LA Tech Cares Raises $200K for Back-to-School Fund

Bernard Mendez
Bernard Mendez is an editorial intern at dot.LA. He attends UCLA, where he is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in applied mathematics. Mendez was previously an editor at the Daily Bruin, the student newspaper at UCLA.
LA Tech Cares Raises $200K for Back-to-School Fund

Most of Los Angeles' youth spent a year learning online with little interaction with their teachers or their peers. As students ready to return to the classroom, one Los Angeles nonprofit — backed by some big names including director Stephen Spielberg, the Ballmer Group and the Broad Foundation along with local venture capitalists — is helping kids transition back into in-person learning.

The L.A. Education Recovery Fund is a philanthropic organization that has funded summer programs and will back after school programs run by dozens of L.A.-based nonprofits, including Woodcraft Rangers, LA's Best, the YMCA and the Boys and Girls Club.

Over 30,000 children — largely from low-income neighborhoods — have participated in the summer school programs, which are held at around 500 LAUSD school sites that were reopened over the summer for the programs.

So far, the Fund has raised $10 million and is aiming to add additional programs in the fall. There are a number of players in the L.A. tech scene who are involved with the fund, thanks to a separate initiative, LA Tech Cares.

Run by a trio of VC partners, LA Tech Cares has raised $200,000 to donate to the L.A. Education Recovery Fund for summer school programs. LA Tech Cares 2021 is ultimately aiming to donate around $300,000.

Brett Brewer, the managing director of Crosscut Ventures and one of LA Tech Cares' founders, said he was inspired by the stark disparity in how local venture capitalists — which last quarter alone invested $8.5 billion — and vulnerable communities fared during the pandemic. The county has among the highest poverty rates in the state, data from the Public Policy Institute of California shows.

"Would it have been as easy to get LA Tech Cares off the ground if venture capitalists were struggling, if tech companies were struggling? The answer is probably no," he said. "I think because the venture capital community realizes that it has essentially benefited from a pandemic … It's made it much easier."

LA Tech Cares 2021 is also headed by Kwanza Jones, a co-founder of Supercharged, and Brian Lee, a co-founder of BAM Ventures.

The initiative started in 2020 after most schools transitioned to virtual education because of the COVID-19 pandemic, when it raised money to provide tablets to children at L.A. charter schools, where Brewer serves on the board.

"Last year was about connecting to technology," said Brewer. "This year is actually in some ways about the opposite — It's that these kids have been too removed, and it's almost a code red to get them together in person."

The Recovery Fund's programs, meanwhile, are aimed to help students transition back to in-person school after over a year of remote and hybrid learning, particularly for low-income students hardest hit by the pandemic.

"Our low income-kids depend on schools and nonprofit organizations for access to music and art and sports and creativity," said Marshall Tuck, the head of the recovery fund. "All those things got shut down over the last year."

"We think of recovery as it's not just about one summer or one year, this is several years to make up for what our kids lost," said Tuck.

For the nonprofits, the fund helped them return to in-person programs faster than they expected.

Woodcraft Rangers, a nonprofit that hosts summer day camps and afterschool programs for low income schools in Los Angeles, was one of dozens nonprofits that returned to in-person programs this summer thanks to funding from the L.A. Education Recovery Fund.

The program spent over a year in the pandemic providing mostly online services after shutting its programs down at the start of the pandemic. This summer, it hosted thousands of children at 28 sites.

"Kids are learning how to be kids again, they're learning how to be with their peers, they're learning how to be in our learning environment again," said Julee Brooks, the CEO of Woodcraft Rangers, which received around $100,000 from the fund. "For us, the most important thing this summer was to get kids back together."

"We are serving some of the communities that have been hardest hit during the pandemic, and our kids have been through a lot," Brooks said. "To bring them back with exciting programs and a chance to just play and find joy again was the absolute goal."

Subscribe to our newsletter to catch every headline.


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.

Read moreShow less

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.

Read moreShow less

This Week in ‘Raises’: Triller Grabs $310M, GordonMD Lands $83M

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.

This Week in ‘Raises’: Triller Grabs $310M, GordonMD Lands $83M
Modified by Joshua Letona

Los Angeles-based social video app Triller received an equity capital infusion to aid its plans to go public, while West Hollywood-based AmazeVR received fresh funding to further expand its VR concert experience.

Read moreShow less