HopSkipDrive Wins Startup of the Year at dot.LA's Second Annual Startup Awards

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.

HopSkipDrive Wins Startup of the Year at dot.LA's Second Annual Startup Awards

Downtown Los Angeles-based HopSkipDrive, a mobility startup that aims to be a kid-friendly Uber service for school-age students, won startup of the year at dot.LA's second annual startup awards.


Winners were announced at the dot.LA Summit. Judges voted for their picks for the most-deserving companies and individuals in six categories, including rising entrepreneur, top rising startup and entrepreneur of the year.

"It's such an honor to be included among all the impressive companies nominated for this award," Katrina Kardassakis, HopSkipDrive's vice president of business operations, said during her acceptance speech. "We are a youth transportation solution on a mission to create opportunity for all through mobility, and so we're focused on serving vulnerable populations, including kids in the foster care system, kids experiencing homelessness and kids with special needs or anyone who needs a little extra care to get where they need to go."

Kardassakis added that HopSkipDrive is currently focused on providing a potential solution to the ongoing shortage of bus drivers across the country, which is leading to backlogs in getting kids to and from school as the transportation industry struggles to retain workers and rebound from the coronavirus pandemic.

Finalists for the 2021 Startup of the Year Award included Universal Hydrogen, a company that's working to make planes that run on clean energy; Long Beach-based Rocket Lab, a reusable rocket manufacturer and small satellite launcher that looks to compete with SpaceX; ChowNow, a commission-free online ordering platform for restaurants and Crexi, a platform for streamlining commercial real estate transactions.

Check out the full list of nominees and winners for dot.LA's 2021 Startup Awards below.


Pivot of the Year: Potion

This award celebrates a startup's ability to revamp by changing its business model and strategy in the face of adversity.

Finalists:

  • Triller
  • Behold
  • GiveSum
  • Potion — Winner
  • Struct Club

Social Justice Award: Grid110

This award recognizes a company or individual who has made the biggest impact on driving social justice to create a positive, significant and sustainable impact.

Finalists:

  • All Voices
  • Cheese
  • SoLa Impact
  • Hacker Fund
  • Grid110 — Winner

Rising Entrepreneur: Krista Berlincourt

This entrepreneur is new in the LA startup scene and has emerged as a forward thinking innovator and leader. Despite his/her age, the Entrepreneur of the year has a pioneering spirit and a promising future.

Finalists:

  • Clash App, Brandon McNerney
  • Lolly, Marc Baghadjian and Sacha Schermerhorn
  • Kona, Sid Pandiya
  • Kensho Health, Krista Berlincourt — Winner
  • Seed, Ara Katz

Rising Startup: Invisible Universe

Sponsored by TriNet

This startup is less than two years of age from incorporation and has shown major development based on market growth, innovation and impact of products and services. This newcomer has the greatest potential to disrupt its market and global tech community.

Finalists:

    • Elude
    • Returnmates
    • Dogdrop
    • Invisible Universe — Winner
    • Launch House
    Alex Israel

    Entrepreneur of the Year: Alex Israel

    This entrepreneur has a fearless spirit while their partners, teammates and clients are inspired by their vision on a daily basis. They have made notable achievements this past year in regards to funds raised, sales, impact of product and leadership in the tech ecosystem.

    Finalists:

      • Heather Hasson and Trina Spear, FIGS
      • Cathy Zoi, EVgo
      • Alex Israel, Metropolis — Winner
      • Dakota Semler, Xos Truck
      • Jason Wilk, Dave

      Startup of the Year: HopSkipDrive

      This company has shown the greatest development over the past year based on innovation and impact with goods and services. This startup has the most promising potential for an exit and potential to reach unicorn status.

      Finalists:

        • HopSkipDrive — Winner
        • Universal Hydrogen
        • Rocket Lab
        • ChowNow
        • Crexi

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        Patron’s Jason Yeh Says The ‘Future of the Consumer Internet’ Will Look More Like a Game

        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.
        Jason yeh profile picture
        Jason Yeh

        On this episode of the LA Venture podcast, Patron co-founder and General Partner Jason Yeh discusses the technology driving internet innovation and a user-centered approach.

        “At Patron we describe our thesis as the spectrum of play,” he said. “And so for us, it's kind of thinking about what the future of the consumer internet looks like. We believe that it's going to be more fun, social, interactive.”

        As the former head of EU Sports at Riot Games, Yeh was in charge of shepherding the “League of Legends” game to players around the world. Much of his work and experience in that role influenced how he views interactive media and informs his investment decisions at Patron.

        “This was just before Zynga had come out,” he explained. “And so it was still pretty counterintuitive to invest in a PC game, or to invest in this kind of idea of a free to play online game.”

        Riot Games bet correctly, and their investment in a gaming format that could grow and evolve alongside its players challenged traditional ways of thinking about gaming marketing.

        “It changed the course of how people build live services around games, and how you can use this business model to actually scale a really large business,” Yeh said.

        But “League of Legends” wasn’t successful right away, and the Riot team worked hard to market their game to the correct audience. In addition to self-publishing the game in “almost every market around the world,” Yeh says he and his team paid close attention to the community of gamers.

        “From very early on as a company, we focused on harnessing and being part of the community and using the community itself to help make the game more fun,” he said.

        Yeh’s experience at Riot taught him the value of understanding your audience inside and out. Now, on the investment end of things at Patron, he is turning his sights to Web3.

        “One thing that we've seen consistently is this idea that — similar to how we viewed gaming as a lens that can make the internet more social and fun — is this idea that Web3 and blockchain can be a technology that allows for a better version of the internet,” he said.

        At Patron, Yeh believes in the importance of giving an audience more ownership and personalization in their online experience. He believes the shortcoming of many big media companies like Meta and YouTube is that they are becoming stagnant in improving user experiences and instead focusing their time and resources on advertising.

        “If anything, it's like we've spent a lot of our best time and efforts to make advertising more targeted, or to see slightly more specific ads,” Yeh explained. “And so a lot of the core business model around the internet is still, how do I aggregate people's attention?”

        Yeh believes that blockchain provides an alternative — a way for companies to get the biggest bang for their buck and users to get the most out of the products. For example, an avid Taylor Swift fan might spend hundreds of thousands of hours listening to the artist, but still, when a new album is released, their listening experience is the same as anyone else.

        “One thing that we think blockchain enables is this idea that people can get more credit for the things that they do online, whether it's on chain or off chain,” Yeh continued. “This idea that there should be better ways to segment user bases, and kind of allow them to accrue value for the things that they've already done online to give them a slightly better or more personalized experience.”

        In the years to come, Yeh thinks blockchain will continue challenging traditional forms of media to adapt to a more user-centered model.

        “I think the most effective companies in the future are going to be the ones that focus not just on like Web3, Web2, but they focus on the internet as a whole.”

        dot.LA Social and Engagement Editor Andria Moore contributed to this post.

        Click the link above to hear the full episode, and subscribe to LA Venture on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

        This podcast is produced by L.A. Venture. The views and opinions expressed in the show are those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect those of dot.LA or its newsroom.

        Is This LA Icon the Victim of Crypto Winter?

        Daniel Nieblas
        Daniel Nieblas is a bestselling author and featured writer for The Startup, the largest publication on Medium. His work covers various topics in technology, including Machine Learning, Autonomous Vehicles, and Cyberterrorism. He is also the Story Coordinator for LA Downtowner, and a Creative Associate of the Ferroconcrete Design.
        ​Crypto Arena before and after
        Staples Center

        Around this time last year, you could get a sense of the market fervor that the newly christened Crypto.com Arena embodied. A $700 million dollar naming rights deal had suddenly catapulted a small cryptocurrency exchange from relative anonymity into the global orbit of the house that Kobe built, formerly and often still addressed by fans as the Staples Center.

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        LA VCs Weigh In On The Top Venture Capitalists of 2023

        Kristin Snyder

        Kristin Snyder is dot.LA's 2022/23 Editorial Fellow. She previously interned with Tiger Oak Media and led the arts section for UCLA's Daily Bruin.

        LA VCs Weigh In On The Top Venture Capitalists of 2023

        2022 was a tough year for venture capital. Venture deals fell throughoutthe year as the economic environment became uncertain.

        But despite the economic downturn, VCs still flocked to LA’s growing tech and startup scene.

        We asked more than 30 investors to share which VCs are the best Los Angeles has to offer. The following list reflects those who received two or more votes.

        A few familiar faces popped up, such as Bonfire Ventures’ Mark Mullen and TenOneTen’s Minnie Ingersoll, who both received the most votes in previousyears. This year, Mullen topped the list with six votes, while Ingersoll and M13’s Anna Barber both came in second with three votes.

        The below results are listed according to the number of votes received. In the case of a tie, the names are listed alphabetically by last name.

        Here are LA’s top VCs of 2022 according to their peers:

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