George Floyd Update: Disney Will Donate $5M to Social Justice Groups; a16z Announces Diversity Fund

George Floyd Update: Disney Will Donate $5M to Social Justice Groups; a16z Announces Diversity Fund
Annie Burford, dot.LA

Here are the latest headlines regarding how the protests around the killing of George Floyd are impacting the Los Angeles startup and tech communities. Sign up for our newsletter and follow dot.LA on Twitter for the latest updates.

Today:

  • Disney will donate $5M to Social Justice Groups
  • Blck VC group launches 'We Won't Wait' campaign
  • a16z VC firm launches fund to target diverse founders
  • Snap stops promoting Trump's account in its Discover feature

    Disney will donate $5M to Social Justice Groups

    ABC's TV sitcom Blackish aired two "monumental and timely episodes" this week.

    The Walt Disney company announced Wednesday that it will donate $5 million to nonprofit groups fighting for social justice, starting with a $2 million donation to the NAACP.

    "The killing of George Floyd has forced our nation to once again confront the long history of injustice that black people in America have suffered, and it is critical that we stand together, speak out and do everything in our power to ensure that acts of racism and violence are never tolerated," said Disney chief Bob Chapek in a statement. "This $5 million pledge will continue to support the efforts of nonprofit organizations such as the NAACP that have worked tirelessly to ensure equality and justice."

    In a statement, the company pointed to its previous social justice initiatives, including providing "millions of dollars in grants to help students from underrepresented groups make the dream of higher education a reality, including $2.5 million to the United Negro College Fund." Disney also noted that it matches employee donations to "eligible organizations" and that on Tuesday it re-aired two "monumental and timely episodes" of Black-ish on its ABC television networks before a primetime special titled "America in Pain: What Comes Next?"

    In its quarterly earnings released last month, Disney reported nearly $40 billion in revenue in the six months to March 28, 2020. Net income over the same period was down 68% from the year prior, however, as most of the company's business units have been battered by the coronavirus pandemic.

    — Sam Blake

    Blck VC group launches 'We Won't Wait' campaign

    Venture capital has fueled billions of dollars in wealth but it has largely excluded black Americans. Only 1% of venture-funded startup founders are black and more than 80% of venture firms don't have a single black investor.

    Blck VC, a group of young black investors and entrepreneurs are calling on the venture capitalist community to diversify their ranks and support the black community. Declaring Thursday, June 4th, a day of action, the group launched a campaign called "We Won't Wait." Read more >>

    — Rachel Uranga

    a16z VC firm launches fund to target diverse founders

    Ben and Felicia Horowitz will match up to an additional $5,000,000 total in any other donations.

    One of Silicon Valley's most prominent venture capital firms announced Wednesday it is launching a new fund designed for entrepreneurs who have the talent, drive and ideas to build great businesses, but lack the background and resources to do so.

    In a blog post, the firm says it has been working on the fund for six months. However, the timing of the news this week is fortunate for an industry with a serious diversity problem.

    a16z plans to fund a small group of founders in the first year, then expand after that. The initial capital will come from $2.2 million in donations from partners. Ben and Felicia Horowitz will match up to an additional $5 from other donations as well. The firm will invest in exchange for equity in the business, but all returns will stay in the fund to finance future entrepreneurs, which aims to back products from underserved communities that also have an "interesting model, niche market, and/or a little traction to indicate the promise and potential."

    "We're venture capitalists, not activists," the firm said in its post. "Entrepreneurship hasn't been accessible to everyone, but the fact remains that being an entrepreneur is one of the most powerful ways to own your own future, to increase mobility across time and place, to invent new ways of doing things, and to forge a new system. As we emerge from this tragic moment, let's build.

    dot.LA co-founder and executive chairman Spencer Rascoff is a board partner at a16z.

    — Ben Bergman

    Snap removes Trump's account from its Discover feature

    Sam Blake

    Snap has decided to no longer feature President Donald Trump's account on its Discover platform, where users can watch curated videos.

    The Santa Monica-based company issued a statement Wednesday:

    "We are not currently promoting the President's content on Snapchat's Discover platform. We will not amplify voices who incite racial violence and injustice by giving them free promotion on Discover. Racial violence and injustice have no place in our society and we stand together with all who seek peace, love, equality, and justice in America."

    A Snap spokesperson said the company made the decision over the weekend. On Sunday, Snap CEO Even Spiegel wrote to his employees, condemning racial injustice. Read more >>

    — Sam Blake




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      🏰 Disney's Epic Investment Stands Out Amidst Gaming Industry Layoffs

      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.

      🔦 Spotlight

      In the midst of widespread gaming industry layoffs, a glimmer of positive news emerges as Disney announces a significant move: a $1.5 billion investment in Epic Games. 🏰💰🐭

      Image Source: Disney

      Disney's $1.5 billion investment in Epic Games, disclosed late Wednesday, signals a strategic alignment aimed at expanding the success of "Fortnite." The deal enhances Epic's growth prospects after financial setbacks, including layoffs, and strengthens the partnership between the two companies. With Disney gaining a larger equity stake in Epic, the collaboration will broaden the integration of beloved Disney franchises like Marvel, Star Wars, Pixar, and Avatar into the game, potentially boosting its appeal and longevity. This significant investment underscores Disney's commitment to interactive entertainment and signifies a shift towards games as a primary revenue stream, aligning with the growing trend of digital engagement among younger demographics. Moreover, the potential for crossover sales of physical Disney products within "Fortnite" and the exploration of new content distribution channels are just some of the opportunities arising from this partnership.

      For LA tech, the Disney-Epic Games partnership represents a validation of the region's burgeoning tech and gaming ecosystem. The substantial investment in Epic, who maintains a large Los Angeles office with 1,000+ employees (according to LinkedIn), reflects confidence in the LA’s talent pool and innovation potential. Additionally, this partnership between two industry giants fosters an environment for further collaboration, investment, and growth within LA's tech sector. As Disney and Epic Games deepen their ties and explore new avenues for content integration and distribution, it not only elevates the prominence of LA as a tech hub but also stimulates economic growth and job creation in the region. This partnership highlights LA's unique position as a hub where technology and entertainment converge. With its ability to integrate diverse industries, LA is driving innovation and expansion in digital entertainment. 🚀💸🎮

      🤝 Venture Deals

      LA Companies

      • ProducePay, a financing and marketplace platform for the fresh produce market, raised a $38M Series D led by Syngenta Group Ventures joined by Commonfund, Highgate Private Equity, G2 Venture Partners, Anterra Capital, Astanor Ventures, Endeavor8, Avenue Venture Opportunities, Avenue Sustainable Solutions, and Red Bear Angels. - learn more
      • Blush, an invite-only dating app that drives users to local businesses on dates, raised a $7M Seed Round from individuals like Naval Ravikant. - learn more
      • Mogul, a startup founded last year that provides an overview of an artist's royalty earnings and identifies areas where money is owed but has not yet been collected, raised a $1.9 million seed round from Wonder Ventures, United Talent Agency, AmplifyLA, and Creator Partners. - learn more
      • Avnos, a hybrid direct air capture startup, raised a $36M Series A led by NextEra Energy and joined by Safran Corporate Ventures, Shell Ventures, Envisioning Partners, and Rusheen Capital Management. - learn more
      • AI.fashion, startup whose mission is to help retailers enhance the online shopping experience by providing consumers with virtual try-ons and personalized fashion recommendations, raised a $3.6M Seed Round led by Neo. - learn more
      • Suma Wealth, startup that aims to demystify financial topics and provide culturally relevant content, virtual experiences, and resources to help Latino users navigate financial challenges and opportunities, raised a $2.2M Seed Round . Radicle Impact led, and was joined by Vamos Ventures, OVO fund and the American Heart Association Impact Fund. - learn more
      • 222, a startup that helps users discover their city and meet new people through unique social experiences, raised a $2.5M Seed Round. Investors included 1517 Fund, General Catalyst, Best Nights VC, Scrum Ventures, and Upfront Ventures. - learn more
      • LimaCharlie, a security operations cloud platform, raised a $10.2M Series A led by Sands Capital. - learn more
      • Polycam, an app that uses a smartphone’s sensors to capture 3D scans of objects, raised an $18M Series A co-led by Left Lane Capital and Adjacent, and joined by Adobe Ventures and individuals like Chad Hurley and Shaun Maguire. -learn more.

      LA Venture Funds

      Actively Raising

      • ReelCall, Inc., an entertainment technology company focused on powerful apps and platforms that help build and maintain the professional network of connections vital to career growth, is raising a $850K Pre-Seed Round. - learn more
      • CZero, a startup building software to decarbonize logistics for logistics businesses and goods business through a vetted marketplace and optimization software. - learn more
      • Couri, a technology startup addressing last-mile delivery issues, is raising a $450K Pre-Seed Round at a $2.2M post money valuation. - learn more
      • Sweetie, a marketplace to help people plan date nights, is raising a $1.5M Pre Seed Round. - learn more
      • StartupStarter, an investment platform that provides real-time data and analytics on startups, is raising an $850K Angel Round. - learn more

      If you’re a founder raising money in Los Angeles, give us a shout, and we’d love to include you in the newsletter!

      Venture Waves, Climate Tech Wins, and Silicon Beach's Ongoing Evolution

      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.

      Anduril Seeks $1.5B in VC Funds

      Defense company Anduril Industries Inc., based in Costa Mesa and founded by Palmer Luckey, is seeking to raise $1.5 billion in fresh funds to boost its valuation to $12.5 billion or more, according to sources quoted by The Information. This fundraising effort, if successful, would mark one of the largest venture capital rounds of the year.

      Image Source: Anduril

      Anduril recently secured a contract to develop and test small unmanned fighter jet prototypes under the Air Force’s Collaborative Combat Aircraft (CCA) program, beating out major defense companies like Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and Northrop Grumman. Alongside General Atomics, Anduril will design, manufacture, and test these aircraft, with a final multibillion-dollar production decision expected in fiscal year 2026. This program aims to deliver at least 1,000 combat aircraft to fly in concert with manned platforms and is part of the Air Force’s Next Generation Air Dominance initiative. Central to Anduril’s success in this contract is the Fury autonomous air vehicle, acquired through the purchase of Blue Force Technologies. This victory underscores Anduril's rapid advancement in the defense sector, aligning with Luckey's vision of building faster and more cost-effective defense assets. - learn more

      Los Angeles Ranks Number 1 in Emerging Climate Tech Hub

      The 2024 Emerging Climate Tech Hubs Report by Revolution highlights Los Angeles as a burgeoning center for climate tech innovation. LA's growth in this sector is driven by its diverse talent pool, strong research institutions, and a culture of environmental consciousness. The city's unique mix of legacy industries, such as entertainment and aerospace, alongside emerging tech companies, positions it as a pivotal player in the climate tech landscape. This shift reflects a broader trend of decentralized climate tech funding across the U.S., reducing the historical dominance of California's traditional hubs. - learn more

      Silicon Beach: Looking Back, Moving Forward

      Assessing the overall health of the startup market is challenging, especially as venture capital funding has decreased by an average of 61% from 2021 to 2023 across the top VC markets in the US. Markets with robust ecosystems in AI, SaaS, Biotech, Healthtech, and Fintech appear to be weathering the downturn better than those focused on Consumer and Gaming industries, areas where Los Angeles traditionally excels.

      Percent Change In VC Funding By Region

      CB Insights

      LA Times paints a rather bleak outlook on the Los Angeles tech scene noting venture capital funding in Greater Los Angeles plummeted 73% from 2021 to 2022. Silicon Beach, once a vibrant tech corridor, currently faces high vacancy rates and lacks late-stage financiers, especially in the AI sector. However, there are positive signs, including growth in aerospace startups and increased venture capital investment in early 2024, suggesting a potential rebound for LA's tech ecosystem.

      While LA may not be exceeding expectations during this period, its tech ecosystem warrants a nuanced evaluation, given the broader market dynamics and its strong performance in specific sectors. Reach out to us with your thoughts.

      🚀 SpaceX gears up for another stellar year, active raises, and more

      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.

      Happy Friday Los Angeles! You made it through the first week of 2024!

      🔦 Spotlight

      Elon Musk may be a divisive (albeit entertaining) figure, but the continued success of SpaceX is pivotal for the aerospace industry in Los Angeles and more broadly around the world.

      Image Source: SpaceX webcast

      What happened with SpaceX in 2023?

      • Elon Musk challenged Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg to a cage fight.
      • SpaceX launched 96 successful missions with its Falcon series of rockets, a 57% increase over its previous annual record.
      • SpaceX conducted two test flights of the largest and most powerful rocket ever built, Starship.
      • Roughly two-thirds of SpaceX's launches in 2023 were devoted to building out Starlink, the company's satellite-internet megaconstellation.
      • Isaacson’s Elon Musk biography was published in September including everything from Musk’s tumultuous relationship with his father to his work ethic and “demon mode”.

      Moving forward what can we expect from SpaceX and its controversial founder? Continued innovation pushing the aerospace industry to new limits? Yes. More drama? Without a doubt.

      Here is some of what is to come in 2024:

      🤝 Venture Deals

      Just Announced

      Check back next week!

      LA Exits

      • CG Oncology, an Irvine, CA-based developer of immunotherapies for bladder cancer, filed for a $100M IPO. It plans to list on the Nasdaq (CGON) with Morgan Stanley as left lead underwriter, and has raised around $317m in VC funding. - learn more
      • McNally Capital agreed to sell Advanced Micro Instruments, a Costa Mesa, CA-based maker of gas analyzers and sensing technologies, to Enpro (NYSE: NPO). - learn more

      Actively Raising

      • ReelCall, Inc., an entertainment technology company focused on powerful apps and platforms that help build and maintain the professional network of connections vital to career growth, is raising a $850K Pre-Seed Round. - learn more
      • CZero, a hard-tech startup that is developing a technology for decarbonizing natural gas, is raising a $1.5M Seed Round. - learn more
      • Couri, a technology startup addressing last-mile delivery issues, is raising a $450K Pre-Seed Round at a $2.2M post money valuation. - learn more
      • Sweetie, a marketplace to help people plan date nights, is raising a $250K Angel Round. - learn more
      • StartupStarter, an investment platform that provides real-time data and analytics on startups, is raising an $850K Angel Round. - learn more

      If you’re a founder raising money in Los Angeles, give us a shout, and we’d love to include you in the newsletter!

      📅 LA Tech Calendar

      Sunday, January 7th

      Wednesday, January 10th

      • Startup Cafe: Networking with a Kick - Entrepreneurs, Startups, and Tech Enthusiasts join together to meet and connect with like-minded people, industry professionals and investors, while enjoying a nice cup of coffee in Venice at The KINN. This week’s interactive discussion about AI’s evolution in entertainment will feature Dr. Sam Khoze and Rachel Joy Victor.
      • Venice Tech Happy Hour- Join Startup Coil and FoundrHaus Wednesday evening and enjoy the sunset from the rooftop, grab a bite overlooking Abbot Kinney, and mingle with other tech enthusiasts and entrepreneurs by the bar on the patio.

      Have an awesome event coming up? Reach out to be featured on next week’s Newsletter!

      📙 What We’re Reading

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