✍️ WGA strike ends: 'Houston, we have a deal.'

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

Happy Friday Los Angeles! And an EXTRA happy Friday to Russell Palmer at CyberFilm AI for referring new subscribers to dot.la.

Unless you are Patrick Star and have been living under a rock for the past week, you are aware that the Writers Guild of America (WGA) and Hollywood studios have reached a tentative agreement. As this is a tech newsletter, we will concentrate on two key deal points: streaming topics and artificial intelligence protections, although it's important to note that the main deal points also encompass minimum staffing requirements and pay increases. ✍️🎬🌟

Image Source: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times

Following a 148-day strike, Hollywood writers are returning to work as the Writers Guild of America (WGA) announces a tentative agreement with studios and streamers. The agreement, which is likely to be ratified by the WGA's 11,500 members, marks a significant moment in the industry's history. Here are the key provisions related to streaming and artificial intelligence (AI):

Streaming Provisions:

  • Streaming platforms like Netflix and Disney+ will provide transparency by sharing viewership data, both domestically and internationally, for original streaming series with the WGA.
  • New bonus structures for made-for-streaming shows and movies based on viewership.

AI-related Provisions:

  • The agreement clarifies that AI cannot write or rewrite scripts, maintaining the creative role of human writers.
  • Writers have the option to use AI with company approval, but companies cannot mandate its use.
  • Studios retain the ability to train AI using scripts, but writers have the right to challenge this use in the future.

So what does this all mean…

The far-reaching implications of the deal for AI and streaming are significant and have the potential to reshape the entertainment industry:

  1. Increased Transparency in Streaming: The requirement for streaming platforms to provide viewership data for original content brings greater transparency to the industry.
  2. Incentivizing Content with Mass Appeal: The provision for bonuses based on viewership performance incentivizes the creation of content for the masses.
  3. Protection of Creative Control: The stipulation that AI cannot write or rewrite scripts and that writers have the choice to use AI with company approval preserves the creative control of human writers.
  4. Balanced Use of AI: By allowing writers the option to use AI but not requiring its use, the agreement strikes a balance between harnessing AI's potential for efficiency and creativity while respecting writers' autonomy.
  5. Future AI Challenges: The provision that allows writers to challenge the use of AI in the future implies that the role of AI in content creation remains an evolving and debatable issue.
  6. Impact on Industry Standards: This deal sets industry standards for how AI and streaming are integrated into content creation and distribution. This is particularly relevant to the actors union, SAG-AFTRA, which remains on strike and recently authorized a strike against the video game industry.

These provisions reflect the evolving landscape of the entertainment industry, providing writers with greater control over their work and more transparency in the age of streaming and artificial intelligence. 🎭📜📺

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🤝 Venture Deals

LA Startups

  • Crediverso, the Spanish and English language consumer technology company dedicated to providing financial and educational resources to underserved communities, raised a $3.5M Seed Round led by Torch Capital and Gaingels, joined by Bessemer Venture Partners and Act One Ventures. - learn more
  • Arc, the electric boat startup, raised a $70M Series B from a slew of investors, including Eclipse, Andreessen Horowitz, Lowercarbon Capital, Abstract Ventures and Menlo Ventures.- learn more
  • Sensible Weather, a climate finance platform raised an undisclosed amount from Amex Ventures, Wonder Ventures, Infinity Ventures and Industry Ventures. - learn more

LA Funds

  • Tech Coast Angels participated in a Seed Round of an undisclosed amount for Giftpack, an AI-powered corporate gifting platform. - learn more
  • M13 participated in a $10M Funding Round for Allocate, a platform that provides investors with a streamlined way to invest and manage private investments. - learn more
  • Griffin Gaming Partners and Courtside Ventures led a $22M Funding Round for Eloelo, an Indian gaming and livestreaming platform. - learn more

📅 LA Tech Calendar

Monday, October 2nd

Tuesday, October 3rd

Wednesday, October 4th

  • The MedTech Conference Kick-Off Mixer - Engage with industry pioneers, discover cutting-edge technologies, forge valuable connections with LA MedTech leaders, LA investment leaders, LA academic leaders and more in Culver City Wednesday night.

Friday, October 6th

🗽 - Free

🌍 Around The Internet

USC Students and Alumni Blend Tech and Wine for Humanitarian Impact with Raise a Glass

Founded by USC students and alumni, Raise A Glass is creating wine with a purpose. They bring innovative storytelling technology to raise awareness for the invisible heroes of global crises. Their mission starts in Ukraine addressing the fact that Americans have become increasingly desensitized to Russia's invasion of Ukraine. They pair tales of Ukrainian civilian heroism with wine bottles, curating content from conflict-embedded artists to provide a platform for these stories to reach thousands of consumers. Through QR codes or augmented reality on labels, consumers access these impactful narratives, with proceeds aiding Ukrainians in escaping conflict zones.

Ukraine serves as just the outset, as they plan to employ their storytelling technology to shed light on global crises, amplifying the voices of these unsung heroes.

📙 What We’re Reading

  • Universal Hydrogen kicks off flight test campaign for Its hydrogen regional aircraft at the Mojave Air & Space Port. - read more
  • Waymo begins testing the waters for a robotaxi service in Los Angeles. - read more
  • Social networking club Groundfloor aims to connect professionals at first L.A. location - read more

Subscribe to our newsletter to catch every headline.

🏰 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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