L.A. Tech Updates: L.A. Seed Rounds Are Getting Bigger; the Future of Facial Recognition Technology

L.A. Tech Updates: L.A. Seed Rounds Are Getting Bigger; the Future of Facial Recognition Technology

Here are the latest updates on news affecting Los Angeles' startup and tech communities. Sign up for our newsletter and follow dot.LA on Twitter for more.

Today:

  • Anaheim's 'Star Wars' Celebration is Canceled
  • L.A. Congressman Looks to Limit Police Use of Facial Recognition Technology
  • L.A. Seed Rounds Are Getting Bigger

    Anaheim's 'Star Wars' Celebration is Canceled

    www.starwarscelebration.com

    Chalk up another disappointment to the coronavirus. The organizers of Anaheim's 'Star Wars Celebration' are calling it off this year, due to concerns about hosting an indoor event in the midst of a global pandemic. Would-be attendees can exchange their tickets for the 2022 event (plus a limited edition stormtrooper pin), trade them for merch or get a refund. You can find more information at their website.

    L.A. Congressman Looks to Limit Police Use of Facial Recognition Technology

    Amazon, IBM and Microsoft either pulled sales of their facial recognition technology to law enforcement or halted their business last week as pressure from civil rights leaders, companies and legislators grew over how the surveillance technologies were being used.

    The issue has played out for years in the Los Angeles communities Congressman Jimmy Gomez represents. Activists regularly object to the use of technology that has the potential to exacerbate racial bias. Now, it has exploded anew on the national stage in the aftermath of the George Floyd protests.

    Gomez, who sits on the House Oversight and Reform Committee, told Politico last week he's drafting legislation that would place restrictions on local and state police from using the technology.

    "If facial recognition is considered the future of policing, it's just going to perpetuate the same biases that are already out there because it's in and of itself is biased," he told VentureBeat in a separate interview. "It's been flawed. It's been shown to be flawed and can [misidentify] people of color, mainly black women, Latinos, African Americans — and the darker the skin color, the more mistakes it makes. That's going to lead to more negative interactions between law enforcement and people of color, which can lead to deadly consequences."

    Gomez told the outlet Amazon gave him the run around as Congress probed the issue.

    "We need them to cooperate and give us data so we can be better informed on how to craft this legislation," he said. "If not, we'll just work with the civil rights groups, and we'll just try to pass it through, and they're going to most likely try to oppose it, in my opinion, at the end of the day if they don't like it."

    L.A. Seed Rounds Are Getting Bigger

    Image from Amplify.LA

    In the first quarter of this year, 19 Los Angeles startups raised seed rounds of more than $2.5 million. The average seed round raised was $4 million, according to Amplify.LA's latest LA Seed Report.

    "While nothing new for larger ecosystems like SF and NY, it's a relatively new phenomenon here in L.A.," wrote Conner Sundberg, an associate at Amplify.LA.

    Amplify also found seed activity in Q1'20 was nearly double that of Q1'19. 38 companies closed seed rounds in the first quarter while fintech re-emerged as one of the top dealmaking sectors.

    "Since starting this project years back, we've noted more funds being raised in L.A., a higher percentage of capital coming from local investors, and early stage teams tackling more varied verticals," wrote Sundberg.

    — Ben Bergman

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    It's never been a better time to "murder your thirst."

    Seven months after raising more than $9 million in Series A funding, Santa Monica-based canned water startup Liquid Death has raised $23 million in Series B funding.

    The round was led by an unnamed consumer-focused family office and participated in by Convivialité Ventures, Fat Mike (NOFX), Pat McAfee, existing investor in Velvet Sea Ventures and others.

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    • Super Hi-Fi's AI transports the skills of a trained radio DJ to digital music playlists. Spotify's former head of research Tristan Jehan recently joined as an advisor
    • Founded in 2018 by veterans of the digital music business, the company's customers include iHeartMedia, Sonos, Peloton and Octave Music Group
    • Its leaders envision a new audio listening experience — where everyone has a personalized, curated playlist, with artful, AI-generated sequences and layers of music, voice clips (e.g. news and podcasts), and branded messaging that drives new revenues to the music industry

    Before the beat from "Baby Got Back" that underpins Nicki Minaj's "Anaconda" fades to silence at the song's end, a sound clip pops up, right on rhythm and with a similar energy, telling the listener what streaming service they're listening to. A new track seamlessly takes the baton from the Minaj song before the brief branded message concludes, and continues the upbeat mood as a music bed for a rapid sequence of audio clips – first a voice imploring listeners to get hyped, then a word from Kanye about his interview with Beyoncé, a snippet from that interview, and another in-the-spirit advert – before blending into the intro of the next song, Kanye's "Stronger": all of it interwoven as if it were a single track produced in a recording studio.

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