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Harri is dot.LA's senior finance reporter. She previously worked for Gizmodo, Fast Company, VentureBeat and Flipboard. Find her on Twitter and send tips on L.A. startups and venture capital to email@example.com.
Emmeline Ventures—a new all-female, minority-led venture capital firm—has set up shop in Los Angeles, with its first check going to a local early-stage crypto startup.
The new venture firm, based in L.A. and Phoenix, is still in the process of securing its initial fund, with a goal of raising $5 million to $8 million. The fund’s first close is expected at the end of April and will bring in as much as $1.6 million, a spokesperson for the company told dot.LA.
While Emmeline is new to the scene, its partners are not. The firm’s three co-founders—Sahara Reporters chairwoman La Keisha Landrum Pierre, Digital Oxygen founder Naseem Sayani and investor Azin Radsan van Alebeek—say they had collectively invested in 13 pre-seed and seed-stage startups before teaming up.
Along with the new fund, Emmeline announced its first deal—contributing $30,000 toward a seed round for Clutch Wallet, a Los Angeles-based startup that offers a digital wallet for the Ethereum blockchain. “Having female investors fund our product that will generate more wealth for women is a strategic full circle of women helping women,” Clutch Wallet founder and CEO Bec Jones said in a statement.
Emmeline plans to back as many as 20 female founders via its initial fund, targeting startups that “help women, in particular, manage their health, build their wealth, and live in a safer, cleaner world.” But what, exactly, does that mean?
“For us, a cleaner, safer world includes everything from what we wear and eat, to what
we watch, read, and listen to,” a spokesperson for Emmeline told dot.LA in an email. “We believe everything from supply chains to software to content systems can be safer, more bias-free, and more inclusive of the humans who engage with them—and this is where we invest.”
Speaking of inclusivity, it’s not very common in the world of venture capital. The VC industry is instead known for its homogeneity, as it’s largely led by men who primarily invest in male founders. Last year, only 2% of the funds deployed by venture capitalists in the U.S. went to solely female-led startups, according to a recent PitchBook report.
“Our goal is to have an active role in changing the venture investing landscape,” Emmeline partner Landrum Pierre said in a statement. “How? By funding companies that have a meaningful, positive impact on how women lead their lives in the future.”
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Samson Amore is a reporter for dot.LA. He previously covered technology and entertainment for TheWrap and reported on the SoCal startup scene for the Los Angeles Business Journal. Samson is also a proud member of the Transgender Journalists Association. Send tips or pitches to firstname.lastname@example.org and find him on Twitter at @Samsonamore. Pronouns: he/him
Yet some startups, like Hawthorne-based Surf Air Mobility, are looking to the electrification of air travel as a possible solution. On Wednesday, Surf Air announced it will go public by merging with blank-check company Tuscan Holdings Corp and Florida-based commuter airline Southern Airways, in a deal that values the combined company at $1.42 billion. The transaction is expected to raise up to $467 million, giving Surf Air much-needed capital to expand its vision for a fully electric airline.
Co-founded by CEO Sudhin Shahani and Chief Brand Officer Liam Fayed in 2012, Surf Air is a charter flight service with an electrified twist. Its single-engine, eight-seater Pilatus PC-12 aircraft is capable of a 2,150-mile flight range and a max speed of 330 miles. While that’s not as long nor as fast as most major commercial airplanes, it suits the carrier’s regional flights between local airports across the country, which are available to members who pay a starting rate of $199 per month.
Surf Air has stacked a notable slate of investors and advisors in recent years. Chairman Carl Albert is an airline industry veteran; he was CEO of turboprop charter airline Wings West before it was acquired by American Airlines and also ran manufacturing outfit Fairchild Aircraft for a decade. Other notable investors include billionaire businessman and Los Angeles mayoral candidate Rick Caruso, banking heir Alexandre de Rothschild and Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin, as well as local venture firms M13, Plus Capital and TenOneTen Ventures.
Though Surf Air has been eyeing an IPO since 2020, Shahani told Bloomberg that the startup’s business really took off during the pandemic, when many travelers who could afford charter flights were eager to skip larger, more crowded planes and airports. The newly merged company expects to generate roughly $100 million in revenue across all of its business units in 2022, it said Wednesday. “We’ve grown 50% last year to this year,” Shahani told Bloomberg.
The company aims to electrify all of its regional flights through the development of both an original hybrid and electric powertrain, which it can use to retrofit turboprop aircraft like its fleet of Cessna Grand Caravans and create fully electric planes. It also hopes to expand to more terminals—something that will be aided by the merger with Southern Airways, which serviced 39 cities and 300,000 customers last year.
Surf Air says that if it achieves that vision, it’ll be able to completely neutralize its emissions while reducing operating costs by half. Right now, Surf Air says its hybrid planes in action are producing half the emissions of a standard flight while saving about a quarter of the cost. The company doesn’t have a deadline on when its fully electric powertrain will be ready, but announced a deal Thursday with aircraft developer AeroTEC and propulsion firm Magnix to make more hybrid electric powertrains for its Cessnas, which could speed up the timeline.
Surf Air’s competitors in the realm of flight electrification include Textron, Cape Air and NASA, which started testing electric planes two years ago. Another airline, Hawaiian Air, is invested in a company that makes electric sea gliders, while Boeing is also testing electric planes. According to a recent report from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, there are 170 similar projects underway.
“We believe deploying hybrid electric propulsion technology on existing aircraft at scale will be the most significant step we can take toward decarbonization of aviation in this decade,” Shahani said in a statement Wednesday. “We’re at a moment when the increasing consumer demand for faster, affordable, and cleaner regional travel will be met with [Surf Air]’s electrification ecosystem to accelerate the industry’s adoption of green flying.”
Yasmin is the host of the "Behind Her Empire" podcast, focused on highlighting self-made women leaders and entrepreneurs and how they tackle their career, money, family and life.
Each episode covers their unique hero's journey and what it really takes to build an empire with key lessons learned along the way. The goal of the series is to empower you to see what's possible & inspire you to create financial freedom in your own life.
On this episode of Behind Her Empire, Michelle Ranavat talks about how pregnancy and traditional ayurvedic remedies inspired her to start her skincare company, and how she grew it without relying on outside funding.
Ranavat started her company at 35, after giving birth to two kids. Her maternity leave allowed her to step back from the day-to-day worries of life at work. She found herself diving into Ayurvedic postpartum rituals. Around the same time, she noticed some of her hair started falling out and was paying attention to the ways her skin was changing. That inspired her to do something about it.
“I think I was in the frame of mind that I was discovering and thinking about, ‘Oh, that's kind of an interesting idea’, or ‘Why isn't there a product?’ and I had the time, in many ways, and the clarity because I wasn't in a day to day job,” she said.
Ranavat began working on a product, and used her last name for her fledgling company. Its first big launch brought positive feedback from prospective customers, but she didn't want to stop there. Instead, she said, she looked closely at what people said could make the product better.
“I think the product was good. I think that I just got better at formulating [it],” she said. “And so I didn't feel bad about letting go. Because I knew I was working towards something better.”
Ranavat was one of the first companies to bring Ayurvedic practices to skincare, focusing first on a variety of hydrating masks and mists.
“Early on, I didn't have amazing packaging [or] a great brand story, but I think the brand story and the concept and the area in which we were trying to educate and push in the whitespace that existed was massive,” said Ranavat.
Out of the gate, Ranavat got interest from Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom and Credo Beauty, among other big retailers. At the time, the brand didn’t have much of a social media following or a cadre or influencers to boost it. But its unique story got it some early press, and that helped it build a following – even from some in the South Asian community who may not be accustomed to paying for a product they’re used to making themselves, Ranavat said.
“I think it's a hard sell, honestly, to a South Asian community. Because they're like, ‘Oh, I make it at home’, or ‘I don't really typically spend this much on my beauty’,” she said. “But we actually had an amazing response. And a lot of the responses were like, ‘Man, I don't usually spend this much. But let me tell you, this works‘.”
Ranavat said the rise of her company didn’t happen without some mistakes along the way. But she reminds herself that feeling is only finite and that nothing needs to be perfect.
“I don't think anyone really is making a mistake unless they are feeling like they're stuck in their ways and they can't evolve,” she said.
dot.LA Audience Engagement Fellow Joshua Letona contributed to this post.
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.
TikTok reportedly plans to make a major push into gaming, with the social media giant said to be already testing video game features on its app.
The Culver City-based video-sharing platform, which is owned by Chinese tech company ByteDance, has conducted tests that let users in Vietnam play games within its app, Reuters reported Thursday. TikTok aims to roll out gaming more widely in Southeast Asia, possibly as soon as the third quarter of this year, according to the report.
When reached by dot.LA for comment, a TikTok spokesperson denied that the company is testing games in Vietnam, but declined to say whether it is testing games in other countries or if it plans to expand into gaming more widely. They added that the firm is always considering new features for its users.
According to TikTok, the only game currently available to users on its platform is Zynga's "Disco Loco 3D,” a music and dance challenge mini-game that launched in November. Reuters, however, reported that TikTok’s ambitions extend beyond mini-games limited to basic game play and short play times.
TikTok—already the world’s most popular website and most downloaded app—could use video games to drive even more user engagement and advertising revenue. The video game industry has seen revenues skyrocket since the pandemic and is especially popular among millennial and Gen Z consumers, who make up a huge part of TikTok’s user base.
Other social media companies, including Santa Monica-based Snap, have already incorporated video games into their apps. Streaming giant Netflix has also pushed into gaming, adding more than a dozen mobile titles as part of its strategy to hang onto subscribers.