LA Tech Updates: Instagram Launches TikTok Competitor

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.

LA Tech Updates: Instagram Launches TikTok Competitor

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  • Instagram Launches TikTok Competitor, Reels

          Instagram Launches TikTok Competitor, Reels

          Instagram Reels

          Reels, the Instagram video-sharing product to rival TikTok and Triller, launched Wednesday in 50 countries including the U.S.

          Reels lets users create short-form edited videos with filters, all set to music. Creators can share them with their followers or, on public accounts, make them widely watchable through Instagram's explore page.

          Reels represents Instagram's latest attempt to draw in users loyal to apps like TikTok, the Culver City-headquartered company that's in talks with Microsoft for a potential sale after President Trump threatened to ban it in the U.S.

          In a recent blog post promising more transparency, TikTok's CEO called Reels a "copycat product."

          Before Reels, Facebook — which owns Instagram — tried its hand with Lasso, a similar product that shut down in early July.

          YouTube is planning to release its own TikTok rival, Shorts, by the end of the year. The feature would also let users upload video featuring licensed music from YouTube's catalog.

          Triller is another app that has seen user interest rise as TikTok hits headwinds. The company saw a massive uptick in users after India's prime minister banned a slew of Chinese apps including TikTok in June.

          "Instagram is excited to see how the community gets creative with Reels and for members to discover + break a whole new generation of Instagram talent," the company said in a statement.

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          Cadence

          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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