J.J. Abrams on Diversity in Star Wars, Bad Robot: 'I Can't Tell You How Much it's Benefited Our Business'
Ben Bergman is the newsroom's senior reporter, covering venture capital. 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. Follow him on Twitter.
Filmmaker J.J. Abrams and his wife Katie McGrath examined the production company they founded -- Bad Robot -- and realized it was mostly white. Mostly male. And the duo set out to change how they recruit new employees.
Abrams and McGrath mandated that the pool of people they interview for jobs be more representative of the population. Now over 50 percent of the staff is female and over 40 percent are people of color, according to McGrath. "I can't tell you how much it's benefited our business," said Abrams.
When he was asked to direct "Star Wars: The Force Awakens," Abrams said he felt a responsibility to cast actors who were as diverse as possible. The four leads include someone who is Latinx, a Nigerian-Londoner, a white woman, and one white man. "I'm not preaching, but we'll bring our values as much as we can to a project," said Abrams.
McGrath was one of the founders of the Time's Up movement that started in 2018 after the dethroning of producer Harvey Weinstein rocked Hollywood. She implored an audience comprised largely of white males at The Upfront Summit to do more to improve diversity at their own companies."This is not complicated," said McGrath. "You have tactics for every other business outcome you want to reach, so have one for this."
McGrath noted that by 2050, the U.S. will be a minority-majority country. Not having a workforce that represents the demographics of consumers is bad for business. "You're just going to miss a ton of sh**," she added.
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Sweetgreen has pledged to be carbon neutral in six years by cutting its carbon output in half. Santa Monica and the L.A. Cleantech Incubator launched the nation's first zero-emissions delivery zone, a project meant to encourage companies to embrace EV transportation. Sign up for our newsletter and follow dot.LA on Twitter for more updates.
- Sweet Green wants to get greener
- Santa Monica opens emission-free delivery zone in downtown
Sweetgreen Promises Carbon Neutrality by 2027<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzEzODQ3MC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxNTc4NjQxNn0.sad0ogJEI_n5zonFpimBFFqqkA6NSvjXVhk3ckIyeUo/img.jpg?width=980" id="e77aa" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="0997ff2630815ab1b3505090cfdb38ca" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />LA Tech Updates: Sweetgreen to Go Carbon Neutral by 2027; Santa Monica Opens Zero-Emission Zone<p>Sweetgreen wants to be greener. </p> <p>The Culver City-based fast casual unicorn has pledged to be carbon neutral in six years by cutting its carbon output in half.</p> <p>"We believe that climate change is the defining challenge of our generation, posing a real and systemic threat to the health of people and the planet," Sweetgreen's founders <a href="https://medium.com/@sweetgreen/our-commitment-to-be-carbon-neutral-by-2027-875a29698252" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">wrote in a blog post.</a> "As restaurant leaders in an industry that drives 25% of global greenhouse gas emissions, it is our responsibility to use our platform and resources to confront this crisis head on."</p> <hr><p>The company says it started measuring its carbon output in 2019, which helped it identify areas where it could save energy. It was already well ahead of most other restaurants because of its heavy use of low impact fruits and vegetables rather than beef, but it wanted to do more.</p> <p>Sweetgreen will now use carbon output as a metric for deciding what to put on its menu. It will also work with suppliers to be more environmentally friendly.</p> <p>"To truly future proof our company, we must evolve our supply network and fix our relationship to the soil — and cultivate an environment that benefits the entire agricultural ecosystem: our food partners, customers, team members, and the planet," the founders wrote. </p>
Santa Monica Opens Nation's First Zero-Emissions Delivery Zone<img lazy-loadable="true" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTY5MDU3OS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0NTI1NTIxOH0.T3W4XNFrl3_7TZ-fPB9kBRheOBEh-WeZY3LdoouwhdU/img.jpg?width=980" id="7afd5" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="d0d1afe8b6f9d941da5b2c303f975ba3" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="kiwibot Santa Monica" data-width="1080" data-height="1080" /><p>Ikea, Shopify and the yerba mate brand Guayaki are just a few of the companies that vow to cut pollution in Santa Monica by using electric vans and delivery robots to fulfill orders.</p><p>The seaside city and the L.A. Cleantech Incubator launched the nation's first zero-emissions delivery zone on Thursday, a project meant to encourage companies to embrace EV transportation by giving drivers access to 20 reserved parking and loading spots. The one-square mile radius will span Downtown Santa Monica and Main Street. </p><hr><p>City officials will be watching for changes in traffic and pollution with an eye towards introducing permanent zones down the line.</p><p>To do that, <a href="https://dot.la/automotus-2650510029.html" target="_self">they've hired Automotus</a>, a venture-backed software startup that monitors curbside traffic. The company will install 20 small video cameras on street lamps lining the parking spots to collect data on factors like congestion and safety. Plus, the technology will alert drivers to open parking spots through an app. </p><p>Automotus' CEO says the cameras will not pick up personally identifiable information. In other cities, however, the software has been used to automate parking violations and issue tickets. </p><p>Santa Monica Mayor Sue Himmelrich said in a statement that the pilot comes at a "critical moment" in the city's recovery. </p><p>"Beyond reducing carbon and congestion, the added bonus is that restaurants can keep higher margins of sales on delivered food items," Himmelrich added. </p><p>To encourage use of the space, local businesses will be given access to two Nissan electric vans and ecommerce software company Shopify will equip merchants in the area with <a href="https://dot.la/kiwibot-delivery-robot-2649919954.html" target="_self">Kiwibot delivery robots</a> to help drop off orders.</p>
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My, how times have changed.
Five years ago, Eric Yuan, chief executive officer and founder of video conferencing company Zoom, was asked to deliver an insider's look at his business at the influential tech-savvy conference Montgomery Summit in Santa Monica.
But there was a catch: He wanted to show up online, not on the dais.
Yuan wound up giving his presentation at the Summit backed by Jamie Montgomery, who runs March Capital Partners, the Santa Monica-based venture capital firm that invests in breakthrough technology companies in person.
Ceres Group Holdings is becoming corporate America's biggest cannabis dealmaker out of its Century City offices.
The venture and private equity firm this week announced that its special purpose acquisition company, or SPAC, would take Atlanta-based cannabis producer Parallel public in a merger that will value the Canadian-listed company at $1.88 billion.
Parallel has about 42 retail stores outside of California, but has big plans for a big expansion into L.A. sometime in the next year or two.
Joe Crouthers is the CEO of Ceres and head executive of the SPAC that bought Parallel.