Column: A Year Together and Apart
Less than 24 hours before dot.LA launched a year ago today, I was coming back into cell service after a hike in Mandeville Canyon when I received a flurry of texts and push notifications: Kobe Bryant had died.
Like many who had grown up watching the Black Mamba tear through global basketball, the sudden loss of such an immortal figure shook me. Since moving from the floor to the rafters at Staples Center, Kobe had plunged into the startup world with his typical ferocity and excellence. He became an influential tech investor as a partner at Bryant Stibel.
Our nascent newsroom in short order produced a tribute to his legacy as an investor and an innovator that led our new site on its first day. It was a small contribution to the memory of someone who loomed so large in our city's imagination, but it was one I was proud of and one I think showcased what dot.LA could provide: drawing the connections between the rapidly growing local tech startup scene and institutions that have been here for decades.
And so began our launch into a year that brought our city and our world hardships and challenges like never before. It was a year that summoned so many of the better angels of community, ingenuity and trustworthy information that dot.LA strives to highlight.
Our first year forced us, like everyone else, to adapt to new and unforeseen restrictions: abandoning our new offices only six weeks after our launch, finding ways to cohere as a team through Zoom screens and trying to shine a light on and bring together L.A.'s tech and startup community while everyone was stuck at home.
We at dot.LA are proud of the work that we have done to chronicle a slice of this city and we hope in some ways, even help catalyze changes that will come in 2021 and beyond.
Over thousands of hours of phone calls, interviews and Zoom meetings our news organization has found new ways to cover the startup community. We have written about how tech has influenced everything from COVID to cannabis to cars.
We've published over 1,200 articles showcasing some of the most interesting people and companies in LA. We've hosted dozens of virtual events and community meetups to connect and inform our audience. We have created digital communities, podcasts, videos, maps and more that reach an incredible audience in the hundreds of thousands. In October, we convened our inaugural dot.LA Summit -- live from Venice Beach -- bringing together 650 top innovators from around the city and the world for two days and over 25 sessions that set a towering bar for our centerpiece events (hopefully in-person soon!) in years to come.
Year one of any startup is inevitably filled with a gauntlet of new challenges from unexpected places. That's a big part of the draw for those crazy enough to start something new. It's a lot like what I imagine having a newborn for the first time to be like: the sporadic sleep schedule, the tending to of many mini-crises and the pervasive anxiety about whether you are doing everything you can to let your new bundle thrive in the world.
Blessedly, I've been able to navigate these obstacles with my co-founder and dot.LA's executive chairman Spencer Rascoff, a seasoned and proven entrepreneur whose vision and guidance made everything seem so much less daunting.
When Spencer reached out to me through mutual friends in May 2019 about his idea to create a publication that would expose all the inspiring innovation happening in our shared hometown, I was thrilled by the prospect of creating a local tech journalism startup. Without him none of this would've been possible.
Our city was able to find ways to survive and thrive in this strange pandemic that has tested so many of us. Despite hardships, new companies are getting founded and funded, innovators and seekers are relocating to our sunny hub; heck, even the Dodgers and Lakers became champions once again.
We will continue to shine a light on those who are changing the way we live - so many of whom want to make the world a better place. We will continue to encourage L.A. as it grows into the most diverse startup hub in the world. We will introduce new channels and coverage to best serve our audience from our vantage point as a startup covering startups.
Thank you to those who have visited the site, who have followed us on social media and signed up for our newsletter. Thank you to those who have joined our events and our community, and who believe in Los Angeles as a place where world-changing companies are built.
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Ceres Group Holdings is becoming corporate America's biggest cannabis dealmaker out of its Century City offices.
The venture and private equity firm this week announced that its special purpose acquisition company, or SPAC, would take Atlanta-based cannabis producer Parallel public in a merger that will value the Canadian-listed company at $1.88 billion.
Parallel has about 42 retail stores outside of California, but has big plans for a big expansion into L.A. sometime in the next year or two.
Joe Crouthers is the CEO of Ceres and head executive of the SPAC that bought Parallel.
As Thanksgiving approached, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti implored residents to stay home and halt all nonessential travel as COVID-19 cases skyrocketed.
But on Thanksgiving Day, Peter Pham, one of L.A.'s most prominent early-stage investors and the co-founder of Science Inc, a Santa Monica startup studio and early-stage venture fund that manages over $100 million and recently launched a $310.5 million SPAC, posted a selfie of himself atop Las Vegas' High Roller ferris wheel.
He was clutching a can of Liquid Death, the bad boy-themed canned water brand that has improbably become Science's buzziest startup. Pham guzzles six cans a day, because he says he does not trust municipal tap water.
"I'm not afraid of dying," Pham told me recently. "There's risk for everything and COVID is a risk that I feel very confident in my ability to deal with. I could be wrong and that's OK. I am OK if I fucked up and I die from it."