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What Are LA’s Hottest Startups of 2022? See Who VCs Picked in dot.LA’s Annual Survey
05:00 AM | January 31, 2022
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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12:33 PM | March 09, 2021
Edtech startup Quizizz will build out their Santa Monica offices with a $12.5 million Series A round announced Tuesday.
The platform, which lets teachers make gamified quizzes and interactive lessons spanning subjects from elementary school math to technical education, plans to use the funding boost hiring in the U.S., where a majority of Quizizz users live. The startup says it instantly reviews student submissions, cutting down on the time teachers usually spend grading tests by hand.
"Quizizz runs on teacher feedback so it's incredibly important for us to be close to our users here in the U.S. ," said Connor Pierson, the startup's head of growth. "We think that the EdTech community in Los Angeles is going to grow significantly over the next few years and there's no place we'd rather be."
In the era of remote learning, investors have flocked to companies building tools to supplement class time. The company has customers in more than 100 countries and says over 65% of U.S. schools use the platform. And it's turned a profit, although a company representative declined to elaborate.
Quizizz was founded in 2015 by Ankit Gupta and Deepak Cheenath, who tested the first version of its platform with remedial math volunteers in Bangalore, India, where it's based.
"No matter what is being taught, we think the best and most personalized learning happens when an educator is freed from busywork like grading worksheets and rigid, out-of-the-box curriculum," said Gupta, the company's chief executive, in a statement announcing the raise.
Tuesday's round was led by Eight Roads Ventures. GSV Ventures, Rocketship VC and existing investors Nexus Venture Partners and Prime Ventures Partners also participated in the round. To date, Quizizz has raised $15.5 million.
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Francesca Billington is a freelance reporter. Prior to that, she was a general assignment reporter for dot.LA and has also reported for KCRW, the Santa Monica Daily Press and local publications in New Jersey. She graduated from Princeton in 2019 with a degree in anthropology.
06:00 AM | December 12, 2022
Photo courtesy of Ford
Pacific Gas and Electric is in the midst of enrolling customers into an ambitious new pilot program that seeks to use electric car vehicles as a means of powering daily life and stabilizing the grid.
The “Vehicle to Everything” pilot envisions a future in which automobiles not only draw their power from the electrical grid but can also strategically add electricity back in when demand is high — and generate some money for their owners along the way.
The concept of bidirectional energy flow using EV batteries isn’t new, and dot.LA has covered various vehicle-to-grid endeavors in the past. But having a utility company as large as PG&E onboard could begin to transform the idea into a reality.
Though the program’s website has been live for a few weeks, PG&E officially began to invite customers to pre-enroll starting on December 6th. The pilot has space for 1,000 residential customers and 200 commercial customers. PG&E isn’t releasing the numbers for how many people have signed up so far, but Paul Doherty, a communications architect at the company, says he expects the enrollment period to take several months, stretching into Q1 2023.
On the residential side, customers can receive financial incentives up to $2,500 just for enrolling in the pilot. That money, says Doherty, goes towards the cost of installing a bidirectional charger at the customer’s residence. The cost of installation varies according to the specifications of the residence, but Doherty says it’s unlikely that $2,500 will cover the full cost for most users, though it may come close, with most installations ranging in the low thousands.
But there’s more money to be had as well. Once the bidirectional charger is installed, customers can not only use the electricity to power their homes but also begin selling electricity back to the grid during flex alerts. Southern California residents may remember back in September when the electric grid was pushed to its breaking point thanks to an historic heatwave. During such events–or any other disaster that strains the system–customers can plug their vehicle in, discharge the battery and get paid.
Doherty says that users can expect to make between $10 and $50 per flex alert depending on how severe the event is and how much of their battery they’re willing to discharge. That might not seem like a huge sum, but the pilot program is slated to last two years. Meaning that if California averages 10 flex alerts per year like in 2022, customers could make $1,000. That could be enough to offset the rest of the bidirectional charger installation or provide another income stream. Not to mention, help stabilize our beleaguered grid.
There is one gigantic catch, however. PG&E has to test and validate any bi-directional charger before it can be added into the program. So far, the only approved hardware is Ford’s Charge Station Pro, meaning only one vehicle–the F-150 Lightning–can participate in the program. That should change soon as the utility company tests additional hardware from other brands. Doherty says they’re expecting to add the Nissan LEAF, Hyundai’s IONIQ 5, the KIA EV6 and others soon since it’s just a matter of testing and integrating those chargers into the program.
One name notably absent from that list is Tesla. So far, the country’s largest EV presence hasn’t announced concrete plans for bidirectional charging, meaning there’s no way for Tesla owners to participate in the pilot.
“We hope they come to the table as soon as possible,” says Doherty. “That would be a game changer.”
The commercial side of the pilot looks similar to the residential. Businesses receive cash incentives upfront to help offset the cost of installing bidirectional charger and then get paid for their contribution to stabilizing the grid in times of duress. PG&E says electric school bus fleets, especially, represent attractive targets for this technology due to their large battery capacity, high peak power needs, and predictable schedule–a strategy that mirrors what V2G pioneer Nuvve described to dot.LA back in October.
If California’s plan to transition all new car sales to electric by 2035 actually succeeds — which would require it to add nearly two million new EVs to state roads every year — that’s two million rolling, high power batteries with the potential to power our homes, our jobs and the grid at large. Getting there will be a colossal undertaking, but PG&E’s pilot should be a litmus test of sorts, assuming they can figure out how to get more vehicles than the Ford Lightning into the program.
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David Shultz reports on clean technology and electric vehicles, among other industries, for dot.LA. His writing has appeared in The Atlantic, Outside, Nautilus and many other publications.
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