LA Tech Week: Surfing, Kabobs and the Next NextDoor

Andrew Fiouzi
Andrew Fiouzi is an editor at dot.LA. He was previously a features writer at MEL Magazine where he covered masculinity, tech and true crime. His work has been featured in the Los Angeles Times, Long Reads and Vice, among other publications.
LA Tech Week: Surfing, Kabobs and the Next NextDoor
Photo by Andrew Fiouzi

It’s 8:30 a.m. on a Wednesday morning in Venice Beach. There’s plenty of beach parking. The boardwalk is nearly empty save for a couple Teslas, a handful of other cars and a big blue bus that says Fun Surf LA. I’m gearing up for day three of L.A. Tech Week amongst a collective of V.C.s, founders and fund managers.


When I arrive, admittedly a few minutes late, those who are there to learn how to surf are going through the motions of paddling and standing up on their surfboard in a single, fluid motion. Already in the water, however, the “Buccaneers” — a growing collective of L.A.-based tech workers who meet on Sundays are already out near the break, wooh-ing each other on as the mediocre sets roll in.

The waves are small and infrequent, leaving plenty of time to talk shop and network in between. Some say this is one reason why for Silicon Valley types, surfing has been touted as the “new golf.” Conversations run the gamut. Some are garden-variety introductions. Others denote the vibe shift that is L.A. tech. Those from out of town tell me they weren’t going to come until they saw some photos on Twitter that made “the FOMO real.” Others still are wondering who might be at the the week’s most coveted events — those hosted by Andreessen.

Covered in sand and salt, I leave the beach driving towards Tehrangeles where Launch It Labs co-founder Iman Khabazian is hosting an event for game developers at Flame — his uncle’s Persian restaurant on Santa Monica Boulevard. Launch It Labs is an L.A.-based company providing game developers a backend framework so they can focus their attention on their user interface. Under a sprawling outdoor canopy replete with string lights and mosaic, stain-glass chandeliers, Khabazian’s uncle serves the roughly 30 or so attendants skewers of kabob wrapped in lavash bread. The food is a standout in a week that’s featured sushi, sliders and a kitchen table-sized wooden cutting board featuring three different cuts of steak.

At Flame, I also meet Oliver Montalbano, one of the co-founders of Mozart — an L.A.-based Web3 gaming company building NFT APIs for game developers. As well as Ledy co-founders Mark Emtiaz and Mark D’Andrea who earlier this year put together a copy of a 1928 home in the flats of Beverly Hills in the 3D virtual world Decentraland. Per “The Hollywood Reporter,” the $9.418 million estate was among the first of its kind to come with the opportunity to purchase the sister residence built in Decentraland for an additional $100,000. Based on discussions with this small but enthusiastic crew of game developers, it’s fair to say that the call about the future of gaming is coming from inside the metaverse.

My final stop of the day brings me back to where the day began. Only this time, I’m on a hotel rooftop in Venice Beach. The luxurious event is hosted by Amplify.LA, Fika Ventures, and Stage Venture Partners. It’s billed as an opportunity to meet L.A.’s earliest stage investors and founders. There are at least twice as many men as there are women—many of whom are wearing Cuban collar shirts and tapered pants that expose a few inches of ankle skin.

Perhaps the youngest founders in attendance are two undergraduate students from UCLA who are pitching their app Chatterbox as Nextdoor but for Gen Z. They tell me that Gen Z, a cohort that never expects to own a home, doesn’t care about cats making too much noise in the neighborhood like their boomer-mindset parents. Instead, they’re interested in building some semblance of community from the ashes of the current housing crisis.

Also on the hotel rooftop is Bo Abrams, co-founder of Kommu, a lodging swapping platform that wants to capitalize on this current moment in nomadic living. His idea is to give people the ability to leverage their most expensive asset which in most cases is their apartments, in a peer-to-peer marketplace. Sort of like Airbnb but every host is somehow a part of your social network.

Earlier in the day, I met Ed Wilson, co-founder of L.A.-based fund Impulsum Ventures, where he helps companies build the next generation of tech royalty through investing his fund as well as via its 30-person development studio. I meet Wilson again at the Fika-hosted event.

One thing I’ve wondered throughout this week is how fruitful these sorts of networking get-togethers can be for founders, investors and entrepreneurs who attend them. I get that business cards are exchanged, LinkedIn QR codes are scanned and in some cases, meetings are promised. But, does anyone ever actually establish a truly viable connection?

Wilson who’s no stranger to these types of events puts it in terms I can understand. He refers to L.A. Tech Week and networking events writ large as “rocks.” His ethos, in a nutshell, is you never know who you’re going to meet or how you’re going to meet them. You just have to keep lifting rocks to find out what’s underneath.

Fuel Innovation: 7 Unforgettable Team Building Experiences in LA
Image Source: Discover LA

In today's competitive business landscape, team building activities have emerged as a crucial tool for fostering a positive work environment, enhancing productivity, and crucially, improving employee retention. Studies have shown that such activities help employees feel valued, with one report indicating that 93% of those who felt appreciated were more motivated at work. Importantly, team building events may improve retention rates, as employees who feel connected to their colleagues and company culture are more likely to stay long-term. With these benefits in mind, let's explore some of the most engaging and effective team building activities available in Los Angeles.

Pickleball

Image Source: Modern Luxury Angelino

Pickleball is a fantastic team bonding activity because of the easy-to-grasp rules and gentle pace make it perfect for everyone, regardless of age or fitness level. The game thrives on communication and teamwork, as players must collaborate and strategize to outplay their opponents, boosting team cohesion. Plus, the lively, fast-paced action sparks friendly competition and laughter, creating a fun and spirited atmosphere that brings everyone closer together. Los Angeles boasts numerous pickleball courts that are easy to rent if you have your own equipment. If you need additional assistance organizing your pickleball outing, there are plenty of full-service companies ready to handle every detail for you.

Resources: Pickle Pop, Corporate Pickle


Escape Room

Image Source: The Escape Game

Escape rooms are a great way to build camaraderie. They require participants to work together, combining their problem-solving skills and creativity to overcome challenges and puzzles. The immersive and time-sensitive nature of escape rooms fosters collaboration and communication. Additionally, the shared experience of tackling complex tasks and reaching a common goal helps build trust and foster positive emotions among colleagues.

Resources: The Escape Game, 60Out


Day Trip to Catalina Island

Image Source: Love Catalina

Catalina Island is a perfect day trip for a team because it provides a break from the usual work environment, allowing team members to relax and connect in a new setting. Shared experiences during the trip, such as exploring new places and participating in fun activities, help build stronger relationships and foster a sense of camaraderie. There are numerous team-building activities such as an arboreal obstacle course, an island tour, scavenger hunts and more.

Resources: Catalina Island Group Activities


Top Golf

Image Source: Topgolf

Topgolf is an excellent team building event because it provides an inclusive, relaxed atmosphere that accommodates players of all skill levels, fostering personal connections and improving team morale. The unique blend of competition and entertainment creates an ideal setting for building trust, enhancing communication, and revealing hidden skills among team members. Additionally, Topgolf offers structured team building packages with guided activities, discussion prompts, and lessons on culture, change, collaboration, and strategy, making it a versatile and effective platform for strengthening relationships and boosting overall team performance.

Resources: Topgolf El Segundo


SoFi Stadium Tour

Image Source: Discover LA

A SoFi Stadium tour offers a unique, behind-the-scenes experience of one of the world's most advanced sports venues, allowing team members to explore exclusive areas like premium suites, team locker rooms, and the player tunnel together. The tour provides a shared, memorable experience that can foster camaraderie and spark conversations among team members, regardless of their interest in sports. Additionally, the stadium's state-of-the-art features and impressive architecture can inspire creativity and innovation, while the group setting encourages interaction and collaboration, making it an engaging and enjoyable activity for teams of various sizes and backgrounds

Resources: SoFi Stadium Group Tours


Corporate Volunteering

Image Source: L.A. Works

Volunteer work serves as an excellent team building activity by uniting employees around a shared, meaningful cause, fostering a sense of purpose and collective accomplishment. It provides opportunities for team members to collaborate in new ways, often revealing hidden strengths and leadership qualities that may not be apparent in the regular work environment. Additionally, engaging in community service can boost morale, enhance the company's reputation, and instill a sense of pride among employees, leading to improved workplace relationships and increased job satisfaction.

Resources: Habitat for Humanity, L.A. Works, VolunteerMatch


Corporate Improv Sessions

Image Source: Improv for the People

A corporate improv class encourages spontaneity, creativity, and quick thinking, skills that are valuable in the workplace. It promotes active listening and collaboration, as participants must work together to create scenes and respond to unexpected situations, fostering better communication and trust among team members. Additionally, the playful and often humorous nature of improv helps break down barriers, reduces stress, and creates a shared positive experience that can improve team morale and cohesion long after the event.

Resources: Improv-LA, Groundlings, Improv for the People

🎬 Paramount and Skydance Are Back On
Image Source: Paramount

Happy Friday Los Angeles! Hope you all had a fantastic Fourth!!

🔦 Spotlight

Paramount and Skydance Media have rekindled talks to merge after negotiations abruptly halted in June. The proposed deal, contingent on approval from Paramount’s board, aims to combine Paramount’s extensive media holdings—including CBS, MTV, and Nickelodeon—with Skydance’s film expertise showcased in hits like "Top Gun: Maverick." This merger signals a potential transformation in the media landscape, positioning the new entity to compete more effectively amid challenges from streaming services and the decline of traditional cable TV.

Led by Shari Redstone, Paramount’s controlling shareholder via National Amusements, the deal represents a pivot towards revitalizing Paramount’s strategic direction amidst financial struggles and shareholder concerns. The involvement of major investors like RedBird Capital Partners and David Ellison underscores the financial backing aimed at stabilizing Paramount’s operations and addressing its $14 billion debt burden. Importantly, the agreement includes provisions to protect National Amusements from potential legal challenges, addressing previous hurdles that stalled earlier negotiations.

The deal also includes a 45-day period for Paramount to explore alternative offers, highlighting continued interest from other potential buyers like Barry Diller’s IAC and media executive Edgar Bronfman Jr. This flurry of activity underscores the significant stakeholders’ interest in Paramount’s future and its potential as a key player in a rapidly evolving media industry.


🤝 Venture Deals

LA Companies

  • Sidecar Health, a startup that offers personalized health insurance plans to businesses that allow members to see any doctor and pay directly at the time of service, raised a $165M Series D led by Koch Disruptive Technologies. - learn more

LA Venture Funds


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