As Live Events Return, Santa Monica's Fanimal Takes on Ticketing’s Biggest Players

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

As Live Events Return, Santa Monica's Fanimal Takes on Ticketing’s Biggest Players
Photo by Sam Moqadam on Unsplash

Jonny Halprin loves live events. By his own estimate, Halprin has attended the last eleven Outside Lands festivals, and he longs for savoring a beer and hotdog at Dodger Stadium. With California set to finally open back up and live events scheduled to return later this month, Halprin is gearing up—and now not just as a fan, but also an entrepreneur.


Halprin is the CEO and co-founder of Fanimal, a nascent ticketing platform that claims to offer the lowest prices on the resale market and uses proprietary tech to make it easy to purchase tickets for groups.

The idea for Fanimal originated on a 2018 vacation hike in the Italian Alps that Halprin took with Sam McClure, a recent Stanford Law grad who already knew he didn't want to keep practicing. Halprin had recently left his job as a consultant at Boston Consulting Group. Talking about their love of live music (both were regulars at Coachella), they hatched an idea on the trip to create a ticketing service that would undercut market leaders SeatGeek, StubHub and Vivid Seats and take on an industry they feel charges too much, causes too much hassle and has been too slow to innovate.

"There's no reason why StubHub should be taking a 30% fee for just being this little software middleman," said Halprin.

The two founded their new company at the end of 2018 and went full-time in May 2019. They brought on Dave Galbraith as a co-founder, raised a $600,000 pre-seed round, and relocated to Los Angeles at the end of 2019 before launching Fanimal at the start of 2020. When live events shuttered they continued developing their product and raised a $1.4 million seed round in December, which they used to double their team to six and lease a Santa Monica office.

Fanimal's appeal for music and sports fans isn't hard to see. Whereas most ticketing companies charge around a 30% markup, Fanimal tacks on 5-10%, depending on the event. The company also has built a feature to make it easier to purchase tickets for groups. "Something like 97% of ticket purchases are for multiple tickets," Halprin said, "but the only ways to buy tickets are this single-player mode where you have to be acting as an individual but trying to coordinate a larger thing."

In response, Fanimal's patent-pending tech allows fans purchasing tickets to select their group size, and gives them a specified timespan to fill those slots. If they go unfilled, the purchaser is totally off the financial hook.

Making group purchases easier also helps Fanimal keep its prices low, since the feature saves them on customer-acquisition costs.

"We have friends inviting other friends," said Halprin. "Our average group size is six people, which means we're kind of getting six customers for the price of one."

Before launching, Fanimal went through the Pear Accelerator, whose alumni include Dropbox and DoorDash. In the two months between its launch and the onset of lockdowns, Fanimal turned a couple hundred thousand dollars in sales, Halprin said.

The company's December pitch to investors – for a live-events company staring into the abyss of an unrelenting pandemic – was that its competitors had been hampered, giving Fanimal time to catch up by further refining its product.

As the threat of the virus abated and live events went on sale, purchases resumed. Revenues in March, April and May were $110,000, $135,000 and $180,000, respectively, Halprin said. He's expecting those numbers to continue rising, but says the lingering uncertainty around live events makes forecasting tricky.

As governments continue refining their COVID-19 guidelines, many venues are still trying to determine the best way to work within however those parameters shake out.

Rachel Moore, CEO of The Music Center, the downtown L.A. home of the Walt Disney Concert Hall and Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, says venues and performance groups are gearing up to learn by trial and error what precautions will both fit within governmental guidelines and best align with the comfort levels of their audiences.

"All we can do is share with everybody that we've made it as safe as possible," Moore said. "Then that's going to have to be their own journey."

Ultimately it will be the fans who determine which artists, venues – and which startups – reap the rewards of the return of live events.

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

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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

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

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


KidsX

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

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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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