This is the web version of dot.LA’s daily newsletter. Sign up to get the latest news on Southern California’s tech, startup and venture capital scene.
Hours before the Parental Rights in Education bill—better known as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill—cleared the Florida Senate on Tuesday, activists gathered in Burbank to protest The Walt Disney Company’s silence on the anti-LGBTQ legislation.
The bill is one effort among many across the nation seeking to banish the discussion of LGBTQ issues from American classrooms. It has drawn condemnation from advocacy groups such as the AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), which helped organize the rally at Disney’s Burbank headquarters.
Though diversity and inclusion initiatives—and the platitudes associated with them—are now mainstream in corporate America, few if any major tech and media firms have come out specifically against the Florida legislation. That includes Disney, a major employer in the state via its Walt Disney World resort.
Instead, in an internal memo on Monday, CEO Bob Chapek indicated that Disney should remain neutral—reportedly telling employees that a company-wide stance would “do very little to change outcomes or minds.” He added: “I do not want anyone to mistake a lack of a statement for a lack of support.”
Chapek’s decision has frustrated many Disney employees, who have joined the likes of Abigail Disney and advocacy groups in publicly criticizing the company over its position, as well as its political donations to Florida senators who supported the bill.
“Shame on Disney's CEO Bob Chapek,” AHF president Michael Weinstein said in a statement Monday. “You have lost any claim to corporate responsibility by abandoning your staff, your audience and the citizens of Florida to the ravages of hate.” The AHF also criticized KABC-TV—Los Angeles’ Disney-owned ABC television station—for allegedly declining to run a TV ad that was “sharply critical of the Walt Disney Company for not speaking out” against the bill.
Disney did not respond to a request for comment. — Harri Weber
Culver City-based Mote Hydrogen wants to build a $100 million gasification plant in Kern County that would produce clean hydrogen gas by burning wood waste—removing hundreds of thousands of tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
The Pasadena-based facial-recognition startup allows consumers to pay with their face at partnered businesses—but the technology is not without controversy. “You're going to have what we call false positives,” one expert said.
The West Hollywood-based startup's artificial intelligence-enabled product is the first to be able to read dental x-rays and identify cavities, plaque and other dental conditions, it said.
In the wake of Rivian’s move to increase prices up to 20% for its electric vehicles, a shareholder has sued the Irvine-based company for failing to disclose to investors that its cars were “underpriced” and that it would need to adjust accordingly.
The Los Angeles-based adtech platform allows advertisers to place “host-read” ads on podcasts, and plans to aggressively expand by adding hundreds of new shows as well as more advertisers, its CEO said.
What We're Reading Elsewhere...
- Electreon announces it will test its in-motion electric vehicle charging roadway in Utah.
- Serve Robotics will expand its robot delivery service in L.A. after a $10 million infusion of funding.
- Temple City-based Fulgent Genetics unveils a $250 million stock repurchasing program.
- Pasadena-based Tetra Tech acquires a company focused on gathering data related to climate change.
- The Port of Long Beach will consider a proposal for a zero-emission, magnetic-based freight transportation system.