dot.LA Summit: Julia Boorstin on Why VCs Should Stop Undervaluing Women-Led Startups

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.

dot.LA Summit: Julia Boorstin on Why VCs Should Stop Undervaluing Women-Led Startups
Image by Drew Grant

Julia Boorstin had spent over 20 years interviewing founders.

After noticing how few female founders she spoke with, she set out to write “When Women Lead: What They Achieve, Why They Succeed, and How We Can Learn from Them.” CNBC's Senior Media & Tech Correspondent joined dot.LA co-founder Spencer Rascoff at the opening night of the dot.LA Summit to discuss how her experiences interviewing female founders revealed what characteristics help leaders thrive.

“I wanted to move the conversation away from what men have done wrong and focus on what women are doing right,” Boorstin said.

The tech landscape is shaped by whose ideas get heard and what ideas become a reality. She said the statistics she found were striking: only 8.5% of the CEOs on last year’s Fortune 500 were female, and only 2% of VC funding went to female-led companies. When researching her book, she interviewed women in the industry—and backed their experiences up with facts from about 300 academic studies.

“Of course, these women seem exceptional to me,” Boorstin said. “They are literally by definition extraordinary.”

When women thrive in executive positions, Boorstin said businesses perform better. She cited one study that found women-founded businesses outperformed businesses founded by men by 63%. And as the recession comes and funding decreases, she said female founders who have already “trained their muscles to be scrappy” may be better prepared to navigate these challenges.

Rascoff has also found that involving women in the founding process is a business benefit. When he was launching Zillow, he said the male co-founders considered adding homeowner’s names to the real estate platform. It took the insight of co-founder Kristin Acker to point out the potential ways that public information could harm women.

“I think those of us that care about diversity in tech have overly focused on the altruistic reasons about why we should care about this topic and under-focused on the business benefits of diversifying,” Rascoff said.

Boorstin said that companies have to consider the many layers of diversity in order to keep up with the country’s ever-diversifying population and to best serve their customers. People must be open to conversations around how different perspectives—such as a female CEO’s potential to be more empathetic or collaborative—can help a company grow.

“Companies will get better if everyone gets comfortable with being a little uncomfortable at times,” Boorstin said.

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dot.LA, the premier source for news and information about the Los Angeles tech scene, has been acquired by HouseVenture Inc., a technology and media startup founded in 2023 by Mike Chang, Adrian Delgado, Hailey Chang and Nick Thomas.

“We grew up in Southern California and see such huge potential,” Chang said. “I think it’s the perfect time for this tech ecosystem to explode.”

dot.LA was started in 2019 by Spencer Rascoff, co-founder of Zillow, Pacaso, and 75 & Sunny. After moving back from Seattle to LA, he wanted to bring more visibility and sense of community to LA’s tech scene.

“I'm proud of what we accomplished,” Rascoff said. “We wrote over 2000 stories highlighting the successes of the LA Tech ecosystem, we put on over a hundred events, and helped bring together the LA tech community.”

But Rascoff said the HouseVenture team is the ideal group to take dot.LA. forward in this next phase.

“Mike and his team are fellow LA entrepreneurs and founders, and have the energy and innovativeness to lead dot.LA through the next chapter,” Rascoff said “They are also community builders, and that’s perfect for the mission of dot.LA, which is to bring people together to lift up all LA startups.”

The HouseVentures team previously built two bootstrapped multimillion dollar proptech companies and Real Estate Mastermind, the largest online community for real estate agents in the world. They plan to double down on dot.LA’s community focus by launching a mobile app with a slate of new networking features.

“I don’t think people know how many tech companies there are in LA,” Thomas said. “Connecting everyone in the same place will be critical to help this ecosystem achieve its potential.”

HouseVenture is also planning to create a new dot.LA website and app devoted to bringing together people who work in real estate and tech. There will also be a dot.LA venture fund dedicated to investing directly in early stage LA startups and real estate companies.
Since launching eight months ago, HouseVenture has already achieved $1m in monthly recurring revenue.

Chang has spent time living and working in the Bay Area and Austin, but says he prefers Southern California.

“People come to LA to hustle and pursue a dream,” Chang said. “We want to help show LA is the best place in the world to build a tech company.”

🏰 Disney's Epic Investment Stands Out Amidst Gaming Industry Layoffs

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.

🔦 Spotlight

In the midst of widespread gaming industry layoffs, a glimmer of positive news emerges as Disney announces a significant move: a $1.5 billion investment in Epic Games. 🏰💰🐭

Image Source: Disney

Disney's $1.5 billion investment in Epic Games, disclosed late Wednesday, signals a strategic alignment aimed at expanding the success of "Fortnite." The deal enhances Epic's growth prospects after financial setbacks, including layoffs, and strengthens the partnership between the two companies. With Disney gaining a larger equity stake in Epic, the collaboration will broaden the integration of beloved Disney franchises like Marvel, Star Wars, Pixar, and Avatar into the game, potentially boosting its appeal and longevity. This significant investment underscores Disney's commitment to interactive entertainment and signifies a shift towards games as a primary revenue stream, aligning with the growing trend of digital engagement among younger demographics. Moreover, the potential for crossover sales of physical Disney products within "Fortnite" and the exploration of new content distribution channels are just some of the opportunities arising from this partnership.

For LA tech, the Disney-Epic Games partnership represents a validation of the region's burgeoning tech and gaming ecosystem. The substantial investment in Epic, who maintains a large Los Angeles office with 1,000+ employees (according to LinkedIn), reflects confidence in the LA’s talent pool and innovation potential. Additionally, this partnership between two industry giants fosters an environment for further collaboration, investment, and growth within LA's tech sector. As Disney and Epic Games deepen their ties and explore new avenues for content integration and distribution, it not only elevates the prominence of LA as a tech hub but also stimulates economic growth and job creation in the region. This partnership highlights LA's unique position as a hub where technology and entertainment converge. With its ability to integrate diverse industries, LA is driving innovation and expansion in digital entertainment. 🚀💸🎮

🤝 Venture Deals

LA Companies

  • ProducePay, a financing and marketplace platform for the fresh produce market, raised a $38M Series D led by Syngenta Group Ventures joined by Commonfund, Highgate Private Equity, G2 Venture Partners, Anterra Capital, Astanor Ventures, Endeavor8, Avenue Venture Opportunities, Avenue Sustainable Solutions, and Red Bear Angels. - learn more
  • Blush, an invite-only dating app that drives users to local businesses on dates, raised a $7M Seed Round from individuals like Naval Ravikant. - learn more
  • Mogul, a startup founded last year that provides an overview of an artist's royalty earnings and identifies areas where money is owed but has not yet been collected, raised a $1.9 million seed round from Wonder Ventures, United Talent Agency, AmplifyLA, and Creator Partners. - learn more
  • Avnos, a hybrid direct air capture startup, raised a $36M Series A led by NextEra Energy and joined by Safran Corporate Ventures, Shell Ventures, Envisioning Partners, and Rusheen Capital Management. - learn more
  •, startup whose mission is to help retailers enhance the online shopping experience by providing consumers with virtual try-ons and personalized fashion recommendations, raised a $3.6M Seed Round led by Neo. - learn more
  • Suma Wealth, startup that aims to demystify financial topics and provide culturally relevant content, virtual experiences, and resources to help Latino users navigate financial challenges and opportunities, raised a $2.2M Seed Round . Radicle Impact led, and was joined by Vamos Ventures, OVO fund and the American Heart Association Impact Fund. - learn more
  • 222, a startup that helps users discover their city and meet new people through unique social experiences, raised a $2.5M Seed Round. Investors included 1517 Fund, General Catalyst, Best Nights VC, Scrum Ventures, and Upfront Ventures. - learn more
  • LimaCharlie, a security operations cloud platform, raised a $10.2M Series A led by Sands Capital. - learn more
  • Polycam, an app that uses a smartphone’s sensors to capture 3D scans of objects, raised an $18M Series A co-led by Left Lane Capital and Adjacent, and joined by Adobe Ventures and individuals like Chad Hurley and Shaun Maguire. -learn more.

LA Venture Funds

Actively Raising

  • ReelCall, Inc., an entertainment technology company focused on powerful apps and platforms that help build and maintain the professional network of connections vital to career growth, is raising a $850K Pre-Seed Round. - learn more
  • CZero, a startup building software to decarbonize logistics for logistics businesses and goods business through a vetted marketplace and optimization software. - learn more
  • Couri, a technology startup addressing last-mile delivery issues, is raising a $450K Pre-Seed Round at a $2.2M post money valuation. - learn more
  • Sweetie, a marketplace to help people plan date nights, is raising a $1.5M Pre Seed Round. - learn more
  • StartupStarter, an investment platform that provides real-time data and analytics on startups, is raising an $850K Angel Round. - learn more

If you’re a founder raising money in Los Angeles, give us a shout, and we’d love to include you in the newsletter!

Venture Waves, Climate Tech Wins, and Silicon Beach's Ongoing Evolution

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.

Anduril Seeks $1.5B in VC Funds

Defense company Anduril Industries Inc., based in Costa Mesa and founded by Palmer Luckey, is seeking to raise $1.5 billion in fresh funds to boost its valuation to $12.5 billion or more, according to sources quoted by The Information. This fundraising effort, if successful, would mark one of the largest venture capital rounds of the year.

Image Source: Anduril

Anduril recently secured a contract to develop and test small unmanned fighter jet prototypes under the Air Force’s Collaborative Combat Aircraft (CCA) program, beating out major defense companies like Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and Northrop Grumman. Alongside General Atomics, Anduril will design, manufacture, and test these aircraft, with a final multibillion-dollar production decision expected in fiscal year 2026. This program aims to deliver at least 1,000 combat aircraft to fly in concert with manned platforms and is part of the Air Force’s Next Generation Air Dominance initiative. Central to Anduril’s success in this contract is the Fury autonomous air vehicle, acquired through the purchase of Blue Force Technologies. This victory underscores Anduril's rapid advancement in the defense sector, aligning with Luckey's vision of building faster and more cost-effective defense assets. - learn more

Los Angeles Ranks Number 1 in Emerging Climate Tech Hub

The 2024 Emerging Climate Tech Hubs Report by Revolution highlights Los Angeles as a burgeoning center for climate tech innovation. LA's growth in this sector is driven by its diverse talent pool, strong research institutions, and a culture of environmental consciousness. The city's unique mix of legacy industries, such as entertainment and aerospace, alongside emerging tech companies, positions it as a pivotal player in the climate tech landscape. This shift reflects a broader trend of decentralized climate tech funding across the U.S., reducing the historical dominance of California's traditional hubs. - learn more

Silicon Beach: Looking Back, Moving Forward

Assessing the overall health of the startup market is challenging, especially as venture capital funding has decreased by an average of 61% from 2021 to 2023 across the top VC markets in the US. Markets with robust ecosystems in AI, SaaS, Biotech, Healthtech, and Fintech appear to be weathering the downturn better than those focused on Consumer and Gaming industries, areas where Los Angeles traditionally excels.

Percent Change In VC Funding By Region

CB Insights

LA Times paints a rather bleak outlook on the Los Angeles tech scene noting venture capital funding in Greater Los Angeles plummeted 73% from 2021 to 2022. Silicon Beach, once a vibrant tech corridor, currently faces high vacancy rates and lacks late-stage financiers, especially in the AI sector. However, there are positive signs, including growth in aerospace startups and increased venture capital investment in early 2024, suggesting a potential rebound for LA's tech ecosystem.

While LA may not be exceeding expectations during this period, its tech ecosystem warrants a nuanced evaluation, given the broader market dynamics and its strong performance in specific sectors. Reach out to us with your thoughts.