How a Co-Founder of NWA Created A Platform to Get Small Businesses Back to Work
Rachel Uranga covers the intersection of business, technology and culture. 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.
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.
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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Offices are likely to get bigger, not smaller. Major cities could hollow out. And more people will work remote.
Those are some of the takeaways from dot.LA's virtual strategy session held Tuesday on the future of commercial real estate with Brendan Wallace, co-founder and managing partner at Fifth Wall; Justin Bedecarre, co-founder and CEO of HelloOffice and Jen Nguyen, founding partner of TEAMWERC.
Jen Nguyen, Founding Partner of TEAMWERC
Jen Nguyen, Founding Partner of TEAMWERC<p>Jen Nguyen is a founding partner of TEAMWERC, delivering best in class turnkey workplace as a service. She has a back to back track record building hyper growth inclusive award winning workplaces from the ground up. Founding workplace leader at Pinterest, Zynga, Tesla Motors and SAP Successfactors from their infancy through IPOs.</p><p>TEAMWERC will create a mindshift in how you approach your workplace bridging the gap between people and places, offering a plug and play expert team embedded into your organization. </p>
Brendan Wallace, co-founder & managing partner at Fifth Wall
Brendan Wallace, Co-Founder & Managing Partner at Fifth Wall<p>Brendan Wallace is a co-founder and managing partner at Fifth Wall, where he guides the firm's strategic vision.</p><p>Prior to starting Fifth Wall, Brendan co-founded Identified, a workforce optimization data and analytics company that raised $33 million of venture funding and was acquired by Workday (NYSE: WKDY) in 2014. He also co-founded Cabify, the largest ridesharing service in Latin America, and has been an active investor, leading more than 60 angel investments including Bonobos, Dollar Shave Club, Lyft, SpaceX, Clutter, and Philz Coffee.</p><p>Brendan started his career at Goldman Sachs in the real estate, hospitality, and gaming group before joining The Blackstone Group's real estate private equity practice.</p><p>Brendan is from New York City and currently lives in Venice. He graduated from Princeton University, where he received his BA in political science and economics. He received his MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business.</p>
Justin Bedecarre, Co-Founder & CEO of HelloOffice<p>Justin is Co-Founder and CEO of HelloOffice. a modern commercial real estate brokerage on a mission to help everyone find a workplace they love. By empowering experienced brokers with innovative technology, HelloOffice turns the painful traditional process of searching for office space into a faster and more collaborative experience. <br></p><p>From headquarters to hybrid workplaces, HelloOffice works with companies like Palantir, Y Combinator, Afterpay, Brex and many others around the world. </p><p>Justin started HelloOffice in 2016 in San Francisco, and before that co-founded 42Floors which was acquired by Knotel.</p>
Ben Bergman, Senior Reporter
Ben Bergman, Senior Reporter at dot.LA<p>Ben Bergman is the newsroom's senior reporter, covering venture capital. Previously he was a senior reporter/host at KPCC, a producer at Gimlet Media and NPR and produced two investigative documentaries for KCET. He has been a frequent on-air contributor to NPR and Marketplace and has written for The New York Times. Bergman was a 2017-2018 Knight-Bagehot Fellow in Economic and Business Journalism at Columbia Business School. He enjoys skiing, playing poker, and cheering on The Seattle Seahawks.</p>
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The latest edition of our dot.LA Convenes series, devoted to empowering women in tech, focused on "Building Confidence in a Virtual World."
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Victoria Tinsley, head of partnerships at Valence
Victoria Tinsley, Head of Partnerships at Valence<p>Victoria Tinsley is the Head of Partnerships at <a href="http://www.valence.community" target="_blank">Valence,</a> a new tech platform and community incubated by Upfront Ventures focused on connecting Black professionals with mentorship, career opportunities and capital. The company's mission is to unlock the global combined power of Black professionals to create massive economic wealth and social progress that impacts current and future generations. Valence was founded in January 2019 and has a thriving membership of thousands of Black leaders across the nation. Valence also partners with a variety of organizations such as PledgeLA, Netflix, Facebook, USC, The Gathering Spot and Silicon Valley Bank.</p><p>Prior to joining Valence, Victoria served on the marketing senior leadership team at AAA as vice president, consumer insights & data analytics. In this role, she led the analytics center of excellence that supported four divisions (Insurance, Membership, Travel, A3 Labs) representing over $4 billion in annual revenue. </p><p>A traditionally trained CPG marketer, Victoria also previously worked at General Mills managing product development and marketing strategy for the Annie's Homegrown, Immaculate Baking Company and Pillsbury brands. Prior to earning her MBA at the Michigan Ross School of Business, Victoria held a variety of marketing roles during her 7 years at Active Network, a tech startup that had a successful $1 billion IPO and sale. </p>
Audra Everett Gold, co-founder and CEO at Vurbl Media
Audra Everett Gold, Co-founder and CEO at Vurbl Media<p>Audra Gold has dedicated her entire career to building first to market and scaled mass media digital products. Her passion for product management and her ability to identify new and emerging product trends has led to her reputation for developing novel, cutting-edge products across gaming, streaming video, digital media, enterprise SaaS platforms, in various business verticals.</p><p>Today, as the founder of Product N, a product management consulting and recruitment firm, Audra and her team work with early-stage ventured funded start-ups in various verticals to create, launch and grow their digital products. The team also works in partnership with the VC firm Alpha Edison, helping <a href="https://www.alphaedison.com/companies" target="_blank">AE portfolio companies</a> in need of product management expertise to either create, expand or pivot their digital product lines. </p><p>Prior to Product N, Audra has spent years leading Product teams at <a href="https://rubiconproject.com/" target="_blank">Rubicon Project</a>, <a href="https://themighty.com/" target="_blank">The Mighty</a>, <a href="https://pluto.tv/welcome" target="_blank">Pluto TV,</a> Fourthwall Studios and <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Defy_Media" target="_blank">Defy Media</a> (formerly Break Media). She also held senior product roles at WeddingChannel/TheKnot, Viviendi Universal's online division, and IGN.com. </p>
Sharon WInter, COO and co-founder of Esports One
Sharon Winter, COO and Co-Founder of Esports One<p>Sharon Winter is the COO and Co-Founder of Esports One, the first all-in-one all-in-one fantasy esports platform with real-time predictive data. A graduate of Carnegie Mellon University, Sharon previously worked at IBM's Watson division before becoming CEO and Founder of Hotpoint App, a CRM and data company for the entertainment and hospitality industries with over 2500 clients from Live Nation, Patron, Hakkasan, Wynn, and others.</p> <p>Sharon has experience building community-centered products within data-rich platforms. She's on the mission of bringing esports to the Olympics by bridging the gap between esports and sports, and the endemics and non-endemics of the gaming world.</p>
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