LA Tech Updates: Starbucks, Obama Alums Join Sweetgreen Board: GOAT Ad Airs During NBA Playoffs

Ben Bergman

Ben Bergman is the newsroom's senior finance reporter. Previously he was a senior business reporter and host at KPCC, a senior producer at Gimlet Media, a producer at NPR's Morning Edition, and produced two investigative documentaries for KCET. He has been a frequent on-air contributor to business coverage on NPR and Marketplace and has written for The New York Times and Columbia Journalism Review. Ben was a 2017-2018 Knight-Bagehot Fellow in Economic and Business Journalism at Columbia Business School. In his free time, he enjoys skiing, playing poker, and cheering on The Seattle Seahawks.

LA Tech Updates: Starbucks, Obama Alums Join Sweetgreen Board: GOAT Ad Airs During NBA Playoffs

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:

  • GOAT Uses NBA Playoffs to Launch Brand Campaign
  • Jarrett and Burrows Join Sweetgreen Board

      GOAT Uses NBA Playoffs to Launch Brand Campaign

      Online sneaker reseller GOAT will air their first television ad campaign during the NBA playoffs this week as the fast-growing Culver City company looks to build its audience beyond sneaker heads.

      The company has been amping up their buzz around the profitable NBA market, where players like LeBron James are tastemakers and drive sales for shoe companies, since it scored a $100 million investment from tennis shoe giant retailer Footlocker.

      Since then, GOAT sealed a deal with the Brooklyn Nets allowing it to plaster the signage, content and more along the team's path during home and away games. It extended its agreement with Los Angeles Lakers Kyle Kuzma to represent the brand by wearing their shoes and apparel. And earlier this year, GOAT added Rui Hachimura of the Washington Wizards, 2019 rookie of the year, as a brand representative.

      The 30-second ad directed by Daniel Sannwald, who has worked with Rhianna, Travis Scott and Nike, opens up with a sound like a live wire that breaks into a beat and features a battery of silhouettes in sneakers and oversized coats. Sneakers, apparel accessories, the ad reads then says. Past, present, future.

      Begun by college friends five years ago, GOAT tapped into the massive sneaker resale market with a platform that "authenticates" shoes. It has since expanded into apparel and accessories and states that it has 20 million members.

      Venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz ranked the company 16 on its top 100 largest and fastest-growing consumer startups and private companies earlier this year.

      GOAT takes its name from the sports acronym for "Greatest of All Time."

      Jarrett and Burrows Join Sweetgreen Board

      Valerie Jarrett, a former senior advisor to President Barack Obama, has joined Sweetgreen's board of directors, along with Cliff Burrows, former group president of Starbucks' Siren Retail business, which includes the coffee maker's Reserve Roasteries and Princi bakeries.

      Jarrett is currently is a Senior Distinguished Fellow at the University of Chicago Law School and a senior advisor to the Obama Foundation.

      Last month, Sweetgreen's CEO, Jonathan Neman, told dot.LA his goal was to build the company into being the "Starbucks of real food."

      Burrows spent two decades at Starbucks before exiting last year and was most recently responsible for elevating the customer and employee experience. Prior to that, he was Group President of Starbucks Coffee U.S. and Americas and President of the U.S. Retail Operation.

      In May, Sweetgreen brought on Chris Carr, a former Starbucks executive, as its chief operating officer.

      The hires come as Sweetgreen, valued at $1.6 billion, seeks to expand well beyond its current 108 stores to over 1,000 locations.

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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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      PCH Driven: Director Jason Wise Talks Wine, Documentaries, and His New Indie Streaming Service SOMMTV

      Jamie Williams
      ­Jamie Williams is the host of the “PCH Driven” podcast, a show about Southern California entrepreneurs, innovators and its driven leaders on their road to success. The series celebrates and reveals the wonders of the human spirit and explores the motivations behind what drives us.
      Jason Wise holding wine glass
      Image courtesy of Jason Wise

      Jason Wise may still consider himself a little kid, but the 33-year-old filmmaker is building an IMDB page that rivals colleagues twice his age.

      As the director behind SOMM, SOMM2, SOMM3, and the upcoming SOMM4, Wise has made a career producing award-winning documentary films that peer deep into the wine industry in Southern California and around the world.

      On this episode of the PCH Driven podcast, he talks about life growing up in Cleveland as a horrible student, filmmaking, Los Angeles and his latest entrepreneurial endeavor: A streaming service called SOMMTV that features–what else?–documentaries about wine.

      The conversation covers some serious ground, but the themes of wine and film work to anchor the discussion, and Wise dispenses bits of sage filmmaking advice.

      “With a documentary you can just start filming right now,” he says. “That’s how SOMM came about. I got tossed into that world during the frustration of trying to make a different film, and I just started filming it, because no one could stop me because I was paying for it myself. That’s the thing with docs,” or “The good thing about SOMM is that you can explain it in one sentence: ‘The hardest test in the world is about wine, and you’ve never heard about it.’”

      …Or at least maybe you hadn’t before he made his first film. Now with three SOMM documentaries under his belt, Wise is nearing completion of “SOMM4: Cup of Salvation,” which examines the history of wine’s relationship with religion. Wise says it’s “a wild film,” that spans multiple countries, the Vatican and even an active warzone. As he puts it, the idea is to show that “wine is about every subject,” rather than “every subject is about wine.”

      For Wise, the transition to launching his own streaming service came out of his frustration with existing platforms holding too much power over the value of the content he produces.

      “Do we want Netflix to tell us what our projects are worth or do we want the audience to do that?” he asks.

      But unlike giants in the space, SOMMTV has adopted a gradual approach of just adding small bits of content as they develop. Without the need to license 500 or 1,000 hours of programming, Wise has been able to basically bootstrap SOMMTV and provide short form content and other more experimental offerings that typically get passed over by the Hulus and Disneys of the world.

      So far, he says, the experiment is working, and now Wise is looking to raise some serious capital to keep up with the voracious appetites of his subscribers.

      “Send those VCs my way,” Wise jokes.

      Subscribe to PCH Driven on Apple, Stitcher, Spotify, iHeart, Google or wherever you get your podcasts.

      dot.LA reporter David Shultz contributed to this report.

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