How a Co-Founder of NWA Created A Platform to Get Small Businesses Back to Work

Rachel Uranga

Rachel Uranga is dot.LA's Managing Editor, News. She is a former Mexico-based market correspondent at Reuters and has worked for several Southern California news outlets, including the Los Angeles Business Journal and the Los Angeles Daily News. She has covered everything from IPOs to immigration. Uranga is a graduate of the Columbia School of Journalism and California State University Northridge. A Los Angeles native, she lives with her husband, son and their felines.

How a Co-Founder of NWA Created A Platform to Get Small Businesses Back to Work

Kim Renard Nazel is best known as Arabian Prince, a founding member of the '80s rap group N.W.A. whose raw lyrics on police brutality inspired a generation of West Coast rappers. But the producer and artist, who goes by his stage name, has long been a tech geek passionate about closing the digital divide.

This week, the Compton-bred rapper-turned-entrepreneur launched his latest endeavor, Covitech, a platform intended to get people back to work safely. The cloud-based suite of apps provides a protocol plan for small-to-medium businesses, giving them access to COVID-19 screening, testing resources and often hard-to-procure protective equipment.


Prince was inspired to begin the project months ago when he saw that the federal government wasn't getting needed supplies to cities. And the effort has now coalesced just as the issue of police brutality, the pandemic and longstanding inequities exploded into the national consciousness.

"Because of George Floyd's death and COVID both hitting the black community and the brown community and the inner city, it's important to bring technology and infrastructure to prop them up and keep them from going into a (economic) depression," he said. "This is an invisible killer."

Kim Renard Nazel is best known as Arabian Prince, a founding member of the '90s rap group N.W.A.

Kim Renard Nazel is best known as Arabian Prince, a founding member of the '90s rap group N.W.A.

As restrictions have lifted, businesses across the country are scrambling to figure out the logistics of bringing people back to offices, factory floors and restaurants. They're often stymied because they don't have easy access to testing, protective equipment or other resources to that keep individuals safe. Putting protocols in place can be expensive and often time-consuming. For smaller businesses with few resources, the task can be daunting.

Covitech is intended to help solve those problems by providing employers a way to screen and inform workers of their status, as well as keep to them on track with local regulations. The effort was created with Art+Logic, a software development team based in Pasadena and Michigan-based Hudson Scientific, a group that brings medical products to market.

The pandemic has ravaged California's economy, hurting the very communities that N.W.A rapped about. Since the outbreak, the state has processed more than 5.6 million unemployment claims. Black and Latino employees make up a large portion of low-wage service workers and have seen higher rates of job loss.

"The inner cities are really taking a big hit," Arabian Prince said. "My passion is really taking care of the inner cities."

Prince been rapping and producing since leaving N.W.A. in 1988. But he also developed another passion for technology and has been working in the industry — in video games, animation and special effects for decades. It's through those contacts that he helped build this coalition.

"People in the trenches aren't getting the protection they need," Prince said.

He's seen that play out during the protests where there are images of police fully suited up with goggles and masks, while he said hospital workers struggled and those who are serving thousands of people at fast food restaurants don't have protection.

"It's upside down," he said.

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Genies Wants To Help Creators Build ‘Avatar Ecosystems’

Christian Hetrick

Christian Hetrick is dot.LA's Entertainment Tech Reporter. He was formerly a business reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and reported on New Jersey politics for the Observer and the Press of Atlantic City.

Genies Wants To Help Creators Build ‘Avatar Ecosystems’

When avatar startup Genies raised $150 million in April, the company released an unusual message to the public: “Farewell.”

The Marina del Rey-based unicorn, which makes cartoon-like avatars for celebrities and aims to “build an avatar for every single person on Earth,” didn’t go under. Rather, Genies announced it would stay quiet for a while to focus on building avatar-creation products.

Genies representatives told dot.LA that the firm is now seeking more creators to try its creation tools for 3D avatars, digital fashion items and virtual experiences. On Thursday, the startup launched a three-week program called DIY Collective, which will mentor and financially support up-and-coming creatives.

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Here's What To Expect At LA Tech Week

Christian Hetrick

Christian Hetrick is dot.LA's Entertainment Tech Reporter. He was formerly a business reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and reported on New Jersey politics for the Observer and the Press of Atlantic City.

Here's What To Expect At LA Tech Week

LA Tech Week—a weeklong showcase of the region’s growing startup ecosystem—is coming this August.

The seven-day series of events, from Aug. 15 through Aug. 21, is a chance for the Los Angeles startup community to network, share insights and pitch themselves to investors. It comes a year after hundreds of people gathered for a similar event that allowed the L.A. tech community—often in the shadow of Silicon Valley—to flex its muscles.

From fireside chats with prominent founders to a panel on aerospace, here are some highlights from the roughly 30 events happening during LA Tech Week, including one hosted by dot.LA.

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VinFast’s Clever Solution to EV Rebate Confusion

David Shultz

David Shultz is a freelance writer who lives in Santa Barbara, California. His writing has appeared in The Atlantic, Outside and Nautilus, among other publications.

The Vinfast VF9 in the company's Santa Monica showroom
Coutrsy of VinFast

With the Inflation Reduction Act well on its way to being written into law, the calculus of which vehicles from which manufacturers will be eligible for the $7,500 rebates is pretty confusing. dot.LA has previously covered how the new law is set to upend the status quo, but the short version is the car and its battery need to be assembled in the United States and the rebates only apply to vehicles below certain price points. Individuals who make more than $150,000/yr or to households making more than $300,000/yr are also no longer eligible for the rebate. This has led to a flurry of customers trying to lock in buyers’ agreements with companies like Rivian and Fisker before the law becomes official.

Vinfast, the Vietnamese automaker that is trying to establish itself on US soil here in Los Angeles, has taken a different approach: Just give people the money.

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