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

    🚁 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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    Fuel Innovation: 7 Unforgettable Team Building Experiences in LA
    Image Source: Discover LA

    In today's competitive business landscape, team building activities have emerged as a crucial tool for fostering a positive work environment, enhancing productivity, and crucially, improving employee retention. Studies have shown that such activities help employees feel valued, with one report indicating that 93% of those who felt appreciated were more motivated at work. Importantly, team building events may improve retention rates, as employees who feel connected to their colleagues and company culture are more likely to stay long-term. With these benefits in mind, let's explore some of the most engaging and effective team building activities available in Los Angeles.

    Pickleball

    Image Source: Modern Luxury Angelino

    Pickleball is a fantastic team bonding activity because of the easy-to-grasp rules and gentle pace make it perfect for everyone, regardless of age or fitness level. The game thrives on communication and teamwork, as players must collaborate and strategize to outplay their opponents, boosting team cohesion. Plus, the lively, fast-paced action sparks friendly competition and laughter, creating a fun and spirited atmosphere that brings everyone closer together. Los Angeles boasts numerous pickleball courts that are easy to rent if you have your own equipment. If you need additional assistance organizing your pickleball outing, there are plenty of full-service companies ready to handle every detail for you.

    Resources: Pickle Pop, Corporate Pickle


    Escape Room

    Image Source: The Escape Game

    Escape rooms are a great way to build camaraderie. They require participants to work together, combining their problem-solving skills and creativity to overcome challenges and puzzles. The immersive and time-sensitive nature of escape rooms fosters collaboration and communication. Additionally, the shared experience of tackling complex tasks and reaching a common goal helps build trust and foster positive emotions among colleagues.

    Resources: The Escape Game, 60Out


    Day Trip to Catalina Island

    Image Source: Love Catalina

    Catalina Island is a perfect day trip for a team because it provides a break from the usual work environment, allowing team members to relax and connect in a new setting. Shared experiences during the trip, such as exploring new places and participating in fun activities, help build stronger relationships and foster a sense of camaraderie. There are numerous team-building activities such as an arboreal obstacle course, an island tour, scavenger hunts and more.

    Resources: Catalina Island Group Activities


    Top Golf

    Image Source: Topgolf

    Topgolf is an excellent team building event because it provides an inclusive, relaxed atmosphere that accommodates players of all skill levels, fostering personal connections and improving team morale. The unique blend of competition and entertainment creates an ideal setting for building trust, enhancing communication, and revealing hidden skills among team members. Additionally, Topgolf offers structured team building packages with guided activities, discussion prompts, and lessons on culture, change, collaboration, and strategy, making it a versatile and effective platform for strengthening relationships and boosting overall team performance.

    Resources: Topgolf El Segundo


    SoFi Stadium Tour

    Image Source: Discover LA

    A SoFi Stadium tour offers a unique, behind-the-scenes experience of one of the world's most advanced sports venues, allowing team members to explore exclusive areas like premium suites, team locker rooms, and the player tunnel together. The tour provides a shared, memorable experience that can foster camaraderie and spark conversations among team members, regardless of their interest in sports. Additionally, the stadium's state-of-the-art features and impressive architecture can inspire creativity and innovation, while the group setting encourages interaction and collaboration, making it an engaging and enjoyable activity for teams of various sizes and backgrounds

    Resources: SoFi Stadium Group Tours


    Corporate Volunteering

    Image Source: L.A. Works

    Volunteer work serves as an excellent team building activity by uniting employees around a shared, meaningful cause, fostering a sense of purpose and collective accomplishment. It provides opportunities for team members to collaborate in new ways, often revealing hidden strengths and leadership qualities that may not be apparent in the regular work environment. Additionally, engaging in community service can boost morale, enhance the company's reputation, and instill a sense of pride among employees, leading to improved workplace relationships and increased job satisfaction.

    Resources: Habitat for Humanity, L.A. Works, VolunteerMatch


    Corporate Improv Sessions

    Image Source: Improv for the People

    A corporate improv class encourages spontaneity, creativity, and quick thinking, skills that are valuable in the workplace. It promotes active listening and collaboration, as participants must work together to create scenes and respond to unexpected situations, fostering better communication and trust among team members. Additionally, the playful and often humorous nature of improv helps break down barriers, reduces stress, and creates a shared positive experience that can improve team morale and cohesion long after the event.

    Resources: Improv-LA, Groundlings, Improv for the People

    🎬 Paramount and Skydance Are Back On
    Image Source: Paramount

    Happy Friday Los Angeles! Hope you all had a fantastic Fourth!!

    🔦 Spotlight

    Paramount and Skydance Media have rekindled talks to merge after negotiations abruptly halted in June. The proposed deal, contingent on approval from Paramount’s board, aims to combine Paramount’s extensive media holdings—including CBS, MTV, and Nickelodeon—with Skydance’s film expertise showcased in hits like "Top Gun: Maverick." This merger signals a potential transformation in the media landscape, positioning the new entity to compete more effectively amid challenges from streaming services and the decline of traditional cable TV.

    Led by Shari Redstone, Paramount’s controlling shareholder via National Amusements, the deal represents a pivot towards revitalizing Paramount’s strategic direction amidst financial struggles and shareholder concerns. The involvement of major investors like RedBird Capital Partners and David Ellison underscores the financial backing aimed at stabilizing Paramount’s operations and addressing its $14 billion debt burden. Importantly, the agreement includes provisions to protect National Amusements from potential legal challenges, addressing previous hurdles that stalled earlier negotiations.

    The deal also includes a 45-day period for Paramount to explore alternative offers, highlighting continued interest from other potential buyers like Barry Diller’s IAC and media executive Edgar Bronfman Jr. This flurry of activity underscores the significant stakeholders’ interest in Paramount’s future and its potential as a key player in a rapidly evolving media industry.


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    • Sidecar Health, a startup that offers personalized health insurance plans to businesses that allow members to see any doctor and pay directly at the time of service, raised a $165M Series D led by Koch Disruptive Technologies. - learn more

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