Spatial Labs Founder Iddris Sandu’s Thoughts on the Bear Market

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.

Spatial Labs Founder Iddris Sandu’s Thoughts on the Bear Market
Courtesy of Spatial Labs

In January, web3 infrastructure and hardware company Spatial Labs landed $10 million in funding led by Blockchain Capital, making founder Iddris Sandu the youngest black entrepreneur to raise a double digit seed round. Marcy Venture Partners, the firm co-founded by Jay-Z also participated in this round.

“Moments like this give more founders and more VCs the confidence to back and be confident in sort of their general investment thesis around focusing on women of color, focusing on founders of color,” Sandu expressed. “Moments like this is what makes it worth it and is really what's responsible for breaking down those barriers.”

In 2020, Sandu founded Spatial Labs to do exactly that–build a company that is developing technologies that can make an impact globally.


Last year, the Marina Del Rey-based startup introduced its first product, a microchip called LNQ (pronounced link) to the world. Sandu also launched Gen One Hardwear , his clothing line where he embedded the LNQ microchip into each garment.

“What we've engineered is the nutritional facts of fashion,” Sandu told dot.LA. “It allows anyone that's either purchasing, has purchased or even is interacting with that item to unlock the nutritional facts around that product.”

The startup’s microchip acts like a QR code and all you need to do to gain access to the information is tap the LNQ with your phone. Sandu said you will learn about “where it was made, what materials it was made from, where the materials were sourced, whether the item is sustainable or not, and even lets you know if that item is new, or if it was owned by a previous person.”

In just a week and a half, Spatial Labs made $150,000 in sales and sold out of all its inventory.

“Now we've been licensing that chip technology to other brands to incorporate into their products,” Sandu said.

Though Sandu was unable to share which brands Spatial Labs is currently working with, he said that the price point for each LNQ microchip costs $3 and it can vary depending on the amount the brand needs.

Even though the overall venture funding in the U.S. dropped in 2022 from $337 billion to $214 billion, Black founders were disproportionately hit by the decline.

“Being a founder of color, there is no bull market,” Sandu told dot.LA. “It's always a bear market.”

In 2022, Black web3 founders raised $60 million out of the $11.9 billion given to all U.S. web3 startups. While this number is significantly higher than the $16 million Black founders received in 2021, the total percentage of the money raised for founders of color remains the same, a staggering 1%.

It’s a reality Sandu is familiar with. “You're expected to not have the opportunity to fail or not have the ability to figure things out,” he said. “The first time that you launch something you have to almost push yourself to this level of pressure and be perfect.”

But Sandu hopes his achievement will help motivate other Black founders and show them that raising capital is attainable.

“We (Spatial Labs) were able to raise during a market like this and that shows people that it's less about the story,” Sandu said, “but it's more about the actual product and its global impact that it became so undeniable for them to invest.”

Adding that, “they (Blockchain Capital) are the largest VCs in blockchain and they understood just how revolutionary this tech could represent.”

In the last two decades, some of the most crucial moments in technology, Sandu said, “have come from strides within hardware.” For instance, when Apple launched the iPhone and Mac or when Tesla developed their own vehicles on top of being a software company, they became the standard for other tech companies.

“Today in tech, a lot of diversity looks like affording people of color the opportunity to build these systems that weren't really designed for us to begin with,” Sandu stated, “I always love the idea of being able to show the boundaries of where technology could go in respect to color or race, and the only way that I could do that was through creating hardware.”

He said Spatial Labs’ LNQ is “able to create a seamless way for people to interact with products in a completely unique way, offering more than just sort of like this ethical sustainability factor.”

The microchip will allow brands the ability to add loyalty programs directly into their products. One example Sandu shared was, “let’s say a brand like Fenty said Rihanna is going to be doing a surprise appearance, but your ticket to get in is this product (embedded with LNQ).”

He added, Spatial Labs’ technology is “creating loyalty programs, and immersive storytelling experiences directly into your product.”

🤠Musk Picks Texas and 🔥Tinder AI Picks Your Profile Pictures
Image Source: Tinder

🔦 Spotlight

Tinder is altering dating profile creation with its new AI-powered Photo Selector feature, designed to help users choose their most appealing dating profile pictures. This innovative tool employs facial recognition technology to curate a set of up to 10 photos from the user's device, streamlining the often time-consuming process of profile setup. To use the feature, users simply take a selfie within the Tinder app and grant access to their camera roll. The AI then analyzes the photos based on factors like lighting and composition, drawing from Tinder's research on what makes an effective profile picture.

The selection process occurs entirely on the user's device, ensuring privacy and data security. Tinder doesn't collect or store any biometric data or photos beyond those chosen for the profile, and the facial recognition data is deleted once the user exits the feature. This new tool addresses a common pain point for users, as Tinder's research shows that young singles typically spend about 25 to 33 minutes selecting a profile picture. By automating this process, Tinder aims to reduce profile creation time and allow users to focus more on making meaningful connections.

In wholly unrelated news, Elon Musk has announced plans to relocate the headquarters of X (formerly Twitter) and SpaceX from California to Texas. SpaceX will move from Hawthorne to Starbase, while X will shift from San Francisco to Austin. Musk cited concerns about aggressive drug users near X's current headquarters and a new California law regarding gender identity notification in schools as reasons for the move. This decision follows Musk's previous relocation of Tesla's headquarters to Texas in 2021.

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  • Penguin Random House agreed to acquire comic book publisher Boom! Studios from backers like Walt Disney Co. - learn more

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Top LA Accelerators that Entrepreneurs Should Know About

Los Angeles, has a thriving startup ecosystem with numerous accelerators, incubators, and programs designed to support and nurture new businesses. These programs provide a range of services, including funding, mentorship, workspace, networking opportunities, and strategic guidance to help entrepreneurs develop their ideas and scale their companies.


Techstars Los Angeles

Techstars is a global outfit with a chapter in Los Angeles that opened in 2017. It prioritizes local companies but will fund some firms based outside of LA.

Location: Culver City

Type of Funding: Pre-seed, early stage

Focus: Industry Agnostic

Notable Past Companies: StokedPlastic, Zeno Power


Grid110

Grid110 offers no-cost, no-equity programs for entrepreneurs in Los Angeles, including a 12-week Residency accelerator for early-stage startups, an Idea to Launch Bootcamp for pre-launch entrepreneurs, and specialized programs like the PledgeLA Founders Fund and Friends & Family program, all aimed at providing essential skills, resources, and support to help founders develop and grow their businesses.

Location: DTLA

Type of Funding: Seed, early stage

Focus: Industry Agnostic

Notable Past Companies: Casetify, Flavors From Afar


Idealab

Idealab is a renowned startup studio and incubator based in Pasadena, California. Founded in 1996 by entrepreneur Bill Gross, Idealab has a long history of nurturing innovative technology companies, with over 150 startups launched and 45 successful IPOs and acquisitions, including notable successes like Coinbase and Tenor.

Location: Pasadena

Type of Funding: Stage agnostic

Focus: Industry Agnostic, AI/Robotics, Consumer, Clean Energy

Notable Past Companies: Lumin, Coinbase, Tenor


Plug In South LA

Plug In South LA is a tech accelerator program focused on supporting and empowering Black and Latinx entrepreneurs in the Los Angeles area. The 12-week intensive program provides early-stage founders with mentorship, workshops, strategic guidance, potential pilot partnerships, grant funding, and networking opportunities to help them scale their businesses and secure investment.

Location: Los Angeles

Type of Funding: Pre-seed, seed

Focus: Industry Agnostic, Connection to South LA and related communities

Notable Past Companies: ChargerHelp, Peadbo


Cedars-Sinai Accelerator

The Cedars-Sinai Accelerator is a three-month program based in Los Angeles that provides healthcare startups with $100,000 in funding, mentorship from over 300 leading clinicians and executives, and access to Cedars-Sinai's clinical expertise and resources. The program aims to transform healthcare quality, efficiency, and care delivery by helping entrepreneurs bring their innovative technology products to market, offering participants dedicated office space, exposure to a broad network of healthcare entrepreneurs and investors, and the opportunity to pitch their companies at a Demo Day.

Location: West Hollywood

Type of Funding: Seed, early stage, convertible note

Focus: Healthcare, Device, Life Sciences

Notable Past Companies: Regard, Hawthorne Effect


MedTech Innovator

MedTech Innovator is the world's largest accelerator for medical technology companies, based in Los Angeles, offering a four-month program that provides selected startups with unparalleled access to industry leaders, investors, and resources without taking equity. The accelerator culminates in showcase events and competitions where participating companies can win substantial non-dilutive funding, with the program having a strong track record of helping startups secure FDA approvals and significant follow-on funding.

Location: Westwood

Type of Funding: Seed, early stage

Focus: Health Care, Health Diagnostics, Medical Device

Notable Past Companies: Zeto, Genetesis


KidsX

The KidsX Accelerator in Los Angeles is a 10-week program that supports early-stage digital health companies focused on pediatric care, providing mentorship, resources, and access to a network of children's hospitals to help startups validate product-market fit and scale their solutions. The accelerator uses a reverse pitch model, where participating hospitals identify focus areas and work closely with selected startups to develop and pilot digital health solutions that address specific pediatric needs.

Location: East Hollywood

Type of Funding: Pre-seed, seed, early stage

Focus: Pediatric Health Care Innovation

Notable Past Companies: Smileyscope, Zocalo Health


Disney Accelerator

Disney Accelerator is a startup accelerator that provides early-stage companies in the consumer media, entertainment and technology sectors with mentorship, guidance, and investment from Disney executives. The program, now in its 10th year, aims to foster collaborations and partnerships between innovative technology companies and The Walt Disney Company to help them accelerate their growth and bring new experiences to Disney audiences.

Location: Burbank

Type of Funding: Growth stage

Focus: Technology and entertainment

Notable Past Companies: Epic Games, BRIT + CO, CAMP


Techstars Space Accelerator

Techstars Space Accelerator is a startup accelerator program focused on advancing the next generation of space technology companies. The three-month mentorship-driven program brings together founders from across the globe to work on big ideas in aerospace, including rapid launch services, precision-based imaging, operating systems for complex robotics, in-space servicing, and thermal protection.

Location: Los Angeles

Type of Funding: Growth stage

Focus: Aerospace

Notable Past Companies: Pixxel, Morpheus Space



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🚁 One Step Closer to Air Taxis in LA
Image Source: Joby Aviation

🔦 Spotlight

Joby Aviation, a pioneering electric air taxi company, has achieved a significant milestone by successfully flying a hydrogen-electric aircraft demonstrator for 523 miles with only water as a byproduct. This groundbreaking flight showcases the potential for emissions-free regional travel using vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft, eliminating the need for traditional runways. The company's innovative approach combines its existing battery-electric air taxi technology with hydrogen fuel cells, paving the way for longer-range, environmentally friendly air travel.

For LA residents, this development holds exciting implications for future transportation options. Joby's technology could potentially enable direct flights from LA to destinations like San Francisco or San Diego without the need to visit conventional airports, offering a cleaner and more convenient alternative to current travel methods. The company's progress in both battery-electric and hydrogen-electric aircraft positions it at the forefront of next-generation aviation, promising to revolutionize urban and regional mobility.

Notably, Joby Aviation has already made strides in Southern California by securing an agreement with John Wayne Airport earlier this year to install the region's first electric air taxi charger. This strategic move sets the stage for LA to be among the initial markets where Joby will launch its electric air taxi service. With plans to commence commercial operations as early as 2025 using its battery-electric air taxi, LA residents may soon have access to a fast, quiet, and environmentally friendly mode of transportation that could significantly reduce travel times and traffic congestion in the region. In the not too distant future, LA might find itself in an identity crisis without traffic and excess smog 🤞🤞.


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