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.

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