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In the suburbs of Silver Lake, Cover — a technology company that builds custom backyard homes is showcasing their latest, life-size lego abode. Their latest $270,000 accessory dwelling unit (ADU) is built atop a garage on a slanted hill that required some standard contracting work. But other than laying the concrete foundation every other part of this home was built in Cover’s new 80,000 square feet factory in Gardena.
If Tesla was in the home-building business, this is what it would look like.
“Our approach is similar to Tesla,” says Cover’s technological advisor to the CEO Rico Jaeggi. “Start with high-end products then, through scaling we can bring the cost down.” In other words, as a few of their other employees tell me, Cover’s current model is equivalent to Tesla’s roadster.
The idea is to streamline the homebuilding process so that, “if you work an eight-hour job, you never see us in your backyard,” says Jaeggi. In other words, with Cover you’ll never have to worry about seeing a contractor drop a stack of lumber in your backyard then disappear for a few weeks.
The 550 square-foot, single-room home I’m touring was built in 33 days. The bathroom is aseptic and white and the paneling on the ceiling–also white–can be unscrewed and removed like a car bumper in case there’s a leak. Cover co-founder Alexis Rivas tells me that although the homes are built on production lines using algorithms, the layouts are custom.
“You can move the door to this side of the home and you can put the bathroom and the kitchen anywhere you want,” he adds.
On my way out, the valet attendant who works in construction asks what I thought of the house. I tell him it looks good. That his job might soon be automated and, instead of laboring in the sun, he may be working behind a computer for a software company. He looks at me like I just told him he’s had a death in the family. Then he shakes his head. “Nah man,” he says. “That ain’t me.”
Inside a small office space that was recently vacated by reselling platform Depop, Worklife Ventures is hosting one of only a handful of L.A. Tech Week events on the Eastside of Los Angeles.
“They [presumably the folks that helped put on L.A. Tech Week] encouraged us to relocate our event to the Westside, but the Eastside is the heart of L.A.,” says Brian Yip, head of marketing at Worklife.
The small studio space looks like what you’d imagine from a V.C. fund aiming for some Silver Lake street cred: a panel of vinyl records, recessed ceilings coated in yellow paint and a Cup Noodles placard the size of a movie poster hanging on the wall. The event is jam-packed and Nelly’s “Country Grammar” blaring through the speakers makes it difficult to hear anyone say anything.
Currently, the space features merch from Canadian YouTuber Cody Ko. Last month, Yip tells me, they hosted Grailed superseller 4Gseller for an in-person retail pop-up. Worklife, per Yip, is a fund aimed at helping to connect digital communities in real life.
Inside Worklife’s Silver Lake studio, I also meet Joshua Blackwell, founder of Blck Unicrn — a Web3 project he describes as Netflix meets Spotify. Blackwell further explains that the idea is “to bring stories to life via immersive experiences and through augmented reality.” For example, he continues, “what if the ‘Thriller’ video kept going and you could be in the house with the zombies?” In other words, Blackwell says, “the concept is to mix the concert experience with the immersive nature of being inside an escape room.”
His idea sounds promising. If it were me though, I’d maybe consider reframing the pitch.
A few blocks from Downtown Los Angeles’s Skid Row, where roughly 8,000 men and women live in encampments, sits the steel and glass 1010 Wilshire building guarded by a brass Buddha statue as tall as a middling palm tree. On 1010’s labyrinthine rooftop, AI LA is hosting its luxurious $150 per ticket ($250 for V.I.P.) Fun for Funds Festival to promote AI literacy in the city of Los Angeles.
Here, the ills that plague society have been given the NFT treatment: Five 10x4 feet screens display glittering images with a variable backstory. Their similarity to a Microsoft music visualizer circa Windows 2000 is uncanny.
Each screen represents a different district in Los Angeles, something participants learn after they’ve scanned the screen-adjacent QR code. Each district has a 15-second clip from the NFT collection. The first display– or “District 1” as it’s referred to–covers Downtown and East L.A. According to the information drawn from the QR code, the main challenge in District 1 is “access to quality jobs, retail stores and perhaps most importantly—food.”
This being an AI event, the solution, as suggested by the information drawn from the QR code, is reinventing the supply chain “through smart supply systems” and via “AI-based monitoring.”
So what do the mashing molecules on the screen have to do with any of this? James Macion, the data analyst tasked with pulling public data and grouping the data into themes tried his best to put it in terms I can understand.
“For example, District 4 represents racial equity,” says Macion. So Macion pulled data sets related to racial equity: population, education, social depression and language. The data was then given to award-winning independent media studio Ouchhh to create AI-generated NFTs. In other words, the psychedelic renderings are the visual incarnation of the data that tells us everything that’s wrong with our society. The idea, Macion says, was to make the AI-generated art, “homegrown for L.A.”
According to the summary of “District 3’s” future, AI predictive models will play a role in “anticipating housing needs of individuals who are encountering circumstances that may cause them to be unhoused and connecting them to relevant resources before they become unhoused.” This is all to suggest that AI is the future and it’s here to save the world from suffering.
The event is the brainchild of AI LA’s founder, president and executive director Todd Terrazas, who tells me that AI LA’s goal–among other things–is to promote AI literacy to “fewer white guys.” The way he plans to do this is by piloting AI literacy programs in community colleges where students of color comprise 60% of enrollment.
Early in the evening, Terrazas promises that when the sun goes down the screens will change. That they will then display one-of-one NFTs produced by Ouchhh that will soon travel to a Mozilla conference in Hawaii and that the attendants of the AI LA event can bid on to become owners of the NFT.
The other major AI enterprise at the event is Jeremy Fojut’s friendship-finding platform Like|Minded. After diving into psychological research about friendship and personalities, Fojut, also the co-founder of NEWaukee, known for hosting community events in Milwaukee, turned his attention to developing a platform that uses a personality assessment to match individuals within an organization to help them form meaningful connections and increase their engagement within their company.
The algorithm is based on HEXACO, a personality inventory that assesses a person's honesty, emotionality, extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness and openness. Fojut promises the algorithm won’t lead to issues oft-associated with group think or conformity since the algorithm “doesn’t define your entire identity, but rather highlights the parts of you that are most present in your worldview and interactions with other people.”
Perhaps even more compelling is Like|Minded’s use in establishing mentorships within organizations by leveraging the inverse of the algorithm to match people, which Fojut refers to as “growth matches.”
An hour or so before nightfall, Stephen Piron is staring at an installation of old TVs of variable sizes displaying the footage of cameras recording different parts of the party. Piron is the founder of Dessa — acquired by Square in 2016 and famous for creating deep fakes, the most notable of which was a Joe Rogan clip that went viral in 2019. Piron is a veteran of the deep learning space and he seems eager to leave this party. But not before he tells me about how he and his colleagues at Dessa tripped and fell onto their AI-generated deep-fake notoriety.
“It was an accident,” he says. They were bored working on projects that helped banks detect fraud, so, he says, “some of us started working on this other thing.”
Near the end of the evening, as promised, the NFT auction begins when the electric-blue NFT graphic transforms into an abstract red, white and black animation. The bidding begins at $500.
“If you don’t buy this for $500,” begins the auctioneer, comedian Alli Goldberg. “You’re a broke bitch and we hate you.”
The bidding on the first of five, one-of-one NFTs reaches $4,300. From the ground floor, I can still hear the auctioneer as I exit the building.
According to a Forbes report last April, both the viewership and dollars behind women’s sports at a collegiate and professional level are growing.
In 2022, the first 32 games of the NCAA tournament had record attendance levels, breaking records set back in 2004, and largely driven by the new and rapidly growing women’s NCAA tournament. WNBA openers this year saw a 21% spike in attendance, with some teams including the LA Sparks reporting triple-digit ticket sales growth, about 121% over 2022’s total. In 2023, the average size of an LA Sparks crowd swelled to 10,396 people, up from 4,701 people.
Women make up half the population, but “also 50% of the folks that are walking into the stadium at Dodger Stadium, or your NFL fans are just about 50% women,” noted Erin Storck, a panelist and senior analyst at Los Angeles-based Elysian Park Ventures.
Storck added that in heterosexual households, women generally manage most of the family’s money, giving them huge purchasing power, a potential advantage for female-run leagues. “There's an untapped revenue opportunity,” she noted.
In the soccer world, Los Angeles-based women’s soccer team Angel City FC has put in the work to become a household name, not just in LA County but across the nation. At an LA Tech Week panel hosted by Athlete Strategies about investing in sports, Angel City head of strategy and chief of staff Kari Fleischauer said that years before launching the women’s National Women’s Soccer League team, Angel City FC was pounding the pavement letting people know about the excitement ladies soccer can bring. She noted community is key, and that fostering a sense of engagement and safety at the team’s home venue, BMO stadium (formerly Banc of California Stadium), is one reason fans keep coming back.
Adding free metro rides to BMO stadium and private rooms for nursing fans to breastfeed or fans on the spectrum to avoid sensory overload, were just some of the ways ACFC tried to include its community in the concept of its stadium, Fleischauer said. She noted, though, that roughly 46% of Angel City fans are “straight white dudes hanging out with their bros.”
“Particularly [on] the woman's side, I'd like to think we do a better job of making sure that there's spaces for everyone,” Fleischauer told the audience. “One thing we realize is accessibility is a huge thing.”
L.A. Tech Week has brought venture capitalists, founders and entrepreneurs from around the world to the California coast. With so many tech nerds in one place, it's easy to laugh, joke and reminisce about the future of tech in SoCal.
Here's what people are saying about the fifth day of L.A. Tech Week on social:
#LATechWeek has been on 🔥🔥🔥. Yes the events are super cool at amazing venues. But, I’m blown away by the people. I’ve met so many founders building generative AI companies from the ground up. I’m so bullish on LA right now🥳. LA is for builders #longLA
Thanks @rpnickson 📸 pic.twitter.com/B6rT2jJYIs
— Dr. Kelly O'Brien (@Kvo2013) June 8, 2023
Successful LatinxVC Avanza Summit 2023 in LA! It’s been an amazing few days near the beach w great company. Thank you to our panelists & participants.
Huge thanks to our incredible sponsors SVB, Chavez Family Foundation, Annenberg Foundation, PledgeLA, Fenwick & West, Countsy! pic.twitter.com/oVuGIgFurk
— LatinxVC (@LatinxVCs) June 9, 2023
30+ gaming startups presented at the A16z Speedrun Demo Day in LA yesterday. Great thanks to the @a16zGames team for an awesome day of events! #LATechWeek pic.twitter.com/DKq8IFo5QZ
— Grace Zhou (@graceminzhou) June 9, 2023
📣🤩 What’s the buzz? It’s #LATechWeek from @TechstarsLA & @TechstarsHealth joint demo day with the #Techstar HC team where our @fyelabs founder/CEO Suvojit Ghosh mentored both cohorts! #TechStars demo day highlighted 12 amazing emerging #startups in #healthtech #innovation. 🩺 pic.twitter.com/0RXClCtfDQ
— FYELABS (@fyelabs) June 9, 2023
Another successful Coffee On Slauson in the books for #LATechWeek.
Special thanks to the good people at Pledge LA, SVB and @GundersonLaw for the ongoing support and the @findyourhilltop staff for providing the space, eats & vibes. ♻️ pic.twitter.com/51cMDoEn30
— Slauson & Co. (@SlausonAndCo) June 9, 2023
The perfect combo to start #LATechWeek Day 5: pastries, coffee, and great convos with industry founders ✨
Fireside chats with @enriquealle, @wp, and @robynpark pic.twitter.com/booYPdekVV
— Tech Week (@Techweek_) June 9, 2023
Of course @designerfund has the most amazing pastries at their event. #LATechWeek pic.twitter.com/PjyWlGTQI4
— Jesse Pickard (@jessepickard) June 9, 2023
My favorite event from @Techweek_ has to be "Modern Storytelling & Business Building." Hosted by @STHoward #LATechWeek pic.twitter.com/SV1eexMJ4k
— JonnyZeller (@JonnyZeller) June 9, 2023
And the finale of the night was courtesy of the one and only @zedd for an unforgettable end to the "City of Games" party! Hosted by @a16zGames and @100Thieves #LATechWeek pic.twitter.com/hliI9yLKse
— Tech Week (@Techweek_) June 9, 2023
Excited to be at the @a16zGames Speedrun Demo Day! Loved the energy and excitement from the companies that pitched there. It was also great to see @Tocelot and @ndrewlee at this amazing #LATechWeek event pic.twitter.com/NfLQO5lR27
— Andy Lee | andypwlee.bit (@andypwlee) June 9, 2023
Thank you to everyone who joined the Sony Venture Fund US team at #LATechWeek for our screening of Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse. Last summer, we started building a presence in LA. Today, it's exciting to host such an event with the @Sony family and the LA VC community. pic.twitter.com/wdDm6qtHdL
— Sony Innovation Fund (@Sony_Innov_Fund) June 9, 2023
Time to eat, connect and build while @remi_rodney provided the vibes. 🙏🏽#LATechWeek @BuildOnBase @developer_dao @WeAreRazorfish pic.twitter.com/QIPh1gjvoA
— Hola Metaverso-Blockchain & New Web Tech Events 🎪 (@holametaverso) June 9, 2023
@Lux_Capital at #LATechWeek advancing the impossible to inevitable, from..
..defense primes partnering with cutting edge defense tech startups, to..
..hardware x LLMs improving mental health.
From the rich and diverse LA ecosystem stems generational companies: pic.twitter.com/v5S5r8JtbU
— Shahin Farshchi (@Farshchi) June 9, 2023
LA Tech Week has been a blast! Met some amazing creators, founders and investors from all over the world! #LATechWeek pic.twitter.com/AAh9JFELhe
— Chris Germano (@netslayer) June 9, 2023
Had such a blast at LA Tech Week and hosting events for @brexHQ
Top highlights were collabing with @pulley on an Emerging Managers / Founder mixer at the @poplco House, rooftop event in Venice, creator panel with @thechangj & proper Korean food with in KTown.
Exhausted is an… pic.twitter.com/mGQnSYGPdg
— Τyler Robinson (@TyyRob3) June 9, 2023
Did you have fun at @sophiaamoruso’s launch party for @trustfundvc? #LATechWeek pic.twitter.com/gbrbXRQ9Xx
— Kay (@KaySnels) June 9, 2023
y00tilty in every city with @KaylaLor3n & @cryptochrisg813.
Welcome to the LA @y00tsNFT fam! #LATechWeek #3XP week. pic.twitter.com/6wWKlsTacx
— VanG0xH (@CryptoVanGoghs) June 9, 2023
Really enjoyed #LATechWeek. Here are some observations I made 👇
— s.personal.ai (Suman Kanuganti) (@SumanPersonalAI) June 9, 2023
Thank you @TheKofiAmpadu for including me in #demoday with the latest @a16ztxo cohort! It was a real full circle moment to witness the brilliance of both @ChrisLyons & @ZMuse_ & #PledgeLA very own. She’s why we’re #LongLA 🚀💕 #LAtechweek pic.twitter.com/itkKXMxQRb
— Qiana Qiana! (@Q_i_a_n_a) June 9, 2023
@upfrontvc Gaming Founders Podcast #iLOVELA #LATechWeek @Techweek_ @KatiaAmeri @mucker @fikavc @bonfire_vc @TenOne10 @WatertowerGroup @ganasvc @IAmRobRyan @john_at_stonks @eva_ho @dereknorton pic.twitter.com/LCbaGXCoW7
— Sean Goldfaden (@seangoldfaden) June 9, 2023
Hosts Kevin Zhang, Partner at @upfrontvc, and Eden Chen, CEO of @pragmaplatform, interviewed two special guests from @raidbaseinc Stephen Lim, Co-Founder & Product Director, and Trevor Romleski, Co-Founder & Game Director. 🎙 #LATechWeek pic.twitter.com/hxHEAoELZ6
— Tech Week (@Techweek_) June 9, 2023
Kicking off @a16zGames @100Thieves City of Games party at #LATechWeek 🔥🔥🔥 pic.twitter.com/zQcZedG15f
— Jon Lai (@Tocelot) June 9, 2023
Yesterday at @socinnovation I got to have this AWESOME conversation with @iamwill — musician, producer, technology entrepreneur, and Founder & CEO of https://t.co/D60y1e2JOu #LATechWeek pic.twitter.com/KBxK6rXyTG
— Anna Barber (@annawbarber) June 9, 2023
I absolutely love this game. Proud moment for the team @investwithatlas. #LATechWeek pic.twitter.com/fPZvKXU7TC
— Tobias Francis (@TobiasFrancis) June 9, 2023
Had a blast at LA Tech Week this year with @brexHQ
From hosting & moderating my first creator panel featuring @BlakeMichael14, to a fun rooftop night in Venice, and to attending some amazing events such as Watertower’s emerging manager panel and a VC/founder tennis tournament pic.twitter.com/udjfmLHE0L
— Jonathan Chang (@thechangj) June 8, 2023
At Lowercarbon Capital’s LA Tech Week event Thursday, the synergy between the region’s aerospace industry and greentech startups was clear.
The event sponsored by Lowercarbon, Climate Draft (and the defunct Silicon Valley Bank’s Climate Technology & Sustainability team) brought together a handful of local startups in Hawthorne not far from LAX, and many of the companies shared DNA with arguably the region’s most famous tech resident: SpaceX.
Here’s a look at the greentech startups that pitched during the Tech Week event, and how they think what they’re building could help solve the climate crisis.
Arbor: Based in El Segundo, this year-old startup is working to convert organic waste into energy and fresh water. At the same time, it also uses biomass carbon removal and storage to remove carbon from the atmosphere and sequester it in an attempt to avoid further damaging the earth’s ozone layer. At the Tech Week event Thursday, Arbor CEO Brad Hartwig told a stunned crowd that Arbor aims to remove about five billion tons of organic waste from landfills and turn that into about 6 PWh, or a quarter of the global electricity need, each year. Hartwig is an alumni of SpaceX; he was a manufacturing engineer on the Crew Dragon engines from 2016-2018 and later a flight test engineer at Kitty Hawk.
Antora: Sunnyvale-based Antora Energy was founded in 2017, making it one of the oldest companies on the pitching block during the event. Backed by investors including the National Science Foundation and Los Angeles-based Overture VC, Antora has raised roughly $57 million to date, most recently a $50 million round last February. Chief operating officer Justin Briggs said Antora’s goal is to modernize and popularize thermal energy storage using ultra-hot carbon. Massive heated carbon blocks can give off thermal energy, which Antora’s proprietary batteries then absorb and store as energy. It’s an ambitious goal, but one the world needs at scale to green its energy footprint. According to Briggs, “the biggest challenge is how can we turn back variable intermittent renewable electricity into something that's reliable and on demand, so we can use it to provide energy to everything we need.”
Arc: Hosting the panel was Arc, an electric boating company that’s gained surprising momentum, moving from design to delivering its first e-boats in just two years of existence. Founded in 2021, the company’s already 70 employees strong and has already sold some of its first e-boats to customers willing to pay the luxury price tag, CTO Ryan Cook said Thursday. Cook said that to meet the power needs of a battery-powered speedboat, the Arc team designed the vehicle around the battery pack with the goal of it being competitive with gas boats when compared to range and cost of gas. But on the pricing side, it’s not cheap. Arc’s flagship vessel, the Arc One is expected to cost roughly $300,000. During the panel, Cook compared the boat to being “like an early Tesla Roadster.” To date Arc Boats has raised just over $35 million, according to PitchBook, from investors including Kevin Durant, Will Smith and Sean “Diddy” Combs.
Clarity Technology: Carbon removal startup Clarity is based in LA and was founded by Yale graduate and CEO Glen Meyerowitz last year. Clarity is working to make “gigaton solutions for gigaton problems.” Their aim? To remove up to 2,000 billion pounds of carbon from the atmosphere through direct air capture, a process which uses massive fans to move chemicals that capture CO2. But the challenge, Meyerowitz noted in his speech, is doing this at scale in a way that makes an actual dent in the planet’s emissions while also efficiently using the electricity needed to do so. Meyerowitz spent nearly five years working as an engineer for SpaceX in Texas, and added he’s looking to transfer those learnings into Clarity.
Parallel Systems: Based in Downtown LA’s Arts District, this startup is building zero-emission rail vehicles that are capable of long-haul journeys otherwise done by a trucking company. The estimated $700 billion trucking industry, Parallel Systems CEO Matt Soule said, is ripe for an overhaul and could benefit from moving some of its goods off-road to electric railcars. According to Soule, Parallel’s electric battery-powered rail vehicles use 25% of the energy a semi truck uses, and at a competitive cost. Funded in part by a February 2022 grant from the U.S. Department of Energy, Parallel Systems has raised about $57 million to date. Its most recent venture funding round was a $49 million Series A led by Santa Monica-based VC Anthos Capital. Local VCs including Riot Ventures and Santa Monica-based Embark Ventures are also backers of Parallel.
Terra Talent: Unlike the rest of the startups pitching at the Tech Week event, Terra Talent was focused on building teams rather than technology. Founder Dolly Singh worked at SpaceX, Oculus and Citadel as a headhunter, and now runs Terra, a talent and advisory firm that helps companies recruit top talent in the greentech space. But, she said, she’s concerned that all the work these startups are doing won’t matter unless we very quickly turn around the current trendlines. “Earth will shake us off like and she will do just fine in 10,000 years,” she said. “It’s our way of living, everything we love is actually here on earth… there’s nothing I love on Mars,” adding that she’s hopeful the startups that pitched during the event will be instrumental in making sure the planet stays habitable for a little while longer.