🌟 Highlights from the Milken Institute Global Conference and Anticipated LA Tech Gatherings

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.

Last week’s Milken Institute Global Conference, held at the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, focused on “Shaping a Shared Future,” addressing major issues and the role of technology in solving challenges such as climate change. A significant theme throughout the event was the impact of artificial intelligence (AI), particularly its potential to transform industries by automating tasks that do not add real value, thus allowing individuals to focus on higher-level activities. Panels and discussions highlighted how AI is already being utilized in various sectors, including asset management, customer service, and medicine development, with contributions from notable figures such as executives from OpenAI and Elon Musk.

Image Source: Milken Institute

The conference, attracting thousands of professionals, was the largest since returning to in-person events post-pandemic. High-profile attendees included Elon Musk, who spoke to a packed auditorium and attended exclusive gatherings with investment heavyweights like Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon, CEO of Eldridge Industries Todd Boehly, and former Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. Events hosted by celebrities such as Ashton Kutcher and Leonard Green founder Jonathan Sokoloff, featuring David Beckham, highlighted the conference's prestige. Delegates sought partnerships and funding, predicting a dealmaking resurgence in 2024 and 2025. The event also saw increased participation from Middle Eastern investors and cautious discussions about opportunities in China, underscoring its global significance and dynamic networking environment.

Despite its reputation for Hollywood glamor and an unmatched sound bath per capita ratio, Los Angeles ranks 5th for tech community in Cloudwards' list of top tech cities in the US, highlighting a vibrant tech scene that should not be underestimated. This ranking reflects the number of tech events and conferences the city hosts, including the annual Milken Institute Global Conference discussed above. Looking ahead, here are some other significant LA tech events to anticipate in the next couple of weeks.

🗓️ Upcoming LA Tech Events

Monday, May 20, 2024

Nucleate Los Angeles: Demo Day 2024 - Join Nucleate for their annual showcase of their 2024 Activator Cohort for all biotech enthusiasts from the student to industry levels. Seven teams spanning across the greater LA area will present their startup decks to a live audience, including a panel of VC judges. Food will be provided to attendants and an open networking session will follow the presentations.

Tuesday, May 21, 2024

BUILDFest LA 2024 - Check out #BUILDFest LA 2024 on Tuesday, May 21, at Loyola Marymount to support the next generation of innovative and resilient youth through entrepreneurship! Three local high school finalist teams will present their business solutions to judges and BUILD community members, competing for cash prizes and bragging rights. The event features a fantastic panel of community and business leaders, including Principal Amen Rahh, AnnMaria De Mars, Mark Genovese, Tony Safoian, and Shannon Willet. Join and celebrate a quarter century of impact and witness the brilliance of today's student entrepreneurs as they shape the future.


First Look SoCal Innovation Showcase 2024 - The First Look SoCal Innovation Showcase is an annual celebration of the best early-stage teams commercializing deep tech and life science breakthroughs from the top research institutions in Southern California. This is the premiere gathering that celebrates research-based spinouts and connects them with top-tier investors and successful serial entrepreneurs with expertise to help them leap from the lab to market. This event will feature a pair of keynote presentations followed by a full program of 24 quick-pitch presentations with investor-led Q&A. Stay for the networking reception to (re)connect with the community!

Wednesday, May 22, 2024

AWS Summit - Hosted by Amazon, AWS Summit Los Angeles 2024 will be an action-packed day where the latest in cloud innovation comes to life. Explore how cutting-edge technologies, from generative AI to analytics, are revolutionizing industries and empowering businesses to lead in the digital era.

Thursday, May 23, 2024

Browsertech LA - Hosted by Upfront Partner Kevin Zhang, and Jamsocket co-founder Paul Butler, join them in Santa Monica, for an evening dedicated to exploring modern browser technology with plenty of chances to network and connect with industry peers. There will be lightning talks that will delve into topics like WebAssembly, WebRTC, WebGL, WebGPU, WebSockets, WebCodecs, WebTransport, and everything in between, followed by a sunset happy hour.

Thursday, June 6, 2024 - Sunday, June 9, 2024

Cine Gear Expo LA - Cine Gear Expo, debuting in 1996, has become the premier event for the technology, entertainment, and media sectors, annually attracting over 16,000 professionals from 60+ countries to Hollywood, California. Known for its unique approach, the expo offers a platform for exploring content capture hardware, workflow software, support equipment, and cutting-edge production services. Attendees benefit from hands-on training, insights from global technology leaders, and networking opportunities in a professional studio setting. The four-day event includes exhibits, seminars, a film festival, new product announcements, technical awards, and special screenings. The 2023 edition drew over 12,600 attendees, 260 exhibitors, and 20+ seminars, with expectations for further growth in 2024, solidifying its role as an industry cornerstone.

Tuesday, June 18, 2024 - Thursday, June 20, 2024

Augmented World Expo (AWE) - AWE is the world's largest spatial computing event and is the place to be for all things augmented reality, virtual reality, and XR community. This year, AWE is located in Long Beach and is celebrating its 15th anniversary. At this event you can try the latest spatial computing tech from 350+ exhibitors, learn from hundreds of spatial computing product leaders, and network with more than 6,500 spatial peers.

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

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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!

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