Coronavirus Updates: Startups Get Working on Protective Gear, L.A. Will Shut Power to Noncompliant Businesses

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.


  • With Masks in Short Supply, Local Companies Start Sewing
  • SpaceX Making Face Shields and Hand Sanitizer
  • L.A. County's Plan to Expand Available Hospital Beds
  • Can 3D Printing Help Alleviate L.A.'s Mask Shortage?
  • L.A. Mayor Garcetti Doubles Down on Work From Home Orders
  • Riot Games Donates $800K to Help With COVID-19 Effort

With Masks in Short Supply, Local Companies Start Sewing

Sonia Smith-Kang posted a call out on Facebook announcing her boutique children's clothing business in downtown Los Angeles was pivoting to designing masks to help protect first responders. The next morning she had nearly 400 orders and pleas for more.

The inspiration to pivot her business came from conversations with her husband, a doctor who works in the intensive care unit at Dignity Health - Northridge Hospital Medical Center. "When he would come home, he said 'there's a shortage of masks," said Smith-Kang, a former nurse and founder of Mixed Up Clothing, which makes clothes that draw on cultural themes. "This really validated what we were hearing."


Memo: SpaceX Making Face Shields and Hand Sanitizer

Army Reserve Soldiers conduct Medical IRT clinic at Bug-O-Nay-Ge-Shig School

Hawthorne-based SpaceX told employees it has built 75 face shields and delivered them to Cedars Sinai Hospital, according to an internal memo obtained by CNBC. Elon Musk's company also donated 100 "tyvek" protective suits to the hospital and is getting ready to produce hand sanitizer. At least one employee and an outside health care provider at SpaceX's headquarters have tested positive for COVID-19. As a result, at least a dozen employees have been sent home to quarantine, according to the Los Angeles Times.

L.A. County's Plan to Expand Available Hospital Beds

Los Angeles County public health officials announced three people had died from COVID-19 in the last day, and 138 new cases have been detected. That brings L.A. County's current total to 799 confirmed cases.

For the first time, L.A. officials updated the public on their efforts to procure more ventilators, beds and other desperately needed equipment — a tally they say they'll begin updating regularly, along with the number of coronavirus cases and deaths.

There are currently 800 ventilators for the surge of critical COVID-19 cases officials expect to see in the coming weeks, county Health Services Director Dr. Christina Ghaly said. She outlined a plan to make more beds available by working with hospitals to reduce their current number of patients and prepare rooms to hold more beds. The county is also working to stand up new facilities to house an overflow of patients, she said.

Dr. Ghaly added the county is working with several local universities to track the needs of hospitals, and project where that need will be most severe.

Asked whether L.A. should prepare for the upswing in COVID-19 caseloads that New York and other cities have seen, county public health director Dr. Barbara Ferrer said "we would be foolish to not prepare for a similar scenario here in L.A. County."

Can 3D Printing Help Alleviate L.A.'s Mask Shortage?

3Diligent, which offers a web-based marketplace for industrial grade 3D printing and rapid manufacturing, announced Wednesday it is going to help coordinate the response of 3D printer owners to help ease the shortage of masks and other protective equipment. The El Segundo-based company will offer its enterprise software, Shopsight, free of charge for the duration of the crisis and is creating a streamlined portal for hospitals to procure designs and submit a request with required quantities and delivery dates.

"So many people want to help medical workers at this critical time. By identifying the right PPE designs and manufacturing spec, making our Shopsight software free to ensure those designs are made the right way, and giving medical professionals a seamless way to order them, 3Diligent can hopefully help channel all this goodwill into the most positive impact," Cullen Hilkene, 3Diligent CEO, said in a statement.

L.A. Mayor Garcetti Doubles Down on Work From Home Orders

Mayor Eric Garcetti warned Los Angeles overnight that it is not acceptable for workers to return to their offices, warning that the worst of the coronavirus pandemic is still to come. "Let me be clear: it is unacceptable for non-essential businesses to continue their operations as normal," the mayor tweeted late Tuesday. He said the Department of Water and Power will shut services for businesses that don't comply with the city's "safer at home" ordinance. Garcetti hosts another press conference later in the day, and could discuss relief for L.A. businesses as part of the federal government's $2-trillion stimulus package agreed by Senate Democrats and the White House early Wednesday. Part of that deal includes a half-trillion-dollar fund to help struggling companies and direct payments to most Americans.

Riot Games Donates $800K to COVID-19 Effort

L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti said Wednesday afternoon that L.A.-based Riot Games is donating $800,000 to local nonprofits to help with the coronavirus effort, including $200,000 to the mayor's fund which will go toward feeding seniors and providing childcare and support to out-of-work Angelenos.

In addition, Garcetti said, the gaming giant is working to provide personal protective equipment for L.A. hospitals and keeping its staff on the payroll.

"Riot Games is committed to doing right by its employees," he said.

Garcetti also announced a new online portal where medical professionals can register to help with the coronavirus outbreak.

"There are few Angelenos in more demand. right now than medical staff," he said.

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Crush Ventures’ Andrew Kahn On Finding Music Tech’s ‘Next Big Thing’

Minnie Ingersoll
Minnie Ingersoll is a partner at TenOneTen and host of the LA Venture podcast. Prior to TenOneTen, Minnie was the COO and co-founder of $100M+, an online marketplace for used cars. Minnie started her career as an early product manager at Google. Minnie studied Computer Science at Stanford and has an MBA from HBS. She recently moved back to L.A. after 20+ years in the Bay Area and is excited to be a part of the growing tech ecosystem of Southern California. In her space time, Minnie surfs baby waves and raises baby people.
Crush Ventures’ Andrew Kahn
Photo courtesy of Crush Ventures

On this episode of the LA Venture podcast, Crush Ventures Head Andrew Kahn discusses the technology driving sales and engagement for artists, the future of social platforms in the music industry and the similar ways in which artists and entrepreneurs innovate.

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Two Months After Robots Were Introduced Into Nursing Homes, Residents Can't See Them Leaving: 'We'd Be Screwed'

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 and find him on Twitter @Samsonamore.

elderly people in a conga line with a robot ​
Evan Xie

Labor shortages are hitting many industries hard, but in senior living homes, lack of staff is even more of a problem, especially in dining rooms. In a bid to support a sagging workforce, some senior homes run by operator Front Porch are trying out hospitality robots.

So far, the Servi robots designed by Redwood City-based Bear Robotics have received a warm reception from both guests and customers. In a two-month pilot program with senior home operator Front Porch beginning in June, four of Bear Robotics’ Servi food running and busing robots were deployed in two Front Porch locations – San Francisco Towers, and Casa de Mañana in La Jolla.

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Could Amazon’s New Virtual Production Studio Eliminate the Cost of Shooting On Location?

Ilana Gordon
Ilana Gordon is an entertainment, culture, and tech writer originally from Connecticut. She currently lives in Los Angeles.
Could Amazon’s New Virtual Production Studio Eliminate the Cost of Shooting On Location?
Andria Moore/Amazon Prime

As the new owners of a 34,000-square-foot virtual production stage in Culver City, it was only a matter of time before Amazon discovered how to marry Web Services and emerging virtual production tech with the Hollywood system. The result is their newly announced Amazon Studios Virtual Production team—a group of around 20 creatives and engineers who will oversee and run production for the largest LED wall stage in the United States. Consisting of 3,000 LED panels (measuring 80 feet in diameter and clocking in at almost two and a half stories tall), along with 100 motion capture cameras, the wall offers performers and crew a three-dimensional environment in which to interact during filming.

Amazon’s volume wall is similar to the technology employed by Disney Plus during the making of their Star Wars television series, "The Mandalorian"; technology that creator and executive producer Jon Favreau said in a behind-the-scenes look at the virtual production equipment used to create the show inspired a new approach to filmmaking.

“We started to realize, let’s not just do green screen interactive light,” he said. “If we’re going to design the whole set in Game Engine ahead of time, maybe we can have some in-camera effects.”

Stage 15’s unveiling represents the next evolution in Amazon’s plan to establish itself as a dominant player in the content creation and entertainment market. Designed with the intention of saving studios money, the new stage—formerly used to create such classics as "It’s a Wonderful Life" and "RoboCop"—enables filmmakers to significantly reduce their reliance on shooting on location.

The question now is, at a time when the company’s budgetary concerns are still mounting, how will Stage 15 affect the studio’s plans for big ticket productions like "The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power"?

When "The Rings of Power" premiered on the platform in September of 2022, it was the most-watched streaming program for that week. An impressive statistic until you consider that the studio paid $1 billion to make the show’s first season—the most expensive single season in TV history. More importantly, at a time when studios are increasingly forced to answer for the environmental impact of their productions, "The Rings of Power" managed to generate roughly 31,717,906 pounds of carbon dioxide during production of its first season alone.

To put this context, one season of "The Rings of Power" is equivalent to between three and four films, and the amount of carbon dioxide the show generates equates to five times what the British Film Commission believes “an average “tentpole”, or blockbuster, film would produce.” Though "The Rings of Power" established a sustainability team, which has implemented a variety of initiatives intended to combat some of the high emissions and waste the production creates, in a leaked memo someone on the sustainability team told The Guardian, “Every single person we spoke to is concerned about the environmental impact.”

In response to The Guardian’s report, Amazon said sustainability practices for the first season of the show “either met or exceeded industry standards, even during the height of the pandemic.” And that “the production made every effort to be a good corporate citizen and was compliant with New Zealand environmental laws and regulations.”

But "Rings of Power" is far from the first production to be accused of causing excessive ecological destruction. In 2013, environmentalists accused the producers of "Mad Max: Fury Road" of damaging the world’s oldest desert (located in Namibia) and endangering the area’s lizards and rare plants. Two years later, the filmmakers behind "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales" were accused of allowing toxic waste to overflow into an Australian creek during filming. All of which is to say, no matter how hard producers try to control and protect the natural environments in which they’re choosing to shoot, the fact remains that there are no shortage of examples of filmmakers creating new or aggravating already-existing ecological issues in the process of creating their content.

It’s worth considering then, now that Stage 15 is operational, if premium series like "The Rings of Power" might be better suited by relocating production to virtual studio spaces even as Season 2 of the show started filming on location in the U.K. back in October—an area chosen because Amazon is reportedly looking to save money and establish a “multishow hub” in the area.

In the month since The Guardian report was published, it has caused some upset amongst fans, with one Redditor commenting that they were “seriously disappointed but not surprised…I know it's normal for the industry but they should do better.” Viewers seem to grasp the disconnect between spending millions of dollars to create an idyllic on-camera environment, while simultaneously destroying the real life environment that sustains us. One Redditor wrote that with $1 billion, “you ought to be able to shoot entirely inside a studio and manufacture any background scenery you wish.”

Not to mention that in spite of what purists might believe, most fans don’t seem upset by the choice to move filming on Season 2 to another continent. And if they’re open to shooting in the U.K. they might also be open to the idea of shooting in a venue like Stage 15. As one viewer theorized on Reddit, it’s possible that the production’s focus on casting representation—a source of both conversation and contention amongst fans this season—might have eclipsed the attention paid to the environment.

Almost 100 years after the establishment of Hollywood’s Golden Era, it’s time to revisit what a studio system can look like—and how virtual production studios can help elevate our filmmaking process. The consequences of failing to do so, are simply too profound to ignore.