'In a World Where We're All Scared It's Easy to Forget There are Opportunities': L.A.'s Glitziest Venture Capital Team is Still Hunting for Deals

Ben Bergman

Ben Bergman is the newsroom's senior finance reporter. Previously he was a senior business reporter and host at KPCC, a senior producer at Gimlet Media, a producer at NPR's Morning Edition, and produced two investigative documentaries for KCET. He has been a frequent on-air contributor to business coverage on NPR and Marketplace and has written for The New York Times and Columbia Journalism Review. Ben was a 2017-2018 Knight-Bagehot Fellow in Economic and Business Journalism at Columbia Business School. In his free time, he enjoys skiing, playing poker, and cheering on The Seattle Seahawks.

'In a World Where We're All Scared It's Easy to Forget There are Opportunities': L.A.'s Glitziest Venture Capital Team is Still Hunting for Deals

M13, named after one of the brightest star clusters in the Northern Sky, has considerable star wattage of its own and is decidedly the most L.A. of all the L.A venture capital firms.

Co-founders Carter and Courtney Reum together boast around 170,000 Instagram followers and in more normal times frequently post pictures with celebrities at parties or from their travels around the world. Carter has been linked to dating Paris Hilton, who was interviewed by Courtney onstage at the Upfront Summit in January. Sir Richard Branson is a limited partner in the firm as is Arianna Huffington.

But, now that glitz appears on hold as the brothers grapple with a pandemic that hit right as the Santa Monica early-stage consumer technology firm was in the midst of deploying the $175 million in its second fund. COVID-19 has hurt consumer companies especially hard, including once high-flying brands in M13's portfolio like Bird, FabFitFun, and ClassPass (M13 is also an investor in dot.LA.)


But Carter, 39, says he is intent on finding opportunities in how consumer behavior is changing and intends to raise a third fund next year. "Capital will be harder to get," he said. "We're hopeful that a premium will be put on what we bring to the table."

The brothers founded M13 in 2016 after they sold their spirits business, Veev, for a hefty multiple to a St. Louis beverage conglomerate. They built a reputation of putting in very long hours and expect the same from their employees. And they also share the same enviable resume: Columbia undergrad followed by Harvard Business School topped by a brief investment banking career at Goldman Sachs.

They are also relentlessly polished and on-message. When asked during a February office visit to describe the last time they disagreed about something, they looked at each other and there was a long pause. They were never able to come up with an answer.

Before coronavirus, M13's warehouse-chic Santa Monica headquarters was a bustling hive of activity, filled with people scurrying from meeting to meeting. The firm also has an office in New York a few blocks away from Gramercy Park and a partner, Gautum Gupta, based in San Francisco.

But on March 12th, all the offices closed and workers went home, connected only by Zoom, Slack, and telephones. Before focusing on business, Carter said it was essential to make sure employees had what they needed to adapt to the new reality.

"We said we didn't want to talk about anything related to work until we had the people thing settled," Carter said.

He said it was important to realize the uniqueness of the situation. Many employees are preoccupied with worrying about loved ones and are filled with anxiety. Some know multiple people who have died.

"This is different from running a remote culture when things are great," he said.

M13 set up a #CoronaCare slack channel focused on how to take care of people during the crisis. Carter says it's more important than ever for leaders to be very clear about what they expect and to formalize processes because it is impossible to walk over and chat with someone at their desk.

"You have to get in the habit when you finish a call with someone where you agree on next steps," he said.

M13 prides itself on its culture and the Reums still want to maintain it as much as possible when everyone is working remotely. They also wants people to still look forward to "going" to work everyday, even when they are stuck at home in their yoga pants.

The firm has been doing two virtual standup meetings per day, with employees dancing or celebrating St. Patrick's Day. There's also a 30-day ab workout challenge and Carter makes it a point to spontaneously make a video call with at least two employees a day to check in on how they are doing.

Beyond the Zooms and Slacks, there is still a fund to deploy and Carter says M13 is actively hunting for deals. It helps that valuations, which had ballooned in recent years, are now coming back to earth.

"In a world where we're all scared it's easy to forget there are opportunities," Carter said. "We are absolutely still writing checks."

Carter and his team are focused on how consumer behavior is changing and what businesses will benefit, and what people will need versus what they merely want. He cites two M13 portfolio companies seeing a rush of interest that he does not think will be short lived.

"Daily Harvest is booming right because people are not able to get food from local grocery stores," Carter said. "Capsule had one of its highest sales weeks because people don't want to go to pharmacies."

Carter does acknowledge that many of his companies will not be as well positioned for the present reality or even the post-COVID world.

"All of us will have companies in our portfolio that will be forced to close," he said.

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🚁 One Step Closer to Air Taxis in LA
Image Source: Joby Aviation

🔦 Spotlight

Joby Aviation, a pioneering electric air taxi company, has achieved a significant milestone by successfully flying a hydrogen-electric aircraft demonstrator for 523 miles with only water as a byproduct. This groundbreaking flight showcases the potential for emissions-free regional travel using vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft, eliminating the need for traditional runways. The company's innovative approach combines its existing battery-electric air taxi technology with hydrogen fuel cells, paving the way for longer-range, environmentally friendly air travel.

For LA residents, this development holds exciting implications for future transportation options. Joby's technology could potentially enable direct flights from LA to destinations like San Francisco or San Diego without the need to visit conventional airports, offering a cleaner and more convenient alternative to current travel methods. The company's progress in both battery-electric and hydrogen-electric aircraft positions it at the forefront of next-generation aviation, promising to revolutionize urban and regional mobility.

Notably, Joby Aviation has already made strides in Southern California by securing an agreement with John Wayne Airport earlier this year to install the region's first electric air taxi charger. This strategic move sets the stage for LA to be among the initial markets where Joby will launch its electric air taxi service. With plans to commence commercial operations as early as 2025 using its battery-electric air taxi, LA residents may soon have access to a fast, quiet, and environmentally friendly mode of transportation that could significantly reduce travel times and traffic congestion in the region. In the not too distant future, LA might find itself in an identity crisis without traffic and excess smog 🤞🤞.


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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.


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  • 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

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