Coronavirus Updates: Tesla Steps Up for UCLA, LAUSD Closed Until May 1
The coronavirus pandemic's emergence has changed the world around us. Conferences have been cancelled, travel has been severely restricted, and working from home has become the norm. But less clear is the scale of the economic impact and how companies should be reacting. Here are the latest headlines regarding how the novel coronavirus is impacting the Los Angeles startup and tech communities. Sign up for our newsletter and follow dot.LA on Twitter for the latest updates.
Manufacturers Asked to Convert Factories to Make Critical Supplies: "We Need All Hands on Deck"; 20,000 Test Kits Purchased, More to Come
Los Angeles city and county officials are ramping up novel coronavirus testing significantly, announcing on Monday they secured 20,000 test kits that can be processed at a rate of 5,000 a day. Priority will be given to first health care workers and first responders.
Los Angeles city officials also have an additional 100,000 tests kits have been procured from South Korea-based Seegene Technologies that will be made free to the public. County officials also announced a partnership with Curative Inc, a Bay Area company that set up shop earlier this month to produce test kits in San Dimas and is now making 1,000 a day.
As of March 20, roughly 2,400 people had been tested in Los Angeles County. Experts say that without widespread testing, it's difficult to understand where there are outbreaks and contain them.
The announcement came as the number of cases in the county shot up to 536, with 128 new cases announced on Monday. About 80% of the cases are from people ages 18-65. And of those positive cases, 90 have been hospitalized at some point, said Barbara Ferrer, the head of the county's public health department.
With hospital bracing for a surge and anticipating a shortage in supplies like swabs, testing trays, gloves, masks and other materials, Los Angeles City Council President Nury Martinez called on manufacturers to convert their factories to help.
"We're calling on all factories and manufacturers in Southern California who have the ability to convert their production lines to do it as soon as possible," Martinez said. "We need all hands on deck to properly address this crisis with the speed and scale it requires."
Los Angeles county is the nation's hub of manufacturing.
"We should not wait for the president to use the Defense Production Act," she said.
Reporting by Rachel Uranga. Follow her at @racheluranga
LAUSD closed until May 1, Verizon to provide internet at home for needy students
Los Angeles Unified School District schools will remain closed through May 1, Superintendent Austin Beutner announced Monday as officials scramble to stem the spread of the fast-moving novel coronavirus. Meanwhile, the nation's second largest district has brokered a deal with Verizon to provide internet connectivity at their home as instruction has moved online. The district has one of the highest concentration of low-income students in the state with 80 percent qualifying for free and reduced lunches. It's estimated about one out of five LAUSD K-12 students don't have access to the internet.
"The digital divide is very real, as many as 100,000 of our students lack access to the internet at home," Superintendent Austin Beutner said in a statement. "We must find a way for all students to continue to learn while schools are closed and this partnership with Verizon will help to do that." Terms of the deal were undisclosed.
Reporting by Rachel Uranga. Follow her at @racheluranga
Tesla Ships Masks, Supplies to UCLA Medical Center
Stronger together. Some much-needed supplies have arrived! Thank you @elonmusk and @Tesla for your generosity and b… https://t.co/8tGdR3ZUNC— UCLA Health (@UCLA Health) 1584906286.0
UCLA said Elon Musk's Tesla has begun shipping vital supplies to regional hospitals as part of the company's effort to help with disruptions. The electric car giant tweeted: "Glad we can help! We're sending masks and supplies to as many hospitals as we can."
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In this episode of LA Venture, Julie Wroblewski talks about starting Magnify Ventures and helping modern families.
Wroblewski worked with Melinda French Gates to start Pivotal Ventures. For Wroblewski, it was her dream job as she got to lead venture capital investment strategy for five years. One of the focus areas at Pivotal was around caregiving innovation and American family homes.
Wroblewski cites a report from one of Magnify's partners that estimates the care economy at $648 billion in the United States, already larger than the pharmaceutical market. Wroblewski's fund is writing up to $2.5 million checks into companies that will transform life, work and care for modern families.
"I started to see what I thought was a very exciting and still overlooked category of investment in venture capital around the care economy, and family-focused technology and was also seeing a lot of flow and founders," said Wroblewski.
As an investor, she is particularly interested in tools like household optimization that help families be both more efficient and joyful. She also wants to let parents know they don't have to be experts. Technology can help give them access to what they need, when they need it.
"Technology is moving closer into our lives all the time and solving increasingly human, complex, difficult problems, including, how we care for and manage care for children and our loved ones--the things that are most personal to us," said Wroblewski.
"We've seen such a wave of technology innovation in the workplace. You know, we now use so many different tools to help increase our productivity at work, to improve our health and well being in some cases in the workplace," she added. "And I think we haven't yet seen the same sort of investment in innovation move into some areas of family life and household management. And so I think that that's going to change."
dot.LA Audience Engagement Intern Joshua Letona contributed to this post.
Pejman Nozad, a founding managing partner at Pear VC, joins this episode of LA Venture to discuss Pear VC's current initiatives, including its accelerator and fellowships. He's seen as one of the most successful angel investors in the area, and for good reason: he has made more than 300 investments in his lifetime.
"I'm a child of revolution and war and difficult times," said Nozad of his upbringing in Iran during the revolution.
Nozad went to college before dropping out. That's when his brother told him about his dream to go to America. After his brother was denied a visa multiple times, Nozad went himself to the embassy and got lucky; the woman in charge of the process liked him enough to approve him.
"When you're in [your] early twenties, you don't analyze much of the future. And then your risk-takers. I came to America in 1992 with $700 and I didn't speak any word of English," said Nozad.
Nozad went from working at a carwash, then a yogurt shop, to a (now famous) Persian rug store in Palo Alto. Many of his clients happened to be CEOs and venture capitalists; Nozad wanted to be part of that community.
"I was very lucky because I had access to people who normally nobody can see them, but I was hanging out with them at Sunday barbecues while selling carpets," said Nozad.
In his early days as an investor, Nozad bet on companies that included Dropbox and DoorDash. He said he took inspiration as a venture capitalist in lessons he learned from his time playing professional soccer in Iran.
"In soccer, you can score minute one, or you can score at minute 90. Both of them [are] one goal and you can win the game. So, when you go to fundraise, don't get disappointed if you hear a lot of nos, because the yes could be the last meeting after the whole two months," he said.
dot.LA Engagement Intern Joshua Letona contributed to this post.
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