Coronavirus Updates: California Unemployment Claims at 1.9M; L.A. Amazon Worker Contracts Covid-19; Disney Initiates Furloughs

Coronavirus Updates: California Unemployment Claims at 1.9M; L.A. Amazon Worker Contracts Covid-19; Disney Initiates Furloughs

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.

Today:

  • Amazon Warehouse Worker in L.A. Tests Positive, As Company Struggles with Covid-19
  • USC Shows (and Ranks) L.A. Neighborhoods With COVID-19 Cases
  • Gov. Newsom to small businesses: "Let's get ahead of the queue"
  • L.A. County records 78 deaths, cases top 4,000
  • Patrick Soon-Shiong wants to buy shuttered hospital, convert to COVID-19 command center
  • Disney announces furloughs amid pandemic, but employees keep healthcare

    Disney announces furloughs amid pandemic, but employees keep healthcare

    upload.wikimedia.org

    Days after Disney announced top executives would take salary cuts to save money, the entertainment giant notified employees that many of them "whose jobs aren't necessary at this time" will be furloughed. "All impacted workers will remain Disney employees," the company said Thursday, meaning they will continue receiving healthcare benefits as paychecks are cut. Disney has 223,000 workers and is L.A.'s biggest employer. It is expected many of the cuts would come from the company's theme parks that have been closed, and it was not known how many employees would lose their job from the studio and other businesses.

    Patrick Soon-Shiong wants to buy shuttered hospital, convert to COVID-19 command center

    Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong, one of L.A.'s richest men, wants to use his family foundation to buy shuttered St. Vincent Medical Center near downtown and convert it into a hospital to treat COVID-19 patients and conduct coronavirus research. The story was first reported by The Los Angeles Times, which Soon-Shiong owns.

    The Chan Soon-Shiong Family Foundation has offered to purchase the medical campus out of bankruptcy for $135 million. Terms of the bid were not disclosed. St. Vincent has been closed since January as the sprawling medical facility fell into bankruptcy. All bids for the hospital must be submitted to a judge by Friday. A final hearing on the sale is scheduled later next week.

    L.A. County records 78 deaths, cases top 4,000

    Another 13 people died of the novel coronavirus in Los Angeles County and officials logged 534 new cases on Thursday, pushing the total number of people that tested positive past 4,000.

    So far, 78 people have died in the county. Of the most recent deaths, 12 were over the age of 65, while one was between 41 and 65. With the exception of one individual over 65, all had underlying health conditions.

    The daily count of COVID-19-positive individuals increased by 1,000 in the past 48 hours, bringing to the total to 4,045.

    The increasing number has put strain on hospitals. Los Angeles County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said that about 22% of positive cases in L.A. have required hospitalization at some point. As of Thursday, 241 individuals were in hospital beds — about two thirds of them had no underlying health conditions, Ferrer said. She said there are five COVID-19 patients now in intensive care that are under 35 and a couple have no underlying health conditions.

    Statewide, the death toll rose past 200 and on Wednesday. In a sign of just how concerned officials are, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti urged the city's 4 million residents on Wednesday to wear protective face covering to stem the spread of the fast-moving virus. To punctate his point, he donned a black mask, saying "I know it will look surreal. We're going to have to get used to seeing each other like this."

    The news comes as new cases have emerged among the homeless and jailed population — both groups officials have been closely monitoring. There have been nine cases among homeless. At the county jail, seven individuals have tested positive, including one inmate. At the Lancaster State Prison, six inmates have the virus. Two homeless shelters have also reported Covid-19 cases.

    Gov.  Newsom to small biz: "Let's get ahead of the queue"

    California Governor Gavin Newsom spoke directly to state business owners in his daily coronavirus address on Thursday, briefing them on several new statewide programs, and imploring them to begin the process of registering for federal help. Since March 12, 1.9 million Californians have applied for unemployment insurance, he said.

    Newsom introduced two actions he says will help make it easier for small businesses in California to get back on their feet. The first is an interest-free, no-penalty deferral of taxes for up to $50,000 for one year. The governor called that a "bridge loan" to help businesses recover.

    The second is a $50M program to provide loans for California businesses who, for one reason or another, don't qualify for federal assistance.

    Newsom also strongly encouraged businesses to sign up for the federal programs that will provide grants and loans to struggling businesses. Registration for those programs open tomorrow.

    Newsom stressed it's "profoundly important" people fill out their forms as soon as possible, in particular for the "paycheck protection program," a grant program that allows businesses who keep paying at least 75% of their employees to be reimbursed by the federal government.

    "Let's get ahead of the queue," he said.

    Newsom also touted an effort led by Fresno-based jobs site Bitwise to match unemployed Californians with jobs in high demand called OnwardCa.org. The site, he said, is prioritizing four industries in particular: healthcare, agriculture, logistics, and grocers.

    USC Shows (and Ranks) L.A. 'Hoods With COVID-19 Cases

    Tami Abdollah

    Los Angeles locals have always known it is a city of neighborhoods, but this novel coronavirus has made that especially clear. The official lines on where neighborhoods begin and end, and where cases are to be found, have never seemed so murky.

    On Thursday, the USC Viterbi School of Engineering released two new COVID-19 data visualizations that aim to make at least where COVID-19 cases are being found, more clear. Read more >>

    Amazon Warehouse Worker in L.A. Tests Positive, As Company Struggles with Covid-19

    Monica Nickelsburg, GeekWire

    At least 30 of the fulfillment centers that power Amazon's e-commerce business have outbreaks of COVID-19, according to news reports and employee accounts. The most recent case in Los Angeles was reported Wednesday, when Amazon confirmed to City News Service that an employee at their warehouse in Atwater Village has tested positive for COVID-19. The mounting cases are sparking walkouts, frustration, and an unprecedented challenge for a tech company that finds itself at the center of the coronavirus pandemic. Read more >>

    Subscribe to our newsletter to catch every headline.

    🏰 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

    RELATEDEDITOR'S PICKS
    Trending