Intersect Summit Updates: Snap Inc’s AR Play; How SportsTech is Remaking the Game

Sarah Favot

Favot is an award-winning journalist and adjunct instructor at USC's Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. She previously was an investigative and data reporter at national education news site The 74 and local news site LA School Report. She's also worked at the Los Angeles Daily News. She was a Livingston Award finalist in 2011 and holds a Master's degree in journalism from Boston University and BA from the University of Windsor in Ontario, Canada.

Intersect Summit Updates: Snap Inc’s AR Play; How SportsTech is Remaking the Game
Photo by izayah ramos on Unsplash

Intersect event

From NFTs to augmented reality and streaming services, a new frontier reshaping entertainment and technology has exploded in Los Angeles. It's ripe with media talent and fueled by venture capital.

Dot.LA will explore that intersection of media and tech during our inaugural Intersect summit. We'll be talking to Los Angeles executives, entrepreneurs and investors at the forefront about trends moving the industry.

The event kicks off Wednesday with a keynote address from the CEO of Kevin Hart's Laugh Out Loud Productions and concludes with a pitch competition featuring three SoCal startups. Join the live event by applying to attend at the Intersect site. Follow us here for coverage.

The Live Events Industry Braces For a New Normal, and a 'Roaring' Return to In-Person

As more people get vaccinated, venues and stadiums are opening up, leaving a looming question: what will events look like in the future?

Leaders in the entertainment and event space said events in the near term will be hybrid, with organizers ensuring attendees feel and are safe. The industry is hoping that those watching at home will see others experiencing the in-person event, and become more comfortable with the idea of returning in person.

While some companies have found success in remote events, panelists said, it isn't equivalent to standing shoulder-to-shoulder with friends and strangers on the concert hall floor as they're experiencing their favorite artists.

"I'm looking forward for live to come back," said Robert Ellin, founder, CEO and chairman of LiveXLive.

LiveXLive will be testing the waters for its return to live events in June with an in-person matchup in Miami called "Social Gloves," which will pit YouTubers against TikTokers in the boxing ring. It will also be livestreamed.

VidCon will return as a live event in October in Anaheim. It's also selling digital tickets for remote access.

"I know they're going to enjoy the experience so much they're going to want to go to a VidCon somewhere else around the world when it comes near them in '22 or '23," Jim Louderback, GM and senior vice president of VidCon at Viacom, said of at-home viewers.

Ellin said he feels like we are moving into the Roaring 20s based on his experience of the excitement in Miami.

"We're all in the digital space right now," he said. "No matter what we do, the live experience is nothing like it. You're actually interacting with people and so there's going to be audiences."

In Los Angeles, SoFi stadium will host Vaxx Live on May 8, a charity concert featuring Selena Gomez. Organizers said it will host thousands of fully vaccinated frontline health care and essential workers.

Even as things return, more or less, to normal, industry insiders say the future live events will use more technology than it once did, including touchless purchasing at the ticket booth and concession stand, as well as more virtual and augmented reality experiences.

Louderback said at VidCon they're thinking of ways to incorporate those technologies, maybe a scavenger hunt or secret party through AR.

"I think there's really creative unique ways to integrate them," he said. "I think we all have to be thinking about those and those special ways to make it more interesting," he said.

Ellin said Social Gloves will feature NFTs in the form of a digital card, but also a physical card.

"As you can touch it and feel it, you're going to want to really have a responsibility of protecting those assets long term," he said.

When it comes to touchless technology at venues or processes like mobile ordering and individual packaging, Wroan said it might seem cumbersome and costly upfront, but it will put more people in seats.

"I think, once they're up and running, we're actually going to be more efficient — probably in the long run, better," she said. "Part of it, too, is just people feeling confident and safe to get off the couch and come experience a live event."

Snap Inc’s AR Play

Snap Inc. is placing big bets on AR technology.

Last year, it announced a $3.5 million fund for augmented reality (AR) creators building their own lenses for the app.

The fund will help the Santa Monica-based company keep products fresh for its 280 million users and potentially reel in big revenue for developers and artists like Frank Shi, who co-founded a boutique AR studio called Paper Triangles.

But perhaps most importantly, it feeds Snap's advertising deals as brands look for new ways to sell products.

Shi remembers the first time he showed Crocs how to use Snap's AR try-on feature, which lets users step into shoes and clothes virtually.

"That experience to us was magical," Shi said. "I think when it comes to brands, they're a little hesitant at first, but once they see the easy it is to use AR, their eyes kind of twinkle."

As advertising remains a key component of Snap's business model, AR represents a natural avenue for companies scouting new customers. Fashion-oriented AR is a promising market given how shopping habits have moved online since the pandemic. Last month, Snap acquired FitAnalytics to help shoppers find the right clothing sizes.

"Before, it was a question of who's using AR," said Sophia Dominguez, who heads camera platform partnerships for Snap. "Brands have seen the value."

During its first quarter Q1 earnings call last week, Snap focused on two of its software development kits — Camera Kit and Lens Studio — and its community of "lens creators" like Shi who get early access to AR tools, training and support.

"Those who want to build AR on Snap," Dominquez said, "we hear you and we're looking for more ways to create streamlined sources of monetization."

How SportsTech is Remaking the Game

Intersect sport-tech panel

Athletes are moving from the court or the playing field into boardrooms. Increasingly they are shunning traditional endorsements for a stake in startups and other companies. It comes amid rapid-fire changes in sports tech and is altering the landscape for both investors and founders.

"What makes [athletes] really, really interesting partners is not only their ability to command an audience with their social following or their conversations on the court and in interviews and whatnot, but also their ability to support business development," said Amanda Groves, a partner at Plus Capital. The Marina del Rey-based venture advisory firm helps celebrities across entertainment and sports facilitate investments and equity-based partnerships.

Groves said athletes are particularly good storytellers and team players who are passionate about their underlying investments and can tell a complicated story in a way that's approachable and interesting for the consumer.

"It's not just a service day to go do this photoshoot to support a product line. It's like, 'this is my baby and I want to help grow it and so I'm going to give it to all my friends and I'm going to to talk about it every chance I get'," she said.

DeMarcus Williams, a partner at Silicon Valley Bank, which supports early stage entrepreneurs and VC firms, said athletes are cultural influencers, using NBA legend Michael Jordan as an example.

"I would say for startups that are pursuing athletes, it's really important that you really sit down and understand what they're passionate about and appeal to that passion point," Williams said.

Athletes' journeys through training from a young age to achieving success at a professional level is similar to the growth startups face, Groves said.

These changes are unfolding as the technology people use to interact with sports is changing.

For instance, the panelists think bite-sized highlight clips will be key to delivering sports that air on traditional regional networks.

Williams said he thinks these networks will still be around for the next 20 to 30 years, but he used the example of his 8-year-old son to highlight how younger audiences want to engage with sports.

"Can he sit down and watch a game for its entirety for three hours? No, for an hour, no, for 30 minutes, maybe, 15, maybe," he said. "A lot of these sports leaders and sports leagues, they're going to have to meet their audience where they are."

Kyle Laughlin, CEO of Surfline Wavetrak, Inc., a Huntington Beach-based company that specializes in surf forecasting and surf reports, said the World Surf League has demonstrated how to use digital platforms.

"I think there's a real range from a league perspective, from the little niche league to the mass, that is embracing technology to engage ether fans in new and interesting ways from both an athlete and a technology perspective," he said.

But it's not only in professional sports that tech is altering viewership. Pasadena-based BallerTV live streams and shows replays of youth basketball and volleyball, mainly targeting the audience of parents who can't make it to their kid's games. Since being founded in 2016, it has broadcasted more than 500,000 games, typically showing 10,000 games each weekend.

It is looking to expand into different vertices with the launch of youth soccer this summer.

"In this industry, we like to say that we're sort of first to market or category definers with respect to video at scale in this market," said Sandeep Hingorani, EVP, Founding Team at BallerTV.

PlayVS CEO Delane Parnell Has Ambitions Beyond HS, College Esports

Keynote with Delane Parnell

Founder and CEO of PlayVS Delane Parnell was living in Detroit and developing the idea for his company, when he had a chance meeting at South by Southwest with Peter Pham, co-founder of Santa Monica venture fund Science Inc.

Darnell recounted that Pham encouraged him to come to L.A., saying 'You can be a millionaire in Detroit or a billionaire in L.A., but don't waste my time.'

The startup has been on a remarkable ascendency since.

PlayVS has raised $107 million since it entered the esports marketplace for high school teams in 2018 and now 43% of all high schools in the country have an esports team, playing Fortnite, SMITE, League of Legends and other games using the PlayVS platform.

It expanded into the college market last year and now has 30% of colleges in the country on the platform.

"We wanted to build an environment to actually reengage and reactivate that community," he said.

While there are only 1,000 professional gamers in North America, there are 2.8 billion gamers globally, many of whom don't have aspirations to become professional. Parnell wanted to tap into that market starting with high schoolers, who sometimes are prevented from playing because they are under 18.

He said the beauty of amateur esports is "there's more gamers who care about actionality and don't necessarily care or have aspirations of going pro, and so they just want to play their favorite game at the time with their friends and teammates."

Eventually he'd like to expand, building PlayVS digital playground beyond school sports.

"I still want to build the digital playground in which every gamer can compete whether they're high school-aged or college-aged or in their 40s in any sort of context of competition," he said.

But, Parnell said, the company relies on partnerships with game publishers, who drive the content.

"We don't just add any game to our platform," he said. "We're really thoughtful in which titles we decide to partner with and integrate with."

NFTs Are 'No Get Quick Rich Scheme'

NFT Panel

The underpinning of the hottest new trend, NFTs or "non-fungible tokens," is blockchain and it's here to stay.

At least in the eyes of Zach Katz, CEO of the music-tech investment firm Raised in Space.

"Blockchain is finally finding its footing in supporting something that fans and artists have wanted to do for a long time," Katz said.

As the pandemic reshaped how businesses and creatives made money, NFTs have boomed as a new market for digital commerce. Artists and musicians can now build new and profitable relationships with fans — ones that do away with "traditional financing" they once relied upon, he said.

NFT sales have spiked in the first three months of the year. And artists and creators are looking at new ways to use the tokens to provide fans exclusive, paid experiences.

"Graphic artists and 3D designers now have a way to monetize their creativity and monetize the art that had been previously really, really hard to sell," added Shara Senderoff, president and partner at Raised in Space.

But in the world of NFTs, "there's no get quick rich scheme," Senderoff said. "This is about being able to show your loyalty and follow the people you admire and respect."

And the environmental consequences are looming.

"When you're putting in that level of energy and using that level of computing power at scale, it's absolutely doing something," Senderoff said about the climate change risks of blockchain technology. "Entrepreneurs need to be accountable and responsible for what the products they create are doing."

​'It's About Reading The Room': How Kevin Hart's LOL Connects with Audiences

Panel with LOL Productions

Created by comic Kevin Hart, the four-year-old startup Laugh Out Loud, or LOL, is quickly becoming a force, carving out its own space for comedy across multiple platforms.

The company, which originally began as a joint venture between Hart and Lionsgate, now has a deal with NBCUniversal and estimates it reaches over 100 million people on streaming and audio platforms with original scripted and unscripted series, stand-up specials, live broadcasts and other events.

Last year, it inked a deal with Snapchat for "Coach Kev," a show in which the comedian doles out wisdom and advice. The move pushed LOL's content further across media channels having already been on Roku Channel, ViacomCBS's PlutoTV, SiriusXM and YouTube. It has also given an expansive platform to comedians of color.

"An entertainment media company, you have to be involved with tech," said CEO Jeff Clanagan. "You have to embrace tech because the worldwide consumer accesses content through technology."

That's become key as demographic shifts have been playing out in media. Gen Z, for instance, would rather scroll through social media, play video games and stream music than watch TV or catch a film.

"Comedy is about keeping your finger on the pulse," said Candice Wilson Cherry, the company's head of development and production. "It's about reading the room, reading the cultures, seeing what's changing and it's changing so quickly."

NFTs: What They Are and What's Coming Next

Sam Blake

NFTs, or non-fungible tokens, have exploded in popularity in 2021, but what's hype, and what's here to stay? That's the main question dot.LA will be exploring with a panel of experts during one session of our inaugural Intersect conference this Wednesday.

NFTs have helped create scarcity among digital assets. Consider a photo, GIF, video or any other type of online item: previously these could be endlessly copied, with limited ability to reliably distinguish the copies from the original. Using blockchain, an NFT injects scarcity by serving as a unique, traceable certificate of ownership of that digital asset.


🤠Musk Picks Texas and 🔥Tinder AI Picks Your Profile Pictures
Image Source: Tinder

🔦 Spotlight

Tinder is altering dating profile creation with its new AI-powered Photo Selector feature, designed to help users choose their most appealing dating profile pictures. This innovative tool employs facial recognition technology to curate a set of up to 10 photos from the user's device, streamlining the often time-consuming process of profile setup. To use the feature, users simply take a selfie within the Tinder app and grant access to their camera roll. The AI then analyzes the photos based on factors like lighting and composition, drawing from Tinder's research on what makes an effective profile picture.

The selection process occurs entirely on the user's device, ensuring privacy and data security. Tinder doesn't collect or store any biometric data or photos beyond those chosen for the profile, and the facial recognition data is deleted once the user exits the feature. This new tool addresses a common pain point for users, as Tinder's research shows that young singles typically spend about 25 to 33 minutes selecting a profile picture. By automating this process, Tinder aims to reduce profile creation time and allow users to focus more on making meaningful connections.

In wholly unrelated news, Elon Musk has announced plans to relocate the headquarters of X (formerly Twitter) and SpaceX from California to Texas. SpaceX will move from Hawthorne to Starbase, while X will shift from San Francisco to Austin. Musk cited concerns about aggressive drug users near X's current headquarters and a new California law regarding gender identity notification in schools as reasons for the move. This decision follows Musk's previous relocation of Tesla's headquarters to Texas in 2021.

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  • Penguin Random House agreed to acquire comic book publisher Boom! Studios from backers like Walt Disney Co. - learn more

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Top LA Accelerators that Entrepreneurs Should Know About

Los Angeles, has a thriving startup ecosystem with numerous accelerators, incubators, and programs designed to support and nurture new businesses. These programs provide a range of services, including funding, mentorship, workspace, networking opportunities, and strategic guidance to help entrepreneurs develop their ideas and scale their companies.

Techstars Los Angeles

Techstars is a global outfit with a chapter in Los Angeles that opened in 2017. It prioritizes local companies but will fund some firms based outside of LA.

Location: Culver City

Type of Funding: Pre-seed, early stage

Focus: Industry Agnostic

Notable Past Companies: StokedPlastic, Zeno Power


Grid110 offers no-cost, no-equity programs for entrepreneurs in Los Angeles, including a 12-week Residency accelerator for early-stage startups, an Idea to Launch Bootcamp for pre-launch entrepreneurs, and specialized programs like the PledgeLA Founders Fund and Friends & Family program, all aimed at providing essential skills, resources, and support to help founders develop and grow their businesses.

Location: DTLA

Type of Funding: Seed, early stage

Focus: Industry Agnostic

Notable Past Companies: Casetify, Flavors From Afar


Idealab is a renowned startup studio and incubator based in Pasadena, California. Founded in 1996 by entrepreneur Bill Gross, Idealab has a long history of nurturing innovative technology companies, with over 150 startups launched and 45 successful IPOs and acquisitions, including notable successes like Coinbase and Tenor.

Location: Pasadena

Type of Funding: Stage agnostic

Focus: Industry Agnostic, AI/Robotics, Consumer, Clean Energy

Notable Past Companies: Lumin, Coinbase, Tenor

Plug In South LA

Plug In South LA is a tech accelerator program focused on supporting and empowering Black and Latinx entrepreneurs in the Los Angeles area. The 12-week intensive program provides early-stage founders with mentorship, workshops, strategic guidance, potential pilot partnerships, grant funding, and networking opportunities to help them scale their businesses and secure investment.

Location: Los Angeles

Type of Funding: Pre-seed, seed

Focus: Industry Agnostic, Connection to South LA and related communities

Notable Past Companies: ChargerHelp, Peadbo

Cedars-Sinai Accelerator

The Cedars-Sinai Accelerator is a three-month program based in Los Angeles that provides healthcare startups with $100,000 in funding, mentorship from over 300 leading clinicians and executives, and access to Cedars-Sinai's clinical expertise and resources. The program aims to transform healthcare quality, efficiency, and care delivery by helping entrepreneurs bring their innovative technology products to market, offering participants dedicated office space, exposure to a broad network of healthcare entrepreneurs and investors, and the opportunity to pitch their companies at a Demo Day.

Location: West Hollywood

Type of Funding: Seed, early stage, convertible note

Focus: Healthcare, Device, Life Sciences

Notable Past Companies: Regard, Hawthorne Effect

MedTech Innovator

MedTech Innovator is the world's largest accelerator for medical technology companies, based in Los Angeles, offering a four-month program that provides selected startups with unparalleled access to industry leaders, investors, and resources without taking equity. The accelerator culminates in showcase events and competitions where participating companies can win substantial non-dilutive funding, with the program having a strong track record of helping startups secure FDA approvals and significant follow-on funding.

Location: Westwood

Type of Funding: Seed, early stage

Focus: Health Care, Health Diagnostics, Medical Device

Notable Past Companies: Zeto, Genetesis


The KidsX Accelerator in Los Angeles is a 10-week program that supports early-stage digital health companies focused on pediatric care, providing mentorship, resources, and access to a network of children's hospitals to help startups validate product-market fit and scale their solutions. The accelerator uses a reverse pitch model, where participating hospitals identify focus areas and work closely with selected startups to develop and pilot digital health solutions that address specific pediatric needs.

Location: East Hollywood

Type of Funding: Pre-seed, seed, early stage

Focus: Pediatric Health Care Innovation

Notable Past Companies: Smileyscope, Zocalo Health

Disney Accelerator

Disney Accelerator is a startup accelerator that provides early-stage companies in the consumer media, entertainment and technology sectors with mentorship, guidance, and investment from Disney executives. The program, now in its 10th year, aims to foster collaborations and partnerships between innovative technology companies and The Walt Disney Company to help them accelerate their growth and bring new experiences to Disney audiences.

Location: Burbank

Type of Funding: Growth stage

Focus: Technology and entertainment

Notable Past Companies: Epic Games, BRIT + CO, CAMP

Techstars Space Accelerator

Techstars Space Accelerator is a startup accelerator program focused on advancing the next generation of space technology companies. The three-month mentorship-driven program brings together founders from across the globe to work on big ideas in aerospace, including rapid launch services, precision-based imaging, operating systems for complex robotics, in-space servicing, and thermal protection.

Location: Los Angeles

Type of Funding: Growth stage

Focus: Aerospace

Notable Past Companies: Pixxel, Morpheus Space

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🚁 One Step Closer to Air Taxis in LA
Image Source: Joby Aviation

🔦 Spotlight

Joby Aviation, a pioneering electric air taxi company, has achieved a significant milestone by successfully flying a hydrogen-electric aircraft demonstrator for 523 miles with only water as a byproduct. This groundbreaking flight showcases the potential for emissions-free regional travel using vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft, eliminating the need for traditional runways. The company's innovative approach combines its existing battery-electric air taxi technology with hydrogen fuel cells, paving the way for longer-range, environmentally friendly air travel.

For LA residents, this development holds exciting implications for future transportation options. Joby's technology could potentially enable direct flights from LA to destinations like San Francisco or San Diego without the need to visit conventional airports, offering a cleaner and more convenient alternative to current travel methods. The company's progress in both battery-electric and hydrogen-electric aircraft positions it at the forefront of next-generation aviation, promising to revolutionize urban and regional mobility.

Notably, Joby Aviation has already made strides in Southern California by securing an agreement with John Wayne Airport earlier this year to install the region's first electric air taxi charger. This strategic move sets the stage for LA to be among the initial markets where Joby will launch its electric air taxi service. With plans to commence commercial operations as early as 2025 using its battery-electric air taxi, LA residents may soon have access to a fast, quiet, and environmentally friendly mode of transportation that could significantly reduce travel times and traffic congestion in the region. In the not too distant future, LA might find itself in an identity crisis without traffic and excess smog 🤞🤞.

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