Your Next Taco Bell Order Could Come with a Side of Electricity

Samson Amore

Samson Amore is a reporter for dot.LA. He holds a degree in journalism from Emerson College and previously covered technology and entertainment for TheWrap and reported on the SoCal startup scene for the Los Angeles Business Journal. Send tips or pitches to samsonamore@dot.la and find him on Twitter @Samsonamore.

​Concept of a Taco Bell with an electric car charging station in its parking lot.
Rendering courtesy of ChargeNet

Electric vehicle charging startup ChargeNet raised a $6.2 million seed round from local investors including the Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator, as it looks to expand its network of charging hubs at fast food restaurants across California.

Aligned Climate Capital, a New York-based venture capital firm with offices in Burbank, led the funding. Arts District-based Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator, which incubates startups focused on renewable energy technology, invested through its venture arm, the LACI Impact Fund. Nonprofit early-stage investor Tech Coast Angels also backed ChargeNet’s seed round, as did its San Diego chapter, San Diego Angels.


The funding will aid San Diego-based ChargeNet’s strategy of deploying solar-powered EV charging stations at fast food restaurant parking lots, starting with six charging ports at a Taco Bell in South San Francisco later this month. The company plans to add similar locations in and around Los Angeles as part of its goal of expanding to more than 80 fast food restaurants by the end of the year, ChargeNet CEO Tosh Dutt told dot.LA.

"We expect to expand into Los Angeles, as well as surrounding counties, in 2022 and are finalizing the specifics now,” Dutt said. “This is just the beginning for ChargeNet Stations in and around Southern California, and today's investment is fueling the growth.”

The fast food restaurants partnering with ChargeNet are able to use extra energy stored in the charging stations to power their own facilities, and may also qualify for green energy incentives offered by local and state governments.

A row of concept electric car charging stations in a fast food parking lot.A row of concept electric car charging stations in a fast food parking lot.Rendering courtesy of ChargeNet

“More than five million people eat at Taco Bell restaurants across the country every day,” Aligned Climate Capital COO Brendan Bell said in a statement. “ChargeNet brings fast charging to these drivers, and clean energy to the restaurants.”

The LACI Impact Fund backed ChargeNet in part because the company was among its Spring 2021 group of companies joining the incubator. ChargeNet also was a finalist in a February 2021 pitch competition for funding led by the University of San Diego’s Knauss School of Business.

Dutt said the chargers are designed for quick use, and can give customers a 100-mile charge in 15 minutes at a cost of around $10. That’s cheap compared to L.A. County gas prices, which currently average $4.68 per gallon, according to AAA.

Dutt is an alumni of USC and has worked with companies focused on renewable energy for the majority of his career, including as a technical sales engineer at Honeywell. He founded ChargeNet in 2019 with chief operating officer Venus Jenkins and chief technical officer Rebecca Wolkoff, who previously worked at Tesla.

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Genies Wants To Help Creators Build ‘Avatar Ecosystems’

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.

Genies Wants To Help Creators Build ‘Avatar Ecosystems’

When avatar startup Genies raised $150 million in April, the company released an unusual message to the public: “Farewell.”

The Marina del Rey-based unicorn, which makes cartoon-like avatars for celebrities and aims to “build an avatar for every single person on Earth,” didn’t go under. Rather, Genies announced it would stay quiet for a while to focus on building avatar-creation products.

Genies representatives told dot.LA that the firm is now seeking more creators to try its creation tools for 3D avatars, digital fashion items and virtual experiences. On Thursday, the startup launched a three-week program called DIY Collective, which will mentor and financially support up-and-coming creatives.

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Here's What To Expect At LA Tech Week

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.

Here's What To Expect At LA Tech Week

LA Tech Week—a weeklong showcase of the region’s growing startup ecosystem—is coming this August.

The seven-day series of events, from Aug. 15 through Aug. 21, is a chance for the Los Angeles startup community to network, share insights and pitch themselves to investors. It comes a year after hundreds of people gathered for a similar event that allowed the L.A. tech community—often in the shadow of Silicon Valley—to flex its muscles.

From fireside chats with prominent founders to a panel on aerospace, here are some highlights from the roughly 30 events happening during LA Tech Week, including one hosted by dot.LA.

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PCH Driven: Director Jason Wise Talks Wine, Documentaries, and His New Indie Streaming Service SOMMTV

Jamie Williams
­Jamie Williams is the host of the “PCH Driven” podcast, a show about Southern California entrepreneurs, innovators and its driven leaders on their road to success. The series celebrates and reveals the wonders of the human spirit and explores the motivations behind what drives us.
Jason Wise holding wine glass
Image courtesy of Jason Wise

Jason Wise may still consider himself a little kid, but the 33-year-old filmmaker is building an IMDB page that rivals colleagues twice his age.

As the director behind SOMM, SOMM2, SOMM3, and the upcoming SOMM4, Wise has made a career producing award-winning documentary films that peer deep into the wine industry in Southern California and around the world.

On this episode of the PCH Driven podcast, he talks about life growing up in Cleveland as a horrible student, filmmaking, Los Angeles and his latest entrepreneurial endeavor: A streaming service called SOMMTV that features–what else?–documentaries about wine.

The conversation covers some serious ground, but the themes of wine and film work to anchor the discussion, and Wise dispenses bits of sage filmmaking advice.

“With a documentary you can just start filming right now,” he says. “That’s how SOMM came about. I got tossed into that world during the frustration of trying to make a different film, and I just started filming it, because no one could stop me because I was paying for it myself. That’s the thing with docs,” or “The good thing about SOMM is that you can explain it in one sentence: ‘The hardest test in the world is about wine, and you’ve never heard about it.’”

…Or at least maybe you hadn’t before he made his first film. Now with three SOMM documentaries under his belt, Wise is nearing completion of “SOMM4: Cup of Salvation,” which examines the history of wine’s relationship with religion. Wise says it’s “a wild film,” that spans multiple countries, the Vatican and even an active warzone. As he puts it, the idea is to show that “wine is about every subject,” rather than “every subject is about wine.”

For Wise, the transition to launching his own streaming service came out of his frustration with existing platforms holding too much power over the value of the content he produces.

“Do we want Netflix to tell us what our projects are worth or do we want the audience to do that?” he asks.

But unlike giants in the space, SOMMTV has adopted a gradual approach of just adding small bits of content as they develop. Without the need to license 500 or 1,000 hours of programming, Wise has been able to basically bootstrap SOMMTV and provide short form content and other more experimental offerings that typically get passed over by the Hulus and Disneys of the world.

So far, he says, the experiment is working, and now Wise is looking to raise some serious capital to keep up with the voracious appetites of his subscribers.

“Send those VCs my way,” Wise jokes.

Subscribe to PCH Driven on Apple, Stitcher, Spotify, iHeart, Google or wherever you get your podcasts.

dot.LA reporter David Shultz contributed to this report.

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