As Sign-ups Surge, FreeConferenceCall Scrambles to Expand

Rachel Uranga

Rachel Uranga is dot.LA's Managing Editor, News. She is a former Mexico-based market correspondent at Reuters and has worked for several Southern California news outlets, including the Los Angeles Business Journal and the Los Angeles Daily News. She has covered everything from IPOs to immigration. Uranga is a graduate of the Columbia School of Journalism and California State University Northridge. A Los Angeles native, she lives with her husband, son and their felines.

As Sign-ups Surge, FreeConferenceCall Scrambles to Expand

Dave Erickson, head of the nation's second largest telephone conferencing company, knew he had to do something to expand his services when he saw 3,000% growth in some Asian countries hit by the novel coronavirus.

Then COVID-19 hit Italy, spiking sign-ups there as well. The founder of the two-decade-old Long Beach service began putting together a plan to expand their service.


This week FreeConferenceCall announced a group calling number where people can access a dial-in number to share with friends and coworkers. The access code will be the original caller's mobile.

"This will provide conferencing for everyone in the country and give everyone an account," he said. "If the National Guard came in and locked down a one-mile radius around you, my guess is that some people would like to know they had a conference call line."

In the United States, demand for the service has spiked 2,000% over last year as anxiety wracks the country and more people are forced to work at home.

The altered reality has put companies like messaging service Slack and teleconference video company Zoom, which offered their services free to K-12 schools, at center stage as employers send their workers home.

Erickson said he is talking to undisclosed government officials to see what they can do with the lines.

Teleconferencing services like FreeConferenceCall have long been used by megachurches to hold marathon prayer sessions. They've been a lifeline for some during disasters like Katrina, Erickson says. They're even favored during presidential campaigns to gather large numbers of people on the phone, in part because it's free, unlike Zoom and other services.

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Genies Wants To Help Creators Build ‘Avatar Ecosystems’

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.

Genies Wants To Help Creators Build ‘Avatar Ecosystems’

When avatar startup Genies raised $150 million in April, the company released an unusual message to the public: “Farewell.”

The Marina del Rey-based unicorn, which makes cartoon-like avatars for celebrities and aims to “build an avatar for every single person on Earth,” didn’t go under. Rather, Genies announced it would stay quiet for a while to focus on building avatar-creation products.

Genies representatives told dot.LA that the firm is now seeking more creators to try its creation tools for 3D avatars, digital fashion items and virtual experiences. On Thursday, the startup launched a three-week program called DIY Collective, which will mentor and financially support up-and-coming creatives.

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Here's What To Expect At LA Tech Week

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.

Here's What To Expect At LA Tech Week

LA Tech Week—a weeklong showcase of the region’s growing startup ecosystem—is coming this August.

The seven-day series of events, from Aug. 15 through Aug. 21, is a chance for the Los Angeles startup community to network, share insights and pitch themselves to investors. It comes a year after hundreds of people gathered for a similar event that allowed the L.A. tech community—often in the shadow of Silicon Valley—to flex its muscles.

From fireside chats with prominent founders to a panel on aerospace, here are some highlights from the roughly 30 events happening during LA Tech Week, including one hosted by dot.LA.

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