Encantos' Plans for a More Diverse Future of EdTech

Sam Blake

Sam primarily covers entertainment and media for dot.LA. Previously he was Marjorie Deane Fellow at The Economist, where he wrote for the business and finance sections of the print edition. He has also worked at the XPRIZE Foundation, U.S. Government Accountability Office, KCRW, and MLB Advanced Media (now Disney Streaming Services). He holds an MBA from UCLA Anderson, an MPP from UCLA Luskin and a BA in History from University of Michigan. Email him at samblake@dot.LA and find him on Twitter @hisamblake

Encantos' Plans for a More Diverse Future of EdTech

When Noramay Cadena opened the bilingual children's books she had been gifted after she gave birth to her son last year, she was quickly taken back to her own childhood in Mexico. The book featured a Spanish-language lullaby, "The Pin Pon Song", about a cute cardboard doll, which Cadena described as both extremely silly and culturally significant.

"That's when I knew this was content that was by the community, for the community," she said. "As a user, I was really blown away by how they combined entertainment with education." She also thought the quality of the books was far higher than what she'd expect from what was then an early-stage startup based in L.A.


That would be Encantos, a publishing firm-turned-content house set on becoming the next big thing in edtech.

In addition to being a mother, Cadena is also an investor. In 2015, she co-founded L.A.-based MiLA Capital, a seed-stage firm "that invests in tech you can touch." Smitten by the Encantos product, she was disappointed that the company didn't align with her fund's focus on tangible products. But earlier this month, after Encantos decided to extend its seed round, another fund Cadena helps lead – Portfolia – was able to get in on the action through its Raising America Fund, which is devoted to people of color and LGBTQ founders, along with companies that serve those populations.

Encantos, which raised over $2 million in February to expand its brands and product mix, recently launched its subscription app, which chief executive Steven Wolfe Pereira told dot.LA will lead the company's shift toward a "direct-to-learner" platform. Encantos extended that seed round to take advantage of the increased demand for edtech that's combined with kids and family entertainment, Wolfe Pereira said. He added that the company is at 120% of its fundraising goal and still waiting for a few investors to confirm their check amounts before the round closes in September.

"We believe we're building the most important, impactful and beloved entertainment edtech company on the planet," he said.

Cadena is bullish as well. "I see this brand becoming a billion-dollar business," she said.

Encantos' leaders and investors point to three factors they think will help it get there.

The Right Recipe of Entertainment, Education and Technology

"We start with character and story," said Encantos Chief Creative Officer Susie Jaramillo, who co-founded the company with Wolfe Pereira after becoming a mom and quickly recognizing the dearth of Latinx-oriented children's content. She took two years off "to literally just draw," and designed Encantos' flagship brand: Canticos, about three little chickens. Those pollitas – which stem from another beloved Spanish-lanugage lullaby – evolved from a children's board book to Emmy-nominated Nick Jr. television show.

"If you don't have a strong character and a strong story, you have nothing," she said. The growth of Canticos established the playbook for Encantos to build out its other brands.

The educational component follows the story, Jaramillo said. Her colleagues in charge of the learning design look at the story and characters. They then decide what skills it lends itself to, and strategize how to incorporate those skills and stories into lessons across the company's products.

"It's not a counting story every time," Jaramillo said. "It's problem-solving, creative thinking, skills that will help you in the workplace. We make sure we're checking the box on (a range of) character traits (across our suite of stories and products)."

Then comes the tech, namely in the form of the recently launched subscription app, which Wolfe Pereira said has over 200,000 subscribers so far. The hope is that as kids engage with the app and the various stories and characters over time, the company will be able to develop a "learning graph" personalized for each user.

"If we do this right, we can take the wonderful data visualization that exists in enterprise or consumer products like the Apple Watch and understand each kid's learning journey over time," Wolfe Pereira said.

Courtesy of Encantos

A Range of Physical and Digital Products

Along with shows like "Canticos", Encantos offers a variety of physical products including books, toys and games, in addition to its subscription app. This diversity of products is key to its strategy: according to a company pitch deck shared with dot.LA, the digital products are meant to drive revenue, while the books and other physical products build loyalty.

Marlon Nichols, partner at L.A.-based MaC Venture Capital, which has invested in Encantos, likes how "they have a number of monetization schemes and strategies and models that all center around a theme of creating high-quality children's content."

Cadena also points to the range of ages that the company can serve as a big draw, from both a user's and investor's perspective. Encantos is aiming to design products for kids aged 0-2, 3-5, 6-8 and 9-12.

"There's no single company that owns a portfolio of products that appeal to kids throughout all these phases of childhood," Portfolia wrote in its press release about the recent investment.

Building on Cultural and Demographic Trends

Wolfe Pereira says the growing generation of millennial parents want more culturally relevant, useful education for their kids. He looks at the fact that Latinx characters appear in about 5% of childrens' books even though Latinx youth comprise over 25% of the U.S. population under 16 – and how their parents' purchasing power is growing. Wolfe Pereira also sees the pandemic driving up homeschooling, remote learning and video streaming, as well as the value of animated content — which is safer for studios to produce in a pandemic. These trends lead him to conclude that "we check all the boxes in an interesting way."

Jaramillo pointed to the growth of the Black Lives Matter movement as further evidence that the demand for new, diverse characters is here to stay.

Encantos' next brand, Issa, is slated to launch on "a major streamer," probably in late 2021, according to Aliya LeeKong, who created the character whose magic cookbooks help her to travel the world to share food and culture with new friends. LeeKong said Issa was inspired by a realization she had, when she had her own daughter, that there were few places for children to learn about food and nutrition, and even fewer children's characters who looked like her kid.

Encantos' diversity permeates its leaders and investors. As a public benefit corporation, it is beholden to stakeholder value, not just shareholders. Cadena says this authentic incorporation of diverse perspectives at the highest level enables content and products that other, less diverse funders and executives might overlook – like her old lullaby buddy, the cardboard doll who goes by the name of Pin Pon.

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🏰 Disney's Epic Investment Stands Out Amidst Gaming Industry Layoffs

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.

🔦 Spotlight

In the midst of widespread gaming industry layoffs, a glimmer of positive news emerges as Disney announces a significant move: a $1.5 billion investment in Epic Games. 🏰💰🐭

Image Source: Disney

Disney's $1.5 billion investment in Epic Games, disclosed late Wednesday, signals a strategic alignment aimed at expanding the success of "Fortnite." The deal enhances Epic's growth prospects after financial setbacks, including layoffs, and strengthens the partnership between the two companies. With Disney gaining a larger equity stake in Epic, the collaboration will broaden the integration of beloved Disney franchises like Marvel, Star Wars, Pixar, and Avatar into the game, potentially boosting its appeal and longevity. This significant investment underscores Disney's commitment to interactive entertainment and signifies a shift towards games as a primary revenue stream, aligning with the growing trend of digital engagement among younger demographics. Moreover, the potential for crossover sales of physical Disney products within "Fortnite" and the exploration of new content distribution channels are just some of the opportunities arising from this partnership.

For LA tech, the Disney-Epic Games partnership represents a validation of the region's burgeoning tech and gaming ecosystem. The substantial investment in Epic, who maintains a large Los Angeles office with 1,000+ employees (according to LinkedIn), reflects confidence in the LA’s talent pool and innovation potential. Additionally, this partnership between two industry giants fosters an environment for further collaboration, investment, and growth within LA's tech sector. As Disney and Epic Games deepen their ties and explore new avenues for content integration and distribution, it not only elevates the prominence of LA as a tech hub but also stimulates economic growth and job creation in the region. This partnership highlights LA's unique position as a hub where technology and entertainment converge. With its ability to integrate diverse industries, LA is driving innovation and expansion in digital entertainment. 🚀💸🎮

🤝 Venture Deals

LA Companies

  • ProducePay, a financing and marketplace platform for the fresh produce market, raised a $38M Series D led by Syngenta Group Ventures joined by Commonfund, Highgate Private Equity, G2 Venture Partners, Anterra Capital, Astanor Ventures, Endeavor8, Avenue Venture Opportunities, Avenue Sustainable Solutions, and Red Bear Angels. - learn more
  • Blush, an invite-only dating app that drives users to local businesses on dates, raised a $7M Seed Round from individuals like Naval Ravikant. - learn more
  • Mogul, a startup founded last year that provides an overview of an artist's royalty earnings and identifies areas where money is owed but has not yet been collected, raised a $1.9 million seed round from Wonder Ventures, United Talent Agency, AmplifyLA, and Creator Partners. - learn more
  • Avnos, a hybrid direct air capture startup, raised a $36M Series A led by NextEra Energy and joined by Safran Corporate Ventures, Shell Ventures, Envisioning Partners, and Rusheen Capital Management. - learn more
  • AI.fashion, startup whose mission is to help retailers enhance the online shopping experience by providing consumers with virtual try-ons and personalized fashion recommendations, raised a $3.6M Seed Round led by Neo. - learn more
  • Suma Wealth, startup that aims to demystify financial topics and provide culturally relevant content, virtual experiences, and resources to help Latino users navigate financial challenges and opportunities, raised a $2.2M Seed Round . Radicle Impact led, and was joined by Vamos Ventures, OVO fund and the American Heart Association Impact Fund. - learn more
  • 222, a startup that helps users discover their city and meet new people through unique social experiences, raised a $2.5M Seed Round. Investors included 1517 Fund, General Catalyst, Best Nights VC, Scrum Ventures, and Upfront Ventures. - learn more
  • LimaCharlie, a security operations cloud platform, raised a $10.2M Series A led by Sands Capital. - learn more
  • Polycam, an app that uses a smartphone’s sensors to capture 3D scans of objects, raised an $18M Series A co-led by Left Lane Capital and Adjacent, and joined by Adobe Ventures and individuals like Chad Hurley and Shaun Maguire. -learn more.

LA Venture Funds

Actively Raising

  • ReelCall, Inc., an entertainment technology company focused on powerful apps and platforms that help build and maintain the professional network of connections vital to career growth, is raising a $850K Pre-Seed Round. - learn more
  • CZero, a startup building software to decarbonize logistics for logistics businesses and goods business through a vetted marketplace and optimization software. - learn more
  • Couri, a technology startup addressing last-mile delivery issues, is raising a $450K Pre-Seed Round at a $2.2M post money valuation. - learn more
  • Sweetie, a marketplace to help people plan date nights, is raising a $1.5M Pre Seed Round. - learn more
  • StartupStarter, an investment platform that provides real-time data and analytics on startups, is raising an $850K Angel Round. - learn more

If you’re a founder raising money in Los Angeles, give us a shout, and we’d love to include you in the newsletter!

Venture Waves, Climate Tech Wins, and Silicon Beach's Ongoing Evolution

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.

Anduril Seeks $1.5B in VC Funds

Defense company Anduril Industries Inc., based in Costa Mesa and founded by Palmer Luckey, is seeking to raise $1.5 billion in fresh funds to boost its valuation to $12.5 billion or more, according to sources quoted by The Information. This fundraising effort, if successful, would mark one of the largest venture capital rounds of the year.

Image Source: Anduril

Anduril recently secured a contract to develop and test small unmanned fighter jet prototypes under the Air Force’s Collaborative Combat Aircraft (CCA) program, beating out major defense companies like Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and Northrop Grumman. Alongside General Atomics, Anduril will design, manufacture, and test these aircraft, with a final multibillion-dollar production decision expected in fiscal year 2026. This program aims to deliver at least 1,000 combat aircraft to fly in concert with manned platforms and is part of the Air Force’s Next Generation Air Dominance initiative. Central to Anduril’s success in this contract is the Fury autonomous air vehicle, acquired through the purchase of Blue Force Technologies. This victory underscores Anduril's rapid advancement in the defense sector, aligning with Luckey's vision of building faster and more cost-effective defense assets. - learn more

Los Angeles Ranks Number 1 in Emerging Climate Tech Hub

The 2024 Emerging Climate Tech Hubs Report by Revolution highlights Los Angeles as a burgeoning center for climate tech innovation. LA's growth in this sector is driven by its diverse talent pool, strong research institutions, and a culture of environmental consciousness. The city's unique mix of legacy industries, such as entertainment and aerospace, alongside emerging tech companies, positions it as a pivotal player in the climate tech landscape. This shift reflects a broader trend of decentralized climate tech funding across the U.S., reducing the historical dominance of California's traditional hubs. - learn more

Silicon Beach: Looking Back, Moving Forward

Assessing the overall health of the startup market is challenging, especially as venture capital funding has decreased by an average of 61% from 2021 to 2023 across the top VC markets in the US. Markets with robust ecosystems in AI, SaaS, Biotech, Healthtech, and Fintech appear to be weathering the downturn better than those focused on Consumer and Gaming industries, areas where Los Angeles traditionally excels.

Percent Change In VC Funding By Region

CB Insights

LA Times paints a rather bleak outlook on the Los Angeles tech scene noting venture capital funding in Greater Los Angeles plummeted 73% from 2021 to 2022. Silicon Beach, once a vibrant tech corridor, currently faces high vacancy rates and lacks late-stage financiers, especially in the AI sector. However, there are positive signs, including growth in aerospace startups and increased venture capital investment in early 2024, suggesting a potential rebound for LA's tech ecosystem.

While LA may not be exceeding expectations during this period, its tech ecosystem warrants a nuanced evaluation, given the broader market dynamics and its strong performance in specific sectors. Reach out to us with your thoughts.

🚀 SpaceX gears up for another stellar year, active raises, and more

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.

Happy Friday Los Angeles! You made it through the first week of 2024!

🔦 Spotlight

Elon Musk may be a divisive (albeit entertaining) figure, but the continued success of SpaceX is pivotal for the aerospace industry in Los Angeles and more broadly around the world.

Image Source: SpaceX webcast

What happened with SpaceX in 2023?

  • Elon Musk challenged Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg to a cage fight.
  • SpaceX launched 96 successful missions with its Falcon series of rockets, a 57% increase over its previous annual record.
  • SpaceX conducted two test flights of the largest and most powerful rocket ever built, Starship.
  • Roughly two-thirds of SpaceX's launches in 2023 were devoted to building out Starlink, the company's satellite-internet megaconstellation.
  • Isaacson’s Elon Musk biography was published in September including everything from Musk’s tumultuous relationship with his father to his work ethic and “demon mode”.

Moving forward what can we expect from SpaceX and its controversial founder? Continued innovation pushing the aerospace industry to new limits? Yes. More drama? Without a doubt.

Here is some of what is to come in 2024:

🤝 Venture Deals

Just Announced

Check back next week!

LA Exits

  • CG Oncology, an Irvine, CA-based developer of immunotherapies for bladder cancer, filed for a $100M IPO. It plans to list on the Nasdaq (CGON) with Morgan Stanley as left lead underwriter, and has raised around $317m in VC funding. - learn more
  • McNally Capital agreed to sell Advanced Micro Instruments, a Costa Mesa, CA-based maker of gas analyzers and sensing technologies, to Enpro (NYSE: NPO). - learn more

Actively Raising

  • ReelCall, Inc., an entertainment technology company focused on powerful apps and platforms that help build and maintain the professional network of connections vital to career growth, is raising a $850K Pre-Seed Round. - learn more
  • CZero, a hard-tech startup that is developing a technology for decarbonizing natural gas, is raising a $1.5M Seed Round. - learn more
  • Couri, a technology startup addressing last-mile delivery issues, is raising a $450K Pre-Seed Round at a $2.2M post money valuation. - learn more
  • Sweetie, a marketplace to help people plan date nights, is raising a $250K Angel Round. - learn more
  • StartupStarter, an investment platform that provides real-time data and analytics on startups, is raising an $850K Angel Round. - learn more

If you’re a founder raising money in Los Angeles, give us a shout, and we’d love to include you in the newsletter!

📅 LA Tech Calendar

Sunday, January 7th

Wednesday, January 10th

  • Startup Cafe: Networking with a Kick - Entrepreneurs, Startups, and Tech Enthusiasts join together to meet and connect with like-minded people, industry professionals and investors, while enjoying a nice cup of coffee in Venice at The KINN. This week’s interactive discussion about AI’s evolution in entertainment will feature Dr. Sam Khoze and Rachel Joy Victor.
  • Venice Tech Happy Hour- Join Startup Coil and FoundrHaus Wednesday evening and enjoy the sunset from the rooftop, grab a bite overlooking Abbot Kinney, and mingle with other tech enthusiasts and entrepreneurs by the bar on the patio.

Have an awesome event coming up? Reach out to be featured on next week’s Newsletter!

📙 What We’re Reading

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