dot.LA Summit: Women at the Top on How to Expand LA's Tech Scene

Decerry Donato

Decerry Donato is a reporter at dot.LA. Prior to that, she was an editorial fellow at the company. Decerry received her bachelor's degree in literary journalism from the University of California, Irvine. She continues to write stories to inform the community about issues or events that take place in the L.A. area. On the weekends, she can be found hiking in the Angeles National forest or sifting through racks at your local thrift store.

dot.LA Summit: Women at the Top on How to Expand LA's Tech Scene

As women in tech and venture, Kara Nortman and Robyn Ward heard a lot of nos when they started out. No we won't fund you. No, we don't have positions.

But, it was the yeses that kept them going.

"We have to expand the tent, we have to figure out how to continue. The tent needs to get bigger every day. If every one of us every day can find one more woman to bring into this tent, in some way it gets bigger and bigger," Nortman said.


Tucked away at the corner of the Fairmont Miramar Hotel, with a backdrop of the ocean being disrupted by the revving of car engines, the panelists took hold of their mics and loudly welcomed dozens of attendees.

Nortman is the managing partner of Upfront Ventures, one of Los Angeles oldest and most prestigious venture firms. Ward is the CEO of FounderForward, a firm specializing in training and coaching for entrepreneurs and executives. Both talked to Dustin Rosen, managing partner at Wonder Ventures about what helped them rise to their position.

Ward's has had 20-plus years experience in the technology startup space and said it has largely been one occupied by white men. But she sees that changing.

"I walked in here today and I just reveled in the amount of women, the amount of people of color, the age. It was such a diverse group here today. And that wasn't how it was five years ago," Ward exclaimed.

Nortman said when she and Robin first started, there were "the five guys you go to for advice or the five guys you go to who built a tech company."

While there seems to be a rise in women entering the tech scene, statistics show that women in the industry are still grossly unrepresented. Female CEOs of Fortune 500 companies reached an all-time high of 7.4% in 2020 according to Pew Research. And female founded startups still make up less than 3% of all those getting capital.

Rosen asked what men can do to support women and the upward trend of women in the tech industry.

"One of the ways that I would like men to think about this has to do with the culture they're building from and actually moving beyond diversity and actually moving into inclusion," Ward said.

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Genies Wants To Help Creators Build ‘Avatar Ecosystems’

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.

Genies Wants To Help Creators Build ‘Avatar Ecosystems’

When avatar startup Genies raised $150 million in April, the company released an unusual message to the public: “Farewell.”

The Marina del Rey-based unicorn, which makes cartoon-like avatars for celebrities and aims to “build an avatar for every single person on Earth,” didn’t go under. Rather, Genies announced it would stay quiet for a while to focus on building avatar-creation products.

Genies representatives told dot.LA that the firm is now seeking more creators to try its creation tools for 3D avatars, digital fashion items and virtual experiences. On Thursday, the startup launched a three-week program called DIY Collective, which will mentor and financially support up-and-coming creatives.

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Here's What To Expect At LA Tech Week

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.

Here's What To Expect At LA Tech Week

LA Tech Week—a weeklong showcase of the region’s growing startup ecosystem—is coming this August.

The seven-day series of events, from Aug. 15 through Aug. 21, is a chance for the Los Angeles startup community to network, share insights and pitch themselves to investors. It comes a year after hundreds of people gathered for a similar event that allowed the L.A. tech community—often in the shadow of Silicon Valley—to flex its muscles.

From fireside chats with prominent founders to a panel on aerospace, here are some highlights from the roughly 30 events happening during LA Tech Week, including one hosted by dot.LA.

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How ‘Funny Water Company’ Liquid Death Made H2O Worth $700 Million

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 samsonamore@dot.la and find him on Twitter @Samsonamore.

How ‘Funny Water Company’ Liquid Death Made H2O Worth $700 Million
Liquid Death Files Paperwork to Raise $15 Million

When Santa Monica-based Liquid Death launched with funding from neighboring venture capital firm Science Inc. in 2018, the Los Angeles startup world – and everyone else – had nothing but jokes. But with the company’s latest $700 million valuation, it appears the joke is on the rest of us.

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