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Harri is dot.LA's senior finance reporter. She previously worked for Gizmodo, Fast Company, VentureBeat and Flipboard. Find her on Twitter and send tips on L.A. startups and venture capital to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Gov. Gavin Newsom is holding onto a narrow lead, but if he fails to rally apathetic Democratic voters in the fast-approaching recall election, the Republican frontrunner could upend the state's outlook on the tech industry.
Newsom, who grew up a stone's throw from Silicon Valley and who brought in a former Google executive into his administration, is facing a leading competitor who believes "big tech is after us and what we believe in." If he's ousted by a Republican, the next governor could even tip the balance of the U.S. Senate should 88-year-old Diane Feinstein have to bow out. She's only half way through her six-year term.
It's no wonder Netflix co-CEO Reed Hastings and other tech leaders like former Google CEO Eric Schmidt and former Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer are collectively doling out millions to fight the $276 million recall.
Newsom's challengers are largely Republican, and polls say Republican voters are more motivated to vote come September 14. Among the GOP, two recent polls show Black conservative talk show host Larry Elder, who has stoked outrage over his views on women in the workplace and systemic racism, is leading others in the race to oust the Democratic governor.
He is followed by former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer and perennial candidate and attorney John Cox — two candidates who appear to have little to say on the matter of big tech. The same polls show reality-TV star and former Olympian Caitlyn Jenner trailing far behind. A third poll shows Elder ranking second, behind Democrat and 29-year-old millionaire YouTuber Kevin Paffrath, who's pitched himself as a centrist alternative.
Elder's coronavirus-focused campaign has called for unwinding existing coronavirus restrictions. It's blasted pandemic-era state and federal relief programs and pointed to the many failings of the Employment Development Department (EDD). Elder's website is comparably sparse on other topics, briefly touching on school choice and lowering taxes. And he has shown little interest in defining substantial policies.
Where does the current leading GOP candidate stand on tech, the industry that's swelled to define much of the sunshine state? Elder's comments run the gamut, from vowing to "unleash the brains" in Silicon Valley to tweeting that big tech wants to "destroy" conservatives' income and "cancel" them.
That's in stark contrast to Newsom, who literally wrote a book called "How to Take the Town Square Digital." The former San Francisco mayor campaigned on expanding early access to computer science education and boosting broadband infrastructure. Recently he's leaned on big tech to power the state's response to COVID-19, allegedly hampering state and local health departments in the process, per Protocol.
To get a glimpse of what a victory by Elder, who has never held public office but fancies himself the "sage of South Central," would mean for the tech sector, we took a look at the leading GOP candidate's statements to date on Silicon Valley, YouTube, Google, Russian bots, workers' rights and more. Elder, who has shown a distaste for mainstream press, did not respond to multiple requests for an interview.
In an interview with the "San Joaquin Valley Sun" earlier this month, Elder said he'd lean on Silicon Valley's "brainiacs" to solve the state's water crisis.
"Israel is water self sufficient, so is Dubai. Israel sits on the coast of a little body of water known as the Mediterranean. We have a little body of water known as the Pacific Ocean," he said "Why we can't [sic] figure out how to become water self-sufficient when we have all these brainiacs in Silicon Valley. So I'm going to unleash the brains and the technology and use the bully pulpit to explain to people why we need to do this."
He may have a tough time. While humans have removed salt from water for thousands of years, wide-scale desalination is an energy-intensive process with serious drawbacks. Among them: high costs, harm to marine life and emissions from plants powered by fossil fuels. But this statement response is typical of Elder, who rarely delves into the finer points of issues.
Elder has contributed to sites known for misinformation, and the candidate says he has been demonized by big tech. In a tweet about his account being limited by YouTube, Elder promoted a subscription to his now-defunct homegrown video site and said, "Big Tech is after us and what we believe in. They want to destroy our income because they want to cancel us!"
YouTube has demonetized me. To keep getting me uncensored and on demand, go to http://LarryTube.com\u00a0\nBig Tech is after us and what we believe in.\nThey want to destroy our income because they want to cancel us!\nWe can and will continue with your support!http://LarryTube.com— Larry Elder (@Larry Elder) 1615606451
Elder's video site, LarryTube.com, has since merged with the Epoch Times' video site. The Falun-Gong backed Epoch Times has relied heavily on Facebook to build its large subscriber base and has been criticized for misinformation campaigns.
Similarly, on YouTube this past April, Elder decried Twitter's decision to ban former President Trump from its platform. In his buttery talk-radio voice — a foil to Newsom's Will Arnett-esque gravel — he said: "You think Americans are too stupid to figure out when somebody's telling the truth or when somebody's lying."
Elder is skeptical of Russian interference in the election. In a 2018 column titled "Russian Bots vs. Media/Academia/Hollywood — Which Had A Bigger Impact On The Election?," Elder downplayed the impact of fake accounts that were created to promote election misinformation. He wrote, "Whatever influence Russia may have had on the elections is dwarfed by the 'collusion' of the largely anti-GOP media, academia and Hollywood. If the right dominated these fields, congressional Democrats would demand hearings."
Elder wants to revamp the website for the Employment Development Department, which doles out Californian's unemployment benefits. Elder's campaign site devotes special attention to the EDD, which has struggled with a vast backlog of unemployment claims and failed to detect an estimated $31 billion in fraud. In one paragraph, the candidate pledged to revamp the agency's technology and "promote public-private partnerships."
"As governor, I would revamp the EDD's antiquated technology, which created an unprecedented backlog and the absurdity of the agency not being able to automatically process some half of its claims online at the height of the pandemic. Gavin Newsom wants to simply throw more money at the problem. I will implement structural reforms to remove roadblocks to efficiency in the EDD's IT system and across the state government. That means promoting public-private partnerships and overhauling the state government's cumbersome procurement process, which currently favors Sacramento insiders over easy access to innovation."
Elder thinks mothers are a business risk. In his book, "Showdown: Confronting Bias, Lies, and the Special Interests that Divide America," Elder wrote, "Are there legitimate business reasons for a venture capitalist to ask a female entrepreneur whether and when she intends to have children? Hell, yes."
"Call it protecting an investment," the candidate said in the 2002 book.
Elder suggests that the trading app Robinhood allows gambling. In another YouTube video, Elder commented on the Reddit-driven meme stock craze, saying, "I've been trying to understand this Gamestop thing, and how it's been characterized as 'David versus Goliath.' I am a big fan of investing in the stock market. I'm a big fan of believing in America. I believe in investing. I don't believe in gambling. This strikes me as gambing."
Elder doesn't appear to support the antitrust case against Google.
When social media companies limited the reach of a "New York Post" story on Hunter Biden, Elder said in a Fox News interview: "It's an outrage. It's akin to making an in-kind campaign contribution — the way that Google admitted that they restricted the New York Post story [...] This is absolutely outrageous and all of these big tech companies are in bed with the Biden administration and they want Donald Trump to go down."
He continued, commenting on the Justice Department's antitrust case against Google:
"I've never been fond of government busting up large corporations. The larger the corporation typically the more arrogant it gets, the more dismissive it becomes of its consumers, and that's what you've got here. In the past, when the government's gone after big companies like IBM, like Microsoft, it's been because their competitors have complained.
"In this case the consumers are complaining, and it seems to me the response ought to be a conservative Google. There ought to be some sort of conservative alternatives. And there is an alternative to Twitter, it's called Parlor, and I joined that a few days ago. And it seems to me [..] we ought to be coming up with our own alternatives for search engines and social media platforms, so we don't have to run the risk of being screwed by these people who hate our guts."
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.