster of cranes at the Port of Long Beach.Photo by DJANA 575/ Shutterstock

To Carter’s credit, L.A. County boasts 75 miles of coastline that the LAEDC expects by 2023 will produce more than $80 billion in regional output, make roughly $50 billion in gross county product, and create over 200,000 direct and indirect jobs, according to a 2020 report. And, according to the Los Angeles Economic Development Corporation, economic and job growth in this sector relies heavily on the creation and implementation of new technologies, making angel investors necessary players in bolstering the ocean economy.

“Not only do we want to be investing in a sustainable product, but someone we count as a first mover,” Carter said of her investment approach. Already, groups like the Pasadena Angels and Techstars L.A. have made investments in the space. Reece Pacheco, a blue economy angel investor, is quietly working on a new venture fund around the blue tech space that hasn’t been announced yet.

“What we're starting to see is there are entrepreneurs who are either coming up through these research firms, or there are entrepreneurs who have cut their teeth elsewhere but care about the ocean,” Pacheco said.

There’s also Braid Theory’s neighbor (and landlord), AltaSea, the nonprofit research hub that has facilitated a number of partnerships with companies across the world.

“We do want to become the leading destination for the blue economy in terms of technology, finance, the education pathways it takes for students to get into these jobs in the future, and then the actual workforce development for the jobs of the future,” said Terry Tamminen, the new CEO of AltaSea.

Braid Theory’s makeshift shipping container-turned-lab is next door to a slew of other startups and projects in the blue economy space. USC researchers are incubating bubbling cauldrons of kelp that could create biofuels and alternative food sources. While Oceanographer Robert Ballard, who found the Titanic wreckage in 1985, set up a sea exploration program a few doors down.

“The ocean is more than a destination for tourists and a place for Jacques Cousteau and David Attenborough to go diving,” Tamminen said. “It's actually something right at our doorstep that we need to protect for our own survival, but it’s also an economic opportunity.”

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Meet the Creator Economy’s Version of LinkedIn

Kristin Snyder

Kristin Snyder is dot.LA's 2022/23 Editorial Fellow. She previously interned with Tiger Oak Media and led the arts section for UCLA's Daily Bruin.

Meet the Creator Economy’s Version of LinkedIn

LinkedIn hasn’t caught on with Gen Z—in fact, 96% rarely use their existing account.

Considering 25% of young people want to be full-time content creators and most influencers aren’t active on LinkedIn, traditional networking sites aren’t likely to meet these needs.

Enter CreatorLand.

CEO and founder Brian Freeman launched the platform in December and plans to open in beta with 3,600 users next week. Currently, the platform is invite-only, though registered users can ask their friends and colleagues to join. In addition, the platform doesn’t have follower count requirements, but Freeman says the creators first asked to join the platform have substantial followings. And any new people who join the app with under 100,000 TikTok followers, would be restricted from messaging the more established creators.

Though still a networking platform similar to LinkedIn, Freeman says CreatorLand is a site better suited to creators’ needs. Featuring profiles where creators can showcase campaigns they've worked on, viewership numbers and performance analytics, CreatorLand hopes for people within the creator economy to have more streamlined communication. Businesses can also search for specific types of influencers, such as beauty creators who have worked on specific types of sponsored content.

According to Freeman, CreatorLand is a way for creators to network with each other and share information about how they have achieved their career goals. It also connects them with people on the business side of the industry.

For brands, influencer agencies and marketers, the platform offers insight into a creator’s analytics, which can help them reach out to the most relevant people. It also offers a connection point beyond direct messaging and emails, as creators are often weary of scams or do not check their DMs. Through CreatorLand, both brands and creators can know that they’re working with a trusted source, as profiles display projects they have created and people they have worked with.

CreatorLand will also launch a podcast series next week meant to target issues within the industry, such as negotiating contracts, finding managers and pricing content. In the future, Freeman says the platform will host longer, more in-depth masterclasses with top creators and managers. He hopes that providing more clarity into how to optimize content and navigate will help creators feel more confident as they forge long-term careers.

“There's a big feeling of loneliness for creators,” Freeman says, “Burnout is really high, and that's because you don't know what works until you try it.”

But more companies are working to professionalize the field and guide creators. From management companies like Whalar overseeing brand deals to F*** You Pay Me providing more insight into payments to Tongal connecting artists with media companies, a number of startups are forming a more robust infrastructure within the industry.

For Freeman, that means fostering a space that offers more parity between creators looking to work with brands and companies looking to tap into the influencer market. Adding that, he wants CreatorLand to be “a central community where it's not competitive and there's a lot of sharing around best practices so that people can elevate and speed up the outcomes they’re trying to generate.” - Kristin Snyder

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This Week in ‘Raises’: Total Network Services Gains $9M, Autio Secures $5.9M

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’: Total Network Services Gains $9M, Autio Secures $5.9M
This Week in ‘Raises’:

It has been a slow week in funding, but a local decentralized computing network managed to land $9 million to accelerate deployment of its new product called Universal Communication Identifier (UCID™). Another local company that secured capital included Kevin Costner’s location-based audio storytelling platform and the funding will go toward expanding the app’s content library and expanding into additional regions in the United States.

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LA Tech ‘Moves’: Snap Taps Microsoft Exec, Advatix Hires Amazon Veteran

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’: Snap Taps Microsoft Exec, Advatix Hires Amazon Veteran
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 ( Please send job changes and personnel moves to


Ex-Amazon industry veteran Amit Kulkarni joined supply chain and logistics consulting and technology company Advatix as vice president of its global logistics solutions practice.

Daniel Alegre, former president and chief operating officer of Activision Blizzard, joins blockchain technology company Yuga Labs as their new CEO.

Divergent Technologies, Inc., an industrial digital manufacturing company appointed Peter Pace the joint chiefs of staff to its board of directors. Prior to joining, General Pace served as the principal military advisor to the president, the secretary of defense, the national security council and the homeland security council.

Social networking app Snap hired top advertising Microsoft executive Rob Wilk as president to oversee its ad sales across the U.S., Canada and Latin America.

Biopharmaceutical company Aadi Bioscience welcomed Mohammad Hirmand to its board of directors. Hirmand recently served as executive vice president and chief medical officer for Turning Point Therapeutics.