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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      NASA’s JPL Receives Billions to Begin Understanding Our Solar System

      Samson Amore

      Samson Amore is a reporter for dot.LA. He holds a degree in journalism from Emerson College and previously covered technology and entertainment for TheWrap and reported on the SoCal startup scene for the Los Angeles Business Journal. Send tips or pitches to samsonamore@dot.la and find him on Twitter @Samsonamore.

      NASA’s JPL Receives Billions to Begin Understanding Our Solar System
      Evan Xie

      NASA’s footprint in California is growing as the agency prepares for Congress to approve its proposed 2024 budget.

      The overall NASA budget swelled 6% from the prior year, JPL deputy director Larry James told dot.LA. He added he sees that as a continuation of the last two presidential administrations’ focus on modernizing and bolstering the nation’s space program.

      The money goes largely to existing NASA centers in California, including the Pasadena-based Jet Propulsion Laboratory run with Caltech, Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley and Armstrong Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base.

      California remains a hotspot for NASA space activity and investment. In 2021, the agency estimated its economic output impact on the region to be around $15.2 billion. That was far more than its closest competing states, including Texas ($9.3 billion) and Maryland (roughly $8 billion). That same year, NASA reported it employed over 66,000 people in California.

      “In general, Congress has been very supportive” of the JPL and NASA’s missions, James said. “It’s generally bipartisan [and] supported by both sides of the aisle. In the last few years in general NASA has been able to have increased budgets.”

      There are 41 current missions run by JPL and CalTech, and another 16 scheduled for the future. James added the new budget is “an incredible support for all the missions we want to do.”

      The public-private partnership between NASA and local space companies continues to evolve, and the increased budget could be a boon for LA-based developers. Numerous contractors for NASA (including CalTech, which runs the JPL), Boeing, Lockheed Martin, SpaceX and Northrop Grumman all stand to gain new contracts once the budget is finalized, partly because NASA simply needs the private industry’s help to achieve all its goals.

      James said that there was only one JPL mission that wasn’t funded – a mission to send an orbital satellite to survey the surface and interior of Venus, called VERITAS.

      NASA Employment and Output ImpactEvan Xie

      The Moon and Mars

      Much of the money earmarked in the proposed 2024 budget is for crewed missions. Overall, NASA’s asking for $8 billion from Congress to fund lunar exploration missions. As part of this, the majority is earmarked for the upcoming Artemis mission, which aims to land a woman and person of color on the Moon’s south pole.

      While there’s a number of high-profile missions the JPL is working on that are focused on Mars, including Mars Sample Return project (which received $949 million in this proposed budget) and Ingenuity helicopter and Perseverance rover, JPL also received significant funding to study the Earth’s climate and behavior.

      JPL also got funding for several projects to map our universe. One is the SphereX Near Earth Objects surveyor mission, the goal of which is to use telescopes to “map the entire universe,” James said, adding that the mission was fully funded.

      International Space Station

      NASA’s also asking for more money to maintain the International Space Station (ISS), which houses a number of projects dedicated to better understanding the Earth’s climate and behavior.

      The agency requested roughly $1.3 billion to maintain the ISS. It also is increasing its investment in space flight support, in-space transportation and commercial development of low-earth orbit (LEO). “The ISS is an incredible platform for us,” James said.

      James added there are multiple missions outside or on board the ISS now taking data, including EMIT, which launched in July 2022. The EMIT mission studies arid dust sources on the planet using spectroscopy. It uses that data to remodel how mineral dust movement in North and South America might affect the Earth’s temperature changes.

      Another ISS mission JPL launched is called ECOSTRESS. The mission sent a thermal radiometer onto the space station in June 2018 to monitor how plants lose water through their leaves, with the goal of figuring out how the terrestrial biosphere reacts to changes in water availability. James said the plan is to “tell you the kind of foliage health around the globe” from space.

      One other ISS project is called Cold Atom Lab. It is “an incredible fundamental physics machine,” James said, that’s run by “three Nobel Prize winners as principal investigators on the Space Station.” Cold Atom Lab is a physics experiment geared toward figuring out how quantum phenomena behave in space by cooling atoms with lasers to just below absolute zero degrees.

      In the long term, James was optimistic NASA’s imaging projects could lead to more dramatic discoveries. Surveying the makeup of planets’ atmospheres is a project “in the astrophysics domain we’re very excited about,” James said. He added that this imaging could lead to information about life on other planets, or, at the very least, an understanding of why they’re no longer habitable.

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      Behind Her Empire: Margaret Wishingrad On Creating A Low Sugar Cereal Brand

      Decerry Donato

      Decerry Donato is a reporter at dot.LA. Prior to that, she was an editorial fellow at the company. Decerry received her bachelor's degree in literary journalism from the University of California, Irvine. She continues to write stories to inform the community about issues or events that take place in the L.A. area. On the weekends, she can be found hiking in the Angeles National forest or sifting through racks at your local thrift store.

      Behind Her Empire: Margaret Wishingrad On Creating A Low Sugar Cereal Brand
      Provided by BHE

      On this episode of Behind Her Empire, Three Wishes founder and CEO Margaret Wishingrad talks about creating brand awareness and shares the key component to running a successful business.

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      If Angelenos Don’t Seize the Curb, They Risk Losing Sidewalk Dining

      Maylin Tu
      Maylin Tu is a freelance writer who lives in L.A. She writes about scooters, bikes and micro-mobility. Find her hovering by the cheese at your next local tech mixer.
      Connie Llanos, Jordan Justus and Gene Oh
      Justin Janes, Vizeos Media

      Three years ago, Los Angeles went into lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, cities like L.A. are struggling to hold on to pandemic-era transportation and infrastructure changes, like sidewalk dining and slow streets, while managing escalating demand for curb space from rideshare and delivery.

      At Curbivore, a conference dedicated to “commerce at the curb” held earlier this month in downtown Los Angeles, the topic was “Grading on a Curb: The State of our Streets & Cities in 2023,” a panel moderated by Drew Grant, editorial director for dot.LA.

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