Column: A Year Together and Apart

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.

Take our survey to help us be even better in our second year.

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Ben Bergman

Ben Bergman is the newsroom's senior finance reporter. Previously he was a senior business reporter and host at KPCC, a senior producer at Gimlet Media, a producer at NPR's Morning Edition, and produced two investigative documentaries for KCET. He has been a frequent on-air contributor to business coverage on NPR and Marketplace and has written for The New York Times and Columbia Journalism Review. Ben was a 2017-2018 Knight-Bagehot Fellow in Economic and Business Journalism at Columbia Business School. In his free time, he enjoys skiing, playing poker, and cheering on The Seattle Seahawks.
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