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What Are LA’s Hottest Startups of 2022? See Who VCs Picked in dot.LA’s Annual Survey
In Los Angeles—like the startup environment at large—venture funding and valuations skyrocketed in 2021, even as the coronavirus pandemic continued to surge and supply chain issues rattled the economy. The result was a startup ecosystem that continued to build on its momentum, with no shortage of companies raising private capital at billion-dollar-plus unicorn valuations.
In order to gauge the local startup scene and who’s leading the proverbial pack, we asked more than 30 leading L.A.-based investors for their take on the hottest firms in the region. They responded with more than two dozen venture-backed companies; three startups, in particular, rose above the rest as repeat nominees, while we've organized the rest by their amount of capital raised as of January, according to data from PitchBook. (We also asked VCs not to pick any of their own portfolio companies, and vetted the list to ensure they stuck to that rule.)
Without further ado, here are the 26 L.A. startups that VCs have their eyes on in 2022.
Whatnot was the name most often on the minds of L.A. venture investors—understandably, given its prolific fundraising year. Whatnot raised some $220 million across three separate funding rounds in 2021, on the way to a $1.5 billion valuation.
The Marina del Rey-based livestream shopping platform was founded by former GOAT product manager Logan Head and ex-Googler Grant LaFontaine. The startup made its name by providing a live auction platform for buying and selling collectables like rare Pokémon cards, and has since expanded into sports memorabilia, sneakers and apparel.
Boulevard’s backers include Santa Monica-based early-stage VC firm Bonfire Ventures, which focuses on B2B software startups. The Downtown-based company fits nicely within that thesis; Boulevard builds booking and payment software for salons and spas. The firm has worked with prominent brands such as Toni & Guy and HeyDay.
GOAT launched in 2015 as a marketplace to help sneakerheads authenticate used Air Jordans and other collectible shoes. It has since grown at a prolific rate, expanding into apparel and accessories and exceeding $2 billion in merchandise sales in 2020. The startup sealed a $195 million funding round last summer that more than doubled its valuation, to $3.7 billion.
The Best of the Rest
Nielsen competitor VideoAmp gathers data on who's watching what across streaming services, traditional TV and social apps like YouTube. The company positions itself as an alternative to so-called "legacy" systems like Nielsen, which it says are "fragmented, riddled with complexity and inaccurate." In addition to venture funding, its total funding figure includes more than $165 million in debt financing.
Seizing on the NFT craze, Mythical Games is building a platform that powers the growing realm of “play-to-earn games.” Backed by NBA legend Michael Jordan and Andreessen Horowitz, the Sherman Oaks-based startup’s partners include game publishers Abstraction, Creative Mobile and CCG Lab.
FloQast founder Michael Whitmire says he got a “no” from more than 100 investors in the process of raising a seed round. Today, the accounting software company is considered a unicorn.
Nacelle produces docuseries, books, comedy albums and podcasts. The media company’s efforts include the Netflix travel series “Down To Earth with Zac Efron.”
A platform for virtual concerts, Wave has hosted performances by artists including Justin Bieber, Tinashe and The Weeknd. The company says it has raised $66 million to date from the likes of Warner Music and Tencent.
Sherman Oaks-based Papaya looks to make it easier to pay “any” bill—from hospital bills to parking tickets—via its mobile app.
Based in Marina del Rey, LeaseLock says it’s on a mission to eliminate security deposits for apartment renters.
Emotive sells text message-focused marketing tools to ecommerce firms like underwear brand Parade and men's grooming company Beardbrand.
Based in Long Beach, Dray says its mission is to “modernize the logistics and trucking industry.” Its partners include Danish shipping company Maersk and toy maker Mattel.
Coco makes small pink robots on wheels (you may have seen them around town) that deliver food via a remote pilot. Its investors include Y Combinator and Silicon Valley Bank.
HiveWatch develops physical security software. Its investors include former Twitter executive Dick Costollo and NBA star Steph Curry’s Penny Jar Capital.
Whatnot competitor Popshop is betting that live-shopping is the future of ecommerce. The West Hollywood-based firm focuses on collectables such as trading cards and anime merchandise.
Founded by former SpaceX engineer Karan Talati, First Resonance runs a software platform for makers of electric cars and aerospace technology. Its clients include Santa Cruz-based air taxi company Joby Aviation and Alameda-based rocket company Astra.
Founded by Crowdstrike and Microsoft alums, Open Raven aims to protect user data. The cybersecurity firm’s investors include Kleiner Perkins and Upfront Ventures.
When an actor faces the camera and speaks directly to the audience, it’s known as “breaking the fourth wall.” Named after the trope, Venice-based Fourthwall offers a website builder that’s designed for content creators.
The Non Fungible Token Company creates NFTs for musicians under the name Unblocked. Its investors include Jay Z’s Marcy Venture Partners and Shawn Mendez.
Backed by Mayo Clinic Ventures, Safe Health develops telehealth software and offers tools for enterprises to launch their own health care apps.
Intro’s app lets you book video calls with experts—from celebrity stylists, to astrologists, to investors.
With the tagline “Land the package, not the plane,” DASH Systems is a Hawthorne-based shipping company that builds hardware and software for automated airdrops.
With a focus on sustainability, Ettitude is a direct-to-consumer brand that sells bedding, bathroom textiles and sleepwear.
Along similar lines as Unblocked, Afterparty creates NFTs for artists and content creators such as Clay Perry and Tropix.
Heart to Heart is an audio-focused dating app that “lets you listen to the story behind the pictures in a profile.” Precursor Ventures led the pre-seed funding round.
Frigg makes hair and beauty products that contain cannabinoids such as CBD. The Valley Village-based company raised an undisclosed seed round in August.
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“If you get the chance, make sure to test drive a Toyota.”
I’m walking down a row of booths at Electrify Expo at the Long Beach Convention Center on a hot June day. I thank the red-shirted brand ambassador and scurry towards the nearest e-scooter.
Sorry, Toyota. I’m not here for the cars.
Electrify Expo—the biggest outdoor electric vehicle festival in the U.S.—took place this past weekend and e-scooters, e-bikes and other micro EVs took center stage.
At an event focused on electrification, more than half of the companies represented were in the micromobility space. And there’s a good reason for that.
According to industry leaders, electrification means significant room for growth in the market as American consumers emerge from the dark years of the pandemic and seek out more active and eco-friendly modes of transportation.
Only 6% of bikes sold in the U.S. are e-bikes, compared to a rate of 17% in Europe and 50% in the Netherlands, said Claudia Wasko, vice president and general manager of Bosch eBike Systems, at the event’s Industry Day.
“Last year, 2021, in Europe, almost 6 million e-bikes have been sold; just in Germany, 2 million e-bikes have been sold. And in the US, not even 1 million. But this shows us the huge potential we still have,” she said.
Industry speakers also praised European countries for their adoption of comprehensive micromobility infrastructure.
“If you drive around Los Angeles… you'd have a tough time being on an electric bike or an electric scooter or even one of our mopeds, that can hit speeds of 60 miles an hour,” said Joseph Constanty, director of global strategy at Niu. “You still feel out of place when a huge Ford Ranger F-150 comes riding up right next to you and you're dwarfed by it. It's an infrastructure problem.”
Companies are banking on a cultural shift as Americans get out of their cars and onto an e-bike, moped or e-scooter.
Jesse Lapin, chief operating officer of Magnum Bikes, suggested that it’s less of a shift and more of a return. Americans ride their bikes as children and then abandon them in the garage as soon as they turn 16. However, driving itself might be going out of style; millennials are driving less than their elders and Gen Z is in no rush to get in the driver’s seat (of a car). And who can blame them? Gas prices have hit record highs with no sign of relief on the horizon.
What are they gonna do, take the bus? JackRabbit Mobility is hoping they take a micro e-bike instead, with a 24 pound, 20 mile-per-hour device marketed to college students and other casual riders. But why stop with one? Lapin sees the future American garage filled with not one, but two e-bikes as the market diversifies.
“E-bikes truly are the best way to communicate and to connect people with other people, people with places, people with views. It's the best way to visit national parks; it's the best way to get out there and connect with yourself,” he said.
And there’s one other advantage to micromobility: It’s hella fun. And with a looming recession and two years and counting into a pandemic, American adults with disposable income just want eco-friendly toys that go zoom. Or at least that’s what the industry is banking on.
It’s true: When I’m flying around the test track on an e-bike and I hit the throttle, getting that coveted 28-miles-per-hour, I feel like a kid again.
Provide a mode of transportation that you can charge from the comfort of your one-bedroom apartment, one that’s fun, good for the environment and lets you fly past stopped rush hour traffic on Venice Boulevard?
Cars could never.
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Three months after opening its new headquarters in Santa Monica, micromobility startup Veo is expanding its fleet and its footprint. As of last week, riders have been able to cross the municipal boundary between Santa Monica and L.A. and take trips north to Will Rogers State Beach, south to Marina Del Rey and east to Mar Vista.
“It’s good to see more people able to actually commute from Santa Monica to a nearby neighborhood…because in the past, we [did] see a lot of people stopped at the boundary,” said Veo CEO Candice Xie.
A screenshot shows Veo scooters' new availability on the west side of the city of L.A.
Still, riders will not be able to ride all through the city of L.A. The city of L.A. has only granted them permits for 500 vehicles. Xie said they’re focusing on expanding the boundaries of where their mostly Santa Monica-based users are already indicating they want to ride.
As part of the expansion, the company is adding a mixed fleet of 400 e-bikes and 100 standing scooters.
Enterprising riders who venture beyond the new, expanded geofenced zone can expect to receive a warning text message and for their vehicle to come to a slow stop. In addition, they will not be allowed to leave the e-scooter or e-bike outside of the zone without incurring a penalty that starts at $15.
Currently, it costs riders $1 to unlock and $0.33 cents per minute to ride (plus tax and fees). Residents of Santa Monica and Los Angeles who qualify can apply to ride at a reduced rate through Veo Access, where riders pay $5 per month for unlimited 30 minute rides.
Xie said that the permit approval process for the city of L.A. took longer than originally anticipated and that this new expansion will happen in phases, with the next phase anticipated in two to three months.
Veo is the seventh micromobility operator currently permitted in the city of Los Angeles, joining rivals Bird, Lime, Wheels, LINK (Superpedestrian), Lyft and Spin.
Veo’s expansion comes at a precarious time for the shared micromobility market. Earlier this month, Santa Monica-based Bird laid off 23% of its staff. Layoffs were also reported at both Superpedestrian and Voi this week.
However, Xie said that Veo is doubling down on both the greater L.A. area and California as a whole, as it recently launched in Berkeley and intends to move into Santa Clara and San Jose soon. As other companies lay off workers in pursuit of profitability, Xie said Veo is expanding.
“We're still hiring from the community and want to increase our exposure and also have more local talent join us.”
Correction: An earlier version of this post stated that Veo vehicles were already available in Santa Clara.
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