Will This be the Tipping Point for Telemedicine in the U.S.?

Rachel Uranga

Rachel Uranga is dot.LA's Managing Editor, News. She is a former Mexico-based market correspondent at Reuters and has worked for several Southern California news outlets, including the Los Angeles Business Journal and the Los Angeles Daily News. She has covered everything from IPOs to immigration. Uranga is a graduate of the Columbia School of Journalism and California State University Northridge. A Los Angeles native, she lives with her husband, son and their felines.

Will This be the Tipping Point for Telemedicine in the U.S.?
Nurses at East Los Angeles Doctors Hospital using translation service Cloudbreak's device to communicate with patient. The company pivoted to telemedicine amid the outbreak.

As the chief medical officer overseeing four Los Angeles County hospitals, Vincent Green is looking at some grim realities.

The emergency room doctor is running low on ventilators, the supply of personal protective equipment is dwindling and many on his medical staff are over 60 years old, making them a higher risk for dying should they contract the novel coronavirus.

"There are times when I wake up and I can't get back to sleep," said Green, an executive at El Segundo-based Pipeline Health, which owns the Memorial Hospital of Gardena, East Los Angeles Doctors Hospital, Coast Plaza Hospital and Community Hospital of Huntington Park along with two others in Dallas and Chicago. He keeps going over in his mind what he can do to help protect his staff from changing intubation procedures to procuring gowns before the expected surge of patients hits. "We're trying now to get prepared and ready so that when that crazy volume comes in, we're able to try to be as safe as possible for everybody."

Green isn't alone. Other tech savvy medical professionals are turning to telemedicine to save lives and companies that provide it have seen usage skyrocket.


A few weeks ago, Green made a decision to use the translation equipment provided by El Segundo-based Cloudbreak, an interpretation service which is now providing telemedicine, to help reduce face-to-face visits with patients and in turn save protective gear that might otherwise be used for visits with COVID-19 patients.

Tapping telemedicine is one way doctors, policymakers and administrators like Green hope they can preserve resources and keep staff safe. At least two health care workers in Los Angeles County have died due to the virus and 324 have tested positive. And medical staff around the country are scared as reports of sick nurses and doctors stack up and a shortage of protective equipment persists.

Green and others have begun to deploy technology from smartphones and computers to remote patient monitoring tools in an effort to limit COVID-19 exposure. Meanwhile, jittery patients are flocking to companies that offer remote services rather than risk going into an infected doctor's office. But, telehealth has its limits and doctors can't diagnose everything via a screen.

Cloudbreak's service lets patients talk to doctors from monitors that are carted into their rooms. Like many executives facing the pandemic, the head of Cloudbreak, Jamey Edwards, switched the company's focus as the virus began to ravage the country to one more relevant to the times: telemedicine. Now, demand is booming and he is looking at more services that can help doctors reach patients on their cellphones and beyond. Green has 16 of Cloudbreak's carts in his Los Angeles-based hospitals and ordered another 20 in anticipation of an onslaught of COVID-19 patients.

Jamey Edwards, CEO of Cloudbreak

It may sound like a small gesture, but the video conference could slow the burn of hospitals' protective equipment by 10% to 15%. Not only is the protective gear more difficult to acquire as demand jumps, but prices are rising just as hospitals and clinics like his are getting squeezed financially as they forgo elective surgeries and other treatments they rely on for revenue.

The standard N95 masks used by doctors previously cost less than $1, but are now being sold for six times the price in some cases.

"This provides another layer of safety to my elderly physician staff as well as just to the rank and file employees," Green said. "They are nervous and rightfully so, because they have never had to unnecessarily risk their own life while treating patients."

At the Gardena hospital, which has a large population of uninsured and nursing home residents, Green said he is looking to use it for COVID-19 patients in the ICU that might normally require consistent monitoring from nurses, saving medical staff from constantly going into check on them.

At Martin Luther King Jr. Community Hospital, Dr. Stanley Frencher who is the medical director of surgical outcomes and quality, says many of these carts will be used in tents outside the hospital to evaluate possible COVID-19 patients, and there will also be one in nearly every room inside the facility. The hospital now has 60 with another 80 on order and a goal of getting to about 160 in the coming weeks.

"You have all these different ways in which telemedicine can be leveraged to ultimately manage this short term need to physically distance ourselves from one another," he said. "In doing so, we will definitely be saving lives by using telemedicine."

Expansion of Telemedicine

To encourage telemedicine use and slow the trajectory of the fast-moving virus, President Donald Trump earlier this month waived restrictions allowing doctors to operate across state lines and relaxed HIPAA compliance allowing doctors to use their own phones to free up hospitals and doctors for COVID-19 patients. This week, the Federal Communication Commission unveiled a $200 million fund to boost telehealth services for hospitals.

Use of remote health services has been surging amid the pandemic.

Companies like Los Angeles-based Heal, a primary healthcare service offering home doctor visits from a network of physicians, has seen usage jump 640% over the past month as patients turn online instead of risking going to a doctor's office. The San Francisco-based Forward, a health care subscription service with clinics in Los Angeles, launched a COVID-19 screener. At GoodRx, which acquired HeyDoctor last year, telehealth visits have soared.

"We think this is going to be the new normal for 2020," said John Asalone, who heads telehealth at GoodRx. "People are not going to their primary care doctors right now, but as health issues are still happening (and) they still need their medication, they will either skip care or find it elsewhere."

The $5.6 billion telehealth market in the United States has struggled for years to take off with people reluctant to connect with doctors online, but recently more companies like e-commerce giant Amazon have looked to telehealth to offset the high cost of employee medical coverage. The pandemic has forced people with chronic conditions like diabetes to check in with their doctor online or by phone as clinics and hospitals across the country cancel routine visits and elective surgeries.

"This could almost ironically be the tipping point for telehealth," said Jay Goss, general partner at Pasadena-based venture capital firm Wavemaker Three-Sixty Health that has several telehealth companies in their portfolio. "The core thing these companies do is more valuable today than it was before the pandemic.

"There's a cultural willingness now to do something that for the longest time was just done in person," Goss said.

Limits of Remote Doctors

There's also a dire necessity, but it's an imperfect tool. Doctors can't administer important tests or touch patients. There's technical issues that can pop up. And then, even Cloudbreak's carts that are rolled into ICUs must be sanitized by a human.

Despite this, Alex Fredrick, an analyst at Pitchbook, expects the pandemic will force rapid adoption of telemedicine. He points to companies like InTouch Health, a Santa Barbara company acquired by New York-based Teladoc in January that was used to treat what is believed to be patient zero in Washington.

He expects to see more robots being used to administer services as the sector develops. But that isn't helping people now who cannot be tested remotely.

The $5.6 billion telehealth market in the United States has struggled for years to take off with people reluctant to connect with doctors online.Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Forward, the subscription health service, tries to bridge some of the gap with their remote tools to monitor patients. But even the clinics in Los Angeles had to set up two drive-thru locations in Glendale and Newport Beach this month in an attempt to prevent carriers of COVID-19 from entering their clinics. And doctors there say there is no substitute for hearing and touching a person up close.

"Sometimes when you are talking to a person over the phone, you think, 'gosh, I really need to listen to this person's lungs. I need to examine them'," said Keith DesRochers, a primary care physician at Forward's clinic in Century City. "People have switched in his world to thinking COVID yes or no 100 percent of the time, but people still get pneumonia, people still get asthma exacerbations, they still get the flu. We need to make sure that we aren't missing those things."

But coming into work is a frightening proposition these days.

"To be honest, primary care doctors aren't used to being fully on the frontlines and putting ourselves at risk," he said. "It's scary, we are all trying to do the best we can to take care of our patients."

***This story was updated April 8 at 1:46 p.m. to reflect the most recent rates of COVID-19 infections and deaths among health care workers as reported by L.A. County health officials.

Reach out to me on Twitter @racheluranga, where my DMs are open, email me at rachel(at)dot.la.

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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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