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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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05:00 AM | March 08, 2023
Last year, the city of Los Angeles approved a new bus shelter contract with Tranzito-Vector after a 20-year contract that shorted the city over 600 bus shelters and $70 million in advertising revenue. According to a 2012 audit by the city controller, the last contract failed because of a combination of NIMBYism and bureaucratic red tape.
Now, L.A. — the city that puts its cars and their drivers above all else— has an opportunity to prioritize bus riders, and by extension, promote racial and social equity. As the contract wends its way through city hall, delayed by bureaucracy once again, questions remain about whether the city can meet its goals.
Will L.A. bus riders finally get the bus stops (and shade) that they need?
New leadership may spell hope for bus riders
In L.A., bus stops are managed not by L.A. Metro or by the L.A. Department of Transportation, but by StreetsLA (formerly the bureau of street services), the division within the Department of Public Works that oversees sidewalks, street trees and medians.
Since the new contract was approved in September, things have changed at city hall. The city elected its first Black woman mayor, Karen Bass, former council president Nury Martinez was ousted after she made racist comments and four districts elected new councilmembers.
In the current landscape, bus shelters may have gained traction. In his first city council meeting in December, new Councilmember Hugo Soto-Martinez drafted a motion instructing StreetsLA to study how to place shelters at every bus stop in the 13th district.
If only it were that easy.
The new contract, the Sidewalk and Transit Amenities Program (STAP) is projected to bring 3,000 new shelters and 450 shade structures to the city by 2028.
In the previous contract, L.A. did not foot the bill for the bus shelters — the capital costs and maintenance fell to the previous contractor in return for the right to place advertising in the public-right-of-way. But now, for a bigger share of the revenue — 60.5% versus 20% — the city is paying all capital expenses.
Currently, StreetsLA estimates that it will cost about $380 million total to implement STAP, up from the $237 million estimated in 2021. In five years (just in time for the 2028 Olympics), if things go according to plan, L.A. will have a total of 3,000 shelters versus the 1,870 it has today.
“At the end of the rollout period — which is going to extend into 2028, minimally — we hope that we’re going to have shade structures at least 3,450 locations,” said Lance Oishi, contract administrator for STAP.
It’s an ambitious goal. And it’s still unclear where the money will come from. In City Council’s February 8 public works committee meeting, Oishi said that STAP currently has $114 million in funds in place, including a $30 million loan from the public works trust fund and $53 million as part of L.A. Metro’s North San Fernando Valley BRT project.
The $30 million StreetsLA hopes to receive soon is enough to build 180 shelters and do site work for 240 additional shelters in the first year.
The first 180 shelters will replace existing shelters along transit corridors to drive ad revenue, while the 240 sites will be in locations without existing shelters. StreetsLA is using five criteria to determine prioritization of new shelter locations: transit ridership, heat exposure, equity-focused communities, job and school access and bus wait times.
It’s a big investment for a bigger payday. The city estimates that it will earn up to $500 million over the course of the contract — with the addition of new digital advertising — with $90 million guaranteed from Tranzito-Vector.
Where the curb meets red tape
While the new contract eliminates the bureaucratic red tape of the past — shelter locations go through a two-step versus 16-step approval process — new construction on L.A.’s crumbling sidewalks is its own challenge.
More than half of the cost of building bus shelters doesn’t come from the cost of materials or construction but from preparing the site.
“We know that 95% of our bus stop sidewalks are not ADA compliant,” said Oishi. “That means that we have to basically rip out the sidewalks, kind of re-engineer them so they meet ADA from a grading perspective.”
For 450 bus stop locations that can’t accommodate a shelter due to space requirements or a “perfect storm of tree wells, fire hydrants, streetlight poles [and] utility poles,” StreetsLA hopes to install shade structures, added Oishi.
Plan to flail
Advocates say that bus shelters are merely one example of a larger problem in L.A. — the lack of a multi-year capital infrastructure plan laying out how the city will spend its transportation and public works funds. Currently, eleven different city agencies work in the public right-of-way, managing everything from bus stops to street trees to sidewalks to bike lanes.
“It’s like doing a 500 piece puzzle when you don’t even have the cover image,” said Jessica Meaney, executive director of Investing in Place, a nonprofit advocating for greater policy and spending transparency in the public right-of-way.
Bus shelters are not paid for out of the city’s general fund, which means StreetsLA must cobble together multiple sources of federal, state and city funding.
Perhaps bus shelters will be the vanguard in the fight for greater oversight in how L.A. spends its public works dollars. In the committee meeting, Councilmember Nithya Raman called for StreetsLA to create a public-facing dashboard showing how shelters are prioritized to meet equity goals.
Using Bus Shelter Revenue to Pay for Bus Shelters
With the new focus on equity, there is a proposal in committee for funding shelters using money generated from STAP advertising revenue. Currently, the money generated is split 50-50 between L.A.’s general fund and 15 council offices. Under a new initiative, RAISE (Reinvestment in Accessibility, Infrastructure and Streetscape Enhancements), council offices will continue to receive the same share of revenue as in the past ($200,000 annually), but any additional revenue will go back into funding bus shelters, staffing for STAP and other transit improvements.
Bus shelters when?
Currently, StreetsLA and Tranzito-Vector are awaiting city approval of the $30 million public works trust fund loan to start fabrication of the shelters. To be approved, the City Administrative Officer (CAO) must first review an Executive Directive No. 3 (ED3) report (first instituted by Mayor Villaraigosa in 2005) submitted by StreetsLA, and then the report must be approved by Mayor Bass’ office.
“The ED3 report is currently in our [o]ffice under review,” said assistant city administrative officer Yolanda Chavez in an email. She added that the CAO’s office will draft a recommendation report to send to the mayor within a few weeks. Mayor Bass can waive the report but so far has not done so.
Meanwhile, the projected rollout for new shelters has been pushed from late July, to August, to currently, late fall, according to StreetsLA.
“I can understand that the scale of doing bus shelters given the number of stops is really daunting,” said Madeline Brozen, deputy director of the UCLA Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies and co-author of a new study on the lack of shelters in L.A. County. “But bus shelters aren't just a ‘nice to have,’ this is really [about] protecting people's health and welfare and it’s important to think about the public health benefits as they're figuring out how to address the disparity.”
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Maylin Tu is a freelance writer who lives in L.A. She writes about scooters, bikes and micro-mobility. Find her hovering by the cheese at your next local tech mixer.
03:49 PM | October 14, 2022
Thanks to a new bill passed on October 5, California drivers now have the choice to chuck their traditional metal license plates and replace them with digital ones.
The plates are referred to as “Rplate” and were developed by Sacramento-based Reviver. A news release on Reviver’s website that accompanied the bill’s passage states that there are “two device options enabling vehicle owners to connect their vehicle with a suite of services including in-app registration renewal, visual personalization, vehicle location services and security features such as easily reporting a vehicle as stolen.”
Reviver Auto Current and Future CapabilitiesFrom Youtube
There are wired (connected to and powered by a vehicle’s electrical system) and battery-powered options, and drivers can choose to pay for their plates monthly or annually. Four-year agreements for battery-powered plates begin at $19.95 a month or $215.40 yearly. Commercial vehicles will pay $275.40 each year for wired plates. A two-year agreement for wired plates costs $24.95 per month. Drivers can choose to install their plates, but on its website, Reviver offers professional installation for $150.
A pilot digital plate program was launched in 2018, and according to the Los Angeles Times, there were 175,000 participants. The new bill ensures all 27 million California drivers can elect to get a digital plate of their own.
California is the third state after Arizona and Michigan to offer digital plates to all drivers, while Texas currently only provides the digital option for commercial vehicles. In July 2022, Deseret News reported that Colorado might also offer the option. They have several advantages over the classic metal plates as well—as the L.A. Times notes, digital plates will streamline registration renewals and reduce time spent at the DMV. They also have light and dark modes, according to Reviver’s website. Thanks to an accompanying app, they act as additional vehicle security, alerting drivers to unexpected vehicle movements and providing a method to report stolen vehicles.
As part of the new digital plate program, Reviver touts its products’ connectivity, stating that in addition to Bluetooth capabilities, digital plates have “national 5G network connectivity and stability.” But don’t worry—the same plates purportedly protect owner privacy with cloud support and encrypted software updates.
5 Reasons to avoid the digital license plate | Ride TechFrom Youtube
After the Rplate pilot program was announced four years ago, some raised questions about just how good an idea digital plates might be. Reviver and others who support switching to digital emphasize personalization, efficient DMV operations and connectivity. However, a 2018 post published by Sophos’s Naked Security blog pointed out that “the plates could be as susceptible to hacking as other wireless and IoT technologies,” noting that everyday “objects – things like kettles, TVs, and baby monitors – are getting connected to the internet with elementary security flaws still in place.”
To that end, a May 2018 syndicated New York Times news service article about digital plates quoted the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), which warned that such a device could be a “‘honeypot of data,’ recording the drivers’ trips to the grocery store, or to a protest, or to an abortion clinic.”
For now, Rplates are another option in addition to old-fashioned metal, and many are likely to opt out due to cost alone. If you decide to go the digital route, however, it helps if you know what you could be getting yourself into.
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Steve Huff is an Editor and Reporter at dot.LA. Steve was previously managing editor for The Metaverse Post and before that deputy digital editor for Maxim magazine. He has written for Inside Hook, Observer and New York Mag. Steve is the author of two official tie-ins books for AMC’s hit “Breaking Bad” prequel, “Better Call Saul.” He’s also a classically-trained tenor and has performed with opera companies and orchestras all over the Eastern U.S. He lives in the greater Boston metro area with his wife, educator Dr. Dana Huff.
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