Get in the KNOW
on LA Startups & TechX
On this week's episode of the L.A. Venture podcast, meet Omar Hamoui, a partner at Mucker Capital. Hamoui is the founder of AdMob, a cornerstone of modern mobile advertising. He discusses being one of the first apps in the app store, and early negotiations with Steve Jobs. Hamoui also talks about how entering the venture world was difficult both then and now, despite his early success selling AdMob to Google for $750 million.
After his time with Google, Hamoui became a partner at Sequoia Capital, the venture firm that funded giants like YouTube, Zoom, Instacart and Zappos. He left in 2019 to join Santa Monica's Mucker Capital — a pre-seed and seed stage venture firm that helps early companies scale their brand. In this episode he also discusses why he thinks it's difficult to raise a Series A round outside of the Bay Area.
Hear Hamoui give first-hand accounts on how he learned to create startups, negotiate, when to sell and how to find the right team.
"Sometimes people build businesses that aren't working at their scale. They have to raise money to keep going, but they're really just covering the problem with more money. It's actually not a functional business in the first place." — Omar Hamoui
Omar Hamoui is a partner at Mucker Capital. He currently resides in Santa Monica.
dot.LA Engagement Intern Colleen Tufts contributed to this post.
Subscribe to our newsletter to catch every headline.
Samson Amore is a reporter for dot.LA. He previously covered technology and entertainment for TheWrap and reported on the SoCal startup scene for the Los Angeles Business Journal. Send tips or pitches to email@example.com and find him on Twitter at @Samsonamore. Pronouns: he/him
Activision Blizzard intends to acquire Proletariat, a Boston-based game studio that developed the wizard-themed battle royale game “Spellbreak.”
VentureBeat first reported that the Santa Monica-based publisher was exploring a purchase, noting its ongoing mission to expand the staff working on Blizzard’s hit massively multiplayer online game “World of Warcraft,” which launched in 2004.
Proletariat’s team of roughly 100 people will be merged into Activision’s “World of Warcraft” team to work on its upcoming expansion game. Though there’s no release date as yet for the title, “World of Warcraft: Dragonflight” is expected to debut before the end of this year.
Activision did not immediately return a request for comment. Financial terms of the deal were not available.
This Proletariat deal is Activision's latest push to consolidate its family tree by folding its subsidiary companies in under the Blizzard banner. More than 15 years after it bought out New York-based game developer Vicarious Visions, Activision merged the business into its own last year, ensuring that the studio wouldn’t work on anything but Blizzard titles.
The deal could also have implications for workers at Activision who have looked to unionize. One subsidiary of Activision, Wisconsin-based Raven Software, cast a majority vote to establish its Game Workers Alliance—backed by the nationwide Communications Workers of America union—in May.
Until recently, Activision has remained largely anti-union in the face of its employees organizing—but it could soon not have much of a say in the matter once it finalizes its $69 billion sale to Microsoft, which said publicly it would maintain a “neutral approach” and wouldn’t stand in the way if more employees at Activision expressed interest in unionizing after the deal closes.
Each individual studio under the Activision umbrella would need to have a majority vote in favor of unionizing to join the GWA. Now, Proletariat’s workforce—which, somewhat ironically given its name, isn’t unionized—is another that could make such a decision leading up to the Microsoft deal’s expected closing in 2023.
Kristin Snyder is an editorial intern for dot.la. She previously interned with Tiger Oak Media and led the arts section for UCLA's Daily Bruin.
Snap is officially launching Snapchat Plus, a paid subscription plan on Santa Monica-based social media company’s flagship app.
Snap is now the latest media company to tack a “plus” to the end of its name—announcing Wednesday that the new service will provide users with “exclusive, experimental and pre-release features” for the price of $3.99 a month. The first features available to paying subscribers include the ability to customize the style of app’s icon, pin a “BFF” to the top of their chat history and see which users have rewatched a story, according to The Verge.
The new product arrives after Snap confirmed reports earlier this month that it was testing Snapchat Plus—though the version that it has rolled out does not incorporate the rumored feature that would allow subscribers to view a friend’s whereabouts over the previous 24 hours.
Snapchat Plus will initially be available to users in the U.S., Canada, U.K., France, Germany, Australia, New Zealand, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. While certain features will remain exclusive to Plus users, others will eventually be released across Snapchat’s entire user base, Snap senior vice president of product Jacob Andreou told The Verge. (Disclosure: Snap is an investor in dot.LA.)
The subscription tier introduces a new potential revenue stream for Snap, which experienced a “challenging” first quarter marked by disruptions to its core digital advertising market. However, Andreou told The Verge that the product is not expected to be a “material new revenue source” for the company. He also disputed that Snap was responding to its recent economic headwinds, noting that Snap had been exploring a paid offering since 2016.
Despite charging users, Snapchat Plus does not include the option to turn off ads. “Ads are going to be at the core of our business model for the long term,” Andreou said.Snap is not the first popular social media platform to venture into subscriptions: Both Twitter and Tumblr rolled out paid tiers last year, albeit with mixedresults.
On this episode of the LA Venture podcast, Bling Capital’s Kyle Lui talks about why he moved earlier stage in his investing and how investors can best support founders.
Lui joined his friend—and first angel investor—Ben Ling as a general partner at Bling Capital, which focuses on pre-seed and seed-stage funding rounds. The desire to work in earlier funding stages alongside someone he knew well drew him away from his role as a partner at multi-billion-dollar venture firm DCM, where he was part of the team that invested in Musical.ly, now known as TikTok.
Bling primarily focuses on entrepreneurs looking to raise around $1 million to $3 million who are often early in their careers as founders. Lui said Bling evaluates companies on characteristics that go beyond whether they like the founder or feel that the market looks good. Instead, he said they take a hard look at the available company data, and quickly respond.
“And we send it back to them and say, ‘Okay, this is what's working, what's not working’,” Lui said. “And then create the playbook for them on how to find product market fit and get to like, ‘These are the milestones you actually need to hit’.”
When considering companies, Lui said Bling looks at the founder, the market, the company’s current traction and differentiation while asking the founder the questions they would expect to get at Series A and Series B funding rounds.
“One thing that I really admire about what [Ling’s] built with Bling is the consistency and the processes and playbooks— everything from the way that we evaluate deals to the way that we work with our portfolio companies,” Lui said. “Everything is kind of around playbooks and operationalizing things and also iterating to do those processes better.”
As part of its work to support founders, Bling maintains an extensive product council, which connects tech executives with the founders in Bling’s portfolio. Bling also has created numerous self-serve resources for founders so they can easily tap into the fund’s network and shared knowledge.
“We have a bunch of playbooks that we introduce to companies around how to hire efficiently, how to negotiate with counterparties, how to think about the founding team, business development…We just have these different things that we start to train our entrepreneurs on,” Lui said.
dot.LA Editorial Intern Kristin Snyder contributed to this post.