Crewtify Wins dot.LA's First Startup Pitch Competition

Breanna De Vera

Breanna de Vera is dot.LA's editorial intern. She is currently a senior at the University of Southern California, studying journalism and English literature. She previously reported for the campus publications The Daily Trojan and Annenberg Media.

Crewtify Wins dot.LA's First Startup Pitch Competition

A livestreaming platform that lets people enjoy concerts together while at home walked away as the winner of dot.LA's first Startup Pitch tournament.

The brainchild of UCLA business school graduates — one of whom lost his job in the music events industry during the pandemic — Crewtify is one of a number of livetreaming platforms that have bubbled up to solve an immediate need: connecting musicians with their fans during the COVID era and beyond.

"I believe I can offer a meaningful substitute for in person music events, and I wonder how many lives will be saving in the process," co-founder and CEO David Gukasyan said in his opening pitch.

That seemed to strike a chord with the judges, who were particularly interested in how this moment has changed consumer behavior, the new technology it has spawned and by Crewtify's embrace of both.

"So clearly, there's a big, big shift in the way we're consuming live entertainment and the way we're participating in these types of events," said Spencer Rascoff. "And we think it [provides] an exciting opportunity for a company like Crewtify to be launched into that environment."

Rascoff is the co-founder of Hotwire, Zillow and Pacaso, as well as the co-founder of dot.LA. Techstars Los Angeles Managing Director Anna Barber was his cohort in judging the pitches.

The finalists were each nominated by dot.LA's audience and went through two rounds of voting to reach the dot.LA Pitch Competition. After each company presented their pitch, the judges followed up with a round of questions.

The competition kicked off with a Cameo video by Chris Diamantopoulos, also known as the bold and brash investor Russ Hanneman from the television series "Silicon Valley."

"I need to find the next Pied Piper!" Hanneman said. Pied Piper being the brilliant startup at the center of the show.

The pitch competition was sponsored by Amazon Web Services, Fenwick, Fullstack Finance and Carta, who will be providing Crewtify with access and credits to their services.

Watch the startup pitches below.

Pitch: Social Cipher

Finding an engaging curriculum for neurodivergent youth is difficult, especially in this age of online learning. Vanessa Castañeda Gill, co-founder and CEO of Social Cypher, explained that her experience growing up with autism helped her to realize the lack of learning tools for neurodivergent youth. Even today, programming and curriculum is out of touch, patronizing or unengaging. Much of the learning tools for this market are focused on 'fixing' young learners, said the company's CEO.

"Now, I know it was problem because, well, I lived it," said Gill. "Over the years, though, I learned that I never actually needed to be fixed. I just needed a different way to learn. And that's how I founded Social Cypher."

Social Cypher is a social emotional learning (SEL) platform with a partner app marketed toward counselors and educators in the neurodivergent space. Social Cypher's primary product is a game called "Ava," which immerses students with autism into a fictional world where they are a space pirate, and have to make decisions regarding the people and situations they encounter. Meanwhile, the companion app helps counselors remotely stream gameplay and track social and emotional progress.

Social Cypher will be piloting in January and is currently raising a pre-seed funding round.

Pitch: Have | Need

Have | Need is an app that empties garages, but not wallets. It's the first consumer multi-party barter platform for goods and services. Unlike Ebay or OfferUp, users never use cash — they trade their items for other things they need, sometimes in a large chain of trades, called "barter loops."

Founder and CEO Josh C. Kline explained how Have | Need organizes these trades so that more people can offer what they want and get what they need.

"Legacy barter doesn't scale because it depends on what is known as the mutual coincidence of wants. That means each of the two parties must have something the other wants, and that is rare," he said. "Have | Need, however, can match the haves and needs of a limitless number of people, creating barter opportunities that were not previously possible."

Moving beyond a two-person trade into a chain of trades exponentially increases the available possibilities of getting what you need with what you have. In the middle of a pandemic, he added, many are reckoning with just how much stuff they have, and many who have lost their jobs may not have cash on hand to get what they need.

Their target user base is in the billions. "Basically anyone with a smartphone that has more than they need or needs more than they have will benefit from Have | Need."

Have | Need is launching next month, and will be open to the public early next year. They are also currently raising a pre-seed funding round.

Pitch: Crewtify

Now, more than ever, it's clear that the future of music is online. Crewtify makes in-person events accessible to individuals or groups who can't make it to the event.

David Gukasyan, CEO and co-founder, introduced Crewtify, a subscription model online community platform for music events. Using this platform, fans have unlimited access to watch and participate.

Beyond the pandemic, it's likely event organizers will still host online events, said Gukasyan, because barriers that have always been present, like cost, distance, and limited space remain.

Post-COVID, he expects a hybrid system to emerge as event organizers continue broadcasting shows online for online communities. "Crewtify provides the live music experience to fans in the comfort of their own homes. It also allows you to break from the party, into private rooms, to chat or match with other users."

At the moment, Crewtify has 2,000 users and plenty of user-generated content. Later they hope to build exclusive artist partnerships, and community and network effects.

Thanks to the 100 Los Angeles startups who participated in the process. After great nominations from our audience and pitches all around, Anna Barber and Spencer Rascoff found their next "Pied Piper" in Crewtify.

Correction: An earlier version of this post mis-spelled the name of Have | Need CEO Josh C. Kline.

🚁 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.


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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