How Grid110's Miki Reynolds Helps Founders Get Their Footing

Francesca Billington

Francesca Billington is a freelance reporter. Prior to that, she was a general assignment reporter for dot.LA and has also reported for KCRW, the Santa Monica Daily Press and local publications in New Jersey. She graduated from Princeton in 2019 with a degree in anthropology.

Miki Reynolds, founder of Grid110

From her home office in downtown, Miki Reynolds is trying to build an accelerator that looks like Los Angeles.

Reynolds, a tech and digital marketing veteran, founded the nonprofit Grid110 six years ago as an incubator for fashion tech brands. But she soon expanded to help a range of founders find their footing in L.A.'s tech and startup scene. Unlike most accelerators, it doesn't take equity in each company.


"There is no marching towards a demo day performance or presentation," Reynolds said of the 12-week virtual accelerator. "It's really allowing the founders themselves to describe what they're looking to accomplish. Then we try to see how we can help them get there."

Of the 200 companies she's put through the program, 70% are led by women and 70% by a founder of color. Following her mission also means expanding the industry's scope beyond Santa Monica and Venice, the once-default hubs for new companies and investors.

Grid110 runs three to four programs each year. The 15 startups chosen for this round represent a range of industries. Among them is the San Pedro-based biotech company Spira, which uses gene editing on algae to make food dyes and Folkicks, an online marketplace of shoes and clothing for Mexican folk dancers.

Founders in the accelerator hail from across the city from Highland Park to Culver City.

And, Reynolds said, her accelerator is one that "better reflects the city of Los Angeles and the world that we know it as."

"We recognized that most of the community and the events and co-working spaces — even the venture community — were largely centered on the Westside," she said.

Here is a look at Grid110's 21st cohort:

Barterr logo

Barterr

Barterr wants to make sneaker trading safer, easier and fairer.

The company acts as a middleman between two users hoping to trade shoes. After agreeing on a trade, users send the shoes to Barterr, which then uses a third-party to authenticate each shoe before sending the shoes to their new owners.

Founder Terrence Whaley told dot.LA that many shoe collectors want to trade their shoes through local Facebook groups or other sneaker forums, but are dissuaded either because they don't know how or receive poor offers.

Barterr hopes to set itself apart from a crowded sneaker marketplace industry with its algorithm to help users identify fair trades, he said.

"People don't know what equal value is," he said. "We want to basically be the single source of truth for what an equal and fair value trade is."

The company currently offers a desktop app, and plans to release IOS and Android apps within the year.

BurritoBreak logo

BurritoBreak

Founded by Claudia Barrera and Laura Barrera, two sisters born in Los Angeles and raised in Mexico, BurritoBreak sells small, grab-and-go $2 burritos targeted to both essential workers and office workers in Downtown LA.

The company, which has one brick-and-mortar location and two sidewalk vending locations, was inspired by the food stands the two saw in Mexico that sold food that was both affordable and fresh.

"That's something that was missing here," Claudia Barrera told dot.LA. "And I feel like it's missing all around the country."

Dirty Cookie

Founded by Shahira Marei, Dirty Cookie makes edible shot glasses made out of cookies. The glasses, lined with an interior layer of chocolate, are meant to hold any liquid, from milk to alcohol.

Folkicks logo

Folkicks

Folkicks wants to help Mexican-Americans who perform Folklorico, traditional Mexican folk dances, reconnect with their Mexican roots. Founded by Rafael Valero, the company sells made-in-Mexican footwear and dancewear to Folklorio dancers in the U.S.

FYBRAA logo

FYBRAA

South Gate-based FYBRAA aims to prevent clothes from reaching the landfill. Founded by Erica Dwerlkotte, the company picks up unwanted clothes for a $5 fee and either resells the clothes on Poshmark or repurposes the clothes as fabric.

Gthr

Founded by Noah Wossen and Trevor Brown, Gthr is a social media network aimed at cyclists. The company's IOS app lets cyclists find riding partners with similar riding habits, message other riders in the area, post photos and log rides.

Jazz Hands For Autism logo

Jazz Hands For Autism

Founded by Ifunanya Nweke, Jazz Hands For Autism is a Culver City-based nonprofit that helps musicians on the autism spectrum get their foot in the music industry through job placement programs, music learning programs and concerts.

Kif & Co logo

Kif & Co

Founded by Linda Hsu and Caroline Brain, Kif & co sells probiotic fermented soft drinks.

Mina Health

Mina Health bills itself as a one-stop shop for menopause. The company sells at-home menopause test kits, which it says is less expensive and easier to use than lab-run tests. Mina Health is also aiming to provide menopause treatment services.

MSTRPLN logo

MSTRPLN

After successfully paying off six-figures of student loan debt in two years, founder Aja Dang understands the importance of planners and journals. Her company, MSTRPLN, sells digital and physical planners aimed to help professionals plan their personal, professional and financial lives.

Of The Night logo

Of The Night

Two friends started Of The Night in the throes of the pandemic to help party animals quarantined at home let loose.

Now, the Los Angeles-based company is hoping to take their party packages nationwide. Founded by Blake Harrison and Courtney Nichols, Of The Night sells "party packages" that include drinks, costumes and activities meant to provide a one-night experience for customers.

Each package is centered around a distinct theme – previous themes have included a garden gnome-themed package and a Prince-inspired Valentine's Day package. The packages are also popular among LGBTQ community, Harrison said, in part because of how eccentric each package is designed to be.

"Frankly, that's who we know and who we are, we've always been involved with the queer space so it was a no-brainer," Harrison told dot.LA.

The company, which first blossomed in Los Angeles, is hoping to grow its market in other major metropolitan cities and begin to tailor their packages to post-pandemic life. Now, Nichols said, the company is also aiming to target people who feel overworked.

"So, everyone," Harrison added.

Rooted Fare logo

Rooted Fare

Founded by Ashley Xie, the daughter of Chinese immigrants, Rooted Fare wants to help immigrant chefs bring traditional cultural sauces to the market. Rooted Fare partners with immigrant chefs to help them market and commercialize their sauces, and sells the sauces on their site.

Rosecrans Ventures logo

Rosecrans Ventures

Founded by Halleemah Nash, Rosecrans Ventures offers career counseling and job placement opportunities for underrepresented early-career workers.

Named after Rosecrans Avenue, a street that runs through Nash's hometown of Compton, the company also works with organizations to help workforces improve their diversity including PUMA, the California Department of Correction and the American Chemical Society.

An increased focus on diversity, Nash told dot.LA, will help empower a Generation Z workforce that is more diverse than previous generations.

"The idea of coaching and placing and empowering meaningful workforces for the underrepresented I think is necessary if we really want to get real about what the future workforce is going to look like," she said. "It's them."

Spira logo

Spira

Based out of San Pedro, Spira uses CRISPR gene editing technology on algae to make dyes for cooking and clothing. Company founders Elliot Roth, Surjan Singh and Pierre Wensel say their process is less resource intensive than other methods to create dyes.

The Petal Effect logo

The Petal Effect

The Petal Effect is a Los Angeles-based boutique flower company that sells customizable flower arrangements. Founded by Tobore Oweh, the company offers deliveries, home and office subscription services and other floral installations.

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LA Venture: Dangerous Ventures’ Gaby Darbyshire On ‘Shining a Bright Light’ on Difficult Problems

Minnie Ingersoll
Minnie Ingersoll is a partner at TenOneTen and host of the LA Venture podcast. Prior to TenOneTen, Minnie was the COO and co-founder of $100M+ Shift.com, an online marketplace for used cars. Minnie started her career as an early product manager at Google. Minnie studied Computer Science at Stanford and has an MBA from HBS. She recently moved back to L.A. after 20+ years in the Bay Area and is excited to be a part of the growing tech ecosystem of Southern California. In her space time, Minnie surfs baby waves and raises baby people.
​Gaby Darbyshire
Gaby Darbyshire

On this episode of the LA Venture podcast, Dangerous Ventures founder and General Partner Gaby Darbyshire explains how her background as the co-founder of a pioneering digital publisher set the stage for her interest in climate technology.


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‘House of the Dragon’ Visual Effects Artists Reveal Drogon and Seasmoke Are Indeed Cut From the Same Cloth

Andria Moore

Andria is the Social and Engagement Editor for dot.LA. She previously covered internet trends and pop culture for BuzzFeed, and has written for Insider, The Washington Post and the Motion Picture Association. She obtained her bachelor's in journalism from Auburn University and an M.S. in digital audience strategy from Arizona State University. In her free time, Andria can be found roaming LA's incredible food scene or lounging at the beach.

Caraxes dragon
HBO Max

Last night, House of the Dragon took home the award for best TV drama at the Golden Globes. With a budget of around $20 million per episode, the widely popular HBO series was a huge accomplishment on the part of the cast, crew, and of course…the VFX team tasked with bringing the dragons to life.

To do so, requires modeling the dragons after already existing animals. For example, in episode two of the HBO series, the audience is first introduced to Daemon’s (Matt Smith) maroon dragon Caraxes. The beast appears on screen with piercing eyes and snake-like movements that immediately establish its cunning character.

HBO Max

According to Mike Bell, visual effects supervisor at Moving Picture Company (MPC) Caraxes was largely based on the awkwardness of “a greyhound [dog] laying down or sitting.”

The thinking there, according to Bell, was that Caraxes isn’t meant to be lying down. “Caraxes is supposed to be flying,” said Bell. “Which is why he has that kind of almost snake-like animation.”

But for visual effects artists, the process of taking the dragon from conception to the screen is easier said than done. Unlike its predecessor which only had three, House of the Dragon had 10 dragons shown on screen just in Season 1. The construction of each alone can take three to four months, according to lead VFX Supervisor Angus Bickerton.

“For the first couple of months, we were just designing the dragons basically,” he said. “So we were collating lots of real world references, and Miguel [Sapochnik] and Ryan [Condal] were very keen to follow George R.R. Martin's belief that the dragons should all be quite distinctive, and more colorful than they were before, and have quite definitive characters.”

One of the most complicated sequences for the VFX team was also one of the most visually stunning for viewers: Vhagar and Arrax’s fight scene at the end of the season finale. Bickerton said before any production or filming takes place, the team spends a few days on set just scoping out and marking the scene.

HBO Max

“We had to kind of work out the flight path,” Bickerton explained. “We knew that they were arriving and leaving Storms End. And we found a location in Iceland…so we used that as our design, and then we plotted out what the chase would be.”

The VFX team then used virtual production software, Cyclops, created by visualization studio Third Floor, to map out a rough draft of what the scene would look like. Cyclops uses augmented reality and game engine tech to overlay CGI assets over live video in real time. Basically, Cyclops displays a quick rendering of what a dragon or building would look like in a scene, so the cast and crew know their marks and can visualize the layout.

“That allows [Director] Greg [Yaitanes] and his DOP, Pepe Avila del Pino, to come in and use the iPad to explore and find shots rather than, you know, an animator sitting at a desk.”

Lux Machina, a visual technology studio headquartered in Los Angeles, worked to stage many of the sequences on set before and during filming.

“[Engine operators] are doing a lot of things like recording and capturing the data that we're shooting on set,” explained Julia Lou, engine technical director and virtual production supervisor for Lux Machina. “So recording things like where the camera was, and any lens metadata, and taking snapshots of what the settings were and stuff like that.”

After staging is complete, Lou works in real time with the VFX team to operate the visual effect assets that take place in real time during filming.

Once the scenes are staged and mapped out, on-set visual effects supervisor Ed Hawkins is responsible for ensuring that filming aligns with the VFX team’s request. Lighting cues and camera angles have to be “pretty meticulously planned out,” according to Hawkins, so that it matches what the VFX team will create in post-production. And two dragons with two riders for a fight scene like the finale means two separate shoots.

“That was one of the more complicated sequences,” Hawkins said. To create it, all the actions of the dragons and the camera movements were pre-planned using a revolutionary form of VFX technology that offers a major upgrade to the traditional green screen. Rather than placing the actors in front of a green screen and building out the special effects in post-production, the team uses huge LED panels that surround a physical set that display whatever background image is required. The “volume,” as the technology is referred to, can also respond to camera movements.

“Also in that particular setup (the finale), it was quite challenging because we had a lot of rain and wind and smoke, which you wouldn't normally put into a volume, because it's a big, expensive computer screen,” Hawkins explained.

That said, even with all this state of the art technology, creating 10 dragons with distinct features and unique personalities is no easy task. In fact, Bickerton confesses that the team did reuse one dragon from the old series: Drogon, Queen Daenerys’s most famous dragon in Game of Thrones.

“When I joined, I was handed an old fashioned, big hard drive with about eight terabytes of accumulated assets and data from ‘Game of Thrones,’” says Bickerton. “We tried to glean as much as we could from those assets. And one of the key assets, of course, was Drogon himself.”

One thing Bell said he’d like to work on if he comes back for Season 2, is continuing to build the dragons in more detail and hone in more on their personalities and corresponding movements.

“I'd like to see how Caraxes’s character develops because he’s such an incredibly unique dragon, different from everyone else,” he said.

With the rapid improvement in VFX technology, it’s possible fans will see even more of the dragons in future seasons. Having worked as the lead on the first and last two Harry Potter movies, Hawkins said those films are an excellent example of the evolution of visual effect technology.

“If you look at those sequences of films, you can almost see the whole arc of the way the industry has changed,” Hawkins explained. “Because, you know, the first film was shot on film, there was a lot of models and practical effects. But as it went through the sequence of builds, Hogwarts became a digital asset. It's literally the whole arc of going from the beginnings of digital effects to where we are now.”

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